#ThatchStatch – The statue that no-one else wants!

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After years of campaigning, the Grantham Community Heritage Association has now got the go ahead to put a statue of Margaret Thatcher on St Peter’s Hill in Grantham.

The final green-light came at the South Kesteven Development Management Committee (aka Planning) where Councillors discussed the pros and cons of a statue. The meeting was even busier than usual with television cameras and press people filling up the chairs.

Before the debate I did ask the Chair to be especially patient with my contribution. In the past he has been quite quick to cut speakers off if he thinks they are straying onto issues not concerned with planning matters or the specifics of an application which, I suppose, is his job. In response he asked me “not to be political”. The application was for a 6-metre high statue of Margaret Thatcher – How can anyone speak on that without being political?

When I asked questions of the Officers report and the public speakers, the Chairman was quite keen to shut me down, e.g. when I asked if the statue could have a revolving pedestal “or is the Lady not for turning?”. To give the Chairman his due, he did allow me to read the speech I had written, without interruption:

“Thank you Chairman,

I have called in this application because it I think it is appropriate that all major applications should be presented to the Full Committee and also significant applications. It is only fair to the people who support this statue, and the people who oppose this statue, and to planning officers, that such an important decision should be taken by a committee of Councillors, and not by officers under delegated powers.

This not just a plinth and a sculpture. This statue carries with it the reputation of Grantham.

This is a statue that no-one else wants. Westminster thought it would be the object of protest and turned it down… I don’t think you would be able to find a home for it in South Yorkshire or Liverpool as the trauma of the Hillsborough tragedy continues even to this day… I don’t think South Wales would want it, or the North East. Scotland has still not forgiven Thatcher for using them as Poll Tax guinea pigs… Margaret Thatcher will always be remembered in mining communities but, due to the enmity between Thatcher and the miners, there are no longer any mining towns or villages left in the UK.

Yesterday, this Council hoisted the rainbow flag to show its support for LGBT History month. This would have been illegal under Thatcher due to Section 28 of her Local Government Act which prohibited Councils from promoting homosexuality.

The Council has also recently decided to build new Council Houses. These will replace the ones that Margaret Thatcher forced us to sell off so many years ago. Most of those are now rented out by private landlords. Isn’t it funny how things work out?

Thatcher’s other achievements are well documented. In her first few years of office unemployment doubled to well over 3 million. Interest rates rose to 17%. There were riots on the streets of London, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Incidentally, it has been suggested that the statue is displayed indoors. I disagree with this as sure the best place for a statue of Maggie Maggie Maggie is OUT, OUT, OUT!

There are many other chapters in the Thatcher story. Her successful campaign to retake the Falkland Islands, the indefatigable resolve that she showed after the Brighton bomb almost killed her and her entire Cabinet. Her role in the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was, after all, a Russian communist newspaper that first gave her the nickname of ‘The Iron Lady’.

All things considered, I’m not a fan. Quite the opposite. However, the story of Thatcher and Thatcherism needs to be told. The shadow of Thatcherism looms over our political discourse in a much bigger way than any shadow that will be cast over St Peter’s Hill by this edifice. Thatcher and her legacy are now studied not only by politics students but by A Level history students. These kids will inevitably need field trips to better understand Thatcher and her background. Where better than Grantham Museum? And no doubt other people will make pilgrimages to see the statue (and pilgrimage is definitely the wrong word).

Obviously we’re only interested in the material planning considerations in this matter and I can’t see a planning reason to object but, more than that, I think the statue will have two positive impacts: firstly, it will be a boost for Grantham and the local economy; secondly it will help make people stop and think about Thatcher and all the things she did, and why some people still love her and why some people still despise her. I wouldn’t vote for Mrs Thatcher herself but I see no good reason to vote against this statue.”

Other Councillors have a different opinion of Baroness Thatcher, including Cllr Peter Stephens, a Conservative Councillor and resident of the Manor House at Old Somerby, who reflected at one meeting last year:

“She did upset a lot of people. A lot of people in the mining industry lost their jobs but, and I bump into ex-miners quite often, I don’t find that they miss the work that much anyway. Unfortunately, [now] it’s lots of Europeans and other people who have to dig the coal up…”

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – February 2019

Since my last monthly report, I have attended the following formal SKDC meetings as well as some other less formal meetings and community events:

10/01/2019    Budget- Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee  

This meeting was the first opportunity to analyse the forthcoming Council budget for 2019/20.  The meeting was rather chaotic as Councillors were invited to ask questions and make comments on a report and appendices totalling 53 pages.  There was no deliberate sub-division of topics and consequently the comments were made in a scatter-gun manner and few, if any, definitive recommendations resulted.

