So much money down the drain! – Update on SK Leisure facilities – May 2020

My last update regarding the new Deepings leisure centre was published on March 12th. Obviously, the world has changed since then, due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, I am pleased to report that, despite the lockdown, there appears to be some evidence of progress with the plans.

The Deputy Leader of the Council has promised that some detailed proposals will be shared with the Deepings ward councillors before the end of June. It appears that plans for a new leisure centre at Stamford have been abandoned and investigations into whether Grantham’s facilities should be relocated from the Meres to the town centre have concluded that this would not be feasible (The latter decision shouldn’t have taken more than ten seconds of informed research). Instead, the facilities at Bourne, Grantham and Stamford will receive facelifts and refurbishment of varying extent while the Deepings Leisure Centre remains firmly on the table as a new-build project.

Meanwhile, Independent Councillors who represent Deepings wards continue to ask questions about the lack of progress made so far. Cllr Ashley Baxter (Ind, Market and West Deeping and author of this blog) has discovered the Council has squandered £284,000 on paying consultancy firm ‘Mace’ to evaluate options for leisure centres across the District. A heavy tome has been produced by Mace but it is apparently of little use. I have recently asked for a copy of the report to see what ‘magic beans’ it prescribes but I fear I might have to wait a while and, if I ever do see it, the content will be commercially confidential.

The commisioning of the consultants’ report was approved by the SKDC Full Council of 2019. During the meeting, the then newly-elected Cllr Virginia Moran prophesied that it would be a waste of money declaring ““We shouldn’t need to spend more than 6p to determine the business case for a leisure centre for the Deepings.”.

The expenditure was proposed by Cllr Helen Goral (Con) who has since resigned from the Cabinet during the leadership of Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) who has since resigned as Council Leader. The Chief Executive at the time was Aidan Rave but he has now left the Council altogether.

Before authorising the expenditure, the Council was told that Mace would be used as the preferred supplier because the Council already had a working relationship with them and consequently there was no need to shop around. It was also stated that the £250,000 additional funding allocation would “allow for the detailed business cases to be developed for Stamford, Market Deeping and Bourne”. Now here we are, a year later, £284,000 poorer and it seems that no detailed business cases emerged from the consultant. I am not altogether surprised as it was rumoured at the time that the supposed leisure centre experts didn’t appear to know that modern swimming pools can have movable floors.

Broken promises

It was the aforementioned Cllr Lee who, in 2017, made the bold promises of:

  • a new leisure centre in the Deepings
  • a new leisure centre in Stamford
  • 10,000 ft2 of new office accommodation in the Deepings;
  • a 300-seat ‘digital hub’ in Stamford,
  • a serviced office facility for micro-businesses in Bourne.

Three years later and none of this has been delivered, furthermore it seems the Deepings Leisure Centre is the only item on the shopping list which currently shows any sign of intent or progress. I hope that my next ‘leisure centre update’ post will have some far more positive news.

Concerns over income

At the Finance Committee earlier this week it was revealed that the incumbent manager of the SKDC Leisure Centres, 1Life, has submitted a legal claim to the Council for financial losses resulting from the Covid crisis. The claim is being reviewed and challenged so it is not possible to specify the financial impact at this time.

Confusion over decision-making

As a Ward Councillor, it has always been quite difficult to keep up-to-date with what’s happening regarding the Leisure Transformation programme, and especially to find information which can be shared ‘on the record’. The Council Officers have been very good at answering questions as honestly as they can and as transparently as they are allowed. The recently appointed Head of Leisure has been very clear with me about the challenges she faces in terms of the existing leisure centres and the new-build and refurbishment projects and I am very grateful for her candour.

However, the ‘proper democratic process’ has been far more difficult to navigate. Independent Councillors for the Deepings, namely Cllr Virginia Moran, Cllr Phil Dilks and myself, have asked publicly for updates regarding the Deepings facilities at every appropriate opportunity. For three years now we have received patronising ‘all in good time’ and ‘wait and see’ responses. We have been subjected to phoney consultations and genuine consultations and have tried throughout to keep local sports clubs informed.

The most recent formal decision of the Council was to create a ‘Members Working Group’ or possibly a number of ‘Members Working Groups’, either concerning the Leisure Transformation plans across the District or relevant to each town, depending on which meeting minutes you read and whether or not you were in the room when the Group(s) were formed.

Regardless of the remit and the membership, no meeting of any formally established Members Working Groups have been convened. However, it is hoped that the Deepings will be the first to have a serious conversation about the available options for a new Leisure Centre and that conversation will start next month, hopefully!

