Report to Market Deeping Town Council – June 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 13th June 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, one of the three Independent District Councillors serving the Deepings.

Meetings Attended

23/05/2019   Council ,23/05/2019                           

The first Full Council of the new administration was relatively long-winded mainly because of an ‘argument’ over Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees.

The Conservatives gained 53% of the votes at Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) chose to allocate 100% of the positions of power to members of his own party. This includes not only all 9 members of the SKDC Cabinet, but also every Chair and Vice-Chair of the various regulatory and scrutiny committees. The Independents challenged this as being clearly unfair but, as it turns out, all these posts are awarded at the discretion of the Leader and there is nothing the Council can do to challenge his power except remove him from the position of Leader. This would require 29 out of 56 Councillors to vote against him. Given that almost thirty of those Councillors had just been put ‘on the payroll’, it is extremely unlikely that this would happen.

After discussion among the Independent Group I have been awarded a place on the Environment OSC, and the Governance and Audit Committees. I have also been appointed as one of two Deputy Leaders of the Group. I might also be offered a place on the Companies Committee which hasn’t yet been formal constituted.

Cllr Ian Selby (Independent, unaligned) complained again that he is discriminated against when it comes to committee purely because he doesn’t wish to join a political group (like all the rest of the Independents who have formed an ‘Independent Group’ in order to be allowed seats on Committees). In response, one of the Tory Councillors, Cllr Bob Broughton, who recently defected from the Independents, said that he sympathised with Cllr Selby’s predicament and consequently Cllr Selby was offered one of the Conservative seats on the Planning Committee which means he will now be called to nearly two meetings a month for no extra allowances.

In my own report to MDTC I neglected to mention the debate about policing, so here is an extract from Independent Cllr Virginia Moran’s written report to MDTC:

“Cllr Phil Dilks proposed a motion that the Council Leader lobby local MPs in order to try to obtain more funding for Lincolnshire Police. He quoted Police figures which showed a 69% increase in reported incidents in the Deepings wards and the reported shortfall in funding was currently £3.2m which would result in further cuts in officers. This was rebutted by Cllr Ray Wootton who announced that he had spoken to the Police Commissioner and Lincolnshire Police was to be granted a further £10m in funding. The motion was subsequently voted down by ALL Conservative members in light of this statement.  Since the meeting investigations appear to have shown that this may not be the case.”

29/05/2019   Planning Committee ,29/05/2019

I attended, as a substitute, the first planning meeting with a new Chair, Cllr Bob Adams (Con). It was quite positive and included further discussion of the outline application for bungalows on Broadgate Lane DSJ. I was the only person to vote against because most of the rest of the Committee having been persuaded that a condition to ensure the houses to the rear of the site were to be bungalows was sufficient reassurance that a detailed scheme would be acceptable.

11/06/2019 Cabinet

This was quite a short meeting. The biggest decision was to invest £200,000 in LED Street Lighting and to adopt the policy that I wrote over a year ago which commits the council to leaving streetlights on throughout the hours of darkness (unlike the Conservative County Council who turn many off when they are needed the most).

This decision has taken over two years and over 15 meetings but it’s now decided and it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Later in the meeting I asked questions firstly about the adoption of the roads, paths and open spaces on the Persimmon Estate; and secondly about the new leisure (still no more details available.

As ever, if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – May 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 8th May 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, one of the three Independent District Councillors serving the Deepings.

Welcome to all new and returning Town and Parish Councillors in Market Deeping and West Deeping. I hope you enjoy your term of office and that, together, we will protect, improve and enhance the Deepings for all its residents and visitors.

At the count with Cllr Virginia Moran!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the recent District Council elections, including all candidates and voters. The turnout in the Market & West Deeping ward was 33.9% – this means that only 1 in 3 people voted which is disappointing but not nearly as dismal as some wards in Grantham and Spalding where fewer than 1 in 5 people voted. Furthermore, some wards of South Kesteven had over 50 spoilt ballot papers; in Market and West Deeping ward there were only 4 spoilt papers.

