February 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Happy Valentines Day to all Town Councillors and residents of Market Deeping, West Deeping and all the other Deepings. May you be blessed with an understanding and experience of true love!

Communities Overview and Scrutiny Group – 23rd January 2016
I attended this meeting as a ‘substitute; for Cllr Helen Powell and was thus entitled to contribute to the debate*. I pointed out that this was the only Overview & Scrutiny Committee that has not discussed my proposal to hold at least one future meeting at a venue other than Grantham. The Chair said he did not intend to debate the matter but commented “You may rest assured that we will hold a meeting in the Deepings”. Sadly, this comment hasn’t made it into the minutes of the meeting.

The first agenda item concerned Community Cohesion and I asked what the Council is doing to engage young people (i.e. under 18s) with SKDC service provision. During the ensuing debate Cllr Neilson made the sensible suggestion that perhaps a future Committee meeting could be held at a school (e.g. the Deepings School) and that this might include some interaction with the students.

The next agenda item was a presentation from Inspector Outen of Lincolnshire Police. Copies of his presentation are available on request (by e-mail to a.baxter@southkesteven.gov.uk). I asked about the impact of recent changes to custody arrangements, magistrates’ courts, back-office privatisation and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The final item concerned the proposed £56,000 budget for Members’ ward budgets (to be taken from Council Reserves). I commented that I thought to introduce such a scheme in the year before an election ‘looks bad’. I realise I am in a minority on this issue, even among Independent Councillors, but this is my opinion. If the scheme were delayed until after the District elections of May 2019 I might have a different view. The following link to a story from South Holland illustrates how such schemes can be used for political advantage.

Earlier in the month, a Members Workshop had been arranged to discuss the detail of the Members’ ward budget scheme. This was held behind closed doors and Councillors beyond the Committee membership were not informed that it was due to take place. It attended by just one Councillor. Action notes from the ‘workshop’ were presented to the Committee but on asking whether they were public I thought I was instructed that they were to remain confidential. After the meeting I took legal advice and it turns out the are public after all so I can happily share them with anyone who asks.

Shareholders’ Workshop
The public meeting of the Shareholders Committee scheduled for the same date was cancelled and replaced with a shareholders workshop held behind closed doors. I attended the meeting as did several other Councillors including two or three people who are not on the committee including Cllr Trollope-Bellew and Cllr Neilson. I am instructed that the discussions of the meeting are to remain confidential.

Streetlighting Workshop
The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee decided to hold a secret workshop relating to proposals to turn off SKDC streetlights between midnight and 5.30am. It was originally scheduled for Januray but was postponed due to illness. A few days before it was due to take place, the Council leader stated publicly that he personally did not wish to see the streetlights turned off. The workshop has been rescheduled to take place on 20th February, behind closed doors, immediately after the public meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I have informed the OSC Chair that I do not agree with turning off streetlights during the hours of darkness and I see no reason why the debate shouldn’t take place in public.

Full Council – 25th January 2018
The meeting began with a minute’s silence in memory of the recently deceased Cllr Terl Bryant and former Cllr Norman Radley.

Despite the agenda documentation running to over 300 pages, the meeting would have been extremely short had it not been for the session of Members’ open questions and three motions submitted by opposition councillors. (one by a Labour Councillor and the other two by me).

During the question time I asked about the current public use and future plans for the existing Deepings’ swimming pool, especially in light of the announcement that construction of a new leisure centre will begin by 2020.

The first motion, submitted by Cllr Tracey Forman, requested that the LGBT Pride flag should be flown for the whole of the month of February (LGBT History Month). This was amended and watered down and resulted in the Council agreeing to ‘signpost’ from its website to information about LGBT history and about reporting Hate-Crime. ( http://justlincolnshire.org.uk/index.php )

The second motion, submitted by me, was to lobby for Local Government reform in Lincolnshire, specifically to abolish the County Council and to replace it with smaller unitary authorities. This was an interesting debate with contributions mainly from people who had taken part in the County Council elections earlier this year with the exception of the Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee who argued against the motion because reform would be difficult and might take a long-time (a bit like Brexit as another Councillor was quick to point out). It was suggested by some that my motion was an act of ‘sour grapes’ on my part rather than genuine opposition to a top-heavy, anachronistic, out-of-touch, geographically remote, inefficient, expensive and unnecessary tier of local government. Needless to say, most Tories followed their leader and the motion failed this time.

