Report to MDTC Full Council 11th September 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.
Greetings to all Town Councillors! I hope you enjoyed your summer break. Here are some SKDC highlights from the summer of 2019…
Resignations and Appointments
In July, the SKDC Chief Executive, Aidan Rave, resigned from his post “to pursue new ventures”. Sources told the Grantham Journal that there was a “clash of personalities” between him and leader of the council, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) which led to a “big row”.
The Council has appointed Paul Thomas as an interim Chief Executive. Mr Thomas has been with the Council for several years and, for what it’s worth, I think he is a sensible appointment.
Nineteen days later, Cllr Matthew Lee resigned himself as Leader of the Conservatives and de facto Leader of the Council. He did not publish any statement so we can only speculate why he threw in the towel after just two years at the helm.
The Conservatives met on 2nd September to elect a new leader. Deputy Council Leader Kelham Cooke competed with former Council Leader Bob Adams for the ‘honour’ and Cllr Cooke won the day. He is now almost certain to be formally elected as Leader of the Council later this month. He has promised a new more collaborative approach which would be most welcome.
Since the July meeting of MDTC, I have attended a few formal Council meetings.
This meeting was hastily convened in order to recommend the aforementioned appointment of Paul Thomas as Interim Chief Executive.
The Full Council appointed the interim Chief Executive. During questions I asked for a progress report regarding the adoption of roads and facilities on the Persimmon Estate in Market Deeping. I also asked why a Members Workshop on Climate Change was to be held in secret. Cllr Moran (Ind) asked for a progress report on the Deepings Leisure Centre but no new information was forthcoming.
The meeting concluded with discussion of a motion from Cllr Dilks (Ind) about policing. After much discussion about whether Cllr Ray Wootten (Con) had misled a previous meeting, it was agreed that the Council Leader should write to all Lincolnshire MPs asking for fairer funding for Lincolnshire Police and to the PCC asking for discussion of crime and policing across South Kesteven. Ironically, this was a very similar outcome to Cllr Dilks original proposal submitted to SKDC back in May which, thanks to Cllr R Wootten’s miscommunication, had been overwhelmingly rejected by the Conservatives.
Informal Workshop on Climate Change
This was a meeting called by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Group (OSC). Only the seven members of the OSC and the responsible Cabinet member were invited, i.e. no other Councillors and no members of the public. Only Cllr Dilks and two Conservatives turned up although I participated via Skype.
This meeting discussed the report of the External Auditor who had finished his report in the nick of time before a statutory accounting deadline.
The best thing about this meeting is that it took place in the open air at West Deeping at the would-be wedding venue of the Granary at Molecey Mill.
During the meeting we heard reports about the recent Bourne Cicle Festival which was apparently very successful despite the unexplained spelling error. The meeting also received feedback about the development of the cultural strategy and the opening of the Savoy cinema in Grantham.
At this meeting we discussed performance indicators. Yet again it was agreed that these are only any use if they are set in the context of comparable historic data or peer performance. Officers were very keen to show that they are working on a new performance dashboard but seemed reluctant to make the interactive data within it accessible to Members, let alone the wider population.
The meeting also considered the issue of the Deepings Special Expense Area. This is a tax on the residents of Deeping St James and Market Deeping used to cut the grass at the field at the Deepings School. I think it is unfair and outdated but it is also quite complicated due to the number of people involved in the management and use of the field. The case continues (as they say in the Court reports).
This was the first Cabinet meeting since Cllr Lee let it be known that he no longer wished to continue as Leader. Therefore it was Chaired by Deputy Leader, Kelham Cooke. The meeting included reports about the University Centre in Grantham and the Witham Slea Corridor.
The meeting also received a recommending the Council declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ and establish a establish a ‘Climate Change Action’ task and finish group to consider how SKDC and residents can help to prevent and mitigate the likely impacts of climate change. While I welcomed the Council’s willingness to recognise the global climate crisis, I also argued that the recommendations and targets within the report are too weak to have the impact which is required.
I asked for a progress report on the Deepings Leisure Centre but no new information was forthcoming.
The Cabinet noted the recent decision to sell the Market Deeping Town Hall back to the Council for a £1. There was no mention of the estimated £50,000 costs for repair and refurbishment. I hope the Town Council will approach the Council’s arm’s length economic development company, InvestSK Ltd, for help with these costs. InvestSK have given lots of grants to other restoration projects and I would hope they would be generous to Market Deeping.
Finally on meetings, I didn’t attend the today’s Planning meeting but I did express my concerns about the detailed proposals for housing on Linchfield Road, Deeping St James.
Conservation and Heritage
Eariler this week, I was pleased to meet the Conservation Officer and the Planning Enforcement Officer in Market Deeping Town Centre. We discussed the Council’s approach to preserving and improving the integrity of the Conservation Area.
Mill Field – Village Green update
About twenty local residents travelled to Lincoln in support of the Village Green application for Mill Field Market Deeping. Sadly, the Conservatives at Lincolnshire County Council decided not to approve the Registration and so the battle continues to defend Market Deepings last remaining accessible rural space.
The County Council has already applied for outline planning permission to build 260 houses on the fields even the site is a much loved green-field open space and building on it would be contrary to the SKDC Local Plan. If you wish to comment on the application please do so via the SKDC website.
Waste Transfer Station
Proposals have been received from New Earth Solutions Ltd to increase the volume of waste transferred to the facility on the Northfields Industrial Estate to 75,000 tonnes/annum. If you wish to comment on this application please do so via the SKDC website.
As ever, if you require any furtherinformation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward