Gosport Borough Council is a small council which, like all local councils around the country, has seen its income from government fall sharply in recent years. This has resulted in cuts to local services and staff redundancies. The latest cost-saving measure saw most of the council’s top officers (Chief Executive, Borough Secretary, etc) made redundant at the end of 2016 with officers from Portsmouth City Council taking over most of their functions.
Council officers work to implement decisions made by Gosport’s 34 councillors. Though both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have run the council in the past 20 years, the current council is run by the Conservatives who hold 21 seats (Labour has 4 and the Liberal Democrats 9). All Councillors receive an annual allowance of around £6,000, with the Leader of the Council getting almost £14,000 and Chairs of each Board around £4,000 in addition.
The 34 Councillors are responsible for deciding policies and ensuring that these are carried out. They also prioritise and monitor services to ensure that they are delivered in the most efficient and effective way.
The following boards are where most of the decisions are made:
- Policy and Organisation Board – deals with policy and personnel
- Community Board – covers housing, environmental health, parks/open spaces, Streetscene
- Economic Development Board – covers local business and tourism
- Regulatory Board – deals with planning decisions and licensing matters
- Standards and Governance – includes audit and complaints
Councils are supposed to have an Overview and Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise decisions, but the Conservatives recently got rid of this committee. It has become sadly common in recent times for meetings to be cancelled or to be very short, with decisions having been made in advance by the Conservatives due to their majority.
There are around six full Council meetings every year. In addition councillors also meet at the different Boards listed above to discuss policy and make decisions in specific areas. Details of the meetings schedule, Board minutes, etc are available on the Council website (gosport.gov.uk).
Gosport Borough Council spends about £10m a year, with its income coming from three main sources: the Revenue Support Grant (from central government), Business Rates it collects and its share of the Council Tax paid by Gosport residents.
Council officers work in five service units:
- Chief Executive’s Unit
- Financial Services Unit
- Housing Services Unit
- Legal Democratic and Planning Services Unit
- Community and Customer Services Unit.
Residents are often unclear about what the responsibilities of Gosport Borough Council are, and are unaware that many services are provided by Hampshire County Council or some other body.