Axe falls on community board funding by Havant Borough Council

STANDING DOWN Keith Chessell
STANDING DOWN Keith Chessell

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THERE are fears influential panels made up of local residents could fold after a council axed financial support.

Community Boards in Havant and Bedhampton, Waterlooville, Leigh Park and Hayling Island have helped shape planning applications and acted as a sounding board for Havant Borough Council officers on major projects.

But funding for the boards has been withdrawn and the officer who provided secretarial and administrative support will be made redundant from the end of September.

Keith Chessell, chairman of the Havant and Bedhampton Community Board, says he will now step down.

He said: ‘We are having trouble understanding exactly why they are doing this.

‘Over the years we have done so much work on major planning issues such as Tesco, Scottish and Southern and Pfizer.

‘We are not like residents associations who simply say “we don’t want this”. We work with developers and they listen.

‘We represent six residents associations and have strong links with local business and employers and have highly skilled members.

‘Officers ask if they can present ideas to us to sound us out on projects such as the Public Service Village.

‘I just feel very sad. We have done so much over the years, we all do it voluntarily and we give up a lot of time.

‘It’s going to result in quite a number of the best people just walking away from it, including me.

‘I don’t want to get involved in fundraising to keep going. I want to get on with the job.’

Boards will now have to fund room hire themselves. They will even have to pay to hire a council room because the council does not want to be seen to treat any group preferentially.

In a report to councillors at the cabinet meeting, Tim Slater, executive head of economy and community, said: ‘Cabinet members have expressed a desire to create a different future relationship with the Community Boards, recognising the role of councillors as community champions working with a wide range of community groups in their wards, not just through a single board.’

Each community board will receive a one-off payment of £200 following the decision by the council.