15/01/2019    Development Management Committee

This was a relatively short meeting (two hours) which considered three applications:

  • Zone 9,Elsea Park, Bourne.- This was the third time that this application had been discussed and considered by the Committee. On the first occasion it was deferred and the second occasion Councillors voted against Officers’ recommendations and so it had to be reconsidered after a ‘cooling off’ period.  This time round the application was approved with 5 votes in favour, 2 against and 4 abstention.  On a positive note, it has been agreed that future applications of this type will be referred to the Council’s recently appointed Design Officer in order to avoid similar half-hearted planning approvals.
  • Frognall– After considerable debate, a large house extension was approved opposite the former Rose PH.
  • Stowe Road, Langtoft – Outline approval for up to 35 dwellings subject to agreement of conditions including agreeing a sewerage plan with Anglian Water.

22/01/2019    Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

As regular readers might know, I have a 100% record of attendance at meetings since August 2015. On receipt of the very thin agenda for the Environment Committee I did wonder whether it was really worth making the 60 miles round trip to Grantham to discuss virtually nothing of consequence. My sense of duty got the better of me and when the meeting closed after just an hour I had only confirmed that the whole exercise had been a waste of time.

There were no published papers for the meeting other than the printed agenda and notes of the previous meeting. No Cabinet Members were present at the meeting. The Chair failed to explain why the decisions of the previous meeting had not been acted upon, not even the draft ‘Street Lighting Policy’ which has been kicking around for more than a year.  We listened to a presentation from an Officer regarding a government consultation on Waste and Recycling.  A slide entitled “Key Milestones” mentioned a “Transposition of the Circular Economy Package” is due to be delivered before the end of 2019. I asked what this means but, sadly, nobody knew the answer.

Pointless

31/01/2019    Council

Full Council agenda started off with questions from members of the public. The first of these concerned ongoing problems with a heating system which was installed three years ago at the Riverside Housing Complex in Grantham which has never worked properly.  In response, the Conservative Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Nick Neilson (Con) and the Deputy Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) both apologised for the errors made since 2016 and promised to investigate and find a resolution.

Later in the meeting, I asked a question about the business relationship between a senior officer of the Council and a private consultancy which has been paid almost £60,000 over 18 months for various staff recruitment exercises. This question has been referred to a future meeting of the Council’s Employment Committee.

05/02/2019    DevelopmentManagement Committee

A specially extended meeting began at 10am and continued until 5.30pm. Despite the long day, this was undoubtedly the most interesting and entertaining planning committee I have attended to date.

In the morning, Councillors discussed an application for a Designer Outlet Village next to the A1 at Gonerby Moor. This multi-million pound project is expected to retain 700 jobs and to create 1,200 new jobs in the District as well as attracting literally millions of visitors to the District. Nevertheless, three of the Tories voted against the scheme including Cllr Jacky Smith (Con) who expressed concern about the proposed creation of a ‘training academy’ even though she is Cabinet Member for Skills and Wellbeing and the centre has the support of Grantham college.

The afternoon started with an application for a 6m high statue of Baroness Thatcher. I had personally ‘called-in’ this application because it is so significant and controversial. In the event it was approved unanimously by the Committee (including me). This decision attracted international media attention including from the Guardian and the Times.

For more information read my blog-post “The statue that no-one else wants”.

13/02/2019    Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee

This morning’s meeting revealed that the costs of the SKDC Senior Management Restructure have risen by over £150,000 since the last meeting, mostly due to unexpected redundancy payments and other staffing costs.

The meeting also considered the performance monitoring issues. I have been asking for this issue to be re-considered since it was last presented back in June last year.  At that time “it was noted that the report was based on the previous Corporate Strategy.  A New Corporate Strategy was now in place and would have more appropriate KPIs.”  I was most surprised that this morning, eight months on, we were presented with the old KPIs measured up to September. Therefore rather than receiving new up-to-date KPIs we were given old KPIs which were already six months out of date.

