Local News

REPORT: Andover’s new town council

Andover’s new town mayor has presided over his first council meeting.

Leader of the newly created Andover Alliance party, which attained 15 of the 16 seats in the recent parish council elections, Cllr Richard Rowles took office at the meeting which attracted much attention.

The Annual Council meeting at the Council Chamber held at the Rendezvous venue on Union Street last night was well attended by people – with observers in the public area from other political parties – many of whom no doubt wish the party ill.

Having accepted his chain of honour, Mayor Rowles held the meeting together extremely well despite deliberate attempts to upset, confuse or complicate proceedings.  “Grandstanding” from some individuals only caused titters and lengthened the duration of the meeting.

The crab-faced looks on the faces of some onlookers perhaps betrayed their sense of regret at being relieved of their seat, or their contempt for the new party.

In acceptance of his mayoral role, Cllr Rowles said, “I want to offer heartfelt thanks to the outgoing councillors for their service offered to our community throughout their time as councillors.

“Over the last few years I have come to see the work executed by our previous mayors and I am excited to be able to offer our town the same, and hopefully even more pride and help via this position.”

Speaking about some changes he wants to see made at the town council, leader of the Andover Alliance Mayor Rowles added, “Over the next four years I hope you will see our town benefit from a number of changes to our organisation that will make it more efficient, inclusive, transparent and offer better value for money by doing more.”

Over the election period, the Andover Alliance claimed it would ‘put local people before national politics’, but observers from other political parties perhaps had firm intentions to ensure their own party message was heard.

Contemptuous sniggering was heard from the public area, attempting to disrupt Cllr David Coole as he was speaking on the matter of budgets.

Andover Alliance members showed their have their own thoughts and direction, no doubt some of which the party executive committee may not entirely agree.  

Despite claims by Cllr David Coole to the contrary, Love Andover continues to believe there are members who seeking to take their own route; not following the general party direction.

It’s believed that one of their recently elected councillors is threatening to leave the party.  

In today’s Andover Advertiser Mr Coole, a former Army Major says reports of a ‘split within the party’, are unfounded saying a difference of opinion at Monday’s full borough council meeting was “due to inexperience.”

Cllr Coole then claimed his and Cllr Ecclestone’s failure to attend a party meeting on Sunday last was because the meeting was a “hastily arranged” and “didn’t comply with the party constitution”.  This is despite the meeting of party members being at the same location, at the same time each Sunday for over two months.

Andover Alliance, Andover town councillors
Andover town councillors, May 16th 2019

To a casual observer with little or no familiarity with the events of a local authority meeting, it would appear a draconian, inefficient way of making decisions with the ‘relaxation of standing orders’, ‘points of order’ and the like.

It was no short meeting, at almost two and a quarter hours long, elected members had to hold a vote to extend the duration of the meeting to complete their journey through the 29-point agenda.  

There was some notable ‘look at me’ grandstanding and wordy performances from two elected members, whereas the rest of the assembled members seemingly just wanted to get proceedings over and done with.

Former town mayor Barbara Long, who had held the mayoral role for the past year, in a tearful moment, wished the new mayor and his party well.

Andover Alliance Cllr Lauren Banville accepted the office of deputy town Mayor.

Mayor Rowles told Love Andover, “The meeting showed the democratic way that town councils should work.  That is, regardless of party politics, councillors should form their own opinion.

“It was obvious to all at the start of the meeting, listening to members of the public, how everyone felt about certain items on the agenda; councillors listened and voted accordingly.

“Although there was a very short space of time between the election and this meeting, we have already begun to consider changes to improve the town council and enact some of the items from the Andover Alliance manifesto while ensuring we include the only independent councillor on the town council.”

Independent councillor and Labour Party member Andy Fitchet was the only voting member who chose not support this year’s Andover Armed Forces Day.  Andover Radio approached the town council to support the event which will be at Vigo Park on Saturday 29th June.

The day of events and activities for the family to celebrate the work of our service personnel is now provided to the people of Andover for free with the help of Andover town council.

Financial support for the annual event is also provided by local businesses like International Furniture, Oaktree Accounts and New Street Dental Care as well as three of Andover’s four county councillors.  Conservative Cllr Zilliah Brooks failed to join the support given by Cllrs Kirsty North, Martin Boiles and Andrew Gibson.

Andover’s Business Improvement District was also debated.  The council vowed to “formally withdraw any previously declared support” for the organisation.  Previous councillors agreed to support the enterprise.

Cllr David Coole said, “We were elected to stand up and fight for real improvements.  I ask our honoured County and Borough Country Councillors in the audience to tell their leaders that local people are angry.

“They think the solution is to stick yet another tax on our struggling high street businesses.   

“We have got to stop destroying our town and punishing our businesses. We need to start thinking and acting differently, in the interests of local people and businesses.”  

Love Andover has asked Andover BID, who are being challenged over support for businesses outside the town, for comment on the council’s decision.