It should go without saying that the worldwide CoronaVirus epidemic is awful, tragic and we all wish it could have been avoided and we all pray it is over soon.
However, like many crises we have faced, there are some useful learnings and positive outcomes that we should be grateful for when, God-willing, we get through the current turmoil and back to a new normal. These will hopefully include closer families, stronger communities and a greater sense of gratitude for our safety net of NHS, social infrastructure and all the people who work at the hitherto thankless tasks of emptying bins, stacking shelves and keeping us alive.
Another positive is the reduction in carbon emissions which proves that despite the previous protestations of politicians, Greta Thunberg has been making a valid point i.e. we could get by without a lot of the carbon-filthy activities that we used to think were essential.
..It was while this struggle was growing in intensity that a yet more formidable difficulty met the lords who had been driven, by the enfranchisement of their serfs, to rely on hired labour. Everything depended on the abundant supply of free labourers, and this abundance suddenly disappeared.
The most terrible plague which the world ever witnessed advanced at this juncture from the East, and after devastating Europe from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Baltic, swooped at the close of 1348 upon Britain.
Disease and Death
The traditions of its destructiveness, and the panic-struck words of the statutes which followed it, have been more than justified by modern research. Of the three or four millions who then formed the population of England, more than one-half were swept away in its repeated visitations. Its ravages were fiercest in the greater towns, where filthy and undrained streets afforded a constant haunt to leprosy and fever.
In the burial ground which the piety of Sir Walter Manny purchased for the citizens of London, a spot whose site was afterwards marked by the Charter House, more than fifty thousand corpses are said to have been interred.
It may have been Friday the 13th but West Deeping residents were not afraid to visit the village hall last night to express concerns to their MP about road safety and water management issues in the village.
The meeting was convened and Chaired by Coun David Ward who sits on the village’s parish council although the meeting was not organised by the council and Coun Ward explained that he was acting in a personal capacity as a resident of the village and not on behalf of the parish council or anyone else. In fact, most Parish Councillors chose not to attend the meeting but instead published a position statement.
About 25 local residents attended the meeting along with the County Councillor and two of the District Councillors who represent the village. At the invitation of residents, Rt Hon Sir John Hayes who is MP for the South Holland and the Deepings also addressed the meeting.
The agenda focused on the safety of the staggered crossroads where King Street crosses the A1175 Stamford Road. There have been a number of accidents in recent years which have caused severe and minor injuries. There are a number of factors which contribute to the problem including the number of lorries using the junction, the speed of vehicles heading to and from the Tallington crossing and drivers using King Street as an alternative route to avoid the busy A15 near Glinton. Despite the level of concern, Lincolnshire County Council has ranked the junction 91st (ninety-first!) in a list of priorities for road improvements in the county.
A forthcoming planning proposal from Cemex to expand the works to extract aggregates is anticipated to increase the amount of vehicular movements by as many as 70 HGVs each day as well as dozens of ancillary vehicles. Furthermore an additional 42 dwellings are expected to be completed this year at the Tallington Lakes Caravan Park which now has an exit on King Street very close to the junction in question.
Coun Ward expressed a preference for a roundabout as a road safety measure but he acknowledged that any improvements would be welcome. These might include improved signage, speed restrictions, traffic lights etc.
In response to a question from District Councillor Ashley Baxter, there was some conjecture about the likelihood of a bridge alternative to Tallington level crossing where morning queues of traffic often extend back to beyond the junction. Despite many years of discussion between villagers, Highways England, Lincolnshire County and other stakeholders, the project has never made it beyond ‘the drawing board’. Neither the MP nor the County Councillor were aware of any firm or feasible proposals currently in progress.
Sir John Hayes MP made a number of pledges to the campaigners. Firstly, he promised to express his opposition to planning applications for further aggregates extractions unless they were accompanied by road safety improvements. Secondly, he promised to contact Lincolnshire County Council to established what action had been taken in response to a meeting between officers with parish councillors back in October 2019. Sir John also told the meeting that he would continue to lobby for a solution to the problem of Tallington level crossing.
Later in the meeting, residents also raised concerns about the continued issues of water and sewerage at the North of the village. Representatives of Anglian Water attended a parish council meeting on 12 February but the complex issues have not been satisfactorily resolved.
