Report to Market Deeping Town Council – February 2020

Report to MDTC Full Council 12th February, 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Deeping Shorts – Film Festival

‘Deeping Shorts’ – a short festival of short films – has held two Saturday evening cinema screenings with two more to go (15th and 22nd February). The screenings have been well attended and well received. Tickets are £5 from Stamford Arts Centre or at Open Door Baptist Church on the night.

Leisure Centre / All Weather Pitch

News about the proposed Deepings Leisure Centre and the future of the condemned All Weather Pitch has failed to yield any concrete proposals (nor proposals for concrete). At Full Council, the new Portfolio Holder, Cllr Barry Dobson stated that a Working Party would be formed with representation from the 3 Deepings Independent Councillors. By the time of the Finance Committee a week later, this Working Party had been extended to include two Deeping Conservatives. A few minutes later, it was explained that the Working Party would be an overarching group for all Leisure Facilities in South Kesteven. When I asked for clarification, the Finance Committee was told there will be more than one Working Party. I later asked Cllr Dobson for written clarification of the roles, purpose and composition of the working party (or parties). A week later and I am still waiting.

Cllr Dobson also mentioned that nothing would be decided about Leisure Centres until he had visited the sites personally to see what was needed. This is slightly confusing given that the council has commissioned leisure professionals an architects to conduct feasibility studies at a cost of more than £250,000.

14/01/2020         Budget – Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee            

Lots of talk about the Conservative’s Pie-in-the-Sky thinking for next year’s expenditure.

16/01/2020   Rural and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I am pleased to say the Communities Committee agreed to implement some of the measures recommended by the ‘Stop the Knock’ campaign which I had brought to their attention.

I am less pleased to say that they rubber-stamped proposals to ‘rationalise the face-to-face customer service provision’ in Stamford and the Deepings. This effectively means closing the SKDC offices at the Deepings Community Centre and at Maiden Lane in Stamford.

There is a consultation about the plans to close the Stamford and Deeping SKDC offices. The deadline is 20th February.

30/01/2020   Council

The Council meeting began with a silence in respectful memory of former Chair of SKDC, Cllr Peter Speigl and former Chair of the world’s longest running radio panel show and much-loved Grantham born entertainer, Nicholas Parsons CBE. The silence was, suitably, just a minute. It would have been great if all the afternoon’s debate could have been conducted without hesitation, repetition or deviation but this was unlikely from the outset.

Grantham favourite child – Nicholas Parsons
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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – January 2020

Report to MDTC Full Council  15th January 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Happy New Year to all Town and Parish Councillors, residents of the Deepings anyone else who is takin the time to read this. I hope your 2020 is splendid!

Climate Emergency

Regular readers will know that the Council (SKDC) declared a climate emergency in September 2019. SKDC has now appointed a Climate Change Officer and have also begun a set of ‘Task and Finish’ workshops and engaged the Carbon Trust to assist with compiling baseline data to ensure a meaningful Action Plan is delivered.

Saturday Market

The market which was launched with much fanfare by InvestSK at Easter last year has struggled against inclement weather and lack of budget which has led to a spiral of decline with few stalls leading to few customers and vice versa. The last stall threw in the towel just before Christmas (and hats off to the Brown Bread stall for sticking it out for so long) and, in light of the lack of any traders, SKDC have decided to cease trading until later this year. It is not clear whether the Spring will bring a revived Saturday market or a relocation of the ongoing Wednesday market, or neither, or both.

Deeping Shorts – Film Festival

The Open Door Baptist Church is hosting ‘Deeping Shorts’ – a short festival of short films – on the first four Saturday evenings in February. It has been organised in association with the help and support of InvestSK/SKDC and will make use of the cinema screen originally purchased for the Deepings Arts Group. The films have been collated from 17 different countries and include a range of comedies, animations and thought provoking works. Many have won awards. Tickets are £5 from Stamford Arts Centre or at ODBC on the night. Here’s an excerpt from one of the films…

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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – December 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council  11th December 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Christmas Market

Undoubtedly the highlight of the month. This year’s Market Deeping Christmas Market was the best ever. I was pleased to be involved, once again, in organising the entertainments. It was a bit scary to find, at 10am, that the stage hadn’t arrived but some nifty reversing by the driver meant the show could go on with just a couple of amendments to the schedule.  I was also delighted to be involved in planning the ‘pop-up nativity’ which integrated the traditional stories of Christmas with the town’s traditional celebration of Christmas.

Meetings Attended!

19/11/2019   Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee

A distinct feeling of déjà vu at this meeting when, yet again, the report of performance indicators were criticised for being presented without any context.

I really don’t understand the problem as I have been able to find the historic data relating to each of the KPIs. Here is a graph showing the increase in the numbers of households in temporary accommodation (aka homeless) in South Kesteven.

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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – November 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council  13th November 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Deepings Neighbourhood Plan

The Neighbourhood Plan for the Deepings is currently in its consultation phase.  If you care about the future of our community and its built environment, please respond to the consultation.  Comments are particularly welcome concerning the future of Mill Field, the expansion of the town centre and the types and layout of new housing.

Deepings Neighbourhood Plan is at the public consultation stage

Christmas Market

Market Deeping Christmas Market and lights switch-on will take place on Sunday 1st December. There are more than 80 stalls booked and the entertainment is going to be varied and awesome.

Young musicians performing at the 2018 Christmas Market

Stop the Knock

Last year, SKDC used bailiffs’ services for non payment of Council Tax over 2,000 times.  The Council also evicted 31 of its own tenants.  There surely must be a better way… and there is!  The ‘Stop The Knock’ campaign is monitoring council’s approach to debt collection and has some innovative ideas for reducing the costs and heartache associated with council tax collection.  I have written to the Council Leader and the Chair of the Rural and Communities OSC and officers have informed me that the subject will hopefully be discussed at an OSC meeting early in 2020.

Meetings Not Attended!

In terms of Council business, October was a very quiet month with only 1 scheduled meeting.  I’m not talking about my meetings, I mean that South Kesteven District Council only had one formal meeting which was Planning Committee on 16th October.

16/10/2019   Planning Committee

I don’t sit on the Planning Committee at the moment but I had already sent comments and objections on two of the applications which were on the agenda because I had asked for them to be ‘called in’ by the committee rather than considered only by the planning officers.

The first was the erection of roadside services to including a petrol filling station with ancillary retail floor space on the Langtoft roundabout, north of Market Deeping. –  This was the second time the committee had discussed this application and I am pleased to say that the application was refused, contrary to Officers’ recommendations.  Not a single Councillor voted in favour of it (although two abstained). There were a variety of reasons for refusing it including the loss of a greenfield site, visual amenity and highways considerations.

Secondly an application to allow the transfer of up to 75,000 tonnes of waste per annum at the existing waste depot at Unit 2 Whitley Way Northfields Industrial Estate Market Deeping. This was a County application but the SKDC planning committee discussed the application and resolved to “urge the County Council to give due consideration to highway implications including increased parking and possible adverse impacts on amenity on surrounding developments, particularly the children’s nursery, through odour noise, and other pollution that may result”.

The meeting also dealt with:

  • Four dwellings at 21 Broadgate Lane, DSJ (Reserved Matters) – Approved
  • Seven industrial units at Spitfire Park, Market Deeping – Approved

Meetings Attended (Climate Change)

Despite the lack of ‘official meetings’, I have attended two council meetings, on consecutive days, concerned with South Kesteven’s approach to Climate Change.  

The first was a workshop for members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) which heard evidence from the Environment Agency, the Woodland Trust and the Council’s own planning team.

The second was an inaugural meeting of the ‘Task and Finish Group’ on Climate Change commissioned by September’s meeting of Full Council. It was meandering at times but, on the whole, very productive.  The meeting was introduced to the fundamentals of Climate Science by the external expert, Prof Edward Hanna of Lincoln University.

Aside from the meetings, I have been doing my homework regarding the council’s environmental performance. I have discovered that in recent years recycling rates have been falling due to a number of reasons mostly concerned with the Conservatives’ cut backs.  At the same time, contamination of silver recycling bins has increased meaning even less effective recycling.

On the issue of the Council’s own energy use, officers are struggling even to establish a baseline.  It appears that almost no proactive monitoring of energy consumption has taken place for nearly a decade.  The figures presented have been incorrect and at times comical.  For example, it has been claimed that gas use at the small changing block next to the all weather pitch adjacent to Deepings School field is three times as high as gas use to the Council’s main office in Grantham.  On the positive side, officers are beginning to work with the suppliers and brokers to get more reliable information.  It would be very difficult to achieve the target of 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 without any baseline figures.

General Election

John Hayes might be an affable chap but please don’t vote Conservative!!

Remember, it is the Conservatives who have turned off the streetlights, caused the rise in foodbanks, made the cuts to the Deepings Library and Deepings Youth Centre causing them to become dependent on volunteers and grants from the Town Council. It is the Conservatives who have chosen to cut budgets for schools, hospitals and police. The Conservatives have also failed to negotiate any acceptable resolution to Brexit.

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 – October 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council  9th October 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Meetings Attended (and Not Attended!)

17/09/2019   Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee  

This was a meeting where we discussed the Council’s approach to Climate Change. I had already proposed a Climate Emergency motion to Full Council (see below) but Cllr Peter Moseley (Con) also proposed a similar idea. The OSC discussed the idea of setting up a ‘Task and Finish’ group on Climate Change. This is definitely a different forum to the ongoing secret workshops on climate change commissioned by the previous OSC meeting. It will have 6 Councillors, 5 Officers and, at my suggestion, 1 external expert to offer an alternative perspective.

At this meeting we also discussed and (almost) agreed a new protocol for informing District Councillors about trees in their respective wards. This should mean that we should at least be made aware of imminent felling of trees by the Council even if we might not be able to save them.

The Committee also proposed to recommend to Cabinet that SKDC adopts the Woodland Trust’s Local Authority Tree Charter. If this sounds familiar it is because it is very, very similar to the Woodland Trust’s other tree charter which most Conservative Councillors voted against when I presented it to Full Council a few months ago. Happily, we have now reached an acceptable form of words and, because it is now a Tory idea, we should be signed up very soon.

The OSC also discussed progress on some other issues including the Food Waste Collection pilot scheme which has apparently been applauded by DEFRA for its excellent participation rate although they haven’t yet gone so far as to offer the additional funding required to roll it out across the district, let alone the county or country.

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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – September 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 11th September 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Greetings to all Town Councillors! I hope you enjoyed your summer break. Here are some SKDC highlights from the summer of 2019…

Resignations and Appointments

In July, the SKDC Chief Executive, Aidan Rave, resigned from his post “to pursue new ventures”. Sources told the Grantham Journal that there was a “clash of personalities” between him and leader of the council, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) which led to a “big row”.

The Council has appointed Paul Thomas as an interim Chief Executive. Mr Thomas has been with the Council for several years and, for what it’s worth, I think he is a sensible appointment.

Nineteen days later, Cllr Matthew Lee resigned himself as Leader of the Conservatives and de facto Leader of the Council. He did not publish any statement so we can only speculate why he threw in the towel after just two years at the helm.

The Conservatives met on 2nd September to elect a new leader. Deputy Council Leader Kelham Cooke competed with former Council Leader Bob Adams for the ‘honour’ and Cllr Cooke won the day. He is now almost certain to be formally elected as Leader of the Council later this month. He has promised a new more collaborative approach which would be most welcome.

Meetings Attended

Since the July meeting of MDTC, I have attended a few formal Council meetings.

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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – July 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 12th July 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, one of the ten Councillors forming the Independent Group at SKDC.

I am pleased to report that, less than two months after the elections, one of the Conservatives has resigned the whip and become ‘Independent unaligned’. This means there are now 17 opposition councillors compared to 39 Tories. We just need 11 more defections and the Council will be on a knife-edge!

Meetings Attended

I have attended four formal Council meetings during the lastmonth.

14/06/2019   Finance, Economic Development and Corporate ServicesOverview and Scrutiny Committee          

This meeting was held to consider the call-in request that I had organised before the election in light of a decision by Cllr Adam Stokes (Con) to allocate money from the new Invest-to-save fund. Before the meeting I had submitted more than 20 written questions and I was pleased to discover that newly-elected Cllr Whittington (Con) had submitted some of his own. Continue reading

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!