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One of the most impressive Conservative gains in the local elections last May was in Southampton, where the Conservatives were swept to power on a radical programme. Here the Council leader Cllr Alec Samuels outlines what is happening there.

Cllr_samuels
We
are pledged never to impose a council tax above inflation, and preferably
lower.  We do not in principle favour “free this and free
that”, eg swimming or transport, school means or computers or whatever it
is, because it always involves earmarking for particular groups, and not
everybody wants to swim or go by bus or whatever.  We prefer to leave
money in people’s pockets so that they can spend their money as they
wish.

We
are concerned at the deteriorating position of pensioners, so we are
introducing a 10% discount on council tax for households comprising solely
pensioners over pension age.

Also
we are introducing 100% discount for special constables, who give their
services free to help protect the public.  The Chief Constable is very
supportive of this idea. 

In
order to support the economy, we support business and employment.  The
first call on developers’ contributions is recruitment and training of
local labour.  The improvement of the local principal road network has a
high priority, in answer to business requests.  Infrastructure is the key
to future prosperity.  A business improvement district (BID) proposal is
strongly supported.  As a comparatively small city, under 250,000 and
built up to the boundaries, we have eagerly joined with our neighbouring local
authorities in the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), principally
for joint sub regional economic advance.

With
many council house units, built in the 1950s and 1960s and reaching the end of
their useful life, we are going for estate regeneration, in conjunction with
the private sector, to build new more dense but much better equipped public and
private sector housing.

For
ideological reasons we are going for outsourcing, externalisation,
privatisation, wherever possible and sensible, especially but not exclusively
in the leisure and recreation area.  Naturally there is a lot of in-house
resistance.  We have outsourced to Capita, a very large firm specialising
in these things, much of the administrative work, eg housing and revenue
benefits, customer enquiries, IT, property, seeking expertise and investment
not otherwise available to us.  Waste collection and disposal and
crematoria and such activities are candidates for the future.  Unless we
have a pressing need for retention, we are disposing of assets (through
carefully watching the current not very favourable market).  We may even
sell some pictures, not on trust, mostly stored in the basement, to raise money
for new exciting heritage and discovery projects.  We shall commemorate
the loss of the Titanic in April 2012

In
education, struggling with poor attendance and performance, we are
encouraging  variety and diversity, academies, trusts, sixth forms,
whatever the professionals can persuade us as worthy policies. 

The
growing problem of the need for support for the frail elderly has a high
priority.  Preventative support services are the key, domiciliary assistance,
community assistance, and independent personalised budgets where the elderly so
wish.

Finally,
the voluntary sector does wonders, and but for them the local authority would
have to provide the service, which would be not so good and more expensive, so
maximum support is given to the sector.

5 comments for: The Southampton revolution

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