The following statement was published by West Deeping Parish Council in March 2020. I have added some hyperlinks for convenience of readers….
West Deeping Parish Council Statement
Over the past year, the Parish Council has been consulting with the appropriate authorities and have been in discussions with Graeme Butler, LCC Road Safety (Accident Investigation) Manager, representing the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership (LRSP) over safety concerns at the junction of King Street and the A1175.
We have been advised that each location is prioritised according to collisions reported and their budget is targeted towards these. The top 10 locations have a range of 13 – 24 collisions over a 5 year period compared to 6 reported at this junction. Consequently, as of April 2019, we were number 91 on the priority list.
However, we pursued this further with Graeme, and he visited the site on 23rd October 2019 and met with Cllrs Maggie Ashcroft, Colin Blagrove, Sue Latham and David Ward. During the visit, he said that he would arrange for a safety specialist to look into the concerns that were raised. In addition, a report to Highways was submitted to repair the damaged traffic signs on the island at the junction.
Following this meeting, Graeme passed on our concerns to Lincolnshire County Council’s Head of Planning, who confirmed that meetings have been held between the Planning Department and Cemex to discuss their plans over the forthcoming months and years at the King Street site (eastern side) near the junction. When a formal planning application is submitted for future development to any of the gravel quarry sites using King Street, West Deeping Parish Council will have the opportunity to comment, at the same time as the Planning Department will make its input, taking into account our concerns.
When we met with him, Graeme also commented on the possibility of a roundabout at the junction and confirmed that there is often a misconception that this may solve collisions totally. Accident statistics suggest that roundabouts do not prevent collisions. For example, the roundabout at the A16 has seen 9 collisions in the last 5 years with 5 at the roundabout in Market Deeping (Market Place).
On 9th March 2020, it has been confirmed by LRSP that the reactive signs at the junction are being reset to ensure that they trigger at a lower speed and that the LCC Street Lighting Team have orders in place with the contractor to repair signs and lighting at the junction by the end of March.
LRSP have also recommended to us that it both important and courteous to ensure that our local county councillor, Rosemary Trollope-Bellew, is kept informed of all discussions on this subject.
The Parish Council believes that road safety is of paramount importance. It will continue to work with the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership in respect of this matter and be guided by them to try and find the optimum solution for everyone in the future.
I’ve just received the following letter sent jointly from the CEO and Leader of South Kesteven District Council. I think it explains the council’s stance regarding the current public health situation,..
As you will be aware, the World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a pandemic. This means that the virus has reached a tipping point whereby it spreads on a wide geographic scale and easily from one person to another. In other words, it is contagious and spreading quickly. A pandemic does not relate to an increase in the strength of a virus or disease, just to a growth in its spread, although the reality is that if a virus is spreading easily and quickly, more people are likely to contract it. It is also possible that, following today’s Cobra meeting that the UK Government may announce that we are moving from the containment phase to the delay phase.
So we wanted to assure you, as Leader of the Council and Chief Executive, that we continue to take Coronavirus very seriously. A Business Continuity team, led by Karen, has already been formed, and plans are being further developed to ensure that we remain prepared in the coming days, weeks and months. Our aim is to keep you fully informed about the evolving national and regional picture and to ensure that as a council we continue to deliver our key services in the event of an outbreak in South Kesteven. If the UK does move to the delay phase, we will need to see exactly what that means, and respond accordingly. But whatever the outcome, we are well-prepared for any potential impact on you, on our staff, and on our ability to continue to deliver key services for our communities.
There is a lot of misinformation about the virus, which does not help anyone. We will continue to take our lead from the Government, and from Public Health England, whose advice is based on sound science and medical evidence. The best advice remains to wash your hands regularly, and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, and to follow the Catch It, Bin It, Kill It rule.
As we have said previously, the council has increased the number of hand sanitiser units and soap dispensers across our council HQ, outlying offices, depots, arts centres and within our communal rooms within our own housing. The level of cleaning has been increased across our entire estate as a precautionary measure.
