About Ashley Baxter

At work I'm a specialist in reducing energy and water costs. In my spare time I'm doing my best for the Deepings. At home I'm a husband and dad who likes crossword puzzles.

“if we don’t like what’s in the constitution then we need to change it”

The title of this particular blogpost is a direct quote spoken by leader of SKDC, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con), at a Cabinet meeting on 19th April. The comment was in response to a question from Cllr Phil Dilks (Ind) asking why the Chair of a Scrutiny Committee had tried to prevent a member of the public from making comments at the start of a meeting on 3rd April about the Deepings Leisure Centre. Cllr Cooke’s further comments revealed that he did not understand the Constitution about which he was preaching.

It is intended that South Kesteven DC makes radical changes to its constitution at the Council meeting on Thursday 26th May. In the last few weeks, various new articles and schedules have been drip-fed to members. A real overload of paperwork as well as many hastily scheduled meetings and workshops. Nevertheless, a meeting of Constitution Committee on Monday 16th May will discuss the changes and decide whether to recommend them to the Full Council.

The proposals will be presented on Monday by Cllr Linda Wootten, the Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Licensing.

The review of the Constitution was supposed to be a tidying up exercise to make the document easier to read which is a challenging task for anyone. However, in the process of ‘tidying up’, Cllr Wootten is proposing that several of the rules should be changed:

  • The Leader would have far more ability to ignore and/or shutdown unwelcome comments and questions
  • Where Councillors request items for discussion, the Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees (currently all Conservative) would have the opportunity to delay debate for 3 months.
  • Members of the public would have to register their wish to speak several days before the meeting, and submit any questions in advance. The only reason for introducing these new restrictions is, in the words of a recent edition of Private Eye, “to give slow-witted Councillors time to come up with answers to tricky questions” (see attached).
  • Restrictions on the ability of Councillors to participate and contribute to the scrutiny process.

Personally, I am appalled at the proposals to restrict freedom of speech for Councillors and members of the public. Last August, the Council received a report on its scrutiny functions which was critical of the current procedures which are ineffective. The report has been deliberately hidden from public view and instead we are expected to accept rule changes which will make it far more difficult to hold our local politicians to account.

Given the recent tradition of Conservatives at a national level to make up the rules as they go along, and mainly to suit themselves, we need to be increasingly vigilant that such injustices do not continue at a local level.

Cllr Kelham Cooke with Mrs Jackie Weaver (who has no authority in South Kesteven)

Report to Town and Parish Councils, December 2021

Report from Ashley Baxter – December 2021

County Councillor the Deepings West and Rural Division
and District Councillor for Market and West Deeping Ward

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!

Details of meetings attended since 10th November

18/11/2021            SKDC            Planning Committee (re: Tallington Lakes)

I attended the committee and gave a short speech in opposition to the proposed new entrance to Tallington Lakes from Stamford Road. The Committee deferred the decision to a future meeting in order to allow committee members to attend a site visit.

25/11/2021            SKDC            Council

Another chaotic and dreadful Full Council meeting at the Meres Centre in Grantham. A good deal of time was spent dealing with the vacancies for Vice Chair of Council and Chair of the Governance and Audit Committee caused by the resignation from these roles by Cllr Ian Stokes (former Con) as a result of his racist comment at a recent Committee meeting.

Congratulations to Cllr Mark Whittington (Con) who is now Chair of two Committees and Vice-Chair of a third. There are other Councillors who would be well-suited to these roles but they are not members of the Conservative Group and therefore the Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) will not allow their appointment.

The meeting also considered a motion on Equality and Diversity proposed by Cllr Amanda Wheeler (Lib-Dem) partly in response to the recent episode concerning Cllr Stokes Snr which would have required councillors to undertake equality and diversity training before they could become members of Council Committees. The motion appeared to be widely supported until, at the very last moment, Cllr Rosemary Trollope-Bellew (Con) proposed a wrecking amendment which removed the word ‘mandatory’ thus making the training optional so that Councillors can continue to avoid equality training without any consequence. Even after the weeks of outraged headlines in newspapers and TV regarding the racist comment of an old-school Tory, his party colleagues still prefer to pretend there is no need to take preventative actions. Cllr George Chivers (Con) was the Conservative to vote against the wrecking motion (and therefore in favour of mandatory training); it is always encouraging when even one of the Conservatives are bold enough to vote contrary to the instructions of their blinkered and partisan political masters and it is a shame it doesn’t happen a lot more often.