The final motion, also submitted by me, was a proposal to elect the Chair of the Council by secret ballot. This would have put the election of the Chairman above suspicion of it being a political appointment or people being elected to Chairman merely through ‘long-service’. This motion was also defeated.

Development Management Committee – 6th February
There were no applications relating to the Deepings at the planning meeting.
An application for a development site on the outskirts of Grantham included the following argument in favour of building a hundred houses on a greenfield site:
“It is anticipated that the improvements to landscape infrastructure will make a significant contribution to local wildlife habitats through … diversifying the existing monotone nature of unimproved grassland…”
The application was refused.

Stamford By-elections
Following the death of Councillor Terl Bryant and the prolonged absenteeism of Cllr Katherine Brown, there are two by-elections scheduled in Stamford on March 8th. These will present an opportunity for people in Stamford to elect candidates who will speak up for their communities and hold the Tory Council leadership to account.

Market Deeping Town Centre
Since last month I have had no update about the SKDC aspirations for improving Market Deeping market and moving it to the market place.
Through correspondence with New River Retail I have heard that the Co-op is in the process of a large property portfolio transaction with a well-known value retailer, Poundstretcher. It seems likely that the Market Deeping ‘Rainbow’ Co-op store will form part of that transaction.
This is probably good news because, while we might prefer an ‘Aldi’, ‘Lidl’ or high-end retailer, it will be better to have a ‘value’ retailer than a large empty store in the centre of town. The building is not in the best condition and it comes with a full-repairing lease which is not very attractive to potential tenants. Furthermore, high-street retail is in decline because so many people are shopping on-line and so many more are hard-up as a result of wages not keeping pace with inflation, zero-hours contracts and impact of Tory austerity policies.
Retail
Other meetings
Since last month, I have also attended part of the West Deeping Parish Council meeting on 5th February and part of the Market Deeping Town Council Planning and Highways Committee on 7th February.

Budget Meeting – 1st March
The next meeting of SKDC Full Council will discuss the Council budget for the financial year 2018/2019.
Potentially contentious highlights include:
£56,000 for a Ward Members scheme to enable Councillors to give £1,000 to good causes in their ward.
£345.000 reduction in corporate costs (details unknown but likely to be off the staffing budget)
£332,000 for an Innovation Team and a Transformation Team (from reserves)
£200,000 for the continuation of the Big Clean (from reserves)

Friends of Mill Field
I attended a meeting of the Friends of Mill Field on 30th January to discuss Lincolnshire County Council’s opposition to the ongoing Village Green application. A formal response is being prepared and solicitors are being instructed. . A CrowdJustice page will soon be established to assist with the legal costs.
The cost is likely to be significant as our Conservative County Council has a track record for finding sufficient money to fight legal cases against their own residents even if they can’t afford to run the libraries of mend the roads.

That’s all for this report. As ever, if you need any further information please get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping

January 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th January 2018

Happy New Year to all Town Councillors and residents of Market Deeping, West Deeping and all the other Deepings.

Saturday Market Plans
Following a conversation with Cllr Moran about the SKDC proposals for Saturday Market I have contacted Officers at SKDC to find out what has happened so far. I have been told that a Road Closure application has been made to the County Council and I have asked for a copy. There is currently no specific start date or budget in mind and it would appear that no consultations have taken place with local stakeholders other than Cllr Robins visits to the Town Council. I could be wrong but if I am, it’s not for want of asking.

High Street Pot Holes
I have submitted complaints to LCC formally and informally about the dreadful state of the road between Godsey Lane and Terry Wrights.

Budget Joint Overview and Scrutiny Group 10th January
At today’s meeting various members of the five scrutiny groups met together to offer comment and constructive criticism of the budget proposals presented by the cabinet. I commented and questioned about a dozen of the specific proposals including some of the ‘savings and efficiencies’. There is a line in the budget entitled “Reduction in Corporate Costs – £345,000”. I asked for clarity on how these would be achieved and despite loquacious answers from both the Leader and the Chief Executive, I am still none the wiser.

SKDC Full Council meeting 25th January
No agenda has been published for this month’s meeting yet but I am sure there will be at least one motion to discuss!

Scout Headquarters – Wellington Way
I am pleased that SKDC is making firm plans to build affordable housing in the Deepings. However, one of the probable locations is very close to the Scout Hut and I am a bit concerned about the impact. Personally, I hope that the Deeping Scouts will be properly consulted and will continue to have a suitable dedicated premises for the activities they run for our young people.