I am really pleased to have topped the poll in Market & West Deeping with 1126 votes. Congratulations are also due to Cllr Broughton (Con) returned with 774 votes and Cllr Moran (Ind) elected for the first time with 766 votes. Commiserations to the other candidates for whom detailed results are available on the SKDC website.

Meetings Attended

Due to the recent elections, I have attended only one formal Council meeting during the last month. The next meeting will be Full Council on 23rd May.                                                                          

23/04/2019   Development Management Committee

The planning committee discussed some interesting applications including: a change of use of land from agricultural to a green burial site at Folkingham Farm (approved); and an outline application for the demolition of existing dwelling and erection of 4 dwellings at Broadgate Lane, Deeping St James (deferred).

I also attended some other meetings as follows:

23/04/2019 Annual Parish Meeting, Deeping St James

This event took place once again at the Deepings School. It included a musical performance by children of Linchfield School, presentations from various community groups as well as the presentation of the village’s ‘Making A Difference’ Awards by the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, Toby Dennis.

5/5/2019   Early Morning Service at the Deepings Lakes

Churches Together in The Deepings organise this annual event which celebrates the beauty of the Deepings’ nature reserve while remembering the ‘breakfast on the beach’ episode recorded in John’s Gospel.

6/5/2019 Uffington Scarecrow Festival

The theme of this year’s festival was ‘Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales’. The whole village works together to present a great spectacle. I was particularly impressed by scarecrows of Robin Hood, Red Riding Hood (no relation) and the Loch Ness Monster.

7/5/2019  Deepings Neighbourhood Policing Forum

Although I was unable to attend the whole of this meeting, I did participate in the discussion of the funding crisis and staff shortages facing Lincolnshire Police as well as the increasing problems of anti-social behaviour in the Deepings, particularly in the vicinity of Tesco. It seems that Tesco have dispensed with their security guard and CCTV is monitored remotely from a location miles from Deepings.

The PCSO in attendance at the forum was able to report some good news e.g. regarding the arrest of suspects in connection with thefts from vehicles. However, she said the police in Deeping were limited by the lack of regular ‘intel’ from the community and urged that people continue to phone 101 with any reports of low level crime, ASB and/or suspicious behaviour.

7/5/2019 Launch of ‘Love Deepings’ and the Deeping Business Club Awards

An upbeat launch of a new community-led campaign was held at the Deeping Sports and Social Club on Towngate East drew hundreds of people who listened to details of the new initiative to promote the Deepings as a wonderful place to live, work and visit.  It was revealed that the funding allocated by Cllr Phil Dilks (Ind) and myself from our SKDC Ward Member Budgets has been invested in handy visitor maps of the Deepings as part of the ‘#LoveDeepings’ campaign.

8/5/19 Inaugural meeting of the new Independent Group of South Kesteven District Councillors

The Independent Group now consists of at least 10 Councillors and possibly more. The initial meeting was informal, friendly and positive that despite the Conservative majority at SKDC, we will be able to achieve meaning results for the people who voted Independent in their thousands.

13/5/19 Training for Members of Planning Committee

This session was attended by over 20 Councillors and was somewhat reminiscent of a Speed Awareness Course. Attendance was compulsory for anyone who wishes to participate in the deliberations of the Planning Committee either as a fully-fledged member or as an occasional or one-off substitute.

The course included an overview of the UK planning system, the process used to determine individual applications and how Councillors can assist the community in getting the best planning decisions. The slides could have included a few more pictures and the session would have benefitted from more diverse teaching methods but it was led by two former leading lights of the planning profession so it’s hard to quibble.

13/5/19 West Deeping Parish Council

I attended the APM and part of the AGM of WDPC along with Cllr Moran. It was a small but friendly gathering. The long-standing Chair of the Council retired and was presented with a token of the Council’s appreciation. It has been agreed that the role of Chair of the Council will be shared on a rotational bases by three of the Councillors.

As ever, if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

La lucha continua, no terminara facilmente!

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Minutes of the May meeting of Market Deeping Council – Forty years on and ‘Plus ça change’!

I was recently given some ancient papers by a generous benefactor which include the minutes of the Market Deeping Parish Council (as it was then known) from exactly 40 years ago this month (May 1979).