We then went on to discuss financial monitoring.  During last year’s budget setting process I was among a small group of Councillors who regarded many of the ‘ambitious’ budget predictions as pie-in-the-sky forecasts. I am sorry, though not surprised, to report that we were right and we were told this morning that the following projected savings have not been achieved:

Will anyone be held to account for making ridiculous savings targets and then missing them completely? I very much doubt it. Besides which, the budget has been altered several times since last year to accommodate millions of pounds of unplanned expenditure including land purchases and sudden redundancy payments.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

South Kesteven- Twinned with Peterborough!

Peterborough Crest In Spring 2017, a coup took place within the Conservative Group at SKDC which led to Cllr Matthew Lee being elected as Leader of the Council. Cllr Lee had only been elected to SKDC two years earlier having previously been a Conservative City Councillor in Peterborough.

One would expect that Cllr Lee would draw on his experience at his previous authority and cross-pollination is healthy, up to a point. However, the extent to which the ideas and even the personnel from Peterborough have been transferred to South Kesteven in astounding.

The first area of innovation/overlap, is in the field of economic development. Soon after the coup, a company called ‘Opportunity Peterborough’ (OP) was engaged as a consultant organisation to assist with the rebranding of SK’s economic development team as ‘InvestSK’. OP was originally the economic development arm of Peterborough City Council and Cllr Matthew Lee was a Director from 2010 to 2013.

In Spring 2018 ‘InvestSK’ became a limited company wholly-owned by SKDC. This decision was going to made without reference to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee so, with the help of four other Councillors, I called it in. A meeting was held to try to explain the motives and purpose of company structure. The nominated Directors are the Leader, the Deputy Leader and the Chief Exec of the Council. “So what?” you might ask. Well, as a department of the Council , the economic development team had to abide by the usual council rules concerning appointments, pensions, etc. but as a limited company they don’t have the same obligations and so it was possible for the Directors of InvestSK Ltd to hire and fire and make policies without reference to normal council procedure. Consequently they were able to appoint a new Chief Executive of InvestSK on a salary of around £100,000/year without any advert, competitive interview of candidate(s) or reference to Employment Committee. Who did they appoint? None other than the CEO of Opportunity Peterborough who had been leading the OP consultancy for the previous 12 months.

The next step of the plan is the creation of a Limited Liability Partnership called ‘DeliverSK’ to push forward the Council’s investment agenda. I use the term ‘plan’ quite loosely as the idea of an LLP had not been mentioned at any previous meetings about economic development or during the budget setting process. This decision was proposed during the summer recess of 2018 and a special meeting of Growth was called at the end of August (I attended and asked lots of questions). The idea is that a funding partner is found to bring in lots of funding to support joint venture satellite companies with the local authority (e.g. LeisureSK, OfficesSK, HousebuildingSK etc)

The recruitment of a funding partner does not strictly involve the delivery of goods or services and therefore does not require an EU compliant procurement process and the decision was delegated to a Cabinet Member. Several potential companies were invited to present proposed strategies for a funding partnership with SKDC and a Guernsey-based company called IAG came top. I googled IAG to see what else they do and, surprise surprise, their Chief Exec is already involved with regeneration activities in Peterborough.

The chart below attempts to show how ‘DeliverSK LLP’ will mirror the existing Peterborough Investment Partnership LLP and how the CEO of IAG is already on the Boards of two of the Peterborough joint ventures. The reality is actually more complicated than the diagram with links to Luxembourg and all sorts but I’ve done the best I can.

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The LLP is troublesome to me because I am quite keen on transparency and accountability. DeliverSK will be 50% owned by the public sector and therefore it will not be subject to Freedom of Information requests in the same way as other council companies (including InvestSK). The Peterborough equivalent, PIP, has already attracted criticism on this score.

Finally, let’s look at the personnel* who have been recruited since Cllr Lee’s inauguration:

June 17 – New Chief Executive – Previously worked as Management Consultant for V4 services working with Peterborough City Council.

June 17 – Senior Research and Support Assistant – A lawyer previously working at Peterborough City Council

July 17 – Head of Communications – A consultant employed by SKDC on over £140,000 a year who had previously worked with Peterborough City Council.