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 enhancingleisure@southkesteven.gov.uk

Meanwhile, why not ‘like’ or ‘share’ this post?

Governance and Audit turned out to be a very short meeting!

I might have complained before about how some Council meetings have a reputation for being boring and that ‘Governance and Audit Committee is one of them’.

I was actually quite looking forward to this afternoon’s meeting because of the revelations of the council’s Auditors concerning ‘Financial Sustainability’, ‘Procurement and Contracts’, ‘Homelessness’ and ‘Void Management’ which I have outlined below.

Unfortunately, when I tried to join the virtual meeting, I could not find the joining details on the public website, Thankfully, with the help of council staff members, I was able to find the skype address in my ‘in-box’ and arrived at the meeting just in time.

The meeting began with housekeeping and a roll-call of the committee members, the other councillors, the council officers and the various auditors who were presenting reports. We then moved onto the minutes of the previous meeting but I interrupted proceedings to ask the Chair, Cllr Ian Stokes (Con), for clarification of whether members of the public were actually able to view the meeting. I pointed out that if the public were not able to view the proceedings then we could be acting ‘illegally’. With hindsight, I think a better word would have been ‘improperly’.

The Committee Clerks suggested the meeting be adjourned briefly while they checked the situation. When they returned, 10 minutes later, they confirmed that there were no instructions on the website by which the public could find out how to join the meeting and, therefore, the meeting did not satisfy the regulatory requirements of a public meeting. The meeting was then adjourned until another date (yet to be confirmed) could be arranged with proper access to the public.

Governance and Audit Committee meetings are not famous for their packed public galleries, in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a member of the public in attendance. However, we have no way of telling how many people wanted to attend the meeting now that is supposed to be accessible by remote access and, this far into lockdown, we should have systems in place to ensure our meetings and decisions are properly visible, transparent and run in accordance with all appropriate rules and regulations.

If the meeting had gone ahead, we would have discussed a range of issues presented by our Internal Auditor including:

Procurement and Contracts

Regular readers will know that I have had questions in the past concerning the Council’s gung-ho attitude to public procurement legislation. The Internal Audit report doesn’t do much to reassure me as the following quotes illustrate:

“Conclusion: Partial Assurance; Impact on Annual Opinion: Negative
As a result of testing undertaken, 11 ‘medium’ and one ‘low’ priority findings were identified.
Management actions were agreed in respect of all the findings.
The medium priority findings relate to:
• Through review of the Service Plan in place between the Council and Welland Procurement, instances were noted where contracts had not been procured by the agreed target completion dates.
• From discussions with the Procurement Lead it was confirmed that the current Contracts Register is not fully complete and there are still gaps in regards to certain departments.
• A sample of 20 contracts from the Council’s current Contract Register were selected and tested.
Four instances were noted where no documentation was provided in relation to the documented contracts (all in excess of £50,000) and therefore the following could not be confirmed:
o That a procurement process had been followed in line with the Council’s Contract and
Procurement Procedure Rules for each of the contracts;
o That the contracts had been advertised on the ProContract e-tendering system;
o That a scoring matrix was utilised as part of an evaluation process;
o That successful or unsuccessful letters were sent out to all applicants;
o That due-diligence checks such as credit worthiness were carried out by the Council on the successful contractors;
o That a contract was in place that was signed by both the Council and the contracted party;
o That the Council had included clauses within the contracts governing the circumstances
whereby early termination or exit of the contract is permitted;
o That appropriate monitoring had been undertaken of the Contracts by the dedicated Contract Managers; and
o That the Council completed initial and on-going risk assessments for the contracts in relation to Health and Safety.”

Homelessness

Again, I have previously expressed concern that the number of households in South Kesteven has trebled in recent years suggesting we have an increasing problem with homelessness. The Internal Auditor suggests some potential reasons why the problems continue.