26/11/2021            SKDC            Planning Committee (Consideration of Planning Review)           

Over the last 18 months, SKDC has spent £40,000 on a planning review from ‘Cratus’ consultants. Some of the recommendations have been implemented but are many are deeply unpopular among Councillors and, in my view, anti-democratic because they reduce the extent to which Councillors can participate and influence the planning process. In recent weeks, the Council appear to have taken more ownership of the process and further recommendations seem likely to filter through to the Constitution Committee in the months to come.

29/11/2021            LCC               Flood and Water Management Scrutiny Committee

This meeting in Lincoln informed Councillors about the number of flood incidents in recent months and the new pumping equipment which has been purchased by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.

I have requested that a briefing on the proposed South Lincolnshire reservoir (which will be between Bourne and the Deepings) be presented to a future meeting.

30/11/2021            LCC               Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee

This meeting also looked at flood incidents as well as the council’s dismal performance on waste and recycling. There were two papers relating to the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda which appears to be a slogan, like akin to ‘the Big Society’, ‘the Green New Deal’ and ‘Back to Basics’ in that it can mean all things to all people and, at the same time, nothing at all.

30/11/2021            SKDC            Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I had to send my apologies to the SKDC Environment Committee because of a clash with the County Council equivalent meeting. In my absence, and at my request, the Committee consider the issues of water refill stations in the four towns of the District.

30/11/2021            SKDC            Joint Scrutiny Committee re Deepings Leisure Centre

At a heated meeting of the Finance Committee and the Tourism Committee, Independent Councillors tried to establish why, since 2007, there has been no financial commitment to the oft-promised new Deepings Leisure Centre and why the Conservatives have now broken their promises and reverted back to a refurbishment of the existing centre.

The meeting agreed to recommend to cabinet that an extensive refurbishment should take place and (at my suggestion) the details of the refurbishment should be subject to ‘meaningful consultation’.

6/12/2021             SKDC            Members briefing re Mallard Pass Solar Farm Proposals

An opportunity to learn more about the project and ask some of the question which have been raised by residents. The scheme will not be decided by local councillors because it is a NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) and therefore decided by the Secretary of State.

7/12/2021             SKDC            Cabinet

Further discussion of the Deepings Leisure Centre caused me concern that the ‘meaningful consultation’ might not be so ‘meaningful’ as we would like. This is a shame because since the first announcement there has been a pitiful, almost neglible, amount of consultation with local residents, sports clubs and other users of the centre.

8/12/2021             Lincolnshire    Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education

My first attendance at SACRE focused on a recent survey of Lincolnshire Schools regarding their provision of RE lessons.

Training

In the last few months I have also undertaken the following training:

Via Teams

5/11/2021             LCC               “Understanding your role as a Corporate Parent”

6/12/2021             SKDC            “The Model Code of Conduct”

Virtual safeguarding training completed via the Lincolnshire Virtual College

30/09/2021            “Introduction to Safeguarding Everyone in Lincolnshire”

03/10/2021            “Understanding the Impacts of Hate Crime”

04/10/2021            “Radicalisation and Extremism”

04/10/2021            “LGBTQ+ Awareness”

18/10/2021            “Friends Against Scams”

25/10/2021            “Modern Slavery and Trafficking”

Some of the training offered by the Lincolnshire Virtual College is provided free of charge via ‘Open Access’ to anyone who registers. Some of it is quite interesting and informative.

Other information

During November, I attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the Deepings Garden of Remembrance as well as participating in the Royal British Legion wreath-laying ceremonies at Baston as well as Market Deeping.

As ever, if you require any further information or assistance with District or County Council issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Ashley Baxter
8th December, 2021

01778 344070
07799 077090

What about the ‘rural’?

I have had some really positive feedback my election communication flyer. I am really grateful to my friend Andrew for his help with the design.

A couple of people have commented that the leaflet doesn’t say much about the specific problems of the rural villages of the Deepings West and Rural electoral division. I admit that I struggled in writing the leaflet to make particular reference to the villages for a number of reasons, the main one is that there is only so much one can fit onto a sheet of A4. A paragraph about each village would have filled the page.