Development Control
I am now a full member of Development Control Ctte although I doubt that I will be able to attend all the meetings. I still welcome any comments and concerns about plans for developments in the Deepings.

Meeting Attendance
One of the Stamford Councillors has not attended a meeting since June last year and this should provoke a by-election, or so I thought until I asked for clarification and was told that the Councillor attended a Members Workshop in October. There are no minutes, agenda  or attendance available in the public domain about the meeting. This practice of meeting behind closed doors is becoming more common with another taking place today and another two planned for next Tuesday. Personally, I think nearly all council decision-making should be open to public scrutiny and I have submitted an FOI request to try to get more details about the various ‘secret’ meetings that have taken place.

December 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

A very busy few weeks has prompted a bumper ‘Christmas’ issue of my monthly report.

Councillors’ Briefing on ‘InvestSK’ – 20th November

I drove to Grantham for a one-hour briefing regarding the new SKInvest initiative aimed at levering funding into the South Kesteven District to support businesses and communities. More details can be found on the website:  http://investsk.co.uk/

SKDC Full Council meeting 23rd November

Regular readers will remember that the only decision the Councillors had to make in September was to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. I am pleased to report that November’s meeting was more interesting.

Appointment of Section 151 Officer

The Council was required to approve the appointment of a Finance Officer based at Rutland County Council to act as our Section 151 Officer. It is illegal for any local authority to operate a ‘151’ Officer in post. The approval was hurried through due to the sudden and unexplained departure of the Council’s incumbent 151 Officer, Daren Turner.

Members Expenses

The Council debated whether or not to accept the recommendation of an Independent Remuneration Panel to increase District Councillors’ expenses by almost 20%. I proposed an amendment to delay any increase until after the next District Council election. This would have saved £100,000 of ratepayers money but the amendment was defeated and the increase in expenses will be backdated to September. I voted against the increase in expenses because, although many Councillors work very hard, I think awarding ourselves a significant payrise at a time when public services are under such financial pressure sends out the wrong message. The vote was carried by 30 votes to 9 against with 6 abstentions (11 Councillors were absent from the meeting). More details can be found in the Grantham Journal

Budget Amendments

Back in February, the Council’s budget for the 2017/18 financial year was passed unanimously. In June, it was amended to enable £800,000 to be committed to the BigClean campaign. This month, budget amendments were made to transfer money from the Council’s reserves to allow additional spending in this financial year:
a) £3m for the purchase of an investment property near Lincoln;
b) £0.3m to kick-start the InvestSK scheme;
c) £0.5m for feasibility works concerning the SK offices at St Peter’s Hill Grantham
and d) the increase in Members’ expenses mentioned above.

Questions at Development Control

After some discussion, the Council voted to preclude elected councillors from asking questions of members of the public who come to Grantham to comment on planning applications. It was suggested that people who feel strongly enough about planning issues that they drive to Grantham to make a three minute speech in front of the Council chamber would feel intimidated if they were asked a question about what they had said. This is a ridiculous notion and it seems obvious that the proposed changes are entirely for the convenience of the Chair of the Development Committee. Nevertheless, the proposal was accepted and will be trialled for six months.

Motion 1 – Grantham Town Council

This motion to explore the possibility of creating a Grantham Town Council had been proposed by Cllr Charmaine Morgan (Lab) but was withdrawn in order to enable a similar cross-party motion to be submitted next month.

Motion 2 – SKDC on Tour

I proposed a motion to force the Council to hold at least one formal meeting of its sub-committees each year in the smaller towns (i.e. Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings).  The Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) proposed a ‘watering-down’ amendment to suggest that the Council encourages the Chairs of each committee to consider holding a meeting outside Grantham. I agreed to the amendment with the proviso that if meetings do not take place outside Grantham then I will return with the original motion.

Motion 3 – Gambling Consultation

My proposal that SKDC should respond to the current DCMS consultation to support a reduction in maximum stakes on FOBT (aka fruit machines) from £100 down to £2 was accepted without amendment.

Motion 3 – Fairer Funding for Lincolnshire

Cllr Lee’s motion to support the ongoing lobbying of the Tory Government in order to try and get a fairer funding settlement for Lincolnshire was approved by the 29 Councillors who had stayed to the end of the meeting.

Rural Overview and Scrutiny Committee visit to the Deepings – 27th November

The tour was organised at the request of the Chair of the District Council, Coun Bob Sampson (Ind). He was accompanied by members of the Committee. While visiting diverse areas of the Deepings, the Councillors gained an understanding of various local issues including public open spaces, leisure facilities, traffic and the local economy. It is hoped that the visit, which is one of a number taking place across the District, will help inform decision-making about services the Council provides.

Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee 1st December

This was a special meeting convened to discuss the decision by the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Adam Stokes (Con), to spend £3m on an investment property on the outskirts of Lincoln. The decision was ‘called in’ by five Councillors including me. The discussion took place mostly ‘in camera’ due to the commercial sensitivity of the decision. Earlier in the year, Cllr Stokes had himself ‘called in’ a very similar decision made by his predecessor.

Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee – 5th December

I had asked some time ago for the issue of Street-lighting to be put on this agenda as it had been mentioned earlier in the year and then continually kicked into the long grass. When the agenda was released, the Chairman Cllr Mike Exton (Con) issued a report outlining four options, all of which suggested turning the Council’s 3,000+ street-lights off overnight. Before the meeting I produced an alternative suggestion which illustrated how the Council could save money by investing in modern LED streetlights without turning them off overnight. When the matter came before the committee the Chairman tried to circumvent public debate on his report by referring the matter to a ‘members’ workshop which will take place behind closed doors on 16th January. More details are in the Grantham Journal who described the meeting as ‘farcical’.

Later in the meeting, we discussed the Glendale grounds maintenance contract and agreed to extend it for 12 months.

Development Management Committee – 12th December

Having been formally trained on Development Control matters earlier in the month, I am now able to substitute for Development Management committee members when they cannot attend. My first meeting included a decision on proposals for: a Designer Outlet Village on the A1; a travellers’ site near Harrowby; and a block of 8 flats between two terraced streets in Grantham.

The meeting also included discussion of the Towngate Inn application. While I share residents’ concerns about traffic and parking issues, I voted in favour of the development because it so much better than the previous application which would have been far more unsightly and would have impeded the line of site for motorists turning from Towngate towards Langtoft.

LGA Independent Group Conference – 1st December

I attended the annual conference of the Independent Councillors group where I heard from Lord Porter of Spalding about the various issues facing local government as well as other speakers on the recent budget, devolution and the ubiquitous Brexit.

Deepings Community Centre AGM – 1st December

I attended this meeting to deliver my report as Treasurer of the Deepings Community Trust. At the AGM I retired from the management committee leaving the centre in a much better financial position than it was five years ago. The centre is run almost entirely by dozens of volunteers who run a very efficient organisation.

Since the last report to Market Deeping Full Council I have also: met the manager of the Deepings Leisure Centre a couple of times; attended a meeting with some residents of the Persimmon Estate; and I made my Christmas market stage debut with some friends from Open Door church. If anybody missed this musical treat they might like to attend the Deepings Library on Saturday where I will be joining in with the carol singing at midday.

Merry Christmas to everyone in the Deepings and beyond!

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping

November 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
8th November, 2017.

Shareholder Committee 11th October
Since the previous meeting on 3rd April, the composition of the Shareholder Committee of the LACC (Local Authority Controlled Company) has changed almost entirely. I am the only Member who was part of the previous committee. The LACC has now been registered as Gravitas Housing Ltd. One of the Council appointed Company Directors has also left and been replaced, as has the Chief Exec of the Council itself.

This month’s meeting was mostly concerned with plans to develop a site at Wherry’s Lane, Bourne. Detailed minutes are available on the Council’s website.

Meeting with New River Retail, 7th November
Yesterday, I met with one of the Directors New River Retail at the Town Hall along with Cllr Redshaw. We discussed: the impact of changes to parking in the Deepings’ precinct; the likely impact and outcome of the proposed relocation of the co-op retail store; and the various SKDC proposed initiatives including the Saturday market. It was an amicable and informative meeting for both sides of the table.

Meeting with Leader of SKDC, 7th November
Yesterday, I also met Cllr Matthew Lee. It was the first available 30-minute appointment in his diary since the Stoke Rochford Declaration reported last month. I thanked Cllr Lee for his commitment to building office accommodation and a leisure centre in the Deepings. Cllr Lee confirmed that he expects construction of both facilities to commence with three years and that the facilities are expected to take just over a year to build. The location and detail of the leisure centre has yet to be determined and Cllr Lee has promised to keep relevant parties, including myself, involved in the ongoing deliberations.

Communities Overview and Scrutiny Group, 7th November
Yesterday, I attended the above SKDC committee. At the start of the meeting I was allowed to speak briefly and I invited the committee to hold its next meeting in the Deepings. This offer was politely declined.