“Conclusion: Partial Assurance; Impact on Annual Opinion: Negative
As a result of testing undertaken, seven ‘medium’ and seven ‘low’ priority findings were identified. Management actions were agreed in respect of all the findings.
The medium priority findings relate to:
• A training log spreadsheet is in place for staff members within the Homelessness Prevention Team. It was however noted that certain staff members did not have any delivered training documented. Additionally, instances were noted where dates were not recorded for when the relevant training was completed and there is also no information currently documented for refresher training if applicable.
• From testing a sample of 20 homelessness applications from the current financial year, instances were identified whereby the initial assessment had not been carried out or the initial contact was not made promptly with the applicant and instances where decision letters were not sent to the applicant promptly.
• Testing identified one instance where the Prevention or Relief Duty was note ended within 56 days and an extension had not been applied. It was also noted that a supporting decision letter was not produced and sent to the applicant once duty had ended.
• The Council has a Temporary Accommodation Procedure in place although it was noted that the Procedure had not been updated since 2015. It was also noted that the Procedure does not cover the booking of emergency accommodation. Additionally, the Procedure does not specify a need to consider value for money, or a list of approved hotels and bed and breakfasts which the Council has negotiated favourable rates with.
• From testing a sample of 20 homelessness applications which had resulted in the allocation of temporary or emergency accommodation during the current financial year instances were noted whereby a Temporary Accommodation Request Form had either not been completed or authorised, no evidence of any action being taken to recover monies owed to the Council by tenants with outstanding utility charges or where emergency accommodation costs had been covered by the Council.
• From a review of the Temporary Accommodation Rent Procedure it was noted that it does not provide adequate detail to allow rent officers to recoup rent and utility charges. Additionally, the Procedure does not specify the point at which a Notice to Vacate should be served and does not provide any guidance on the recovery procedure for outstanding utility charges.
• At the time of audit, it was noted that there is currently no monitoring undertaken by the Homelessness Prevention Team to identify repeat users of temporary or emergency accommodation.

Voids Management

The Internal Audit of the way SKDC manages empty properties (aka ‘Voids’) was slightly less disparaging although it was noted:

“At the time of audit, the Council did not have a Voids Policy in place. Through discussion with the Head of Improvements and Repairs it was confirmed that a Voids Policy is due to be drafted”.

I am now trying to find out whether the voids policy has been drafted and/or adopted. This is partly in preparation for the meeting when it comes back from its adjournment and partly to try to make sense of why at least one council property in Market Deeping has been empty for more than six months. I am sure there must be a simple and reasonable explanation.

Financial Sustainability

The External Audit Plan was also due to be presented to this afternoon’s meeting. The audit report (which costs over £40,000) has rightly drawn attention to the potentially massive impact of Covid19. However it also identified following significant VFM risks (Value for Money):

“For 2020/21 the Council is proposing a balanced budget with no use of General Fund reserves.
The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) to 2022/23 shows funding gaps of £1,009k in 2021/22 and £1,302k in 2022/23 and officers are working on addressing these gaps in early 2020/21. The Council have recently appointed a new Chief Executive and their first priority is to update the Corporate Plan.
An updated MTFS will be developed to supported this updated corporate plan.
We will review the work the Council is undertaking to address the gaps identified in the MTFS. We will also review the updated Corporate Plan and its effect on the MTFS.”

When Karen Bradford arrived as Chief Exec of SKDC earlier this year, she mentioned the need for a refresh or rewrite of the Corporate Plan. I agreed and drew her attention to the previous colourful plan we had approved which was full of pictures of exotic animals but rather light on practical planning.

The review of the Medium Term Financial Strategy will, it is hoped, be completed before too long and the Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Adam Stokes (Con), will have to present it to the relevant committees for scrutiny and approval.

I am sure the Chair of the Governance and Audit Committee will have no misgivings about asking challenging and difficult questions of the Cabinet Member for Finance; He is, after all, his father!

The ‘Great Plague’ of 1665

With all the recent talk about bookcases I noticed, in mine, a copy of “A New History of England and Great Britain” by Prof. J. M. D. Meikeljohn, of the University of St Andrew’s, and published in 1903.

Unsurprisingly, it records many notable events in the story of our nation including the first ‘English’ landing in 449 – “They sent word home to their friends how fertile the land was, and how weak the people; and thus began the stream of English immigration into the goodly island of Great Britain.”

A recent blog about ‘The Black Death’ of 1349, was surprisingly well-read, perhaps because of its topicality or maybe because it was widely shared, so I’ve plucked out a passage about England’s second most famous plague incident…

The Great Plague

June of 1665 was a month of extraordinary heat, and the winter and spring had been the driest ever known in England. London was at that time a city of narrow streets, overhanging houses, and no drainage of any systematic kind. There was in this summer no grass to be seen anywhere, and the country round London looked dreary, parched, brown and dusty.

In the coffee-houses – which were the clubs of the seventeenth century- hushed whispers pass from man to man, that the Dutch fleet is in the waters of the Thames, and that the plague is in the city. On the 7th June, Pepys, the Secretary for the Navy, see in Drury Lane “two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors (the ‘fatal red cross, a foot in length’), and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there.” Into the ill-drained and narrow streets of London neither light nor fresh air could easily penetrate. The richer people fled, and even the physicians and the clergy ran to the country for their lives.

