As the number of unemployed climbs steadily to top 2.5m, three people made redundant by Hampshire County Council in the latest round of cuts have chosen to focus on the positives and turn entrepreneur by establishing their own start-up local authority.
‘It’s given us a whole new lease of life,’ enthuses Brian Yake, co-founder of the Independent Hampshire Council (IHC). ‘I used to deliberate on the sub-committee that discussed consumer complaints and which reported to the Hampshire County Council Trading Standards group. But now that I will be deliberating issues for myself instead of for some unwieldy bureaucracy, I’ve really rediscovered my passion. This is why I got into consumer complaints deliberation in the first place.’
Based in a two-room office unit on Daneshill Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Basingstoke, Yake admits that the IHC headquarters are a far cry from the hubbub of Winchester, but points to the improved access and parking that Basingstoke affords, and the countless empty units available if they ever need to expand.
‘Opening our own council was something we had been talking about for a long time,’ explained Andrew Sharp, former Hampshire County Council building regulation report review committee member. ‘I guess you could say the redundancy was a blessing – it was the kick up the backside we needed. This really gives us the chance to hone our reviewing and deliberating skills out in the real world.’
And while Yake is deliberating issues and Sharp is reviewing reports, their other partner, Mike Roscoe, tables proposals and drafts memos for the other two, rejoicing in the lack of red-tape. ‘Look at this,’ said Roscoe, pointing proudly to a hand-written sign next to the light-switch in the meeting room asking people to turn the lights out when the room is not in use. ‘At Winchester it would’ve needed five signatures and a public tender to get that sign up, but at Independent Hampshire Council it took only an impromptu 90-minute discussion before consensus was reached, and by the end of the week the markers and paper were on order.’
Next up for IHC will be their first leaflet, and they can’t wait to get stuck in. ‘Mike’s already circulated a memo to get ideas for when we should start a discussion on the timing for the first meeting,’ gushed Mr Yake. ‘You won’t see initiative like that in Winchester!’