Given the ease and speed with which the virus is spreading, we have also reminded all our staff that if they have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus, or if they are showing symptoms themselves, they should stay at home and let their line manager know. Obviously if staff are ill, they should not work. However, for employees who need to self-isolate as a precautionary measure, or stay home to look after children who are self-isolating, we have asked that if they can work from home they should ensure that they are able to do so, in order that we can continue to deliver as a council. This means there is a need for staff who have the necessary IT equipment to ensure that they take their work laptops and phones home every day.
We would also like to remind Members to please look after your own health, and to reconsider some of your community commitments, that may bring you into close contact with large groups of people. As we have said, we are not yet in the delay phase, and we don’t know what that will mean, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start thinking about playing our part to slowdown the spread of the virus. In terms of Council and Committee meetings, we are already looking at how we may be able to operate remotely, using technology to stay in touch, ensure key council business continues, and look after people’s wellbeing.
We are having to operate in a very rapidly evolving environment, and we will keep you updated as things change. In the meantime, below is a link to helpful, official information about Coronavirus. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact either of us.
People keep asking me ‘what’s happening with the leisure centre?’ and I would love to be able to answer the question with dates and specifics but, unfortunately, there isn’t yet much tangible progress. Along with the Deepings other Independent councillors I continue to ask questions and sometimes I get useful progress reports.
There are now at least two different aspects to the fundamental questions of what’s happening and when? The first concerns the proposed new Deepings Leisure Centre promised by Coun Matthew Lee (Con), back in October 2017 and the second concerns the much needed replacement for the all-weather pitch which was condemned in December.
The two issues are inextricably linked in terms of planning and funding although it is hoped that the new all-weather pitch will arrive sooner than the new leisure centre.
All Weather Pitch
At its budget meeting last week (Mon 2nd March) the issue was discussed by the Council who agreed to put aside £200,000 towards the cost of replacing the pitch. Unfortunately, the cost of an all-weather pitch is likely to cost a minimum of £400,000 and the figure is likely to be even higher, possibly £850,000, depending on the preferred playing surface.
The discussion was reported by the Stamford Mercury as “Deepings football teams to benefit from new playing surface” but, as ever, don’t believe everything you read in the papers; [DeepingDo editor’s note: Since first publishing this blogpost, the online story in the Mercury has been adapted after ‘clarification’ from SKDC].
There are at least three aspects of the Mercury’s report which are inaccurate or give a false impression. (For the benefit of the tape, the errors are not necessarily the fault of the journalists who are, after all, just trying to record what politicians say at public meetings.
The first mistake is the assertion that an agreement has been reached with the Football Foundation (FF) in which the Council will contribute £200,000 and the FF will give a grant of £650,000. This sounds great and if it happens I will be the first to take back everything I said about the disproportionate amount of money sloshing around the football community, from corporate sponsorships and TV rights, compared to almost every other kind of sport. However, after the meeting a spokesperson said: “SKDC is in the early stages of discussions with the Football Foundation regarding a funding application to provide a 3G pitch in Deeping St James. The council has set aside £200,000 in matched funding, should an application be successful.”
Obviously, if the FF provides the lions’ share (you could say the three lions’ share?) of the funding then the pitch will be designed predominantly for footballers and therefore the potential use of the pitch for other sports including hockey will be very limited. Competitive hockey will be impossible although it is plausible that some hockey training be possible depending on the specification of the pitch.
The Mercury reports that “England Hockey did not want to contribute to the cost as another pitch was available less than two miles away”. This, I believe, is a correct report of what was said by a Conservative cabinet member at the budget meeting; unfortunately it isn’t true. Firstly, England Hockey would be delighted to contribute to the cost but unfortunately they don’t have any money to contribute. Hockey matches are rarely televised, England Hockey receives no sponsorship from bookmakers and consequently the sport doesn’t have as much money as football. Secondly, no-one from England Hockey suggested funding would be withheld because “as another pitch was available less than two miles away” because there is no such pitch! The Bourne Deeping Hockey Club (which has been established since the 1920s) currently trains in exile in Peterborough, mostly at Arthur Mellows College which is four miles from Deeping and occasionally at pitches even further from Bourne and the Deepings. The pitch at Arthur Mellows is in a school and therefore has limited availability, especially during school holidays which would otherwise be a great time to run junior hockey coaching sessions.
