The Cabinet celebrates its achievements on Independence, Freeport, Regeneration and more

The HBC Cabinet Meeting of March 7th was a rather smug, self-congratulatory affair, looking to start lining up the press releases that could be issued as soon as the March Council meeting rubber stamped its achievements. With a number of significant items on the agenda, it’s worth listening to the meeting, or at least dipping in and out of it using the links in this post. These items will continue to dominate the business of the Council for years to come, and we think it’s worth continuing to keep a record.

Recommendations from the Scrutiny Board. The Cabinet seem happy with the outcome of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee session from the week before. If you read our report here, you might conclude that they’re still some way short of being able to crow about any real achievements here.

Withdrawal from Joint Management and Shared Staff Arrangements – The split from East Hants District Council. The Leader feels that the Cabinet have done a good job on this, but in reality, the true impacts and costs have yet to be understood.

Freeports – An update on the ‘Freeport project’, in which the pennies start to drop.

Havant Regeneration & Economy Strategy – A Refreshed Approach , including the ‘Hayling Island Seafront Strategy – Regeneration Ambition – Update’ and ‘Havant Town Centre Regeneration – Priority Projects’.

Council Tax Empty Homes Premium Review – Last item on the agenda.

If you don’t want to watch the full video below, refer to the table below it to find a set of links to the individual meeting agenda items and dip in where you have an interest. Each of the underlined and italicised links will take you to the relevant part of the meeting.

LinkAgenda item
Introduction1 – 4 Introductory administration. The Leader opens the meeting in his own inimitable manner.
Item 5 5 – Recommendations from the Scrutiny Board
O&S Vice-Chair Cllr. Francis reports on the key recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. This recommendation makes an important point regarding an earlier recommendation on affordable housing which had been under development by the former Scrutiny function.

The full recommendation, drafted by the O&S Committee, can be read here.

The Leader thanks Cllr. Francis for her report, and given her imminent retirement, for her long years of service to the Borough. (We, the residents, will miss her).
Item 66 – Options Appraisal and Business Case for Withdrawal from Joint Management and Shared Staff Arrangements
After a brief introduction by the Leader, Kim Sawyer, Acting Chief Executive of Havant Borough Council, introduces the report to the meeting. She introduces the report by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). The CIPFA Report provides the main content from which the approval to proceed is taken.

While the Council Leader feels that the report reflects a ‘deep dive’ that ‘gives a green light’ setting out a ‘pathway for us going forward now as Havant Borough Council and ending the shared partnership we’re in’, as always, the devil is in the detail. (Take this link and read it for yourself)
Item 77 – Freeports
Cllr. Bains, as a Solent Freeport board member, introduces the subject and asks the KPMG consultants visiting to explain the detail.

Cllr. Robinson asks for an explanation of the relationship between PCC and HBC in order to understand how it benefits HBC, and perhaps more worryingly, even Cllr. Pike looks to KPMG for the explanation.

Now this is appears to be one of those moments when the penny can almost be heard to drop. The magic Freeport money and jobs seed still hasn’t germinated. The Full Business Case that the documents describe show that while Havant Borough Council will continue to take the Business Rates for Fatface and the other two existing ‘non-Freeport’ buildings, the Business Rate income for any new operations on the site will be pooled at the Solent Freeport level with Havant Borough Council having to make claims, where justified, to the Freeport Board.

In reality, the entire Dunsbury Park employment area is now locked into the future Freeport gamble meaning that operations like Amazon, who had originally looked to locate there, are now probably shut out.

The Dunsbury site is perfectly located within easy cycle reach of both Leigh Park and Waterlooville, so reserving it for future Freeport use seems an ‘interesting’ decision. SInce we’d expect the early Solent Freeport tax site focus to be on the Southampton Water and Navigator Quarter sites, the promised jobs and revenue from Havant’s Freeport site may be some way off. We trust that the, as yet unseen, Regeneration and Economy masterplan will prove us wrong.
Item 88 – Hayling Island Seafront Strategy – Regeneration Ambition – Update
A convincing love-in by the Cabinet Members expressing their unbridled enthusiasm for the eagerly anticipated new cafe and toilet. When it comes to the ‘debate’, Councillor Satchwell proposes, Councillor Pike seconds. We see a pattern emerging….
Item 9a9 – Havant Regeneration & Economy Strategy – A Refreshed Approach
Once again, Cllr. Pike promises to be brief but then still can’t help playing to the gallery.
Item 9bBefore asking for questions, the Leader brings attention to the Report from the Scrutiny Committee, though falls short of bringing up the recommendation raised earlier by Cllr. Francis.
Item 9c“Would anyone like to debate this?” says the Leader. Cllr. Satchwell returns the favour by slapping Cllr. Pike on the proverbial back, referring to ‘Havant Borough Council 2.0‘ (now there’s a trendy little buzzword!) . “Us demonstrating that things are changing”. “This is the kind of thing we want to see at Cabinet Meetings”. “We don’t want to be debating things forever that actually make very little different to our residents”, (Oh, the irony)

The Leader brings the debate to a close, Cllr. Pike proposes, Cllr. Satchwell seconds and the result of the vote was a forgone conclusion.
Item 1010 – Havant Town Centre Regeneration – Priority Projects

Cllr. Pike wants to keep off the numbers “so we don’t have to excuse the public and the press”. He expresses relief that the tree at the corner of the park helpfully came down in the recent storm, making it easier to get that spade in the ground.

We can expect to see those spades in Havant Park before long, since that part of the Town Centre Regeneration proposal is fairly uncontroversial. We can also expect some potentially useful infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists since the Public Realm and Access Package provides the other refreshing outbreak of reality. (It’s actually worth studying those two documents since they’re the only changes we’re likely to see in the next few years.)

The Leader remembers that O&S had made a recommendation regarding affordable housing, and briefly brings it up before moving on. Do carry on listening here while the O&S Amendment is put through the ‘Cabinet sanitizer’. After Cllr. Robinson’s clear question, there’s a long awkward silence while the microphones are off. Stick with it though
Item_1111 – Council Tax Empty Homes Premium Review

Cllr. Denton, supported by Mr. Wood, introduces this item. May sound a dry subject but it’s worth listening to, if only to appreciate that there are times when real, tangible work is progressed here.

The Leader spots an opportunity for a pre-election press release. (We’ll be seeing a few of those over the next few weeks.)