Debating the ‘Shaping’ of ‘our Future’

Wednesday evening’s council meeting lived up to expectations. Not a particularly hard challenge since expectations were frankly not high to start with. It was the first time I’d watched a full council meeting via Skype for Business and all I can say is I sincerely hope that the the council’s move to Microsoft Teams Live Events provides a better ‘user experience’ for us council tax payers. Netflix it isn’t.

The main reason for sitting in on it was to watch the debate on the ‘Shaping our Future‘ initiative. This also went as well as might have been expected. With four council members and the Mayor in the chamber, the rest were remote, some attentive, the others probably distracted by their phones as has been observed in these pages before. No change there then. We weren’t even given the opportunity to examine our councillor’s personal background bookshelf arrangements and just had to put up with the single live (?) feed shown in this image.

The document under debate can be seen here. Put in simple terms, Havant Borough Council agreed a few years back to an executive takeover by East Hants District Council, so having followed it by the abdication of the next level of management down, isn’t it obvious that they should now move to a single, shared workforce at all levels of the company. (Ooops sorry, I mean ‘democratic institution’)

This point wasn’t lost on Councillor Beryl Francis who pointed out that the decisions taken so far on this topic had lacked even council scrutiny, let alone public scrutiny. At the end of the ‘debate’, Cllr Francis was the only member who appeared to vote with her conscience, with regard to her constituents and on behalf of those members of the Havant Borough Council work force most affected by this.

No matter, as expected, the motion was carried. With one vote against and one abstention (That was Cllr Patrick, who having taken fifty minutes to master the technology and log into the meeting, did the only honourable thing she could.)

The rest of them followed their herd instinct, rather like their peers at Warblington farm on my early morning walk today. As for promises of cost and efficiency savings, well we’ve heard all that before haven’t we? Cllr Pike, who in his private and public life normally drives the herd rather than follows it, cautioned that with central government interventions on devolution in the pipeline, directions may need to change.

Does any of this matter? Well I think it does. I’ve been in contact with HBC this week on the subject of the dilapidated and dangerous state of some of the East Street buildings. So far, I’ve been really impressed by the interaction and feedback on proposed actions that I’ve been getting from the combined HBC/East Hants management team.

There is one slight cloud though. The email below, spotted in an exchange today, is a little bit of a giveaway. It seems that if you’re engaging with East Hants management staff, unless you can get a councillor to speak for you, you’re probably wasting your time.

Is this really the service that Havant Council tax payers are going to get when our ‘Future’ has been ‘Shaped’?