The streets were filled all day and all night with “coaches and wagons and carts hurrying away with goods, women, servants, and children,” and the king and his sorry court were the first to set the bad example of flight. Only the stout Duke of Albemarle, Monck, among the higher ranks, stood to his post, and fearlessly chewed tobacco and drank his strong beer, in his town garden.

All night – and, when the plague had advanced, all day and all night – the dead-cart went its rounds, with the weird noise of the gloomy bell, and the hoarse voices of the buriers crying, “Bring out your dead!” Slowly it rumbled along, picking up a corpse in this house and another in that, until it appeared at the mouth of a vast and deep common foss or grave, into which it shot at once sixteen or seventeen bodies, uncoffined and unshrouded, unattended and uncared for by friends or by relations.

“The people fell thick as leaves in autumn when they are shaken by a mighty wind;” grass grew everywhere in the silent and untrodden streets, – silent but for the groans of the dying and the doomed; rows of houses stood empty, and those that were occupied were marked with the red cross; and a strange and wild-looking man walked the streets day and night at a swift even pace, speaking to no one, but constantly uttering the words, “Oh, the great and dreadful God!”

In September a huge bonfire was kindled at every sight house, and kept burning day and night; ten thousand people died in one week; and in six months more than a hundred thousand had perished.

Most of the clergy had fled, but the Nonconforming ministers had the courage to stay with the people, to preach from the forsaken pulpits, to visit the sick, to relieve the poor, and to minister to the last moments of the dying. The reward which these brave men received for their self-denying work from Parliament was the Five-Mile Act.

Footnotes

  1. The plague of 1665 is called The Great Plague, because it was the worst – the last of many which under the names of The Death, The Black Death etc., had frequently devastated London and England. The narrow ill ventilated streets, the filthy lanes and alleys, the want of systematic drainage, the complete ignorance of the time as to the value of pure air and cold water, made the great cities of mediaeval and of later Europe hot-beds and forcing-houses for all kinds of pestilence. “The terrible visitor came to London once in every twenty years, and then swept away a fifth of the inhabitants.”
  2. The most picturesque account of the Plague is given by Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Year. There are also some vigorous verses on the subject in Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis ( = Wonderful Year -because the Plague and the Fire both fell within a twelvemonth).

Detailed breakdown of SKDC Ward Member grants for the Bourne area

The following table lists the grants allocated from the Members Ward Budget of South Kesteven District Council during financial year 2019/20. Each Councillor can allocate up to £1,000 each year.

I do not currently have specific project details for each award but I have written a more general overview of the scheme.

Recipient OrganisationCouncillorWardAmount
Haconby Tree FundCllr Dr Peter MoseleyAveland£250.00
Haconby & Stainfield Parish CouncilCllr Dr Peter MoseleyAveland£462.00
Rippingale Parish CouncilCllr Dr Peter MoseleyAveland£216.90
ToolbarCllr Robert ReidBourne Austerby£200.00
ToolbarCllr Jane KingmanBourne Austerby£200.00
The Butterfield CentreCllr Jane KingmanBourne Austerby£800.00
The Butterfield CentreCllr Robert ReidBourne Austerby£500.00
Bourne Town CouncilCllr Paul FellowsBourne Austerby£1,000.00
Bourne Town CouncilCllr Robert ReidBourne Austerby£300.00
The Butterfield CentreCllr Judith SmithBourne East£1,000.00
Dyke Village HallCllr Philip KnowlesBourne East£350.00
Little Miracles BourneCllr Philip KnowlesBourne East£350.00
Don’t Lose HopeCllr Philip KnowlesBourne East£300.00
The Butterfield CentreCllr Helen CrawfordBourne West£333.00
Dyke Village HallCllr Helen CrawfordBourne West£667.00
Bourne FoodbankCllr Anna KellyBourne West£250.00
Rotary Club of Bourne Trust FundCllr Anna KellyBourne West£50.00
Bourne Town CouncilCllr Anna KellyBourne West£200.00
Lincolnshire 4×4 Response LtdCllr Anna KellyBourne West£500.00
Swayfield Village HallCllr Nick RobinsCastle£269.98
Irnham Parish CouncilCllr Nick RobinsCastle£300.00
Braceborough Village Hall CommitteeCllr Barry DobsonDole Wood£1,000.00
Glenside NewsCllr Chris BennGlen£300.00
Carlby Playing Field CommitteeCllr Chris BennGlen£475.00
The Spinney AccountCllr Chris BennGlen£225.00
New Day Baptist ChurchCllr Sue WoolleyMorton£250.00
Morton PCCCllr Sue WoolleyMorton£250.00
Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust (Morton CE Primary School)Cllr Sue WoolleyMorton£250.00
Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust (Little Owls Nursery)Cllr Sue WoolleyMorton£250.00
Springwells Surgery Medical Equipment FundCllr Jan HansenToller£900.00

Detailed breakdown of SKDC Ward Member grants for Stamford

During the financial year 2019/20, four out of the eight Stamford district councillors allocated the whole £1,000 to good causes. Cllr Susan Sandall (unaligned) awarded £500 and Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) only £250. Cllr John Dawson (Con) chose not award any grants at all.

