On Thursday 30th January, the Conservatives once again showed their true, narrow-minded, partisan colours by following the party whip to reject a modest proposal to improve recycling in South Kesteven. It’s pathetic that despite their empty rhetoric about putting politics aside, and caring about the Climate Emergency, South Kesteven Tories couldn’t bring themselves to support an opposition motion aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
I had submitted a motion to the Full Council meeting suggesting that charitable organisations be given permission to put just four textile recycling banks on Council-owned sites across the District. This would generate a financial income for the council and the charity, it would give people additional places to donate old clothes and shoes to charity and it would reduce contamination in the silver wheelie bins (currently around 30%).
Never mind inner cities and the red-belt towns of the North, the decline of the high street is obvious even in Tory heartlands like historic Spalding. For all the ‘shop local’ campaigns, it is clear that the Tories are losing the battle to maintain town centres in traditionally Tory towns including Spalding and Grantham. I spent Sunday afternoon in Spalding and the number of boarded up properties and ‘to let’ signs’ was quite depressing.
The first was the black swan pub on New Road. It doesn’t look particularly salubrious and will have suffered stiff competition from the Wetherspoon’s that has opened just a few doors down. Pubs in England are still closing at an alarming rate due to a number of factors including high tax, high business rates, oppressive brewery chains and cheap supermarket alcohol. Who can afford to go out for a pint on a regular basis when a pint costs almost £5, and the same pint at home costs less than £2?
Driving past the edge-of-town supermarkets and back to Spalding Town Centre, I parked outside the old Johnson hospital immediately opposite the South Holland Council Offices. This Listed building was closed about 10 years ago and is now an eyesore with graffiti, boarded windows and lamps being stolen from right outside. The site is apparently owned by a company based in the British Virgin Islands who also own the former sorting office in Spalding which is in a similar state of disrepair.
South Kesteven District Council has unveiled the exisiting playing fields at Deepings School as the preferred site for a new leisure centre. The site is already the home of Deepings Rugby Club, Deeping United FC, the Deepings Rotary 10k and is used for a number of other competitive sports activities. In just two years time, it might also be home to a brand new swimming pool, all weather pitches and everything else one might expect of a modern ‘wet and dry’ leisure centre.
As you may have read, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) announced in October 2017, and several times since then, that SKDC is planning to build a new Leisure Centre for the Deepings. This will replace the existing Leisure Centre which is well passed its sell by date and is literally falling apart at the seams with water often literally leaking through the roof above the pool area after heavy rainfall.
Despite the boasts of high recycling rates on Conservative election leaflets, recycling rates in Lincolnshire have plummeted since 2010 according to national recycling league tables.
In the County of Lincolnshire, the total rate of waste diverted from landfill has fallen every year for seven years from 53% in 2010 to 43% in 2018. The rate in South Kesteven has fallen every year resulting in a similar 10% reduction in overall rates which includes recycling through the silver and green bins.
The figure for 2017/18 has not yet been formally published but information data published by SKDC under a freedom of information request suggests that the percentage has now fallen to significantly below 40% (38.57% to be precise).
The main cause of the falling rates is the Conservative austerity measures which have had a massive impact on Council funding especially at Lincolnshire where local Tories decided to withdraw Recycling Credits which removed the incentive for many organisations to recycle.
Recycling efforts in South Kesteven are being undermined by increasing levels of contamination of the weekly silver bin recycling system. Recently released figures reveal that, since 2016, contamination rates have gradually increased from 20% to over 30% meaning that almost a third of so-called ‘recycling’ ends up in landfill.
There are a number of factors causing the contamination including:
Cllr Martin Hill (Con), Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, has appeared on Radio 4’s Six O’Clock news in order to criticise the Conservative government’s continued council funding cuts. He has joined other Council leaders in warning that, by 2020, Councils will only be able to provide the bare minimum statuatory services.
Cllr Hill (who was introduced as Cllr Wall) stated:
“All those other things which aren’t a legal duty will actually have to go by the wayside. And I have to say if the government doesn’t actually give us additional resources in a few years time, I’m not confident as a council leader that we will be operating in a safe manner for the public of this county.”
The County Councils’ Network has warned that England’s largest councils are poised to set out almost £1bn in new reductions to budgets next February – with residents facing another round of ‘unpalatable’ cuts to services – unless government intervenes.
In its response to a government consultation on funding for councils next year, the County Councils Network (CCN) warns that its councils will set out £685m in savings next February to balance their budgets.
In addition, those county authorities say another £233m of ‘unplanned’ frontline service cuts will be needed – which have yet to be identified – unless government provides these councils with new funding next year.
In my opinion, the County Council is part of the problem. It is remote, expensive and monolithic. It should be abolished and replaced by smaller unitary authorities. I also think the Government should recognise and support the vital role of local councils in delivering front-line services.