Stamford due for visit from @SouthKesteven Cabinet members on 1st November.

All Saints’s Day 2018 will see the SKDC Cabinet complete their ‘2018 tour’ of South Kesteven market towns when they arrive for a meeting at the Council Chamber in Stamford.Stamford Town Hall

At a meeting of the Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee this morning, during a discussion of the Council’s communications strategy, I asked why SKDC had done so little promotion of the September Cabinet meeting in the Deepings. After all, it was the first SKDC meeting to be held in the Deepings for many years. I was told by the Cabinet Member for Communication in no uncertain terms – “A press release for a meeting in the Deepings? That’s just not gonna happen”. This is because a cabinet meeting is not considered by SKDC to be newsworthy. The newspapers on the other hand were only too happy to print the press releases that I have sent when SKDC ventures out of Grantham.

Presumably, the same approach will be taken to communicating the arrival of Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) to his home turf of Stamford along with the rest of the Cabinet which is made up of Tory Councillors from across the District. However, the meeting is open to the public and is a great opportunity to see our ‘agile democracy’ without having to travel to Grantham.

An earlier Cabinet meeting in Bourne saw around 8 members of the public in attendance which was something of a record. This record was smashed by the turnout at the Eventus Centre in Market Deeping. Perhaps the event in Stamford will be more popular still? The agenda will be released a few days before the meeting.

The 2018 has taken place partly in response to my sustained lobbying of the Council  to get itself out and about around the District to see, and be seen (e.g. see Minute 57b of November 2017) and partly because the Grantham offices are undergoing refurbishment as part of a £1.66 million scheme to enhance the public realm.

Update on the Deepings’ new Leisure Centre…

Deepings PoolAt last night’s SK Business and Economic Summit 2018, I was expecting there might be an announcement regarding progress towards the new Deepings Leisure Centre promised last year at the SK Business and Economic Summit 2017. I have been asking questions about this project, informally and formally, throughout the year.

There was indeed an announcement (Drum roll, please) …

“Last year I also made a commitment to renewing and upgrading our leisure provision across the District.

This is a major undertaking and will represent a significant investment in each of our four market towns.

Plans for this investment are progressing well and will see the provision of new leisure centres in Stamford and Market Deeping.

We will also be keeping and investing heavily in our facilities in Bourne and Grantham.

We are currently in the process of determining locations for each of these new sites and what facilities will be provided, and we intend to announce the details in early 2019.”

Cllr Matthew Lee, Leader of SKDC, 11th October 2018.

Well that’s a bit of a disappointment. A whole year has passed and we don’t even have a location and we don’t know what facilities will be provided. Continue reading

Report to MDTC Full Council – October 2018

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th October 2018
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

I have attended the following meetings during the last month.

18/09/2018         Development Management Committee

The meeting discussed applications including the following:

  • Nine dwellings on land Adjacent To Ivatt Close Bourne PE10 9TZ

I saved a tree! I actually did! This small development on the outskirts of Bourne required the removal of quite a few trees and shrubs. While examining the proposals I noted that there is one healthy ash tree in a corner of the site that faced the chop.

The Officer’s report stated “the trees on site are not considered to be of significant amenity value”. I pointed out that while they might not look like much to us, we might discover they have quite a lot of amenity value to the local birds, squirrel and hedgehog if only we could ask.

When the developer gave his evidence I asked if there was any chance of saving the tree as well as reinstating the ‘lapsed hedge’ which was also due to be replaced the feather-board fencing which is almost ubiquitous across new developments. To my surprise he agreed without argument. It makes me wonder if and why the Planning Officers hadn’t asked the same question. Either way, it was a good result and reminded me why I go to these meetings.

  • Seven single bedroom apartments at Norton Street Grantham NG31 6BY

This applicant keeps coming back to the committee with similar applications each slightly different to the previous presumably in the hope that his persistence will, sooner or later, pay off. I am pleased to say that this time it didn’t and the poky residential accommodation proposed between the gardens of back to back terraced houses was refused once again.

  • St Vincent’s House, Grantham

This was a notable for two reasons. Firstly, it was an application from a Councillor. Secondly the property hosted the control room for the historic ‘Dambusters’ raid by 617 squadron which changed the course of the Second World War. The application itself concerned potting sheds in the grounds and wasn’t very contentious.

27/09/2018         Council

This was attended by 38 of the 56 elected Councillors with 18 absent for one reason or another.

Only one member of the public attended and no members of the public had registered to ask any questions.

The Council decided to alter its budget for the year for two reasons: firstly in order to buy a piece of land; and secondly to establish a new company (an LLP) called ‘DeliverSK.

The Council discussed its relatively new system of Overview and Scrutiny Committees which most agreed is a ‘work in progress’ with room for improvement.

As part of Members’ questions I asked the Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications whether paying £140,000/annum for a consultant with no job description, written contract or responsibility for managing staff is good practice in procurement and good value for money. The Cabinet Member responded that she felt my repeated questions on the issue were boring and accused me of harbouring a personal vendetta.

There were two Motions. The first concerned the Council’s approach to modern slavery and was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab), the motion was amended and then passed.  I proposed the second which argued for more transparency of Members Workshops and Briefings which was defeated.

02/10/2018         Shareholder Committee

 

As usual, most of the proceedings of the Shareholder committee took place ‘in camera’ and so I am not allowed to tell you what happened. Take my word for it, it wasn’t a very exciting meeting.

Two years ago, when the Committee was first set up, a lot of time was spent deciding what would be the best name for the company and Gravitas Housing Ltd was chosen. This decision has now been overturned!