I do not currently have specific project details for each award but I have written a more general overview of the scheme.

Recipient OrganisationCouncillorWardAmount
Stamford Town CouncilCllr Amanda WheelerSt George’s£350.00
Mindspace (Stamford)Cllr Amanda WheelerSt George’s£650.00
Stamford Detachment 2 Squadron Lincs ACFCllr Breda-Rae GriffinAll Saints£300.00
Mindspace (Stamford)Cllr Breda-Rae GriffinAll Saints£250.00
Stamford Welland Academy CCFCllr Breda-Rae GriffinAll Saints£325.00
Britsh Legion Stamford & DistrictCllr Breda-Rae GriffinAll Saints£125.00
Stamford Town CouncilCllr Gloria JohnsonSt George’s£350.00
College PlayersCllr Gloria JohnsonSt George’s£325.00
Friends of Stamford & Rutland TheatreCllr Gloria JohnsonSt George’s£325.00
Stamford Branch RBLCllr Harrish BisnauthsingSt Mary’s£200.00
Stamford FoodbankCllr Harrish BisnauthsingSt Mary’s£300.00
Mindspace (Stamford)Cllr Harrish BisnauthsingSt Mary’s£500.00
Stamford Town CouncilCllr Matthew LeeSt Mary’s£250.00
Stamford Detachment 2 Squadron Lincs ACFCllr Mike ExtonAll Saints£300.00
Mindspace (Stamford)Cllr Mike ExtonAll Saints£250.00
Stamford Welland Academy CCFCllr Mike ExtonAll Saints£325.00
Britsh Legion Stamford & DistrictCllr Mike ExtonAll Saints£125.00
Stamford in BloomCllr Susan SandallSt John’s£500.00

Detailed breakdown of SKDC Ward Member grants for the Deepings

Cllr Virginia Moran (Ind, centre of photo) with members of the Deeeping Cares group.

In the Deepings, all 6 councillors, and the 2 from Casewick, spent all but £4 of their grant pots during the financial year 2019/20.

Recipient OrganisationCouncillorWardAmount
Deeping United FCCllr Ashley BaxterMarket & West Deeping£250.00
Deepings Churches TogetherCllr Ashley BaxterMarket & West Deeping£216.00
Bourne Deeping Hockey ClubCllr Ashley BaxterMarket & West Deeping£334.00
Rotary Club of the DeepingsCllr Ashley BaxterMarket & West Deeping£200.00
Deeping United FCCllr Bob BroughtonMarket & West Deeping£700.00
Deepings Youth GroupCllr Bob BroughtonMarket & West Deeping£300.00
Lives (Deepings First Responders)Cllr Jill ThomasDeeping St James£333.00
Exotic Pet RefugeCllr Jill ThomasDeeping St James£330.00
DSJ Priory Church HallCllr Jill ThomasDeeping St James£333.00
Lives (Deepings First Responders)Cllr Judy StevensDeeping St James£330.00
Exotic Pet RefugeCllr Judy StevensDeeping St James£330.00
DSJ Priory Church HallCllr Judy StevensDeeping St James£340.00
Uffington Village HallCllr Kelham CookeCasewick£200.00
Baston Parish CouncilCllr Kelham CookeCasewick£200.00
Langtoft FestivalCllr Kelham CookeCasewick£600.00
Bourne Deeping Hockey ClubCllr Philip DilksDeeping St James£333.00
Deepings Youth GroupCllr Philip DilksDeeping St James£134.00
Deeping United Football ClubCllr Philip DilksDeeping St James£200.00
DSJ Priory Church HallCllr Philip DilksDeeping St James£333.00
Uffington Village HallCllr Rosemary Trollope-BellewCasewick£200.00
Baston Parish CouncilCllr Rosemary Trollope-BellewCasewick£200.00
Langtoft FestivalCllr Rosemary Trollope-BellewCasewick£600.00
Deeping CaresCllr Virginia MoranMarket & West Deeping£250.00
Deepings First RespondersCllr Virginia MoranMarket & West Deeping£250.00
Deeping United FCCllr Virginia MoranMarket & West Deeping£280.00
Bourne Deeping Hockey ClubCllr Virginia MoranMarket & West Deeping£220.00

Detailed breakdown of SKDC Ward Member grants for the Grantham area

During the financial year 2019/20, four out of the eight Stamford district councillors allocated the whole £1,000 to good causes. Cllr David Bellamy (Con) and Cllr John Cottier (Con) both chose not award any grants at all.