June 18 – Head of Arts – A new post created to drive forward the SKDC cultural strategy was offered to a former Artistic Director of the Key Theatre in Peterborough.

October 18 – Assistant Director, Growth – The former Head of Property Services at Peterborough City arrived via secondment to Opportunity Peterborough

October 18 – Chief Executive of InvestSK – previously Chief Executive of Opportunity Peterborough

January 19 – As part of the launch of the Council’s new LLP venture, DeliverSK, SKDC has recruited the Peterborough City Council’s former Director of Growth and Regeneration.

See also: Jobs for the Boys

Informally, staff and Councillors at SKDC have joked that the easiest way to recruit new member of staff is to phone Peterborough City Council. There will come a time when this will stop being funny.


Peterborough City Council
– Can the last one out please turn off the lights!

I apologise that this post is quite so long and complicated. I also apologise if I have misrepresented any of the detail; if so, I would be happy to correct if someone can explain more effectively.

*NB For the record, this post is not questioning the abilities or integrity of any individual members of staff, the purpose is to raise concerns over the recruitment and procurement processes and whether they meet the legal requirements regarding transparency, equality, and appointing staff  ‘on merit’)

“Must try harder!” say SKDC employees in annual survey

An annual survey of staff at South Kesteven has revealed that a significant proportion (28%) of employees feel their jobs are insecure, more than a third (36%) don’t feel their hard work and good performance is recognised and only 41% would describe morale as ‘good’.

Arguably the most worrying finding is that only 29% of employees feel processes and procedures are applied consistently across the Council, e.g. in recruitment, flexible working, sick leave. This is hardly surprising in the field of recruitment where it appears that many people are chosen on the basis of who they know rather than what they know and multiple senior posts have been appointed without adverts or competitive interview.

The 69% survey response rate has been hailed as ‘exceptional’ by the project team that conducted the exercise. I’m not quite sure why as it is down from 72% the previous year and, if I’ve understood correctly, it is only marginally above the public sector benchmark for this kind of consultation.

On a far more positive note, it is clear that despite various reservations about the working environment, 97% of SKDC staff are fully committed to doing their very best for the Council and 88% feel trusted to get on with their jobs.

More details of the staff survey results are on the SKDC website.

SKDC Local Plan has finally been submitted

Hot off the press from SKDC…

The South Kesteven Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government on Tuesday 15th January.

The Submission Local Plan provides updated planning policies, as well as setting out spatial allocations and designations throughout South Kesteven.  It is the same as that approved by Council on 24th May and has been submitted together with the 345 valid representations made during the period of statutory public consultation.

The Local Plan Submission documents and supporting documents can be viewed on the Council’s website (www.southkesteven.gov.uk/newlocalplan) and will be accessible electronically at the Council’s offices and libraries during normal office hours.

In addition, reference hardcopies of the relevant documents will be available for public inspection in local libraries and at South Kesteven Council Offices at Grantham, Bourne, Stamford and Market Deepings (Deepings Community Centre, Douglas Road, Market Deeping, PE6 8PA Mon-Fri 9.30-14.00)

The South Kesteven District Local Plan will now be subject to an independent examination, which will be conducted by the Planning Inspectorate.  The public hearing should normally commence within 14 weeks of submission, although it is possible that it will be longer. Once the date is confirmed, all details relating to the examination process will be advertised, made available online and sent to all respondents.

If you have any questions relating to the local plan, please contact 01476 406438

Do you want to know a secret?

Back in September, South Kesteven held a cabinet meeting in Market Deeping. I attended and asked plenty of questions (it would have been rude not to!). The final item on the agenda concerned “Strategic Regeneration Acquisitions – land in South Kesteven”

The item was considered commercially sensitive and was therefore held in ‘closed session’ i.e. the press and public were excluded. I stayed in the meeting in order to find out what the fuss was about. After a brief discussion the following decision was made:

Cabinet authorises the acquisition of a parcel of land in the South Kesteven area (a) subject to contract, satisfactory replies to searches and enquiries and to the terms negotiated; and (b) subject to approval by Council of the necessary budget allocation.