At that time, the Council spent its time discussing the poor state of the roads, the overgrown verges, youths causing damage and creating a nuisance, the lack of a visible police presence, inconsiderate parking, and grants to the youth club.

Nothing at all like nowadays, eh?

Last night was the first meeting of the new Market Deeping Town Council. It is much the same as the old Market Deeping Town Council as before the election except for the two people who have retired (Thanks very much, Roy Stephenson and Colin Gamble) and the one person who has joined (Best of British to you, Brian Hembrow)!

I circulated my monthly written report before the meeting started but unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the election of Mayor (Congratulations Xan Collins) or the other exciting agenda items.

Being a Town (or Parish) Councillor is an unpaid, often thankless task and an uphill struggle. Please keep them on their toes but at the same time give them your support and the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it can take a very long time to get stuff done!

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – April 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th April 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, the Deepings’ ONLY Independent District Councillor.

This is clearly the last report from the 2015-2019 Council term. I have really enjoyed the privilege of serving the residents of Market and West Deeping and obviously I hope I get the opportunity to serve for another four years.

Congratulations to the Councillors who have stood for re-election to the Town Council and have been returned unopposed.

Special thanks to former Mayor, Cllr Roy Stephenson, for his loyal service to Market Deeping Town Council over more than two decades. I hope he enjoys a long and happy retirement with his wife, Sue.

Meetings Attended

I have attended only one formal Council meeting during the last month.          

02/04/2019   Development Management Committee

The planning committee discussed a number of applications including an estate of 46 dwellings in Grantham. While it is appreciated that housing is needed, the committee decided that the design of the site was not thought through properly and it was rejected for this reason.

Later in the meeting the committee heard a cheeky application for a ‘garage’ which, at 4.3m high, would have been bigger than a bungalow. It was very close to a park, a river and a listed building. I am pleased to say the Committee refused the application.

01/04/2019 Friends of Mill Field

At the request of the Friends of Mill Field I organised a meeting with Senior Officers and Planners at SKDC. The purpose of the meeting was to compare notes of the current situation regarding Mill Field including the Village Green Inquiry, the status of the emerging Local Plan, the planning application recently submitted by LCC. It was also an opportunity to ensure staff at SKDC are aware of the history of the Mill Field and the significant local opposition to developing the site.

Mill Field, Market Deeping

One of the interesting points to emerge from the meeting was that the Assistant Director for Growth confirmed there are currently no discussions between SKDC and LCC regarding potential use of the Mill Field site for the proposed new Leisure Centre, i.e. it is intended the Leisure Centre will be somewhere else. This was welcome news to the FoMF delegation.

As ever, if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

See you next month (I hope!),

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – March 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 13th March 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, the Deepings’ only Independent District Councillor.

Meetings Attended

I have attended sixformal meetings during the last month.

25/02/2019   EmploymentCommittee

Thismeeting was convened in response to a question I asked at January’s FullCouncil regarding whether or not a Council’s Chief Executive had properly declared all his relevant business interests. Most of the meeting was held in secret but the Council subsequently issued the following statement: Continue reading

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – February 2019

Since my last monthly report, I have attended the following formal SKDC meetings as well as some other less formal meetings and community events:

10/01/2019    Budget- Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee  

This meeting was the first opportunity to analyse the forthcoming Council budget for 2019/20.  The meeting was rather chaotic as Councillors were invited to ask questions and make comments on a report and appendices totalling 53 pages.  There was no deliberate sub-division of topics and consequently the comments were made in a scatter-gun manner and few, if any, definitive recommendations resulted.

15/01/2019    Development Management Committee

This was a relatively short meeting (two hours) which considered three applications:

  • Zone 9,Elsea Park, Bourne.- This was the third time that this application had been discussed and considered by the Committee. On the first occasion it was deferred and the second occasion Councillors voted against Officers’ recommendations and so it had to be reconsidered after a ‘cooling off’ period.  This time round the application was approved with 5 votes in favour, 2 against and 4 abstention.  On a positive note, it has been agreed that future applications of this type will be referred to the Council’s recently appointed Design Officer in order to avoid similar half-hearted planning approvals.
  • Frognall– After considerable debate, a large house extension was approved opposite the former Rose PH.
  • Stowe Road, Langtoft – Outline approval for up to 35 dwellings subject to agreement of conditions including agreeing a sewerage plan with Anglian Water.

22/01/2019    Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

As regular readers might know, I have a 100% record of attendance at meetings since August 2015. On receipt of the very thin agenda for the Environment Committee I did wonder whether it was really worth making the 60 miles round trip to Grantham to discuss virtually nothing of consequence. My sense of duty got the better of me and when the meeting closed after just an hour I had only confirmed that the whole exercise had been a waste of time.

There were no published papers for the meeting other than the printed agenda and notes of the previous meeting. No Cabinet Members were present at the meeting. The Chair failed to explain why the decisions of the previous meeting had not been acted upon, not even the draft ‘Street Lighting Policy’ which has been kicking around for more than a year.  We listened to a presentation from an Officer regarding a government consultation on Waste and Recycling.  A slide entitled “Key Milestones” mentioned a “Transposition of the Circular Economy Package” is due to be delivered before the end of 2019. I asked what this means but, sadly, nobody knew the answer.

Pointless

31/01/2019    Council

Full Council agenda started off with questions from members of the public. The first of these concerned ongoing problems with a heating system which was installed three years ago at the Riverside Housing Complex in Grantham which has never worked properly.  In response, the Conservative Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Nick Neilson (Con) and the Deputy Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) both apologised for the errors made since 2016 and promised to investigate and find a resolution.

Later in the meeting, I asked a question about the business relationship between a senior officer of the Council and a private consultancy which has been paid almost £60,000 over 18 months for various staff recruitment exercises. This question has been referred to a future meeting of the Council’s Employment Committee.

05/02/2019    DevelopmentManagement Committee

A specially extended meeting began at 10am and continued until 5.30pm. Despite the long day, this was undoubtedly the most interesting and entertaining planning committee I have attended to date.

In the morning, Councillors discussed an application for a Designer Outlet Village next to the A1 at Gonerby Moor. This multi-million pound project is expected to retain 700 jobs and to create 1,200 new jobs in the District as well as attracting literally millions of visitors to the District. Nevertheless, three of the Tories voted against the scheme including Cllr Jacky Smith (Con) who expressed concern about the proposed creation of a ‘training academy’ even though she is Cabinet Member for Skills and Wellbeing and the centre has the support of Grantham college.

The afternoon started with an application for a 6m high statue of Baroness Thatcher. I had personally ‘called-in’ this application because it is so significant and controversial. In the event it was approved unanimously by the Committee (including me). This decision attracted international media attention including from the Guardian and the Times.

For more information read my blog-post “The statue that no-one else wants”.

13/02/2019    Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee

This morning’s meeting revealed that the costs of the SKDC Senior Management Restructure have risen by over £150,000 since the last meeting, mostly due to unexpected redundancy payments and other staffing costs.

The meeting also considered the performance monitoring issues. I have been asking for this issue to be re-considered since it was last presented back in June last year.  At that time “it was noted that the report was based on the previous Corporate Strategy.  A New Corporate Strategy was now in place and would have more appropriate KPIs.”  I was most surprised that this morning, eight months on, we were presented with the old KPIs measured up to September. Therefore rather than receiving new up-to-date KPIs we were given old KPIs which were already six months out of date.

We then went on to discuss financial monitoring.  During last year’s budget setting process I was among a small group of Councillors who regarded many of the ‘ambitious’ budget predictions as pie-in-the-sky forecasts. I am sorry, though not surprised, to report that we were right and we were told this morning that the following projected savings have not been achieved:

Will anyone be held to account for making ridiculous savings targets and then missing them completely? I very much doubt it. Besides which, the budget has been altered several times since last year to accommodate millions of pounds of unplanned expenditure including land purchases and sudden redundancy payments.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – January 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 9th January, 2019
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

Happy New Year to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Friends of Mill Field

After more than two years of hard work and preparation, the Friends of Mill Field have this week arrived at the crucial Public Inquiry stage of their Village Green application. The result will have a massive impact not just the land in question but also on the whole town of Market Deeping.

