Over the past couple of months I’ve been running a constituency poll asking you to let me know your main priorities for North West Hampshire. I’ve received approximately 500 responses and I’m pleased to report the findings.
The main priorities for North West Hampshire residents are:
- Improving our roads and transport infrastructure,
- Cutting crime
- Reviving our High Streets
- Improving mental health services.
Good roads are vital to N W Hampshire’s long-term prospects as a successful place to live and work and a good highway network has a huge impact on residents’ quality of life.
Last year, Hampshire County Council filled in 20,738 potholes and resurfaced 5.2km of road in N W Hampshire. The year, the Government has made £420 million available to local authorities to invest in continuing to improve road surfaces, fill-in potholes and maintain local bridges. The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) will also benefit from an additional £150 million in 2019-20 to assist local authorities implement small projects that improve traffic flows, for example redesigning roundabouts, small junctions and revising road layouts.
Cutting crime came second on your list of concerns and I fully recognise the pressure police forces are under which is in part due to the changing nature of crime.
The Police Funding Settlement (PFS) for 2019/20 contains the largest increase in police funding since 2010; £90 million to tackle serious and organised crime, £153 million for pension costs and an increase in government grants of £161 million, which is the first real terms increase since 2010. In total the PFS allows an increase in police budgets of £813 million, at the discretion of local PCCs. In Hampshire the police have a potential budget increase of £25 million.
Recently I held meetings with Michael Lane, our Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Superintendent Kory Thorn of Hampshire Constabulary to discuss a range of issues including rural crime & PCSOs and I will continue to engage with the wider community about what more can be done to keep our area safe and secure.
Reviving our High Streets
The internet and the changing nature of shopper’s habits has undoubtedly taken its toll on the traditional High Street model, as has overbearing business rates and regulations.
The Government is taking action. Business rate reforms will help small businesses by more than £12 billion over five years and businesses with a rateable value of below £51,000 will have their bills cut by a third for two years. These policies will result in savings of up to £8000/annum for up to 90 per cent of independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has established a £675 million Future High Streets Fund designed to help build the infrastructure High Streets need to survive and thrive and provide hands on advice to local authorities and we’re also consulting on planning changes to enable easier conversion of properties.
Locally, I recently attended Small Business Saturday in Andover and the message is simple “Use them or we lose them.” Test Valley Borough Council’s recent acquisition of the Chantry Centre and dynamic local businesses setting up in Andover can only be good news.
Improving Mental Health Services
More than 1 in 4 people will suffer a mental health condition at some point in their life and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects young people, with 50% of mental health problems established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
Locally I’ve been doing a lot of work to highlight the importance of improved mental health. From hosting a Suicide Prevention Summit to promoting Time to Talk Day and the Italk online service, to bringing Google to a local school for Safer Internet Day and taking part in a podcast hosted by our local 13 year old Youth Parliamentarian. I’ m also a Dementia Friendly Hampshire Ambassador, a Dementia Friend and the UK Dementia Research Institute (www.ukdri.ac.uk) was a project which I conceived and initiated when I was Deputy Mayor of London.
More certainly needs to be done but the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of a wide-ranging package of measures including training for all new teachers on how to spot the signs of mental health issues and extra funding to support local authorities to strengthen and deliver local suicide prevention plans will make sure people have the confidence and skills they need to identify and treat mental health issues before they become critical, particularly in young people.