The questions about the leisure centre, waste and recycling, highways and the ubiquitous pot holes affect the whole of the electoral division and I did consider giving a roll-call of Baston, Braceborough, Greatford, Tallington, Uffington, West Deeping, Wilsthorpe, Newstead, Barholm and Stowe, but to do so would only have proved that I can read a map, and I thought that mentioning the scarecrow festival or any events in other villages would be disingenuous because while I have enjoyed them, I can’t claim credit for organising them. Naturally, having served Market and West Deeping ward for 6 years, I have many examples of activity in that part of the Division but on briefly re-reading the flyer in response to a couple of e-mails including yours, I notice there are not many mentions of specific Market or West Deeping either!

With hindsight, I regret not saying much about the lack of cycle and pedestrian infrastructure. An stark example is the lack of any sensible pedestrian route between Uffington and Tallington. During the last year I have been running around (literally) in order to become more familiar with the patch. The main road has a long stretch from Copt Hill Enterprises to Tallington with no footpath at all. The official footpath route would take you via Casewick and Barholm and the river route is not a right of way and impassable other than via farmers fields.  I’ve written more about my journeys elsewhere on my blog. https://deepingdo.com/runmyage/

In response to the specific questions posed by one of my correspondents, Nick of Uffington, I can’t put the detailed answers onto a leaflet but I am happy to publish them here:

What is your stance on the Tallington crossing?

tallington bypass proposal

I am hesitant to make any promise about the crossing because I remember, eight years ago, a Conservative candidate made reference in his leaflet about the need to find a solution to the Tallington crossing. I believe it has proven to be an empty gesture because nothing has happened. The County Councillor will not be able to make changes to the management or route of the East Coast Mainline. I will of course support a solution which improves road safety and decreases congestion. I attended a meeting of Uffington Parish Council (via zoom) where members of Tallington Parish Council made a short presentation with a potential solution. The solution was dependent on the construction of a Stamford Northern by-pass. In theory this seems more practical than a bridge or by-pass for Tallington alone which would only result in traffic arriving earlier to join the existing queues at the Morrison’s roundabout in Stamford.

Stamford North Bypass
Tallington Parish Council’s Bypass Committee draft proposal for a Stamford North Bypass

The construction of a Stamford Northern by-pass seems plausible given the number of additional houses planned for the town but, let’s face it, it will take much more than four years to gain consensus on the solution, let alone build the road. Therefore, it is important to take action to mitigate the existing problems by encouraging vehicles heading from Spalding direction to choose alternative routes to the A1; and by improving highway safety on each side of the crossing. The next chapter in that particular story is a likely argument about a new vehicular access to Tallington lakes about which I am currently corresponding with the SKDC planning enforcement team.

Do you have an opinion on the quantity and speed of traffic on the roads connecting the villages, particularly the number of quarry trucks coming from Baston and other places?

Yes, I think that a number of rural roads have become ‘rat-runs’. I was reminded of this recently when cycling from Uffington to Belmesthorpe delivering my leaflets. King Street between Baston and West Deeping has also become a bit of a drag strip and the junction with Stamford Road needs to be made safer. The number of quarry vehicles is part of the reason for the deterioration of rural roads and the almost ubiquitous potholes in our area. LCC have let residents down by granting so many mineral licences without due regard to the condition and consequent safety of the roads.

How has Covid affected the rural economy?

The global, national and local consequences of Covid are obviously massive and largely detrimental. I am not only worried about the impact on livelihoods and the economy but also on mental health and social interaction. I spoke to someone in a village the other day about the impact of Covid on their kennels and cattery; while no-one has been able to go on holiday, the demand for boarding kennels has evaporated and these businesses have really struggled. My own work as an energy consultant has also suffered and I have had to take casual work in order to keep my family.
On the other hand, there are a few positive aspects to the Covid response including the reduction in vehicular commuting and people spending more time with their families. As we emerge from the crisis I hope that we will be able to remember some of the lessons we have learned including being thankful for what we have previously taken for granted.

Do you have thoughts on how affected business e.g. village pubs, cafes etc have fared and how they can be supported?

