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
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
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.
Since the July meeting of MDTC, I have attended a few formal Council meetings.
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!
I have attended four formal Council meetings during the lastmonth.
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 →
first Full Council of the new administration was relatively long-winded mainly
because of an ‘argument’ over Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
6/5/2019 Uffington Scarecrow Festival
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
7/5/2019 Deepings Neighbourhood Policing Forum
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
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
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
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
As ever, if you require any
further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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 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.
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.
I have attended only one formal Council meeting during the last month.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
As ever, if you need more information on anything within
this report, please do get in touch.