During a later agenda item I asked for an opportunity to comment but Cllr Rosemary Trollope-Bellew, who was standing in for absent Chair, used her discretion to deny me the opportunity to speak.

The meeting discussed whether to ask for a budget of £56,000 to enable each Councillor to allocate up to £1,000 for projects in their ward in the year before the next District Council elections. After some discussion this proposal was agreed with 2 votes in favour and 3 abstentions.

Full Council 23rd November
At the forthcoming Full Council meeting I will hopefully be allowed the opportunity to speak because I have proposed two motions for discussion. The first would mandate the Council to hold at least one formal meeting a year in each of the smaller towns (Bourne, Stamford and Market Deeping). The second recommend the Council responds to the current consultation on gambling by recommending a reduction in the maximum stake at FOBT (aka fruit machines) from £100 down to £2.

It is rumoured that the Council agenda will also include proposals to increase Councillors’ basic allowances by as much as £800/annum.

October 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
11th October, 2017.

Planning Applications
I have spoken to the planning officer and submitted an objection to the proposed hand car wash at Riverside Garage on Stamford Road. This operation might be appropriate elsewhere in the town, perhaps on the industrial estate, but Stamford Road is not the right location.

Parking
In response to a few recent queries about parking, I have discovered that in the last 6 months of the last financial year, Civic Enforcement Officers (aka traffic wardens) visited Spalding, Stamford and Grantham nearly every day. In the same time frame they visited Market Deeping only 3 times. I suspect they might be back quite soon, especially in the 2hr short-stay market place area.

Members’ Briefing – 18th September
On September 18th I drove to Grantham to attend a briefing for Members on the subject of the Big Clean and the Local Plan.

The first 40 minutes of the briefing was devoted to a presentation from Cllr Moseley illustrating some of the successes of the Big Clean. This left just 20 minutes to hear feedback from the recent local plan consultation which had attracted almost a thousand visitors to the ‘roadshows’ and over 800 formal written responses (including my own).

The feedback from the Deepings included a great many comments and objections to the proposed allocation of the Mill Field to housing and, to a lesser extent, leisure facilities. 183 people attended the consultation event which is significantly higher than the previous consultation. The events in Bourne attracted over 400 people, most of whom were lobbying against development which would be detrimental to Bourne Woods. Many argued that development should be allocated on to the East side of the town instead.

The most significant part of the Local Plan briefing was the news that the Government has increased the annual required number of houses in South Kesteven from around 630 to well over 700. This news arrived too late for inclusion in the draft Housing Strategy which is currently out for consultation.

All members who attended the briefing are permitted to claim expenses for the journey. When the allotted 60 minutes were up, the majority of Conservative members left the room to attend a meeting of the Conservative Group which was conveniently scheduled to take place elsewhere in the same building.

Full Council – 21st September
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=261&MId=3462

Bizarrely, the Full Council was only asked to make one decision at its September meeting. This was to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.

However, the meeting still lasted around two hours as members made comments on the various reports and updates which were presented. These included a report on the draft Housing Strategy and feedback from the now disbanded Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

This was followed by Members’ Questions and Answers Responses during which I asked the Leader of the Council for an update on the lease situation between: LCC, SKDC; 1 Life Leisure; and the Deepings School. The lack of any firm agreement since the centre was built in the early 1970s is now restricting public access to the swimming pool and other facilities during the school day to barely two hours a week.

Another Councillor asked for an update on the expenditure to date on the Big Clean. He was told that it would be inappropriate to share this information halfway through the programme. When I got home I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for the same information.

Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee – 26th September
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=630&MId=3486

This meeting included another update on the Big Clean, this time with a one-page summary of the expenditure to date!

The meeting also considered the ever popular issues of how to tackle dog fouling and street littering. The meeting approved a proposal to investigate the possibility of engaging a third party enforcement agency but only if this was run at no net cost to the council.

Shareholder Committee – 11th October
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=616&MId=3517

Most of this meeting was conducted ‘in camera’ for reasons of commercial sensitivity. Suffice it to say that we discussed proposals for Wherry’s Lane in Bourne.

The Big Speech – 9th October
On Monday this week the new(ish) Leader of the District Council, Cllr Matthew Lee, made a speech to ‘the great and the good’ of the SK business community at Stoke Rochford Hall. He outlined plans for £40m investment by SKDC across the district. He sent me a copy of his speech on Tuesday and the highlights for the Deepings appear to be: a) commitment to another Deepings Literary Festival; b) a promise of a new office block to complement the Eventus Centre; and c) a new leisure centre to be operational by 2020.

I have e-mailed Cllr Lee to ask for more information about the schemes (and to say ‘Thank You’ for remembering the Deepings). I will hopefully speak to him soon about the likely locations of these projects. In my submission to the Local Plan I argued that the best place for a new leisure centre would be close to the Deeping Rangers football ground and adjacent sports facilities.

It sounds like good news, eh?

 

 

Ashley

September 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
13th September 2017.

Hello,

I hope you all had a good summer!

Local Plan

I submitted a personal response to the SKDC Consultative Draft Local Plan which ended in August. On September 18th I intend to attend a Members briefing on the Local Plan including the next steps.

Friends of Mill Field

The campaign to defend Mill Field is now well underway. Following the submission earlier this year of a Village Green application, the campaign has now shifted its focus to the local plan process. Many local residents have submitted responses to the local plan suggesting that the Mill Field is an inappropriate site for housing development for a range of different reasons including potential loss of amenity; loss of access to greenspace; and risk of flooding.

For more information and to sign up for the Mill Field campaign please visit the website: friendsofmillfield.com

Tattershall Drive and Unauthorised Encampments

At the July Town Council meeting I was pleased the Council decided to work with SKDC to erect a birdsmouth fence to prevent any further unauthorised vehicular access to the SKDC managed land on Tattershall Drive. The fence is now installed and the feedback from residents has been positive.

I am also pleased to confirm that, contrary to speculation last month, the County Council did indeed obtain a Court injunction to prevent unauthorised vehicular access to the Mill Field for a period of three months from 27th June.

The Big Clean

SKDC’s half-a-million pound Big Clean project is now well underway. Teams have spent several days in the Deepings and have removed weeds, graffiti and litter. There is still quite a way to go and residents are encouraged to report any ‘grotspots’ via the SKDC website. I have personally reported over a dozen but I still keep spotting new ones. The most recent being a litter bin on Church Street which appears to be the responsibility of the Town Council, so I have reported it to the Town Clerk. https://www.southkesteven.gov.uk/?service=BIGCLEAN

Full Council – 21st September

SKDC Full Council did not meet over the summer but will reconvene on 21st September. The agenda looks extremely thin but this might be a deliberate attempt to allow more time for questions of the Portfolio Holders and Committee Chairs.

Community Activities

During the summer I was delighted to participate in Raft Race day activities with Churches Together and at the Community Centre. I also attended the ever popular Duck Race as part of the Carnival Queen’s entourage.

 

The Deepings is such a good place to live!

July 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
14th July 2017.

Friends of Mill Field
After almost a year of quiet preparation with Mrs Pamela Steel, Cllrs Adam Brookes, Pauline Redshaw, David Shelton, and others, I am pleased to say that a formal application has been made to Lincolnshire County Council for registration of Mill Field as a Village Green. This status would recognise and protect the fields important role as an open space for community recreation.

Now that the application has been submitted, the campaign to save the Mill Field begins in earnest and I was delighted to Chair an inaugural meeting of the ‘Friends of Mill Field’ at the Community Centre last week. Around 70 people attended and a steering committee is being formed for the campaign.

Full Council – 15th June
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=261&MId=3461&Ver=4

SKDC Full Council was attended by Caroline Dugmore who presented a petition asking for the urgent erection of barriers to prevent any unauthorised vehicular access to the Public Open Spaces on Tattershall Way.

Later in the meeting during a debate on the Council’s ‘Big Clean’ initiative I proposed an amendment that a third of the £400,000 budget be delegated down to Town and Parish Councils on a pro-rata basis. This amendment was defeated (partly because I hadn’t made specific reference to Grantham which has no Town Council and rather than amend the amendment this was used an excuse to throw out the idea of devolving funding). This is a shame because the Town Council could have put some of the devolved funding towards environmental improvements including perhaps a fence.

In the debate about the ‘Big Clean’ I raised some concerns about the amount of money being spent, especially because it is being taken from reserves, but in the end I voted in favour of the project.

The meeting also reformed the voting system at Council so that votes will now be via a show of hands. This means that everyone in the room will see how each other Councillor votes which will make it easier for political groups to see if their members vote against the group. Unfortunately it will make it difficult to record the actual numbers of votes cast on any issue. I proposed an amendment to use raised hands alongside the existing electronic buttons but this was rejected by the Council.