 

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

Finally, may I take this opportunity to record my thanks to the outgoing Town Clerk, Mrs Candace Brent, and to her husband for all they have done for the Deepings over the years. I wish them both all the very best for the future.

 

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Residents’ Survey reveals attitudes to @SouthKesteven and disappointment with @LincolnshireCC.

On Thursday 4th October, SKDC Cabinet will discuss the responses to the Residents’ Survey which took place back in May this year. There hasn’t been a survey of this kind for many years and so it is being regarded by the rejuvenated Conservative administration as a baseline from which improvement can be objectively measured.

A total of 1,466 people responded to the questionnaire. About two thirds were submitted as a paper response to a direct mailing of almost 4,000 residents while the remainder were submitted online. Respondents’ postcodes reveal that the survey is fairly representative of residents across the District (although there were more responses from Deeping than from Bourne, #JustSaying!)

The first few questions ask for people’s feelings about SKDC. These are summarised in the graphic below. It is clear that South Kesteven is a great place to live with over 75% of respondents responding positively to the question. However, when it comes to Council services people are more restrained. Only 30% of respondents admit to speaking positively about the Council and over half of residents do not feel the Council acts on the concerns of residents.

SKDC Feelings Graph Continue reading

A flag of convenience? So-called ‘Independents’ join the @LincsTories ahead of 2019 District Council elections.

Grantham and Stamford Conservatives have seen a recent flurry of membership applications from town and district councillors and candidates. Most of these have happened just a few months ahead of the District Council election in May. What a coincidence, eh?

In recent years in Lincolnshire, the Conservative austerity agenda has resulted in the bedroom tax; the creation of foodbanks; the closure of youth centres and libraries; and numerous examples of botched service delivery.  However, in Stamford, three sitting so-called ‘Independent’ councillors have suddenly realised their political affinity lies with the Conservative Party. In Deeping St James, a former Independent District Councillor has come to the same conclusion and yet another Deepings Councillor is rumoured to be at the point of signing up for a blue rosette (NB. It’s not me!).

Stand Continue reading

Conservative Leader warns that @LincolnshireCC may soon be unable to “operate in a safe manner”!

Cllr Martin HillCllr Martin Hill (Con), Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, has appeared on Radio 4’s Six O’Clock news in order to criticise the Conservative government’s continued council funding cuts. He has joined other Council leaders in warning that, by 2020, Councils will only be able to provide the bare minimum statuatory services.

Cllr Hill (who was introduced as Cllr Wall) stated:

“All those other things which aren’t a legal duty will actually have to go by the wayside. And I have to say if the government doesn’t actually give us additional resources in a few years time, I’m not confident as a council leader that we will be operating in a safe manner for the public of this county.”

The County Councils’ Network has warned that England’s largest councils are poised to set out almost £1bn in new reductions to budgets next February – with residents facing another round of ‘unpalatable’ cuts to services – unless government intervenes.

In its response to a government consultation on funding for councils next year, the County Councils Network (CCN) warns that its councils will set out £685m in savings  next February to balance their budgets.

In addition, those county authorities say another £233m of ‘unplanned’ frontline service cuts will be needed – which have yet to be identified – unless government provides these councils with new funding next year.

In my opinion, the County Council is part of the problem. It is remote, expensive and monolithic. It should be abolished and replaced by smaller unitary authorities. I also think the Government should recognise and support the vital role of local councils in delivering front-line services.

 

A guide to the @SouthKesteven silver bin #recycling scheme (Part 1)

At last week’s SKDC Environment Overview and Scrutiny (OSC) Committee, a discussion took place relating to the food waste pilot scheme currently being run by SKDC in partnership with LCC.

One of the positive outcomes of the scheme appears to be a reduction in contamination of the recycling materials in the silver (recycling) bins. At previous meetings it has been reported that there is over 30% contamination meaning that an awful lot of what is recyclable is being sent to landfill as a result of people putting stuff in the wrong bin.

I used to work as a recycling officer at Gedling Borough Council but that was back in the 1990s and lots of things have changed since then, so I asked, not for the first time, for clarification of which plastics are welcome in the silver bin and which should go in the black bin. Continue reading

Interactive council cuts comparator

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During  a friendly twitter exchange with Lillian Greenwood MP I discovered that my predecessor at Nottingham City Council’s award-winning energy squad, Ravi Subramanian, is still messing about with spreadsheets. This is excellent news for anyone who wants to know how Tory austerity has affected their Local Authority. It only seems to include ‘upper tier’ authorities, i.e. County and Unitary Councils but it is still a brilliant piece of work!

Here’s an example graph comparing Lincolnshire against Peterborough. It appears to show both Councils have suffered roughly similar cuts in percentage terms even though Peterborough is significantly more deprived.

For more information visit Ravi’s blog:

via Interactive council cuts comparator

SKDC Cabinet Meeting in the Deepings

On Thursday 6th September, senior councillors and officers of South Kesteven District Council held a Cabinet meeting in Market Deeping for the first time ever. The meeting discussed the establishment of a new Council company “DeliverSK” and a revised Data Protection policy as well as taking questions concerning issues in the Deepings from a local ward member.

Coun Ashley Baxter (Ind) who represents Market and West Deeping Ward comments “For three years, I have been lobbying my fellow Councillors to hold some meetings outside of the Grantham offices. I am delighted that the Cabinet has finally found their way to the Deepings.”

IMG_0731.JPG Continue reading

Report to MDTC Full Council – September 2018

Report to MDTC Full Council 12th September 2018
(from SKDC Cllr Ashley Baxter)

The summer months are traditionally less busy for Councillors but this month’s report is as busy as ever with lots of news from SKDC.

SKDC Full Council – 26th July 2018
Council ,26/07/2018

The Council discussed the following issues: Continue reading