I do not currently have specific project details for each award but I have written a more general overview of the scheme.

Recipient OrganisationCouncillorWardAmount
St John’s AmbulanceCllr Adam StokesSpringfield£1,000.00
Grantham FoodbankCllr Annie MasonSt Vincent’s£500.00
Grantham Ark (St Wulfram’s Church)Cllr Annie MasonSt Vincent’s£500.00
Colsterworth Parochial ChurchCllr Bob AdamsIsaac Newton£1,000.00
Grantham Lions ClubCllr Charmaine MorganSt Vincent’s£1,000.00
Grantham Food BankCllr Dean WardArnoldfield£1,000.00
Grantham Disabled Children SocietyCllr George ChiversBelmont£500.00
Grantham FoodbankCllr George ChiversBelmont£250.00
St Wulfram’s Church (Grantham Ark)Cllr George ChiversBelmont£250.00
United Parish of the TrinityCllr Graham JealSt Vincent’s£1,000.00
Barrowby Open DoorCllr Hannah WestroppBelvoir£400.00
Friends of Sandon & AmbergateCllr Helen GoralArnoldfield£1,000.00
St Wulfram’s Church (Choir)Cllr Hilary WestroppHarrowby£1,000.00
South Kesteven District Council (SK Charity Cup printing)Cllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£80.40
Harrowby Football ClubCllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£200.00
Grantham Town FCCllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£100.00
Bourne Town Football ClubCllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£100.00
South Kesteven Charity CupCllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£309.96
Grantham Journal Children’s FundCllr Ian SelbyHarrowby£209.64
Great Gonerby Parish CouncilCllr Ian StokesPeascliffe & Ridgeway£250.00
Belton & Manthorpe Parish CouncilCllr Ian StokesPeascliffe & Ridgeway£500.00
Dr Friers Children’s Holiday FundCllr Jacky SmithSt Wulfram’s£500.00
Commemorative Tree & Plaque Wyndham Park – Frank NorthingCllr Jacky SmithSt Wulfram’s£186.75
Commemorative Tree & Plaque Wyndham Park – Nora EnglishCllr Jacky SmithSt Wulfram’s£186.75
Grantham Senior Citizen Club LtdCllr Jacky SmithSt Wulfram’s£126.50
Foston Parish CouncilCllr Jane WoodViking£600.00
Long Bennington Pre-SchoolCllr Jane WoodViking£400.00
Grantham West Community CentreCllr Lee SteptoeEarlesfield£1,000.00
Londonthorpe & Harrowby Without Parish CouncilCllr Linda WoottenBelmont£500.00
Wyndham Park ForumCllr Linda WoottenBelmont£100.00
Grantham MuseumCllr Linda WoottenBelmont£100.00
Earlesfield Community ChurchCllr Louise ClackEarlesfield£1,000.00
Grantham FoodbankCllr Mark WhittingtonBarrowby Gate£500.00
Grantham Water Polo ClubCllr Mark WhittingtonBarrowby Gate£500.00
Grantham Food BankCllr Nikki ManterfieldSpringfield£1,000.00
Barrowby Open DoorCllr Pam BosworthBelvoir£250.00
St Lawrence Church (Sedgebrook PCC)Cllr Pam BosworthBelvoir£250.00
Barrowby NewsCllr Pam BosworthBelvoir£500.00
Claypole Parish CouncilCllr Paul WoodViking£600.00
Hougham Parish CouncilCllr Paul WoodViking£400.00
Hough on the Hill Parish CouncilCllr Penny MilnesLoveden Heath£200.00
Stubton Parish CouncilCllr Penny MilnesLoveden Heath£200.00
Caythorpe & Frieston Parish CouncilCllr Penny MilnesLoveden Heath£200.00
Fulbeck Parish CouncilCllr Penny MilnesLoveden Heath£200.00
Fenton Parish MeetingCllr Penny MilnesLoveden Heath£200.00
Parkinsons Disease Charity GranthamCllr Ray WoottenSt Wulfram’s£700.00
Grantham Community Heritage AssociationCllr Ray WoottenSt Wulfram’s£300.00
Sudbrook & West Willoughby Village HallCllr Rosemary Kaberry-BrownPeascliffe & Ridgeway£429.99
Caythorpe & Ancaster Medical Equipment TrustCllr Rosemary Kaberry-BrownPeascliffe & Ridgeway£500.00
The Grantham Music ClubCllr Sarah TrotterLincrest£400.00
Welby Parish CouncilCllr Sarah TrotterLincrest£87.15
Ingoldsby Parish CouncilCllr Sarah TrotterLincrest£150.00
Ropsley & District Parish CouncilCllr Sarah TrotterLincrest£150.00
Heydour Parish CouncilCllr Sarah TrotterLincrest£170.00

