I am delighted to report that the South Kesteven Cabinet will hold a formal meeting, open to the public, at the Eventus Centre in Market Deeping tomorrow (6th September, 2018 at 2pm)
Some people need to get out more often, especially Councillors, and this is what I have been arguing since I joined South Kesteven Council back in 2015. To be specific, I have been suggesting that at least one formal committee meeting each year should be held in each of the smaller towns i.e. Bourne, Stamford and Market Deeping.I first raised the issue formally at a meeting of the now-defunct Communities PDG back in early 2016. At that time the committee was divided on the issue (2 votes to 2, with 1 abstention) and the Chair, Coun Angela Webster (Con), cast her vote against holding any meetings outside Grantham.
In July 2017, after the coup within the Tory group, I wrote to the new Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con), requesting that some meetings be held outside Grantham. He suggested that the correct procedure would be to approach the Committee Chairs directly. I did just that and received a ‘No’ from one committee Chair and no response at all from the others.
I therefore brought the question back to Full Council in November 2017 when I proposed the following motion:
This Council pledges to hold at least one formal meeting (e.g. an OSC meeting) in each of the 3 smaller towns (Stamford, Bourne and Market Deeping) during each calendar year.
The Conservative leadership was broadly sympathetic even though some of their own backbenchers complained about the alleged cost and inconvenience which might be incurred by asking Officers to leave the comfort of their desks in Grantham (This was reported in the Grantham Journal). However, the Leader himself stated that “he supported the principle” and so a compromise amendment was successful:
“This Council encourages its Committee Chairmen to consider the venue for holding committee meetings to ensure that at least one formal meeting (e.g. an OSC meeting)
is held in each of the 3 smaller towns etc.”
Since then, the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) has made it as far as the Alexandra Road depot, still in Grantham but at least away from St Peter’s Hill. The Growth OSC has met once at Wake House Community Centre in Bourne (I think because of a double-booking but I’m not complaining). However, the Cabinet has led by example by holding a meeting earlier this year in Bourne and, hopefully, they will meet again tomorrow in the Deepings!
A couple of senior Conservative Councillors have suggested that holding meetings outside Grantham entails excessive cost. I thought this raised a reasonable question, so I set about finding out if it was true. I asked about the cost of the previous Cabinet meeting in Bourne and was told that the total additional cost was less than £500 (Room hire £249, Refreshments £33 and then some additional mileage). I don’t think this is an unreasonable expense for an occasional nod to the people of the smaller towns, especially when the room hire fee is actually being paid from one part of the Council to another (as in the case of Bourne Corn Exchange).
Another promise which has been made and kept by the Council Leader has been to allow all Councillors to attend and speak at Cabinet meetings. He has even introduced a new standing item on the Cabinet agenda under the heading “Representations received from Non Cabinet Members“. This item often passes without comment although in April this year three Councillors used the opportunity to raise issues.
I have asked for three items to be raised at tomorrow’s Cabinet which are especially relevant to people in the Deepings. They are:
- Planning enforcement action (or rather lack of it) at the Brambles (Persimmon) Development
- Deepings Saturday Market
- Deepings Leisure Centre
I hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it tomorrow afternoon I will to report back before too long on how the meeting goes and whether I learn anything new.