During the discussion, no-one mentioned which piece of land was being acquired and so, at the end of the meeting, I asked to see the paperwork and was given detailed information about this important decision. It seemed to me that, in principle, the purchase seemed a sensible investment.

The decision was ratified by the next Full Council meeting on 27th September when, once again, the press and most of the Council officers were asked to leave the meeting for the duration of the event along with the single solitary member of the public who was in attendance. Clearly, this was a highly-sensitive negotiation which must not be allowed to leak.

The proposal was presented as part of a bundle of amendments to the budget framework which were agreed unanimously by the 38 Councillors present (don’t ask me what the other 18 thought as they didn’t turn up).

Two week’s later, the secret investment was unveiled by the leader as part of a speech to an SKDC economic summit at Grimsthorpe Castle. Unfortunately, attendance at the event was by invitation only and I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t invited, Fortunately, the Stamford Mercury was invited and helpfully they published the Leaders’s speech in full which included the following comment:

“I’m therefore pleased to announce this evening that we are in the final stages of the acquisition of a large development site on the edge of Stamford that is currently occupied by Cummins… the future of the site on Barnack Road will continue to provide local employment opportunities. “

Before the ‘Summit’ I was advised by the Chief Exec that Cllr Lee intends to speak to the Council about the event.

Soon after the Grimsthorpe event, Cllr Lee sent an email to Councillors lauding the success of the summit in which he said:

“While it was announced officially last night, it was clear that the location was, in fact, an open secret among many in Stamford. This underlines the importance of us having DeliverSK so that our commercial discussions can remain confidential in the future.”

Two months later, at Full Council in November I asked a question regarding when information about the event, which had cost Council Tax payers over £14,000, would be shared formally with Councillors. The answer was vague and included a thinly-veiled attack on me for my supposed cynicism.

A month later than that, I attended the SKDC Cabinet and asked some more questions including whether Cllr Lee could elaborate publicly on the details of the land acquisition as, so far, Councillors had only been formally briefed in secret. Astonishingly, Cllr Lee responded that, due to the ongoing procedures concerning over site, he could not make comment about the site openly in a Council meeting.

I’m confused. Back in October, the Conservative Leader of SKDC publicly announced, to the press and business community, the specific location of 15-acre SKDC land acquisition in Stamford but, when I asked for the same information as a Councillor at a council meeting, for some incomprehensible reason he was ‘keeping mum’.

I expect all will be revealed soon, probably in a volley of photo-opportunities and press releases, and just weeks before the SKDC election!

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – January 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 9th January, 2019
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

Happy New Year to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Friends of Mill Field

After more than two years of hard work and preparation, the Friends of Mill Field have this week arrived at the crucial Public Inquiry stage of their Village Green application. The result will have a massive impact not just the land in question but also on the whole town of Market Deeping.

Yesterday (Tuesday 8th) the enquiry began at the Eventus Centre and was attended by well over 50 members of the public during the day. Today (Wednesday 9th) the enquiry continues at Eventus during the day and at Open Door Church during the evening.

All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry. I intend to attend the evening session as an observer (and as an Open Door volunteer) and, consequently, I ask Market Deeping Town Council to accept my apologies for not attending the Full Council meeting this evening.

Members’ Ward Budget

Last month I reported that I had allocated £300 of Council Taxpayers’ money to the Deepings United School Rock Band to assist aspiring musicians of primary school age. This month, I am pleased to report that a contribution of £250 has been allocated to the Deepings School Library to assist in the creation of a special area to encourage boys to read more. Research has proven that boys, of every age, no matter the nature of the literature before them, typically read less thoroughly than girls. I hope that the SKDC grant will encourage boys at Deepings School to read, become more educated, more thoughtful, more courteous, more productive and consequently better adults, better husbands and better fathers. However, I’m not sure how much impact £250 will have on this aspiration. In the interests of equal opportunities, all the library resources connected to the project will be available to girls as well as boys.

Meetings Attended

Since my last monthly report, I have attended only one formal SKDC meeting and then, only as an observer. Until November I would have expected to have attended the Council’s ‘Shareholder Committee’.