Congratulations to Cllr Nick Neilson who promoted during the meeting to the post of Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing. Congratulations also to Aidan Rave (his real name!) who has been appointed as interim Chief Executive.

This meeting, having been postponed due to the General Election was the last scheduled Full Council until September.

Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=630&MId=3432&Ver=4

The second meeting of this group is due to discuss whether or not to turn off the District Council’s 3,593 streetlights overnight.

Gypsy/Traveller issues
The last month has again been busy with traveller related issues. A flurry of e-mails, phone calls, social media posts and meetings have provided a commentary on the Council’s actions to persuade the travellers to keep travelling. The County Council were planning to take an injunction to prevent a return to Mill Field. Hopefully, the County Councillor will be able to confirm whether this was successfully invoked.

Meeting with Cabinet Members
Following an invitation to Cllr Matthew Lee, the new Leader of SKDC, at April’s Full Council, I met with Cllr Lee and some of his cabinet on Wednesday 21st June. We had a short tour of the Deepings briefly visiting many playing fields, the leisure centre, the skate park and meeting a delegation of residents at Tattershall Drive with whom we discussed the possible vehicle barrier. We then retired to the library where we were joined by a handful of Town and Parish councillors to discuss the Councils’ aims and aspirations for the Deepings. I am grateful to the cabinet for their visit and especially to Cllr Moseley for the subsequent follow-up work regarding the Tattershall fence.

Persimmon
Last month I reported that I have supported local residents in objecting to a planning application by Persimmon on the Phase 3 development behind Tesco. This was an attempt to abrogate their promise to create an open space. I am pleased to report that they now appear to be proceeding with the original plan.

Pedestrian Crossing
I have asked the County Council why, almost five years after the Godsey Lane traffic light fiasco, we still have no pedestrian crossing by the Health Centre. The County Highways Department report that they are ‘in discussion with Persimmon’.

June 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
14th June 2017.

Environment Overview and Scrutiny Group
I attended the first meeting of the new look Environment Committee. The meeting was attended by its members, most of the cabinet members and some other Councillors and Officers. It was Chaired by Cllr Mike Exton.

As usual, most of the questions, comments and suggestions came from me and from Cllr Charmain Morgan. Firstly, regarding the scope and workplan of the committee which was fairly nebulous and so I tried to ensure the potential issues for discussion are broad enough to cover much more than just dog much and waste recycling. I suggested the committee might consider a range of issues including devolution of the management of open spaces to a town and parish level as well as the Council’s attitude to hare coursing and other blood sports.

There were two other issues on the agenda. One was the development of the Council’s commercial waste services. The other was the proposals for the ‘Big Clean’.

The Big Clean
In February, the District Council unanimously passed a budget for the financial year 2017/18.

Since the coup within the Tory group, the new regime at SKDC has decided that more businesses will choose to locate in SKDC if it looks neater. Consequently, they plan to take money out of Council reserves for a big clean up operation to include weed removal, litter picking and graffiti scrubbing. This will take place over 12 weeks and will cost £450,000. It will be followed up with additional clean up teams working around the district.

The project will allegedly involve parish councils and volunteers but the Cabinet members at the meeting above were pretty short on details of how this will work. 

Full Council
There has been no SKDC Full Council meeting since last month. The next meeting is tomorrow afternoon (Thursday 15th).

The agenda includes formal proposals for the ‘Big Clean’ mentioned above.

Gypsy/Traveller issues
The last month has been busy with traveller related issues. A flurry of e-mails, phone calls, social media posts and meetings have provided a commentary on the Council’s actions to persuade the travellers to keep travelling. Credit is due to Cllr Broughton for his efforts to keep the Tattershall site tidy, to reassure the local residents and to keep SKDC on the ball. I was pleased to be able to assist to a limited extent. 

Gypsy/Traveller meeting
At the invitation of a newly-formed Tattershall residents campaign group, I shared a platform with Cllr Broughton and Cllr Neilson as well as John Hayes at a meeting to discuss potential fencing to deter travellers from returning to the open spaces on Tattershall Drive. I am sure the outcomes of this meeting will be reported by others at the Town Council meeting. 

Management of Public Open Spaces
I plan to meet Cabinet Member Cllr Peter Moseley and Officers to discuss the possibility of devolving the budget and responsibility for managing land in the Deepings down to a Town and Parish level. I think the Town Council would be better at managing the spaces than Glendale have been so far. 

Persimmon
I have supported local residents in objecting to a planning application by Persimmon on the Phase 3 development behind Tesco.

Hustings
I assisted in the organisation of the hustings hosted by ‘Churches Together in the Deepings’. I Chaired the meeting on the Thursday before the election. It was lively and entertaining. I believe it was the only public hustings in the South Holland and the Deepings constituency this year.

May 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to Market Deeping Town Council
from District Councillor Ashley Baxter
10th May 2017.

Greetings to the new Mayor. I hope your term of office is successful and enjoyable both for yourself and for the town.

Many thanks to Cllr and Mrs Lester for the extended period they have spent in chains. I am grateful for what you have service you have given to the town over the last two years, and longer as a Councillor.

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Newly elected Chair of SKDC , Cllr Bob Sampson, with Cllr Ashley Baxter at the launch event for the inaugural Deepings Literary Festival.

The District Council has seen a lot of changes since last month. Firstly, a new Chair has been elected. Cllr Bob Sampson is a well-respected independent Councillor who was elected ahead of the Tory nominee who was expected by many to be chosen.

The Council also elected a new leader. Cllr Bob Adams having been deposed by a cabal within his own party, did not stand and Cllr Matthew Lee was nominated. I was pleased to nominate Cllr Ian Selby as an Independent alternative. Cllr Lee won 31 votes against Cllr Selby’s 13 and it was good to see many Councillors putting aside party politics.

Talking of which, three former Conservatives have resigned the Tory whip.

The first act of the new administration was to shake up the committee structure. After long debate they agreed to allow both the Independent group and the Labour group to have a seat on each of the five new scrutiny committees.

The new committee structure means more meetings and more committee Chairs and vice-Chairs. The consequent annual cost to the Council will be in the region of £100,000.

A speech by the new Leader revealed that one of the early priorities of the new Cabinet will be a new carpet in the Grantham offices.

Meanwhile, back in the Deepings we had a County Council election in which I was runner up. I extend my congratulations to Cllr Rosemary Woolley and my commiserations to the other loser.

I have organised an election hustings on the 24th May at the Deepings School on behalf of Deepings Churches Together in the Deepings. It would be great to see you all there.

I attended the Market Deeping Annual Town Meeting and the Deeping St James equivalent yesterday. I also popped into some of the Deepings Literary events and made a short video about it.

April 2017 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

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Report to MDTC Full Council 12th April 2017
from South Kesteven District Councillor Ashley Baxter

Tories in Turmoil

High drama at South Kesteven this month as the Conservatives once again face a Civil War.

Cllr Bob Adams who has led the Council in a generally consensual manner faced a second internal coup led by two of the youngest Councillors, Cllr Matthew Hill and Cllr Kelham Cooke. Last year, Cllr Adams had held onto leadership of his Party group by just a couple of votes. This year he lost by a margin of 26 votes to 18. Technically 26 people is insufficient to hold a majority of the whole Council and so whoever is declared leader of the Council (rather than leader of the Tories) at the Council’s AGM next week will need to win support either among his colleagues or among the opposition parties.

The usurper, Cllr Matthew Lee, has revealed plans to reform the Council’s committee structure. These have only just been released but appear to put an emphasis on Overview and Scrutiny of proposed decisions rather than concentrating on Policy Development. The new structure also reduces committee size to 6 members on each group which will effectively exclude the small Labour group from the process and leave room for just one Independent on each. The Conservatives won 51% of the votes at the last SKDC election but their new leader is proposing a system that gives them more than 83% of seats on committees.

Council meetings

Since the last Town Council meeting I have attended the Scrutiny committee to hear the answer to the question I asked at Full Council concerning the fall in SKDC recycling rates from 49% down to 43%. The main reasons are: the six-figure gap in the waste and recycling budget left by scrapping of Recycling Credits by the Conservative County Council; the high volume of waste rejected from the recycling plant as a result of contamination caused by textiles and electrical goods among other things; the shift to incineration rather than landfill. In the subsequent debate, the first Conservative Councillor to comment suggested part of the problem lay in the attitude of the bin-men. Happily this was not the consensus of the rest of the Councillors present.

I have also attended a meeting of the Communities Policy Development Group, a second Housing summit and a meeting of the Shareholder Committee of the Local Authority Controlled Company.

County Council Elections

The long-awaited nominations for the County Council have been released. I am pleased to be one of the candidates successfully nominated and would like to take this opportunity to thank the various members of the Town Council who signed my nomination papers.

As ever, if anyone needs any more information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

 

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping