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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South Kesteven is recruiting a Climate Change Officer!

South Kesteven District Council is recruiting a Sustainability and Climate Change Officer to assist the authority in tackling Climate Change! The deadline for applications to this exciting job is 14th October 2019.

Who can hold back the tide in Market Deeping, Bourne, Stamford and Grantham?

The recruitment of this Officer is a direct result of the Council’s declaration of ‘Climate Emergency’ following a debate last month’s Full Council. I originally put the issue on the council agenda as a motion (submitted immediately after the previous Full Council meeting). However, in the intervening months, Cllr Peter Moseley (Con) presented a Climate Emergency report to Cabinet which also appeared on the agenda of Full Council. Cllr Moseley’s proposal included the establishment of a ‘Task and Finish Group’ to investigate how SKDC can address issues of Climate Change.

Our two separate proposals differed in terms of specific objectives and targets but happily I was able to meet with Cllr Moseley to discuss the differences between our two Climate Emergency proposals and to try and find a middle-ground.

It was agreed that I should propose an amendment to Cllr Moseley’s proposal which would include three key points:

  • Establish environmental performance indicators
  • Set a target of achieving ‘net zero’ emissions for the Council as early as possible before 2050
  • Set a target of reducing emissions from the Council by 30% by 2030.

We each took the draft compromise amendment to our respective Party groups and the proposal and the amendment were discussed by Council on 29th September.

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Trouble in paradise… Matthew Lee makes a resignation statement as outgoing leader of SKDC.

The dream team in happier days! Cllr Matthew Lee, Mr Aidan Rave and Cllr Kelham Cooke.

Loyal readers will remember that I posted a couple of months ago speculating as to the reasons for the sudden resignation of Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) as Leader of the SK Conservative group, and therefore as Leader of the whole Council.

At last Thursday’s Full Council meeting, Matthew had an opportunity to explain the reasons for his departure. Standing orders were suspended in order to allow him to deliver a ten-minute farewell speech (although he still continues as a Councillor on the backbenches – the Tories wouldn’t want to risk a by-election in his ward!).

There appeared to be no mention of the recent departure of the Chief Executive, nor the departure of the Council’s Monitoring Officer last November nor any mention of any health issues which colleagues had cited in the media as potential reasons for the resignation. In fact, the first seven minutes were devoted to celebrating the highlights of Cllr Lee’s two years at the top and how brilliantly he has been managing the ongoing projects and challenges that it faces. However, anyone hoping to understand why Cllr Lee chose to pack it all in so suddenly was only offered these next few lines:

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Finally, the site for Deepings’ new Leisure Centre has been announced!

South Kesteven District Council has unveiled the exisiting playing fields at Deepings School as the preferred site for a new leisure centre. The site is already the home of Deepings Rugby Club, Deeping United FC, the Deepings Rotary 10k and is used for a number of other competitive sports activities. In just two years time, it might also be home to a brand new swimming pool, all weather pitches and everything else one might expect of a modern ‘wet and dry’ leisure centre.

Deepings School Fields
Sunset over the Deepings School Fields.

As you may have read, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) announced in October 2017, and several times since then, that SKDC is planning to build a new Leisure Centre for the Deepings. This will replace the existing Leisure Centre which is well passed its sell by date and is literally falling apart at the seams with water often literally leaking through the roof above the pool area after heavy rainfall.

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Notes from the secret ‘informal’ South Kesteven Climate Change workshop

The minutes of the formal SKDC Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee of 18th June, 2019 record that: “it was suggested that perhaps a series of workshops be held to gather evidence and explore what direction the Committee wished to take, what priorities they wanted to take forward.” 

“Some Members felt that workshops should be open.  Caution was stressed in relation to having open workshops as this could stifle debate as Members may feel unable to express all their opinions.” 

In my opinion, one of the most important roles of an elected District Councillor is to express your opinions and those of the people you represent. Unfortunately, the Conservatives appear to hold a different view which is reflected at almost every Full Council meeting where backbench Tories rarely speak except to sycophantically applaud their front-bench colleagues.

The so-called ‘informal workshop’ took place at the end of July and supposedly does not form part of the Council’s decision-making process. Councillors who do not serve on the Environment OSC were not invited to the meeting (except perhaps the portfolio-holder Cllr Moseley (Con)). The details of the meeting were not published and members of the public were not allowed in. The notes will not be presented to the forthcoming 17th September meeting of the Environment OSC so I am sharing them here instead. The notes below are exactly as circulated to Committee Members except for the bits I have added in italics and parenthesis. NB These are the notes circulated by the Council. They do not exactly match my own recollection of the meeting but I have not commented on the accuracy because I was at the end of a skype-line which was not 100% reliable

Climate Change Informal Workshop
30 July 2019 – Room 6
10:00am – 12:40pm

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InvestSK – Generously investing your money to good causes!

Earlier this year, South Kesteven District Council handed over funding of over £1.3million to its wholly-owned subsidiary company, InvestSK Ltd. You might be wondering what this money is being spent on. If so, you are not alone. There is currently no formal mechanism for interrogating the company’s expenditure other than submitting lots of Freedom of Information requests or waiting for its Year End accounts.

The original plan was that InvestSK activities and spending would be scrutinised by a ‘Companies Committee’ formed of Councillors. Unfortunately, almost two years after the creation of InvestSK Ltd, this Committee has not yet been constituted or established by the Council.

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Recycling rates tumble in Lincolnshire

Despite the boasts of high recycling rates on Conservative election leaflets, recycling rates in Lincolnshire have plummeted since 2010 according to national recycling league tables.

In the County of Lincolnshire, the total rate of waste diverted from landfill has fallen every year for seven years from 53% in 2010 to 43% in 2018. The rate in South Kesteven has fallen every year resulting in a similar 10% reduction in overall rates which includes recycling through the silver and green bins.

The figure for 2017/18 has not yet been formally published but information data published by SKDC under a freedom of information request suggests that the percentage has now fallen to significantly below 40% (38.57% to be precise).

The main cause of the falling rates is the Conservative austerity measures which have had a massive impact on Council funding especially at Lincolnshire where local Tories decided to withdraw Recycling Credits which removed the incentive for many organisations to recycle.

Other reasons for the falling rates include:

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Recycling’s rubbish in South Kesteven (Well, 30% of it is!)

Recycling efforts in South Kesteven are being undermined by increasing levels of contamination of the weekly silver bin recycling system. Recently released figures reveal that, since 2016, contamination rates have gradually increased from 20% to over 30% meaning that almost a third of so-called ‘recycling’ ends up in landfill.

There are a number of factors causing the contamination including:

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What’s happened to the rest of the @SouthKesteven grants for good causes?

In a recent blog I explained that each of the 56 Councillors at SKDC has had a budget of £1,000 at their disposal for distribution to good causes. I allocated mine to the Deepings’ United Schools Rock Band, the Deepings School Library, the Deepings Scouts, the Deepings Business Clubs ‘Love Deeping’ initiative and the Deepings branch of Royal British Legion.

I have been trying to find out how the other Councillors have supported good causes across the District but I’ve hit a bit of a brick wall.

In the Deepings I have discovered that five out of the six Councillors has allocated their £1,000 to a variety of causes. However, one of the Councillors supposedly representing Deeping St James, Cllr Stephen Benn (Conservative), has made only a single grant of £330 to the Deepings Youth Group which means that charities in the Deepings have missed out on the remaining £670 in his pot. This comes as no surprise really as Cllr Benn appears to have lost interested in his Deeping St James ward after moving to Peterborough many months ago. In fact he has only attended nine meetings in the last two years even though he still receives his expenses (£6,475 for financial year 2017/18) This equates to over £1,000 per meeting attended! (Cllr Benn is not seeking re-election).

isI was interested to see if anyone else had decided not to distribute their £1,000 to good causes and was pleased to see that Councillor Barry Dobson (Dole Wood) has donated his to Bracebridge and Wilsthorpe Village Hall and the remainder to Lawrence Park in Thurlby (Lawrance Park is a recreation ground, not a person!). (Cllr Dobson is unopposed in the forthcoming SKDC election).

In the Casewick ward, which is next door to the Deepings, the two Conservative Councillors have spent only £650 between them which means that £1,350 will stay in the Council coffers. The funds which have been spent have been allocated to Langtoft Festival (£350), Uffington Parish Council (£200), Thurlby Parish Council (£100) and Barholm & Stowe Parish Meeting (£50). I was surprised that it was possible to make a donation to a Parish Council because, strictly speaking, they are local authorities rather than charities, I tried to find out what projects the donations were for, and who had donated them, but I cannot find anyone at SKDC who is prepared to tell me. In fact, I cannot even find which of the Councillors authorised the grants.

My colleague, Cllr Phil Dilks, who represents Deeping St James ward has taken this up with the Council’s Monitoring Officer who has replied by saying “I do not believe the information that you’ve requested is available at this stage and from a brief conversation with colleagues in finance, it will take them some time to put it together.”

I find it unbelievable that the Council has been sending out press releases about Members’ Ward Budgets for nearly a year but no-one has a central list of what each Councillor has spent (and hasn’t spent). Given the prevarication, it seems likely that there are other Councillors who have either forgotten to allocate their grants, or possibly have deliberately chosen not to spend the budgets designated for charities and good causes.

I have now submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for details of how the £56,000 of Members Ward budgets have been spent (or underspent). Unfortunately, SKDC is not obliged to publish details until 20 days have elapsed which will be after the District Council elections.