◻️ Council merger: threat to democracy

[April 2021]

Late last year Havant Borough Councillors agreed a proposal to amalgamate the Council’s workforce with that of East Hampshire District Council

Beryl Francis, Labour Party Councillor for the Warren Park ward, reports:

Cllr Beryl Francis“At a virtual seminar I heard a prominent Councillor say that it would be good if the two Councils merge eventually, because that would guarantee a Conservative majority in perpetuity.
The merger was presented to us at Council, via teleconferencing.  It was an uncanny experience because none of the other Councillors said a thing.  I made speeches from my solitary room.  Nobody from any other party spoke.  We voted.
…Everyone but me voted Yes.
…I voted NO.”

More recently, the two Councils have committed to developing common committee structures and similar constitutions.

We have grave concerns at the lack of openness and accountability being applied to these developments.

The implications are far reaching and have not been fully spelt out.

  • We are losing control of our services, which will no longer be tailored to the requirements of Havant residents.
  • Our needs as a compact, quite densely populated borough are very different from those of East Hants, which is more than nine times bigger and is predominantly rural.
  • If an eventual council merger is necessary (and we don’t think it is), a merger with East Hants would be a bad choice, in terms not just of geography but also culture.  Few local people have family links and attachments to Petersfield, Alton or Bordon: owing to our history, most of us are culturally and emotionally far closer to Cosham and Portsmouth.
  • Some of our local council employees will be made redundant, but there is no mention of this or any arrangements to protect them.
  • A highly critical report has been published on governance at East Hants Council.  It identified deep-rooted problems including a worrying lack of transparency in decision making and inappropriate conduct between Council members and officers.  When challenged about this, Havant’s Cabinet Lead Councillor responded “It is for them to sort out”.  Given that both Councils share the same senior officers, this is recklessly complacent.  Our representatives need to take a more robust view on the report and the implications for Havant.

Ultimately this is a matter of democracy.

Phil Munday, Chair of St Faiths & Emsworth Labour Party says:

Phil Munday, Chair of St Faiths & Emsworth Labour Party “Not only were the public not consulted about this significant change, but the merger was never openly debated even amongst Councillors.  We need honest and open discussion on the implications for how Havant will be governed in the future.  All options need to be considered.”

Phil, representing Havant Labour, has made a formal deputation to the Council about this, which you can watch here, and you can read correspondence we sent to the Leader of Havant Council on the subject, here and here.

If you have new information on this, or any other local matters, or if you have an opinion you wish to share, please contact us on stfaiths@havantlabour.uk.