It would be great for footballers in the Deepings, especially the very successful Deepings United FC, if the football foundation came forward with sufficient funding to provide a pitch. However, when deciding how, where and when to provide a pitch (or pitches) the council must take on board the needs of other sports including hockey and rugby. A standard 3G football pitch is only suitable for football, light rugby training and, bizarrely, lacrosse. A standard sand-based hockey pitch can also be used to play netball, football, rugby training, cricket, tennis etc (I’m not sure about lacrosse!). Given the facility will, presumably, continue to serve the 1,500+ pupils at the Deepings School, it would be good to have facilities for more than one sport. NB In case you’re wondering, I understand the school has no funding for enhancing outdoor leisure facilities at the moment.
During yesterday’s Budget Speech, Charncellor Rishi Sunak announced he was allocating “£30m a year to improve PE teaching… along with £8m for the Football Foundation’s scheme to build new pitches for around 300,000 people to play on”. If each pitch costs £800,000 then that’s enough funding for only 10 pitches nationwide. Big deal!
The location of the new Deepings pitch(es) will depend partly on the design and location of the new leisure centre. It would be daft to spend half a million pounds on a new pitch only to find that has to be removed to make way for a a new leisure centre so, at the very least, we need agreement of where, on the agreed site, the leisure is going to be built….
The New Leisure Centre
The lastest news from SKDC on the leisure centre is as follows:
“As part of the council’s wider feasibility work into enhancing leisure facilities across the district, the Linchfield Road site has previously been identified as the preferred site for a new development. Negotiations are, therefore, progressing with the various landowners in a bid to secure the site.
“The negotiations will need to be finalised, and the results of the feasibility work assessed, before any firm proposals can be put forward, either in respect of the leisure centre or the artificial pitch.
“It will then be important that local residents and stakeholders are fully consulted on proposals before any firm decisions can be made.”
So, to put it another way, the new leisure centre will be ready when:
Negotiations with the landowners (and land users) need to be finalised. They have been going on for over 8 years but the opportunity of a new leisure centre has focused attention and I believe the necessary formal documents are almost ready to be signed.
Feasibility work has been completed and assessed (for sites across South Kesteven)
Firm proposals have been put forward
Local residents and stakeholders have been consulted
A business plan has been agreed
Capital funding has been allocated (approx £15m is said to be required)
Planning permission has been applied for, consulted on and agreed
At least one procurement exercise has been completed
The building has been constructed.
I have some experience of local authority building procurement and construction projects but I will let you make your own guesses about how long this will take!
The agenda for next week’s SKDC Cabinet meeting suggests that in just a month’s time there will be a meaningful decision relating to the “detailed business plans” relating to leisure centres.
Don’t get too excited about this. The Cabinet workplan for September had similar aspirations but as with scrutiny group workplans, the ‘due dates’ bear no relation to actual progress.
On the bright side, there is still genuine commitment by most, probably all, Councillors to improving leisure facilities across SKDC. Furthermore council officers are also very committed and have been candid in conversations with me about the hurdles and the opportunities surrounding our leisure facilities. For example, it is pretty clear now that the promised new Stamford Leisure Centre will not happen in the foreseeable but the Deepings Leisure Centre is near the top of everyone’s priority list.
Rome wasn’t built in a day!
If you have comments, suggestions or concerns about the impact of the new Leisure Centre you can respond to this post, contact me or, if you prefer, e-mail SKDC officers directly using firstname.lastname@example.org
Report to MDTC Full Council 12th February, 2020 from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.
Deeping Shorts – Film Festival
‘Deeping Shorts’ – a short festival of short films – has held two Saturday evening cinema screenings with two more to go (15th and 22nd February). The screenings have been well attended and well received. Tickets are £5 from Stamford Arts Centre or at Open Door Baptist Church on the night.
Leisure Centre / All Weather Pitch
News about the proposed Deepings Leisure Centre and the future of the condemned All Weather Pitch has failed to yield any concrete proposals (nor proposals for concrete). At Full Council, the new Portfolio Holder, Cllr Barry Dobson stated that a Working Party would be formed with representation from the 3 Deepings Independent Councillors. By the time of the Finance Committee a week later, this Working Party had been extended to include two Deeping Conservatives. A few minutes later, it was explained that the Working Party would be an overarching group for all Leisure Facilities in South Kesteven. When I asked for clarification, the Finance Committee was told there will be more than one Working Party. I later asked Cllr Dobson for written clarification of the roles, purpose and composition of the working party (or parties). A week later and I am still waiting.
Cllr Dobson also mentioned that nothing would be decided about Leisure Centres until he had visited the sites personally to see what was needed. This is slightly confusing given that the council has commissioned leisure professionals an architects to conduct feasibility studies at a cost of more than £250,000.
I am pleased to say the Communities Committee agreed to implement some of the measures recommended by the ‘Stop the Knock’ campaign which I had brought to their attention.
I am less pleased to say that they rubber-stamped proposals to ‘rationalise the face-to-face customer service provision’ in Stamford and the Deepings. This effectively means closing the SKDC offices at the Deepings Community Centre and at Maiden Lane in Stamford.
There is a consultation about the plans to close the Stamford and Deeping SKDC offices. The deadline is 20th February.
The Council meeting began with a silence in respectful memory of former Chair of SKDC, Cllr Peter Speigl and former Chair of the world’s longest running radio panel show and much-loved Grantham born entertainer, Nicholas Parsons CBE. The silence was, suitably, just a minute. It would have been great if all the afternoon’s debate could have been conducted without hesitation, repetition or deviation but this was unlikely from the outset.
Last Tuesday’s meeting of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (let’s call it FEDex for short) reviewed the Q3 Financial out-turn report for South Kesteven.
Around two years ago, I was arguing at Full Council that the budget proposals being presented by Cllr Adam Stokes (Con) on behalf of the ‘new’ Tory Cabinet led by Cllr Matthew Lee (Con). I stated at the time that they were over-ambitious and unachievable. They included, for example,
Another ‘saving’ of £30,000 was predicted from corporate consultancy. This was not acheived either.
A forecast of £250,000 additional income from car parks even though a planned increase in tariffs was abandoned. Surprise, surprise, the income never materialised.
Another ‘saving’ of £30,000 was predicted from corporate consultancy. This was not acheived either.
Cllr Cooke (Deputy Leader at the time) had his name against a raft of measures including £50,000 anticipated savings in utilties expenditure. The following year’s out-turn report admintted that these savings were never deliverable.
Cllr Cooke also had responsibility for £150,000 recurrent annual savings from ‘delivery of 3 specific shared service opportunities at £50,000 each. At the end of the year it was admitted that additional opportunities to share had been discounted resulting in the income target not being met.
The list continues of unmet targets for 2018-19 continues but this blogpost is about the unmet targets for 2019-20. Surely this year, some lessons would have been learned?
Sadly, the most recent meeting of the FEDetc Committee received a report showing an awful lot of variance between what was forecast and what has been delivered.
Before last May’s election, lots of recent converts to the Conservative Party made assurances that they would respond to individual issues on the own merits and they would not be afraid to vote against the party. Sadly, there is very little evidence of any of this maverick attitude within the council chamber.
Despite declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ last year, Conservative leaders at South Kesteven recently imposed a whip on their councillors in order to reject a charity textiles bank initiative because it was not their idea. The decision was clearly party political.
The following SKDC councillors voted in favour of textiles recycling banks.
The following SKDC councillors voted against textile recycling banks:
Eighteen months ago, South Kesteven organised a meeting in the middle of the summer holidays to discuss the Conservative’s latest bright idea, namely “DeliverSK”. Despite scepticism and reservations from me and other opposition members, it was decreed that DeliverSK would be essential to delivering investment opportunities for the council. In a nutshell, the council would enter into a strategic partnership with an investment company and then form subsidiary companies, aka Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), for each of the council’s bold ambitions. These might include LeisureSK, HomesSK, OfficeSpaceSK, EmptyTheBinsSK etc.
When I say that the opposition offered scepticism and reservations, I am not being fair to myself. What we actually brought was scrutiny and constructive criticism. I literally prepared 20 questions which were circulated prior to the meeting and effectively became the agenda when the committee met. The questions were along the lines of “What is DeliverSK?”, “How will it work?”, “Is it legal?” etc.