Warminster area board meets for first time(November 28, 2008)
It was very well attended with only just sufficient seating and a large buffet at the end – no doubt people who are paying £1,500 a year in council tax will be pleased their money is so well spent.
It was a mostly positive meeting and was well chaired by Warminster councillor Andrew Davis.
"I have already attended area board meetings in other localities so there was very little new information other than the news that this board will have £47,000 to spend on community projects next year," said former county councillor Steve Dancey.
"I only asked one question which concerned council housing after an off the cuff comment from Brad Fleet, the man who will be in charge of the planning service for the unitary council and who has held that role at Kennet District Council.
"He said that ‘Salisbury District is, at the moment, the only district with a housing stock’.
"I asked if the ‘at the moment’ comment meant the new council might build new council houses in other parts of the county.
"He didn’t think so.
"That is a shame because the model that has developed for bringing on new social housing only works when there are new housing developments and a certain proportion are deemed social housing. A figure of 50 per cent is used in rural Kennet.
"Even in good times this system distorts the housing market by making new paid for homes more expensive than they otherwise would be.
"But if there are several years when few homes are being built, as at present, it means that few new social houses will be built and yet the need remains.
"I hope Mr Fleet and his boss Mark Boden are not intending to try to force Salisbury folk to give up their council houses as has happened in West Wilts and Kennet via a large scale voluntary transfer (LSVT).
"LSVT was voted through in West Wilts after a pathetic one sided debate but in Salisbury, where people were able to make an informed choice thanks to strong anti-campaigns, it has been rejected decisively on three occasions over a number of years.
"I have been opposed to housing associations taking over council housing as it leads to huge confusion about who is responsible for things like highways, grass cutting, litter picking and even sewage treatment and also reduces democratic control over an essential service.
"You only need look at the NHS to see what happens when local democratic control is lost."
In future the shadow area board is likely to meet mainly on Thursdays although the next one will be on Tuesday 13 January.
While the first board meeting was well attended most of those present seemed to be well-heeled patrician types with plummy voices and not very representative of the bulk of Warminster’s population.
"The composition of the attendees only heightened my fears that that the village element may have too big an influence on the board by virtue of having a representative from every parish council – giving Chitterne the same representation as Waminster which has a much bigger population.