‘COOPERATION over antagonism’ was one of the prevailing messages at the full town council meeting of June 14.

Andover town councillors voted to reopen dialogue with Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) to settle a long-wrangling dispute, after town council chairman Cllr Richard Rowles had earlier touted ‘a much more productive working relationship’ between the town and borough authorities.

Councillors passed a motion regarding the Andover levy, proposing the formation of a working group to conduct initial talks with TVBC leadership regarding the tax.

The levy, an additional tax on the town’s residents to pay for services such as cemeteries, playground maintenance and outdoor sports facilities, has proven contentious in the past.

In November 2018 the previous town council administration began looking at legal action against the borough council having felt they had exhausted talks with the authority.

But current councillors have since agreed to “press the reset button” and reopen those talks.

The meeting's motion, proposed by Cllr Rowles and seconded by Cllr Andy Fitchet, prompted comment from Cllr Scott Blackmore who questioned what had changed since those previous discussions broke down.

Cllr Fitchet later added: “I think something has changed and that’s the leadership of TVBC has changed.

“And so Cllr Carr and Cllr Hatley were very anti-Andover town council and very anti-doing anything which would help us, anti-anything which would prosper us and anti-anything which I personally think would help Andover.

“Cllr North and Adams-King are much more readable in working with us and much more readable in trying to discuss the issues with us so I think that has changed which may change the dynamic of discussion.”

Cllr Victoria Thorp added: “It seems to me that this is quite a sensible motion that allows us to open some doors before going down a very expensive legal route.”

The vote comes after Cllr Rowles had earlier heard addresses from the public, including former town councillor Michael Mumford’s question as to whether the new town council’s attitude towards TVBC would be ‘antagonistic or cooperative’.

Cllr Rowles said: “We now have a number of town councillors who are also borough councillors so obviously it would create a rather bizarre situation if we were going to go down the antagonistic approach.

“And I think that with the access to officers that the borough councillors on this committee have, and on this council have, I think it will result in a much more productive working relationship.”