The Hare and Hounds, Greatford

I have been a member of CAMRA for many years and I have always thought the government could do far more to support local pubs, eg. by reducing the price differential between drinking at home and drinking in the pub; for many people there choice between £4 a pint in the Bertie Arms and £1 a pint in your own living room is a no-brainer. The County and District Council could be better partners with local businesses rather than just appearing to be an enforcer of health and safety and other legislation (although this also important).

I genuinely intend to represent and communicate with the residents of the villages if I am elected. National and local circumstances have changed in the last four years which make the Deepings West and Rural seat far more ‘marginal’ than it was last time. My fear is that people in the Tallington, Uffington and Baston will not realise that their vote in this election actually carries far more influence than in other parts of the county or in the parliamentary elections.

Thanks again to everyone for your ongoing feedback. If you would like to keep in touch, please ‘follow’ me on this blog, or Twitter or Facebook.

I do hope you will feel able to support me on May 6th.

Best wishes,


Ashley Baxter
Independent Candidate
for Deepings West and Rural division

01778 344070
07799 077090

First of April headline: South Kesteven reveals new location for Iron Lady statue

In yet another astonishing U-turn, South Kesteven Council has announced revised plans to unveil the controversial statue of Margaret Thatcher this summer. Having taken into account concern about public disorder in Grantham, a decision has been made to relocate the 10.5ft statue to Market Deeping.

Artist’s impression

The decision was announced as part of public realm improvements to the town centre which will also include the reconfiguration of the market place car park as well as a ban on the sale of takeaway food.

The bronze statue of the Rt Hon Baroness Thatcher or Kesteven will be situated in front of the ‘Cigar Box’ emporium in order to underline Thatcher’s long association with the tobacco industry. The ‘Iron Lady’ will not face towards the roundabout because of her predisposition against u-turns. However, the statue’s plinth will be of an particularly innovative design which include secure parking facilities for bicycles, which have been the focus of animated conversations among many Deepings residents in recent months.

Local councillor, Mrs Dilys Philkes commented “I realise Lady Thatcher was not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but this monumental erection is bound to attract sightseers from far and wide which can only be good for the town”.

Councillor Ashley Baxter was less enthusiastic and suggested “If residents don’t want the Deepings to be dominated by a Conservative with little or no local connection, they must vote Independent on 6th May!”.

Deepings Leisure Centre – An Independent Update (March 2021)

(by Ashley Baxter, SKDC Councillor for Market and West Deeping Ward)

I have tried to publish updates regarding the proposed new Deepings Leisure Centre which was originally announced by the Conservatives almost four years ago. The most recent were in November and September. Since then, very little has been published by South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) regarding the development, but I am moderately pleased to report that there has been some activity behind the scenes which gives cause for hope.

Firstly, formal communication has been restored! After an interval of many months, the monthly catch-up meetings are now taking between the project manager and the Deepings Independent Councillors (Cllr Phil Dilks, Cllr Virginia Moran and me). The meetings involve sharing of information and robust but good-natured exchanges of opinion; a refreshing return to a sensible conversation.

LeisureSK

Regular readers will know that I am one of many people frustrated by the lack of tangible progress towards the planning and construction of the new leisure centre facilities. In fairness to SKDC, it has been a particularly difficult year with Covid which has resulted in the council effectively taking leisure services back in-house. This has been acheived by the creation of a council-owned company called ‘Leisure SK’. The Board of Leisure SK is composed mostly of Conservative councillors but some industry expertise and experience is offered by a non-executive Director. He is well-remunerated (circa £15,000pa) but probably worth the expense. The Board meetings are also attended by the SKDC Head of Leisure representing the views of the ‘client’ i.e. the Council. The creation of a structure and business plan for LeisureSK in just a few short months is an admirable achievement and it should mean leisure centres are more responsive and accountable to the public who use them. The drawback is that the same small team responsible for planning LeisureSK is also responsible for progressing the new Leisure Centre which has consequently been delayed again.

Application to the Football Foundation

The first step on the road to a new leisure centre will probably be a new All-Weather Pitch (AWP). This is commonly but incorrectly referred to as the ‘astroturf’. Many months of positive dialogue with Football Foundation (FF, the charitable arm of the FA) have given reason to believe a bid to the FF would be successful. It was hoped that this bid would be submitted before Christmas and the pitch might be ready for the kick-off of the football season this autumn. That’s not gonna happen; but perhaps it will be ready by the following year. Furthermore, the FF have suggested it would be best to delay making the formal bid until planning permission has been granted for the pitch.

