“I’ll fight to the very last breath to preserve the historic town of Hedon and to keep its unique identity!” said Councillor Mike Bryan dramatically at Thursday’s meeting of the Hedon Town Council. He made the comments during the council’s discussion on the East Riding Council’s Boundary Referendum and in response to the suggestion that Hedon might be incorporated into a Greater Hull.
There have been a number of fighting statements issued by Councillors over the boundary issue – in March Cllr John Dennis famously, or infamously, likened Hull City Council to “a modern-day Genghis Khan!”
East Riding Councillor Geraldine Mathieson in Cottingham, went even further when she said some residents in Cottingham “would rather have barbed wire and trenches between them and Hull, because they don’t want to be joined to Hull!”
Hedon Councillor David Thompson has even wrote a poem Hands off Hedon! about the issue:
So what has actually aroused all this passionate language!?
A Commission of Inquiry contracted by Hull City Council will carry out a study into the effects that Hull’s current boundaries has on the city’s performance.
It is argued that extending Hull’s administrative boundary to include places to the west and east of the city makes economic sense. It would give Hull greater economic and political clout, enabling it to draw in more funding and essential investment.
Proponents say that boundary extension would include more people in the essential decision-making in Hull that affects the whole sub region. Whilst people in the surrounding towns and villages regularly use the services provided by Hull, they have no say in those decisions. Hull as the City of Culture 2017, for example, will impact on the economies of nearby areas, but it is claimed that the people living there are currently disenfranchised from the decision-making processes regarding that project.
Hull City Council resolved in March 2014 to establish a Commission of Inquiry to consider:
- the effects of the existing city boundary on the interests of local communities in the development and regeneration of Hull and the sub region;
- the respective identities of the areas of East Riding and Hull;
- the potential for delivery of more efficient and convenient local government arrangements within a Greater Hull
A contract for eight months admin and technical support for the Commission has been agreed costing £35,275. The Commission will report back by April 2015.
In response to that move, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council are facilitating the Boundary Referendum during September. Whilst East Riding Council emphasises its role as a facilitator in the postal ballot, the high-profile campaign is expected to cost up to £60,000.
As well as the above, some of the affected parish and town councils have banded together and are expected to launch an equally high-profile “Hands Off!” campaign financed directly or indirectly through those local government bodies. Hedon Town Council agreed on Thursday to give £254.74 towards campaign funds. Preston Parish Council opted not to fund the campaign from its funds, but individual councillors have raised their parish contribution of £91.67. The precise figures reflect contributions based on the number of households in each area and the number of posters, banners, leaflets, and other promotional material needed in each.
“Hands Off!” will aim to encourage people to return their ballot papers and hopes to ensure a massive turnout for the September referendum.
The rights of parish councils to fund such campaigns from public funds has not been disputed, but whether such a campaign constitutes ‘political activity’ has been raised. At the Public Participation session at Thursday’s town council meeting, Steve Gallant, whilst accepting that the campaign was not party political, did believe that the council was contributing to a political campaign which went against the council’s own previously stated non-political stance.
With the imminent launch of the “Hands Off!” campaign we can expect the debate – and perhaps the fighting talk – to continue for some time yet!