Charity begins at home – How South Kesteven Councillors have spent your money…

In 2018, after years of to-ing and fro-ing, South Kesteven Councillors agreed to establish an annual budget of £1,000 for each Member to allocate to projects of direct benefit people in their ward. Yes, at the time, I argued that this might be perceived as a bribe and a photo-opportunity in the year before the SKDC election but with hindsight it was a welcome u-turn by the Tories.

The second year of ward budgets has just concluded and I am pleased to be able to publish the details of how councillors have spent and, in some cases, not spent their allocation.

From the £56,000 budget, a total of £49,882.02 was awarded by 53 councillors and paid to 97 seperate organisations. These included sports clubs, food banks and village festivals.

The organisation that received the highest amount of grant funding was the Butterfield Centre in Bourne which received a combined total of £2,633 from four different councillors. Eighteen different organisations received grants of £1,000 or more.

There were seven grants of £100 or less. The smallest grant was the £50 paid to the Rotary Club of Bourne which was one of the four organisations sponsored by Cllr Anna Kelly (Ind).

Although the scheme was set up to give councillors a funding stream to support grassroots projects run by community groups, organisations, charities etc across the district, over £8,000 was paid to town and parish councils across the district. This is a reasonable acknowledgement that in many villages parish councils are the best available constituted organisation for handling the finances of small projects.

Each grant was supposed to be awarded for a specific project or initiative and not to be used for either ongoing revenue costs or regular events (unless the funding relates to a new aspect).

Some Councillors decided not to allocate their budgets. Three councillors, all Conservative, did not allocate any grants at all. Some others did not use all the available grant. This, of course, is their prorogative and they don’t have to explain their decision to anyone. It is possible that they received no sensible applications; alternatively they might think it is in their residents’ best interests to leave the money in the central coffers at SKDC. Personally, I am exceedingly keen to repatriate as much money from Grantham back to Deeping as possible.

This year I shared our £1,000 among four grant recipients. These were:

  • £250 to Deepings United FC for stretcher equipment. The team also received funding via the other two councillors for Market and West Deeping. (This doesn’t come close to reimbursing them for the unfair and extortionate fees they are charged by SKDC’s Leisure Centre for rent of pitches but that’s another story)
  • £334 to Bourne Deeping Hockey Club towards new equipment. The team also received funding from the other two Independent councillors in the Deepings. (Sadly, the small grant does not compensate for the disaster of having nowhere in South Kesteven to train after the Deepings all-weather pitch was condemned, but that’s another story)
  • £200 to the Rotary Club of the Deepings towards the costs of the Deepings 10k and Fun Run (whenever they might be).
  • £216 to Churches Together in the Deepings for their ‘Open the Book’ schools project.

I have published information about the other grants awarded during 2019/20 year elsewhere on the DeepingDo blog.

In March this year, less than 12 months after the election, councillors voted to slash the budget down to just £500 but maybe this was down to concerns about pressures on council budgets which no-one knew about the previous year? In any case, it doesn’t matter because the world has changed since March and the Council Leader has unilaterally (and rightly imho) decided to put it back up to £1,000 to allow us to support the hyper-local organisations which are supporting our communities through Coronavirus. Furthermore, the County Council has also urgently reinstated its ward budgets of £3,000 for allocation by each of its 70 individual councillors and, yes, it is the year before the county council elections but this is definitely no time to be cynical!

Due to the Covid situation, many of last year’s grants were not accompanied by photo-shoots so here is a picture of me running the Deepings Rotary Fun Run a couple of years ago (courtesy of David Pearson Photography).

Self-isolation, the South Lincolnshire experience – A feature for St Guthlac’s Day

This DeepingDo blog is primarily about news relating to the Deepings and/or South Kesteven but in the absence of any council meetings I’m branching out. My recent topical post about the Black Death of 1349 was particularly popular so perhaps historical context is what you all want?

