The agenda for the South Kesteven Cabinet meeting of 16th June has not yet been published. I don’t have a crystal ball but I am going to make a prediction: the Conservative cabinet will present proposals for a review and report of the impact of the Coronavirus on SKDC’s operations aimed at identifying lessons to be learned which can improve the council’s ‘normal’ day-to-day activity as well as for any future crisis emergency.
If the Cabinet does propose such an investigation then I, for one, will fully support the idea. In fact, I already have! I proposed pretty much the same idea as a motion to the last Full Council (See below). My proposal was made 30th April, well ahead of the normal deadline and was acknowledged by the democratic services team. I mentioned it in a phone call to the Council Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con), who hadn’t seen it so I sent him a copy. The following day he informed me that he was “happy to support the majority” of the content of my motion but he had spoken to the Chief Executive who had decided, under her delegated powers, that the first virtual meeting of Full Council would have no motions nor any open questions from Councillors of the public; in other words, just a rubber-stamping exercise for publicity purposes. I was formally informed of this decision later the same day just minutes before the publication of the agenda. The Chief Executive did not have the courtesy to phone or e-mail me to explain the reason for her decision, let alone discuss the content and aspirations of the proposals.
So, rather than try to establish a cross-party consensus for a pragmatic and straightforward action, the council’s high command decided to delay the decision for a month so that it can be trumpeted as an innovative, original and (most importantly) Conservative idea.
Obviously, I am disappointed with the way the issue has been dealt with, especially regarding the continued lack of communication and colloboration with Independent and other opposition councillors, but I am not at all surprised. The SKDC Conservative’s Modus Operandi is to oppose almost any idea from Independent councillors and then present it as their own idea a few months later. If you think I am exaggerating, here are some examples:
There was a Tory U-Turn on Members’ Ward Budgets when most of the people who voted against the Independent proposal in March 2014 voted in favour of it in April 2018.
When I proposed the Council adopt the Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees in June 2019, the Conservatives voted firmly against the idea. Happily, within a few days the relevant Cabinet Member was posing for press photos holding a copy of the Charter in his hands. It was adopted a few weeks later.
A proposal to ensure major planning applications are decided by Councillors and not just officers was turned down in November 2018 when presented by Cllr Phil Dilks (then Lab, now Ind) but was adopted by the council in March 2019.
Never mind though; the important thing is to get the Council to accept good ideas. I suppose it doesn’t matter if it takes a bit longer and the people with the original ideas don’t get the credit.
Here, for future reference, is the text of my motion which I hope and expect will have been implemented before it is presented to the Full Council meeting in July.
Motion to Full Council – 14th May 2020
Creating a new ‘normal’.
The recent and ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has presented historic challenges to government at all levels and across the world. At South Kesteven District Council, the episode has required the implementation of emergency procedures and the establishment of new and innovative ways of working. The work of our staff, senior management and fellow councillors through this time has been invaluable and we owe a debt of gratitude.
The effect of Coronavirus on our economy and society has been huge and, in many cases, heartbreaking. However, some of the new ways of working have had positive impacts which could potentially provide long-term benefits.
The council resolves that:
- Cabinet commissions a report into how the Coronavirus episode has impacted our operations, focusing specifically on opportunities to make long term environmental and financial savings (The report should be produced and published before the end of the December 2020).
- Environment Committee and Cabinet to prioritise within their workplans:
a) consideration of how to use remote working opportunities for staff and members to the mutual benefit of the council and individuals.
b) further consideration of opportunities to improve grounds maintenance practices to improve ecology and reduce costs
c) in partnership with the waste disposal authority, consideration of how waste collection and disposal systems could be enhanced to improve efficiency and recycling rates.
Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market & West Deeping
30th April 2020