This means that SKDC hopes/needs/intends/expects to submit an application for planning permission for an all-weather pitch within the next few weeks. This will involve publishing the first clues about the intended layout of the site, ie. if it is clear where the all-weather pitch will be sited within the Spalding Road site then one can make educated guesses about where the leisure centre is likely to be built.

Layout of the site

The location of the leisure centre is one of the points on which the Independent Councillors (including me) have had ‘exchanges of opinion’ with the Head of Leisure. To her credit, she has promised to share our views with the project architect who will hopefully take them into consideration. Ideally, there would be a choice of potential site layouts which could be shared with local residents, sports clubs and other stakeholders. It is not clear whether or not timescales and budgets will allow this ‘luxury’.

The other knock-on effect of preparing a planning application is that surveys have to be completed to the satisfaction of the planners (and the FF). I can therefore inform you that topographical surveys (mapping) have been taken of the whole of the Spalding Road site and geotechnical surveys (digging holes) have been undertaken at the parts of the site relating to the potential location(s) of the all-weather pitch.

The Big Announcement

Some of us were expecting a great unveiling of some of the detail of the Deepings Leisure Centre project in the weeks leading up to the County Council election. Sadly, that moment has probably now passed and the rules of ‘purdah’ mean that SKDC is unlikely to be issuing press releases and photos of councillors with hard hats and hi-vis jackets. The next big date on the horizon is the SKDC Cabinet meeting in June which is due to “discuss the proposals for Deepings Leisure Centre Development, to receive a presentation of feasibility work including options explored and operational business plans” and “to agree the facility mix and associated capital envelope of the development to be taken forward to the next stage”. As mentioned above, this might be preceded by a planning application for the all-weather pitch.

The Unpublished Leisure Report

In other news, on 4 Feb I submitted a Freedom of Information request in order to try to get a publicly accessible copy of the consultancy report produced by MACE over a year ago at a cost of roughly a quarter of a million pounds. The Council has 20 working days to respond to FoI requests and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it took 18 days fo reply that “This information is exempt under Section 22 of the FoIA 2000, which states that a public authority is not obliged to provide information which is intended for publication at a future date.”

However, the response went on to say “This exemption applies because the MACE report will be provided as a background paper to a cabinet report which is due to go before Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet not later than September 2021” so watch this space (but don’t get excited because I’ve seen a redacted copy of the report and it isn’t so exciting).

Back to ‘normal’

In case you are wondering, I can confirm that SKDC intend to re-open all the existing Leisure Centres in line with the Covid roadmap guidance, ie. it should be possible to book lane-swimming and gym sessions via the LeisureSK website from 12th April. Sports clubs including Deepings Swim Club should also start proper training again.

[I do realise that for many of our young athletes the training has continued throughout lockdown, thanks to the dedication of their club officials and coaches. However, swim club training in the living room is inevitably a poor substitute for swim club training in the pool]

Finally, some shameless electioneering

Since being elected to SKDC in 2015, I have tried to keep people up-to-date with council issues affecting the Deepings and the wider SK District. I have done this through

  • attending Town and Parish meetings
  • publishing regular activity updates
  • occasional ward newsletters (though not during Covid)
    • posting on Facebook and Twitter
    • publishing information on this blog.

I have also been actively involved in lobbying on behalf of Deepings residents on many issues including: protecting Millfield as a publicly accessible open space; arguing against some planning applications and in favour of others; participating in the Neighbourhood Plan process; and representing residents’ concerns to SKDC and LCC.

On Thursday 6th May, Deepings will be electing new County Councillors and I will be the Independent candidate for Deepings West and Rural Division which includes most of Market Deeping as well as Baston and the villages of the Uffington benefice.

Please vote for me if you are able. If you live elsewhere in Lincolnshire, please support other Independent candidates.

Thank you in anticipation of your support!

Crime is rising in the Deepings

I have just crunched the numbers from www.police.uk concerning reported crime in the Deepings and Uffington local area and two things are clear. Firstly, the good news, the Deepings is still a lovely area with relatively low crime rates; typically two or three crimes are reported to the police each day. Secondly, the bad news, the crime rate has been rising over the last two years.