20/12/2018   Cabinet

The meeting included proposals for an invest-to-save fund which would give the Cabinet Member for Finance some flexibility to invest in projects and schemes expected to give a healthy return. I welcome what seems to be a good idea but I did ask whether there would be any checks and balances and/or preferred payback period. The Cabinet responded by saying that all decisions would need approval by the Section 151 Officer whose has a statutory duty to ensure the Council takes proper care of our money and assets.

Later in the meeting I asked questions about street lighting, the Deepings leisure centre and the imminent acquisition of land at Stamford by SKDC.

08/01/2019 Shareholder Committee

I was previously the Independent representative on the Shareholder Committee and had attended every meeting since its inception almost three years ago. Sadly, due to another defection of an Independent to the Conservatives, I have been removed from the Shareholder Committee in order to ensure membership of Committees across the Council accurately accords with the balance of political groups at SKDC. Healthy democracy needs healthy opposition and the increasing domination of the majority party (in our case Conservatives) does nothing to improve decision-making or scrutiny.

Research Assistant

On 4th December, the SKDC website advertised a job with a salary of £27,000. The deadline for applications was one week later. Five people applied for the job. One person was invited for interview after which he was offered the job which he started on 2nd January. It is my understanding that the successful applicant is currently an elected Conservative Councillor at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Art for art’s sake…

An SKDC press release today announced a public consultation on the arts…

“Groups and individuals with an interest in arts, heritage, culture and all manner of creative activities are being invited to help develop South Kesteven District Council’s new cultural strategy.

The public engagement process will begin in the four market towns with a series of meetings for stakeholders and strategic partners, starting in Stamford on 23 January.

Initially these meetings will be by invitation only, but a wider programme of consultation – both online and face-to-face – will be introduced throughout the spring and early summer.

SKDC officers, working with colleagues within InvestSK, will lead the meetings to discuss the cultural sector and celebrate the vital role that arts and heritage play in the district’s economic development.

The meetings will explore SK’s current cultural landscape, identifying priorities for future delivery, considering resource implications, recognising challenges and discovering opportunities.

Any arts or heritage practitioner or local group wishing to attend the initial meetings can register an interest to attend. Places are free but limited so do please get in touch as soon as possible.

Register or express an interest in being involved by contacting Michael Cross (Heads of Arts for InvestSK) by email michael.cross@investsk.co.uk or by calling 07966 299400.

Dates for the sessions are:

Stamford Arts Centre Ballroom – 23 January 2019 7pm-9pm

Grantham Guildhall Arts Centre – 29 January 2019 7pm-9pm

Ballroom Bourne Corn Exchange – 31 January 2019 7pm-9pm

The Deepings – Oddfellows Hall, Market Deeping – 12 February 2019 7pm-9pm

ENDS

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – December 2018

Happy Christmas to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Meetings Attended

I have attended three formal meetings during the last month.

20/11/2018        Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Street Lighting

This meeting included yet another discussion of the Council’s Street Lighting Policy and whether or notthe District Council should be committed to keeping its street-lights on during the hours of darkness (unlike the Conservative County Council who turn many of their lights off).

Since the last meeting, the Committee has held two workshops on this issue which were not open to the public. I attended the first but was unable to attend the second. After a protracted e-mail exchange I managed to obtain the notes from the workshops and, more importantly, establish that they should be in the public domain. This is a significant victory as I have been challenging the practice of Members’ workshops for many months. On reading the notes of the second workshop I was quietly pleased that I hadn’t curtailed a sojourn in Bournmouth in order to attend as the meeting had been attended by only three Councillors and lasted less than 25 minutes.

A longer debate about street-lighting took place at the OSC meeting and concluded with arecommendation that a) Cabinet adopt the Street Lighting Policy which I drafted and was approved by the Environment OSC earlier in the year; and b) the Council invests a significant amount of money into a capital programme to replace existing street-lamps with more efficient LED equivalents.

The issue will now be presented to the Cabinet who will hopefully this time be able to act on the recommendations rather than referring it back to the Committee as they did last time.

Recycling and Waste

The meeting listened to a presentation about the many issues affecting waste and recycling in South Kesteven which included some handy recycling tips and home-truths about the problems of contamination of recycling materials. The SKDC Food Waste trial has so far been very successful in reducing recycling contaminations for the small number of households covered by the pilot scheme (contamination down from about 30% to less than 10%).

The meeting also discussed the Lincolnshire Joint Waste Strategy. This document had been produced by the County and District Councils. A consultation had taken place regarding the strategy which affects literally everyone in Lincolnshire and 147 responses had been received, 6 of which were from District Councillors including myself.

22/11/2018          SKDC Full Council

On a more positive note, the Council celebrated the achievements of various communities across the District with presentation of the Best Kept Village Awards which included Market Deeping winning the ‘large settlement’ category.

Later in the meeting I asked when the Council Leader, Coun Matthew Lee (Con), was planning to report back to Councillors on the SK Economic Summit which took place at Grimsthorpe Castle in October at a cost of £14,736. He replied to say that he continued to talk about the summit at all sorts of meetings but didn’t say which ones. I also asked about progress towards the planned weekly Saturday market in Market Deeping.

The meeting concluded with a heated debate about whether or not major planning applications should be decided by the Development Management Committee or allowed to be ‘nodded through’ by Officer sat the discretion of the Chair. A motion was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab) after a recent decision to approve an enormous 49-metre high cold storage centre was taken without reference to the Committee (unless you include an informal private meeting at which questions were limited). The Conservatives apparently think this is acceptable.

11/12/2018          Development Management Committee

The first hour’s discussed a part-heard application for detailed permission for 174 dwellings on the Elsea Park estate in Bourne. This time, I voted to refuse the scheme despite Officers’ recommendations that it be approved and the rest of the committee agreed with me.

There then followed a discussion of a house in Dyke where Officers recommended refusal. The Committee was evenly split and a decision only taken when the acting Chairman changed his casting vote.

Finally there was a discussion about a dog-training facility in the North of the District which was approved subject to some very tight conditions concerning hours of operation.

Friends of Mill Field

Regular readers will be aware that, around 18 months ago, residents of Market Deeping submitted a Village Green application concerning the fields adjacent to Mill Field Road, Market Deeping. This is the only remaining unmanaged and easily accessible open space in the town.

A consultation event at the Deepings school in June 2018 concerning the site attracted 547 responses of which over 90% were opposed to any development on the site. Despite this, and despite the ongoing legal process, Lincolnshire County Council has recently submitted a planning application for the site although it has not yet been validated by Officers.

The Public Inquiry concerning the Village Green application will take place on Tuesday January 8th and Wednesday 9th starting at 10am. There will be an evening session at the Open Door Centre opposite the Deepings School on Wednesday Jan 9th from 6pm – 8pm. All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry.

Monitoring Officer

Last week Councillors were informed that the Solicitor to the Council, is leaving the Council after thirty years of service as an employee. Mrs Youles’ departure will be a great loss of experience, expertise and information to the Council. She was also the Council’s Monitoring Officer which is one of the three designated posts that all local authorities have a statutory duty to employ. The Monitoring Officer has the specific duty to ensure that the Council, its officers and its Elected Councillors maintain the highest standards of conduct in all they do.

Contracts of senior staff normally require a notice period of at least two or three months. Councillors have been offered no explanation of the reasons for the apparently sudden departure of the Monitoring Officer but the circumstances appear similar to the departure last year of the Council’s Section151 Officer which is another of the three statutory posts. On that occasion, it later transpired that the Officer was offered a ‘golden handshake’ of £141,000 to leave quickly and quietly. I have e-mailed the Chief Executive to ask if there will be a financial cost to the Council attached to the departure of the Monitoring Officer and, if so, how much.

Market Deeping Christmas Market

I was pleased to help with the annual Christmas Market which this year wasmanaged by a team of volunteers led by Cllr Virginia Moran ably assisted by the sterling efforts of the Clerk and the park-keepers. I understand that this year’s market was the first ever to cover its own cost which is obviously good news for Market Deeping tax-payers as well as all the people who enjoyed the market.

I was involved in organising the entertainment programme which consisted of many varied acts including rock bands, choirs and line-dancers. I am particularly grateful to Cllr Andy Pelling of DSJ and Phil Jones for acting as stage technicians and comperes throughout the day.

The first two acts of the day were the Deeping St James school band and the Deepings United Schools Choir. They were so impressive that I have decided to allocate £300 of my Councillor’s Ward Budget towards the equipment they need for community performances.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward