Losing your job can be devastating, and as the number of unemployed climbs steadily to top 2.5m, more and more people are facing that harsh reality. But instead of focussing on the negative, three staff members at Hampshire County Council who were laid off in the latest round of cuts have turned entrepreneur and used this opportunity to establish their own start-up local authority, calling it the Independent Hampshire Council, or IHC.
'It's a freeing up,' enthuses co-founder and IHC leader, Brian Yake, who used to deliberate on the sub-committee that discussed consumer complaints before reporting to the Hampshire County Council Trading Standards group. 'Now that I will be deliberating issues for myself instead of for some unwieldy hierarchy, I've rediscovered my passion. This is why I got into deliberation in the first place.'
Based in a 2-room office unit on Daneshill Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Basingstoke, Yake admits the IHC headquarters are a far cry from Winchester, but points to the easier access and parking that Basingstoke affords, and the countless empty units available if they ever need to expand.
Former HCC building regulation report review committee member, Andrew Sharp, explained, 'Opening our own council was something we had been talking about for a long time, but it never went beyond talk. I guess you could say the redundancy was a blessing – the kick up the backside we needed. We view this as a chance for us to really use our reviewing and deliberating skills...people should envy us.'
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. Pointing to a hand-written sign next to the light-switch in the meeting room, asking people to turn the lights out while the room was not in use, Mike explained that whereas at Winchester, it would've needed five signatures and a public tender to get the sign up, at Independent Hampshire Council, it only took an impromptu 90-minute discussion before concensus 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!'