You might have thought the crime numbers would have fallen during the pandemic, with fewer opportunities for people to go out shoplifting and committing assaults but sadly the data shows that reported crime in the Deepings has risen from an average of fewer than 70 incidents per month to over 80 where the rate has stabilised. Crime in the villages around the Deepings is steadily low with an average of between 7 and 10 being reported each month for the last two years. Sometimes there is a particular problem e.g. 14 incidents in the Baston area in March last year, but it levels out over time.

The breakdown of crimes being reported shows that the categories of “Violent and Sexual Offences” and “Anti-Social behaviour” compete for first place with dozens of incidents nearly every month. “Criminal Damage and Arson” usually completes the top three although occasional concentrations of “vehicle theft” or “other theft” appear now and again although neither hits double figures in a single month very often.

There may be many factors influencing reported crime. These include potential increases in reporting and also a small number of people committing a large number of crimes in a relatively short space of time.

There are several short-term and longer-term solutions to the problem of crime which include improving security, employing more police and PCSOs, educating young people and punishing and/or rehabilitating offenders. All of these take time and cost money.

I have just attended an online briefing for South Kesteven Councillors with Marc Jones who is the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire. The briefing included a selection from a collection from over 100 powerpoint slides and lasted about 45 minutes followed by another 25 minutes of councillors’ questions about funding, staff numbers and similar sensible questions.

Lincolnshire Police has an aspiration to be more responsive to crime in the county, lots of which is inextricably linked to crime outside the county. They have invested in new vehicles, drones and different ways of working. However, the budget is set by national government who, for obvious reasons, give more to the places with high rates of murder and knife crime than they give to rural Lincolnshire.

Mr Jones was adamant that the briefing was entirely unrelated to the PCC elections scheduled in less than two months time. In fact it was supposed to take place a year ago a few short weeks before the scheduled PCC elections but both the briefing and the election was postponed due to Covid. Mr Jones has given one previous briefing to SK Councillors back in July 2018.

At least one other candidate, Rosie Kirk, is standing for election to the role of PCC. I recommend you find out from all the candidates how they expect to improve policing in our county.

New Council Houses planned for Wellington Way

A sunset photo taken on Wellington Way, Market Deeping.

At Monday’s meeting of SKDC Full Council, the Portfolio Holder for Housing announced his intention to build new council houses at a small number of houses across the District. These include 14 houses at Wellington Way in Market Deeping.

The housing schemes have been ‘in the pipeline’ for several years but, as with so many other SKDC projects, the pace of progress has been almost glacial. I was shown some plans for the Wellington Way scheme, in confidence, way back in 2018. I don’t know all the reasons why it has taken the council nearly three years to ‘go public’ and start the process of applying for planning permission but it will be due in part to the large turnover of senior officers at SKDC in general and in the beleaguered Housing Department in particular. The changes in Cabinet roles (three different portfolio holders in three years) and of course the global pandemic will also have had an impact. The current Portfolio Holder, Cllr Robert Reid (Con) stated said that he hopes the scheme will be presented to the council’s internal Housing Group (composed of senior officers and cabinet members) later in March and then Planning Permission will be requested in May.

I do not have accurate up-to-date information regarding the details of the new ‘housing units’; they might be flats or bungalows but I think they will be small houses. As for the precise location on Wellington Way, you don’t need a Town Planning degree in order to make an educated guess at where it might be physically possible to build 14 homes, especially if they are to be built on land owned by the Council.

In 2018, I was assured that the future of the Scout Hut would be secure; and I have no reason to believe it is at risk now.

Market Deeping Scout and Guide Hut (aka ‘the old Cook House’)

The other South Kesteven sites progressing in 2021/22 financial year are:

Continue reading

Helping with Police enquiries…

A few weeks ago, a resident of Godsey Lane contacted me with a few issues about policing, traffic and young people which, strictly-speaking, fall outside my role as a District Councillor. Nevertheless, we had a long chat about the various issues and I decided to get some answers direct from the police ‘horse’s mouth’. I hope the questions and answers below will be interesting to many people in the Deepings.

Dear Councillor Baxter,

Thank you for your email which was forwarded to me by the PCC as your queries were about operational issues, specifically about policing in the Deepings. I’m happy to answer the questions posed, and would also encourage you to engage with your local Neighbourhood Team, to understand what they are doing to keep the Deepings safe.

I have set out your questions below, followed by my response:

  1. Do the PCSOs have powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)?
    They do, and whilst this is useful, the purpose of Police Community Support Officers is primarily to work with the community to solve problems rather than to enforce. Whilst enforcement is one solution, it is rarely the first or preferred approach to local problems.
  2. If so, for which of the following misdemeanours can Lincolnshire PCSOs issue FPNs?

    a) Illegal or inconsiderate parking
    Lincolnshire County Council leads on parking enforcement and their Wardens address parking issues, not PCSOs, with the exception of Obstruction offences

    b) Cycling on the pavement
    Yes, PCSOs can enforce on this issue, but the safety of all road and pavement users is the primary concern – education is the preferred approach

    c) Cycling without lights
    PCSOs have not been given the power to issue FPNs to people cycling without lights.

d) Littering
Yes, PCSOs can enforce, but we work with District Councils where there is a persistent issue.

e) Dog fouling
No – again, PCSOs have not been given this power.

As mentioned above, the primary role of the PCSO is not enforcement. For the majority of the time PCSOs have been a part of policing in Lincolnshire they have not had any enforcement powers, and whilst these additional powers were granted to allow for a full range of outcomes, there is no incentive or expectation that enforcement will be used.

  1. At a pre-Covid meeting of the Deepings Police Forum, I recall one of our PCSOs saying that powers to enforce parking restrictions were being extended beyond LCC Parking Enforcement to allow PCSOs to issue FPNs for parking. Did this ever happen? And have the PCSOs received the relevant training?
    PCSOs can issue a Traffic Offence Report (TOR ). This is a report that is considered by a central team to ensure a consistent approach for Unnecessary Obstruction, as that is a wider offence than purely breaching a parking regulation, and impacts the safety of other road users.
  2. Have PCSOs been granted any additional powers or training as a result of the Covid-19 situation?
    Yes, PCSOs can issue FPNs in relation to COVID Regulation Breaches:
    • Contravene requirement of restriction on movement
    • Without reasonable excuse, obstruct person carrying out a function under restrictions
    • Without reasonable excuse, contravene a direction or fail to comply with instruction
    • Contravene requirement to not participate in a gathering in public of more than two people
  3. As you can possibly gather from the previous questions, there are ongoing problems with cyclists (mostly teenagers) being anti-social in the Deepings. I wonder if there is any way to find specific data relating to this issue and whether you know of any proactive measures being taken by Lincs Police, LCC or anyone else to mitigate the problem?
    The local Inspector is Gary Stewart along with Sgt Emma Crisp and Beat Manager PC Claire Wilson are aware of the concerns raised by local residents about anti-social behaviour in the Deepings. I do not have data relating to the extent of the problem, but the neighbourhood team are working with the community to find the most effective solution to the issues.

Solutions to antisocial behaviour are always strongest when they come from the community and partners working together; enforcement is important, but often as part of a number of approaches, and rarely the first one to be used.

I encourage you to speak to your local Policing Team. The PCSOs are there to listen to the local community and help bring partners together to problem solve and ensure everyone plays their part in keeping the Deepings safe.

Yours sincerely

Chris Haward
Chief Constable

Housing Regulator says Conservative-run Council has failed health and safety requirements

On Wednesday 17 February, the Regulator for Social Housing published the following notice with respect to South Kesteven District Council’s failings, over more than a decade, to comply with some quite fundamental health and safety legislation across its portfolio of Council Houses and sheltered housing schemes. The failings include lack of fire, electrical and asbestos checks as well as more general stock condition surveys.

Regulatory Notice – February 2021

Registered Provider:
South Kesteven District Council.

Regulatory Finding:

The regulator has concluded that:

a) South Kesteven DC has breached part 1.2 of the Home Standard; and

b) As a consequence of this breach, there was the potential for serious detriment to South Kesteven DC tenants.

The regulator will work with South Kesteven DC as it seeks to remedy this breach and will continue to consider what further action should be taken.

The Case

As a local authority registered provider, South Kesteven DC is required to comply with the consumer standards, including the Home standard. The Home standard requires registered providers to have a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service and to meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of occupants in their homes.

