Tories’ £2m grab from local schools

Schools in Fareham are set to lose thousands in funding for the most disadvantaged pupils in the county following the government’s decision to alter the method of calculating pupil premium funding.

The pupil premium, which aims to close the attainment gap by providing extra money to pupils eligible for free school meals, was a flagship reform introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government in 2011.

The move is “a shameful cut” which “will have a direct impact on the quality of education schools can provide for those who are in desperate need of more, not less, support”, says local parent James Fowler, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in Fareham South at the recent local elections.

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Post it, don’t pencil it

Everyone who wants to see an end to Tory domination in Fareham is urged to register for postal votes to help Lib Dems make major gains in Hampshire’s biggest – ever Local Elections on May 6.

And the need to vote is heightened by the Government’s announcement that electors voting in person will have to bring their own pen or pencil to the polling station – and the risk of voters being turned away if they forget to do so.

Of course preventing the sharing of objects we handle is vital in curbing the spread of Covid-19. But a much easier and cheaper way to make voting safe would be to hold all-postal elections – something the Government has stubbornly refused to do.

There have been big changes since the last local elections in May 2019, and with increasingly centralised control from Whitehall, the local Conservatives are in disarray.

Several former Conservative councillors from Fareham have already turned independent – no longer willing to toe their party line. Senior leadership has come under scrutiny, with a Fareham – based Tory County Council cabinet member resigning after being found to have broken council rules.

Fareham’s Liberal Democrats chairman Peter Davison said: “ Last year’s Local Elections were postponed and so there’s now a re al opportunity to make a difference.

“We will be contesting 15 Fareham Council seats and a further 7 for the County Council. The political shape of councils across Hampshire may soon look very different – especially if the turnout rises above the usual 40%.

Peter Davison says, “ We are finding that voters are very keen to have their say, but we sense that the ruling Conservatives are rather hoping that voter numbers will remain low , and would rather postpone the election yet again. ”

“By contrast, Fareham’s Lib Dem councillors and all our candidates are still working hard for their communities. Their everyday work of sorting local concerns is very important and voters now really appreciate the local Lib Dems’ attention to detail. ’

“Postal votes are far safer and easier, and anyone can apply for one. The Conservatives are just 12 weeks from their day of reckoning – make sure your vote brings them to account.’

Goodbye garden village?

A funding fiasco means that the 6,000-home Welborne estate will be less effective than promised in providing homes for people who really need them.

The developers, Buckland, will have to pay a bigger share of the cost of improving Junction 10 on the M27. Buckland has agreed to double its contribution from £20million to £40million. But they say this means they will have to reduce the proportion of affordable homes provided as part of the development.

A revised planning application for Welborne can be seen on the planning pages on Fareham Council’s website. The application number is P/17/0266/OA and residents have until January 25 to comment on it.

Bukland will also now be unable to provide Passivhaus buildings – homes and other buildings which need less energy for heating and cooling – or Life Time Homes, which are designed to be accessible and adaptable for everyone from young families to older and/or disabled people.

The shortfall comes because the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has withdrawn £25million it had pledged for the £75million junction. Delays to the Welborne project meant the LEP’s contribution could not be spent before a government-imposed deadline. But Welborne cannot go ahead without guaranteed funding for the junction.

A Government contribution to the junction will have to be increased from £10million to £30million via Homes England.

Jim Forrest, Lib Dem spokesman on Planning and Development on the Council, said: “Reductions in affordable housing make a nonsense of the argument for developing on greenfield sites. And the loss of adaptable homes undermines efforts at all levels of government to fight the climate emergency.

“If Ministers are serious in their estimates of housing need, they should have enabled the LEP to stand by their commitment. Instead they are undermining the concept of a Garden Village, and running the risk of making Welborne yet another over-priced, soulless estate.”

This revised Viability Statement attached to the new application sets out Buckland’s arguments for the changes.