Yesterday (Tuesday 8th) the enquiry began at the Eventus Centre and was attended by well over 50 members of the public during the day. Today (Wednesday 9th) the enquiry continues at Eventus during the day and at Open Door Church during the evening.

All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry. I intend to attend the evening session as an observer (and as an Open Door volunteer) and, consequently, I ask Market Deeping Town Council to accept my apologies for not attending the Full Council meeting this evening.

Members’ Ward Budget

Last month I reported that I had allocated £300 of Council Taxpayers’ money to the Deepings United School Rock Band to assist aspiring musicians of primary school age. This month, I am pleased to report that a contribution of £250 has been allocated to the Deepings School Library to assist in the creation of a special area to encourage boys to read more. Research has proven that boys, of every age, no matter the nature of the literature before them, typically read less thoroughly than girls. I hope that the SKDC grant will encourage boys at Deepings School to read, become more educated, more thoughtful, more courteous, more productive and consequently better adults, better husbands and better fathers. However, I’m not sure how much impact £250 will have on this aspiration. In the interests of equal opportunities, all the library resources connected to the project will be available to girls as well as boys.

Meetings Attended

Since my last monthly report, I have attended only one formal SKDC meeting and then, only as an observer. Until November I would have expected to have attended the Council’s ‘Shareholder Committee’.

20/12/2018   Cabinet

The meeting included proposals for an invest-to-save fund which would give the Cabinet Member for Finance some flexibility to invest in projects and schemes expected to give a healthy return. I welcome what seems to be a good idea but I did ask whether there would be any checks and balances and/or preferred payback period. The Cabinet responded by saying that all decisions would need approval by the Section 151 Officer whose has a statutory duty to ensure the Council takes proper care of our money and assets.

Later in the meeting I asked questions about street lighting, the Deepings leisure centre and the imminent acquisition of land at Stamford by SKDC.

08/01/2019 Shareholder Committee

I was previously the Independent representative on the Shareholder Committee and had attended every meeting since its inception almost three years ago. Sadly, due to another defection of an Independent to the Conservatives, I have been removed from the Shareholder Committee in order to ensure membership of Committees across the Council accurately accords with the balance of political groups at SKDC. Healthy democracy needs healthy opposition and the increasing domination of the majority party (in our case Conservatives) does nothing to improve decision-making or scrutiny.

Research Assistant

On 4th December, the SKDC website advertised a job with a salary of £27,000. The deadline for applications was one week later. Five people applied for the job. One person was invited for interview after which he was offered the job which he started on 2nd January. It is my understanding that the successful applicant is currently an elected Conservative Councillor at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – December 2018

Happy Christmas to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Meetings Attended

I have attended three formal meetings during the last month.

20/11/2018        Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Street Lighting

This meeting included yet another discussion of the Council’s Street Lighting Policy and whether or notthe District Council should be committed to keeping its street-lights on during the hours of darkness (unlike the Conservative County Council who turn many of their lights off).

Since the last meeting, the Committee has held two workshops on this issue which were not open to the public. I attended the first but was unable to attend the second. After a protracted e-mail exchange I managed to obtain the notes from the workshops and, more importantly, establish that they should be in the public domain. This is a significant victory as I have been challenging the practice of Members’ workshops for many months. On reading the notes of the second workshop I was quietly pleased that I hadn’t curtailed a sojourn in Bournmouth in order to attend as the meeting had been attended by only three Councillors and lasted less than 25 minutes.

A longer debate about street-lighting took place at the OSC meeting and concluded with arecommendation that a) Cabinet adopt the Street Lighting Policy which I drafted and was approved by the Environment OSC earlier in the year; and b) the Council invests a significant amount of money into a capital programme to replace existing street-lamps with more efficient LED equivalents.

The issue will now be presented to the Cabinet who will hopefully this time be able to act on the recommendations rather than referring it back to the Committee as they did last time.