Our assessment of the information received through a self-referral from South Kesteven DC is that the Council has failed to meet statutory health and safety requirements. Specifically, the requirements in relation to fire safety, the safety of heating appliances, electrical safety, and asbestos safety. In respect of fire safety, South Kesteven DC has a statutory duty to regularly assess the risk of fire and to take precautions to prevent the risk of fire. In this regard the regulator has learned that over a thousand remedial actions identified in fire risk assessments carried out in 2017 had not been completed. There have also been failings in ensuring that solid fuel heating appliances do not pose a risk to tenants. South Kesteven DC found annual inspections and cleaning of solid fuel heating appliances for a smaller number of properties had not been scheduled or completed in a timely way. With regard to electrical safety, South Kesteven DC is required to ensure that electrical installations are in working and safe condition both at the start of any tenancy and throughout that tenancy. South Kesteven DC has reported that none of the Council’s communal areas had an electrical inspection and just under half of all its properties had out of date inspections, some of which were more than ten years old. For asbestos safety, South Kesteven has reported that nearly three hundred surveys of communal areas were overdue and should have been completed in 2019. For these reasons, the regulator concluded that South Kesteven DC has breached the Home Standard, and as consequence, there was the potential for serious detriment to tenants. Since identifying these issues, South Kesteven DC has strengthened its senior capacity and is developing an action plan to address the underlying weaknesses in its systems. A programme of work has commenced, and we have been assured by South Kesteven DC that it has taken immediate and appropriate action to ensure the safety of tenants while the programmes being delivered.

The Regulator’s Findings

The regulator considered the case as a potential breach of part 1.2 of the Home standard and has concluded that South Kesteven DC did not have an effective system in place to allow it to meet its statutory health and safety responsibilities across a range of areas.

Complying with statutory health and safety requirements is a fundamental responsibility of all registered providers because of the potential for serious harm to tenants. South Kesteven DC has demonstrated to the regulator the progress it is making to ensure the required statutory checks, and relevant safety actions, are completed, and that appropriate mitigations are in place in the meantime. However, taking into account the seriousness of the issues, the durations for which tenants were potentially exposed to risk, and the number of tenants potentially affected, the regulator has concluded that it is proportionate to find that South Kesteven DC has breached the Home standard and that there was a risk of serious detriment to tenants during this period. Section 198A of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (as amended) states that the regulator’s regulatory and enforcement powers may be used if a registered provider has failed to meet a consumer standard. In order to use regulatory or enforcement powers, as well as the failure to meet the standard, there should also be reasonable grounds to suspect that the failure has resulted in a serious detriment to the provider’s tenants (or potential tenants) or that there is a significant risk that, if no action is taken by the regulator, the failure will result in a serious detriment to the provider’s tenants (or potential tenants). South Kesteven DC has put in place a programme to rectify these failures and the regulator will therefore not take statutory action at this stage, as it has assurance that the breach of the standard is being remedied. The regulator will work with the Council as it continues to address the issues which have led to this situation, including ongoing monitoring of how it delivers its programme.

This above text has been copied verbatim from the website of the Regulator for Social Housing.

Musical Statues – the continuing saga of Maggie’s memorial monument!

While the rest of the country is talking about Covid, #BLM and Brexit, our special corner of Lincolnshire has been gripped by the thought of unveiling a new statue to Margaret Thatcher in her home town of Grantham. Loyal readers will remember the comments I made at the time of the Planning Application by GCHA back in 2018 but recently the decision by the entirely Conservative SKDC Cabinet to commit £100,000 towards an ‘unveiling event’ has stirred the world’s media once again. I have personally spoken to the national and international press as well as some of our friendly local media including BBC Radio Lincolnshire and Nub News.

First there was a Cabinet meeting back on 1st December which included a seemingly innocuous agenda item entitled “Public Realm Improvements”. The agenda pack was published with a note stating that the relevant papers would follow later.

It was only after the meeting that we discovered that a 9ft bronze statue of the Iron Lady represents an improvement to Grantham town centre and that the statue should unveiled at a ceremony costing £100,000. The decision had been taken without any scrutiny and consequently I used the ‘call-in’ procedure to ensure that other councillors would have a chance to the contribute to the debate.

Continue reading