The 11th April is the Saints day of our local hero, Guthlac of Crowland. Two of the five Deepings churches are named in his honour as well as one of the ‘colleges’ at Deepings school and the local freemasons’ lodge.

Guthlac on his way to Crowland. Photo: British Library

Guthlac’s big thing was ‘self-isolation’ which is as topical today as it has ever been. Here’s a potted history of Guthlac. Less is known about his sister, Pega, although she was also into self-isolation so I might write more about her at a later date.

Wilder even than the western woodland was the desolate fen-country on the eastern border of the kingdom stretching from the “Holland,” the sunk, hollow land of Lincolnshire, to the channel of the Ouse, a wilderness of shallow waters and reedy islets wrapped in its own dark mist-veil and tenanted only by flocks of screaming wild-fowl. Here through the liberality of King Wulfhere rose the abbey of Peterborough. Here, too, Guthlac, a youth of the royal race of Mercia, sought a refuge from the world in the solitudes of Crowland,…1

Yes, Guthlac wanted to get away from it all. Life had been pretty hectic up to the point when he arrived at the edge of the fens in AD 699. Loads of us who have moved to the Deepings can identify with that.

Guthlachttps://www.bl.uk/people/guthlac was born into a noble family in AD 674, As a teenager he started fighting, as a warrior on the side of Æthelred of Mercia2. He fought for about 9 years before experiencing a spiritual encounter after which he entered a monastery at Repton. He only stayed there for two years because the other monks didn’t get on with him because he didn’t drink alcohol. Still, he kept the Faith and moved to Crowland for some peace and quiet. Crowland is quiet now but back then it was quieter still. There was nothing there, except for the aforementioned noisy birds and an ancient burial mound in the marshes which had been partially excavated by treasure hunters and which became Guthlac’s new home.

So how did Guthlac use his time of self-isolation?

https://www.wnsstamps.post/stamps/2018/BY/BY010.18.jpg

Firstly, he didn’t drink too much. He didn’t drink at all in fact.

Secondly, he watched his diet. It is said that he made a solemn vow never to eat before sunset.

Thirdly, he tried to keep in touch with his friends and family. He was visited by various people seeking his advice including the Mercian king, Æthelbald. It is said that Guthlac’s sister Pega lived with him for a while but there was an incident with the ‘eating before sunset’ rule and sadly they parted company. Pega went to live by herself in nearby Peakirk (which is why it’s now called Peakirk).

Fourthly, he prayed. Being by yourself all day gives you time to contemplate, reflect, meditate and listen to God. This was much easier in the days before Facebook and Netflix box-sets which can be a waste of time. Anyway, for Guthlac it was the whole reason for him moving to South Lincolnshire in the first place so he got on and dealt with it seriously.

Finally, he faced his demons. According to Felix, who wrote an early biography of Guthlac, the demons took many forms including horrible, ferocious and sometimes frankly disgusting beasties. In our so-called enlightened age, we don’t think about literal demons very much but we all face our own modern demons, e.g. in the form of addictions, domestic violence, low self-esteem, ignorance, arrogance etc. A time of self-isolation is a good time to confront them and deal with them. There is far more help available for dealing with these demons than Guthlac would have had when he faced his.

“...and so great was the reverence he won, that only two years had passed since his death when the stately Abbey of Crowland rose over his tomb. Earth was brought in boats to form a site; the buildings rested on oaken piles driven into the marsh; a great stone church replaced the hermits cell; and the toil of the new brotherhood changed the pools around them into fertile meadow-land.” 3

This year, St Guthlac’s Day has fallen on Easter Eve, and in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in living memory, we are living through a plague which is spreading throughout the UK as well as the rest of the world. The only weapon we have against it appears to be social-distancing (staying at least 2 metres away from other people) and self-isolation (leaving the house as infrequently as possible). Guthlac of Crowland was one of the most popular pre-Norman English saints and he taught us that being in isolation is not only possible, it can also be productive and even Holy.

Happy St Guthlac’s Day and Happy Easter!

Places to visit in Peterborough: Crowland Abbey - We Love Peterborough
Crowland Abbey – Built on the site of Guthlac’s hermitage.

1 “A short history of the English people”, John Richard Green, 1877
2 Not to be confused with Æthelred the Unready who was king of England 200 years later.
3 “A short history of the English people”, John Richard Green, 1877

South Kesteven dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ to virtual meetings

Screenshot from a recent UK Cabinet Zoom meeting (via @TiernanDouieb).

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.

Today, Friday 3rd April, South Kesteven Council held its first ever official ‘virtual’ meeting of a committee.

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