Recycling and Waste

The meeting listened to a presentation about the many issues affecting waste and recycling in South Kesteven which included some handy recycling tips and home-truths about the problems of contamination of recycling materials. The SKDC Food Waste trial has so far been very successful in reducing recycling contaminations for the small number of households covered by the pilot scheme (contamination down from about 30% to less than 10%).

The meeting also discussed the Lincolnshire Joint Waste Strategy. This document had been produced by the County and District Councils. A consultation had taken place regarding the strategy which affects literally everyone in Lincolnshire and 147 responses had been received, 6 of which were from District Councillors including myself.

22/11/2018          SKDC Full Council

On a more positive note, the Council celebrated the achievements of various communities across the District with presentation of the Best Kept Village Awards which included Market Deeping winning the ‘large settlement’ category.

Later in the meeting I asked when the Council Leader, Coun Matthew Lee (Con), was planning to report back to Councillors on the SK Economic Summit which took place at Grimsthorpe Castle in October at a cost of £14,736. He replied to say that he continued to talk about the summit at all sorts of meetings but didn’t say which ones. I also asked about progress towards the planned weekly Saturday market in Market Deeping.

The meeting concluded with a heated debate about whether or not major planning applications should be decided by the Development Management Committee or allowed to be ‘nodded through’ by Officer sat the discretion of the Chair. A motion was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab) after a recent decision to approve an enormous 49-metre high cold storage centre was taken without reference to the Committee (unless you include an informal private meeting at which questions were limited). The Conservatives apparently think this is acceptable.

11/12/2018          Development Management Committee

The first hour’s discussed a part-heard application for detailed permission for 174 dwellings on the Elsea Park estate in Bourne. This time, I voted to refuse the scheme despite Officers’ recommendations that it be approved and the rest of the committee agreed with me.

There then followed a discussion of a house in Dyke where Officers recommended refusal. The Committee was evenly split and a decision only taken when the acting Chairman changed his casting vote.

Finally there was a discussion about a dog-training facility in the North of the District which was approved subject to some very tight conditions concerning hours of operation.

Friends of Mill Field

Regular readers will be aware that, around 18 months ago, residents of Market Deeping submitted a Village Green application concerning the fields adjacent to Mill Field Road, Market Deeping. This is the only remaining unmanaged and easily accessible open space in the town.

A consultation event at the Deepings school in June 2018 concerning the site attracted 547 responses of which over 90% were opposed to any development on the site. Despite this, and despite the ongoing legal process, Lincolnshire County Council has recently submitted a planning application for the site although it has not yet been validated by Officers.

The Public Inquiry concerning the Village Green application will take place on Tuesday January 8th and Wednesday 9th starting at 10am. There will be an evening session at the Open Door Centre opposite the Deepings School on Wednesday Jan 9th from 6pm – 8pm. All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry.

Monitoring Officer

Last week Councillors were informed that the Solicitor to the Council, is leaving the Council after thirty years of service as an employee. Mrs Youles’ departure will be a great loss of experience, expertise and information to the Council. She was also the Council’s Monitoring Officer which is one of the three designated posts that all local authorities have a statutory duty to employ. The Monitoring Officer has the specific duty to ensure that the Council, its officers and its Elected Councillors maintain the highest standards of conduct in all they do.

Contracts of senior staff normally require a notice period of at least two or three months. Councillors have been offered no explanation of the reasons for the apparently sudden departure of the Monitoring Officer but the circumstances appear similar to the departure last year of the Council’s Section151 Officer which is another of the three statutory posts. On that occasion, it later transpired that the Officer was offered a ‘golden handshake’ of £141,000 to leave quickly and quietly. I have e-mailed the Chief Executive to ask if there will be a financial cost to the Council attached to the departure of the Monitoring Officer and, if so, how much.

Market Deeping Christmas Market

I was pleased to help with the annual Christmas Market which this year wasmanaged by a team of volunteers led by Cllr Virginia Moran ably assisted by the sterling efforts of the Clerk and the park-keepers. I understand that this year’s market was the first ever to cover its own cost which is obviously good news for Market Deeping tax-payers as well as all the people who enjoyed the market.

I was involved in organising the entertainment programme which consisted of many varied acts including rock bands, choirs and line-dancers. I am particularly grateful to Cllr Andy Pelling of DSJ and Phil Jones for acting as stage technicians and comperes throughout the day.

The first two acts of the day were the Deeping St James school band and the Deepings United Schools Choir. They were so impressive that I have decided to allocate £300 of my Councillor’s Ward Budget towards the equipment they need for community performances.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town and West Deeping Parish Councils – November 2018

Before I say anything else, I wish congratulations to Sarah Lydford on her appointment as Market Deeping Town Clerk. I’m sure she will do a grand job.

I have attended threeformal meetings during the last month.

Development Management Committee, 16/10/2018

The agenda of the October planning committee included: a retrospective application for a gazebo in Uffington (Permission refused); creation of a autograss race-track in Hougham (Decision deferred); and the building of six dwellings on the site of the former Salvation Army Hall in Stamford (Permission granted).

Development Management Committee, 13/11/2018 Continue reading

Report to MDTC Full Council – October 2018

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th October 2018
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

I have attended the following meetings during the last month.

18/09/2018         Development Management Committee

The meeting discussed applications including the following:

  • Nine dwellings on land Adjacent To Ivatt Close Bourne PE10 9TZ

I saved a tree! I actually did! This small development on the outskirts of Bourne required the removal of quite a few trees and shrubs. While examining the proposals I noted that there is one healthy ash tree in a corner of the site that faced the chop.

The Officer’s report stated “the trees on site are not considered to be of significant amenity value”. I pointed out that while they might not look like much to us, we might discover they have quite a lot of amenity value to the local birds, squirrel and hedgehog if only we could ask.

When the developer gave his evidence I asked if there was any chance of saving the tree as well as reinstating the ‘lapsed hedge’ which was also due to be replaced the feather-board fencing which is almost ubiquitous across new developments. To my surprise he agreed without argument. It makes me wonder if and why the Planning Officers hadn’t asked the same question. Either way, it was a good result and reminded me why I go to these meetings.

  • Seven single bedroom apartments at Norton Street Grantham NG31 6BY

This applicant keeps coming back to the committee with similar applications each slightly different to the previous presumably in the hope that his persistence will, sooner or later, pay off. I am pleased to say that this time it didn’t and the poky residential accommodation proposed between the gardens of back to back terraced houses was refused once again.

  • St Vincent’s House, Grantham

This was a notable for two reasons. Firstly, it was an application from a Councillor. Secondly the property hosted the control room for the historic ‘Dambusters’ raid by 617 squadron which changed the course of the Second World War. The application itself concerned potting sheds in the grounds and wasn’t very contentious.

27/09/2018         Council

This was attended by 38 of the 56 elected Councillors with 18 absent for one reason or another.

Only one member of the public attended and no members of the public had registered to ask any questions.

The Council decided to alter its budget for the year for two reasons: firstly in order to buy a piece of land; and secondly to establish a new company (an LLP) called ‘DeliverSK.

The Council discussed its relatively new system of Overview and Scrutiny Committees which most agreed is a ‘work in progress’ with room for improvement.

As part of Members’ questions I asked the Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications whether paying £140,000/annum for a consultant with no job description, written contract or responsibility for managing staff is good practice in procurement and good value for money. The Cabinet Member responded that she felt my repeated questions on the issue were boring and accused me of harbouring a personal vendetta.

There were two Motions. The first concerned the Council’s approach to modern slavery and was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab), the motion was amended and then passed.  I proposed the second which argued for more transparency of Members Workshops and Briefings which was defeated.

02/10/2018         Shareholder Committee

 

As usual, most of the proceedings of the Shareholder committee took place ‘in camera’ and so I am not allowed to tell you what happened. Take my word for it, it wasn’t a very exciting meeting.

Two years ago, when the Committee was first set up, a lot of time was spent deciding what would be the best name for the company and Gravitas Housing Ltd was chosen. This decision has now been overturned!

 

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to record my thanks to the outgoing Town Clerk, Mrs Candace Brent, and to her husband for all they have done for the Deepings over the years. I wish them both all the very best for the future.

 

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward