The camera never lies!

At SKDC Cabinet at Stamford Town Hall last week I was given a dressing-down by the Council Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con), for a perceived lack of manners because I took this photo without asking permission.

Here is the text of an e-mail I have sent to various Committee Chairs in response…

“Dear George, Matthew and Robert, Continue reading

Hunted!

At a ‘private meeting’ last week, the Grantham Charter Trustees decided, as usual, to welcome the Belvoir Hunt to St Peter’s Hill in the town on Boxing Day.

This is a Deepings-based blog and I don’t intend to make a habit of reporting news about Grantham but this week’s decision by the Grantham Charter Trustees is interesting for a few different reasons.

Who are the Charter Trustees?

img_2857The Grantham Charter Trustees are the custodians of the mayoral chain of Grantham which would otherwise have become homeless at the abolition of Grantham Borough Council in 1974. The functions of the Council were transferred to South Kesteven District Council but it’s a shame to waste a mayoral chain and a coat of arms and so the Charter Trustees were established to uphold the traditions and reputation of the town. The fourteen Trustees are the SKDC District Councillors who represent Grantham, i.e. two from each of the seven wards.

Why were they meeting in private?

Unlike a proper Town Council, the Grantham Charter Trustees have no website, no proper schedule of meetings, no published agendas and no published minutes (This is my understanding – I would be pleased to be corrected). Given that the Trustees only exist for ‘ceremonial’ purposes, you might be forgiven for thinking this doesn’t really matter. However, if ceremonial functions don’t matter then why have a mayor at all? Continue reading

Bourne to ride! Bicycle races are coming your way…

bournecicleCycling enthusiasts from far and wide will be excited to learn of the launch of a major new cycle road race to be staged in South Kesteven in 2019 – starting and finishing in Bourne.

The press launch of the “Bourne CiCLE Classic” will take place at Bourne Corn Exchange at 3pm on Thursday 1 November (This strikes me as an odd time to have a press event because it clashes with the SKDC Cabinet Meeting due to take place in Stamford on the same afternoon. It means that none of the Cabinet will be attending the launch or that they don’t regard Cabinet members as important).

The event completes the quartet of events in South Kesteven.  First, in 2013, came the bienniel Stamford Georgian Festival and the following year Grantham hosted the first bienniel Gravity Fields festival. In early 2016, Phil Dilks, Judy Stephens and I successfully argued for “Parity for the Deepings” and the Conservatives soon agreed to a bienniel Deepings Literary Festival. At the same time there were also some mumblings about Bourne. Continue reading

Stamford due for visit from @SouthKesteven Cabinet members on 1st November.

All Saints’s Day 2018 will see the SKDC Cabinet complete their ‘2018 tour’ of South Kesteven market towns when they arrive for a meeting at the Council Chamber in Stamford.Stamford Town Hall

At a meeting of the Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee this morning, during a discussion of the Council’s communications strategy, I asked why SKDC had done so little promotion of the September Cabinet meeting in the Deepings. After all, it was the first SKDC meeting to be held in the Deepings for many years. I was told by the Cabinet Member for Communication in no uncertain terms – “A press release for a meeting in the Deepings? That’s just not gonna happen”. This is because a cabinet meeting is not considered by SKDC to be newsworthy. The newspapers on the other hand were only too happy to print the press releases that I have sent when SKDC ventures out of Grantham.

Presumably, the same approach will be taken to communicating the arrival of Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) to his home turf of Stamford along with the rest of the Cabinet which is made up of Tory Councillors from across the District. However, the meeting is open to the public and is a great opportunity to see our ‘agile democracy’ without having to travel to Grantham.

An earlier Cabinet meeting in Bourne saw around 8 members of the public in attendance which was something of a record. This record was smashed by the turnout at the Eventus Centre in Market Deeping. Perhaps the event in Stamford will be more popular still? The agenda will be released a few days before the meeting.

The 2018 has taken place partly in response to my sustained lobbying of the Council  to get itself out and about around the District to see, and be seen (e.g. see Minute 57b of November 2017) and partly because the Grantham offices are undergoing refurbishment as part of a £1.66 million scheme to enhance the public realm.

Residents’ Survey reveals attitudes to @SouthKesteven and disappointment with @LincolnshireCC.

On Thursday 4th October, SKDC Cabinet will discuss the responses to the Residents’ Survey which took place back in May this year. There hasn’t been a survey of this kind for many years and so it is being regarded by the rejuvenated Conservative administration as a baseline from which improvement can be objectively measured.

A total of 1,466 people responded to the questionnaire. About two thirds were submitted as a paper response to a direct mailing of almost 4,000 residents while the remainder were submitted online. Respondents’ postcodes reveal that the survey is fairly representative of residents across the District (although there were more responses from Deeping than from Bourne, #JustSaying!)

The first few questions ask for people’s feelings about SKDC. These are summarised in the graphic below. It is clear that South Kesteven is a great place to live with over 75% of respondents responding positively to the question. However, when it comes to Council services people are more restrained. Only 30% of respondents admit to speaking positively about the Council and over half of residents do not feel the Council acts on the concerns of residents.

SKDC Feelings Graph Continue reading

A flag of convenience? So-called ‘Independents’ join the @LincsTories ahead of 2019 District Council elections.

Grantham and Stamford Conservatives have seen a recent flurry of membership applications from town and district councillors and candidates. Most of these have happened just a few months ahead of the District Council election in May. What a coincidence, eh?

In recent years in Lincolnshire, the Conservative austerity agenda has resulted in the bedroom tax; the creation of foodbanks; the closure of youth centres and libraries; and numerous examples of botched service delivery.  However, in Stamford, three sitting so-called ‘Independent’ councillors have suddenly realised their political affinity lies with the Conservative Party. In Deeping St James, a former Independent District Councillor has come to the same conclusion and yet another Deepings Councillor is rumoured to be at the point of signing up for a blue rosette (NB. It’s not me!).

Stand Continue reading

Conservative Leader warns that @LincolnshireCC may soon be unable to “operate in a safe manner”!

Cllr Martin HillCllr Martin Hill (Con), Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, has appeared on Radio 4’s Six O’Clock news in order to criticise the Conservative government’s continued council funding cuts. He has joined other Council leaders in warning that, by 2020, Councils will only be able to provide the bare minimum statuatory services.

Cllr Hill (who was introduced as Cllr Wall) stated:

“All those other things which aren’t a legal duty will actually have to go by the wayside. And I have to say if the government doesn’t actually give us additional resources in a few years time, I’m not confident as a council leader that we will be operating in a safe manner for the public of this county.”

The County Councils’ Network has warned that England’s largest councils are poised to set out almost £1bn in new reductions to budgets next February – with residents facing another round of ‘unpalatable’ cuts to services – unless government intervenes.

In its response to a government consultation on funding for councils next year, the County Councils Network (CCN) warns that its councils will set out £685m in savings  next February to balance their budgets.

In addition, those county authorities say another £233m of ‘unplanned’ frontline service cuts will be needed – which have yet to be identified – unless government provides these councils with new funding next year.

In my opinion, the County Council is part of the problem. It is remote, expensive and monolithic. It should be abolished and replaced by smaller unitary authorities. I also think the Government should recognise and support the vital role of local councils in delivering front-line services.

 

Interactive council cuts comparator

Quote

During  a friendly twitter exchange with Lillian Greenwood MP I discovered that my predecessor at Nottingham City Council’s award-winning energy squad, Ravi Subramanian, is still messing about with spreadsheets. This is excellent news for anyone who wants to know how Tory austerity has affected their Local Authority. It only seems to include ‘upper tier’ authorities, i.e. County and Unitary Councils but it is still a brilliant piece of work!

Here’s an example graph comparing Lincolnshire against Peterborough. It appears to show both Councils have suffered roughly similar cuts in percentage terms even though Peterborough is significantly more deprived.

For more information visit Ravi’s blog:

via Interactive council cuts comparator

@SouthKesteven Cabinet arrives in the Deepings; It has been a long journey!

I am delighted to report that the South Kesteven Cabinet will hold a formal meeting, open to the public, at the Eventus Centre in Market Deeping tomorrow (6th September, 2018 at 2pm)

Some people need to get out more often, especially Councillors, and this is what I have been arguing since I joined South Kesteven Council back in 2015. To be specific, I have been suggesting that at least one formal committee meeting each year should be held in each of the smaller towns i.e. Bourne, Stamford and Market Deeping. Continue reading

More theatricals at West Deeping…

Back in March I attended a brilliant play at West Deeping Village Hall. It was a Townsend Production called “We are the Lions, Mr Manager” which told the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai the inspirational leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Film Processing Factory Strike.

The performance was part of the Lincolnshire Rural Touring programme which is scheme designed to make art accessible for the many not the few. It is subsidised by Lincolnshire County Council and South Kesteven District Council among others so I congratulate them for their support this project (and regular readers will know I don’t do that very often!)

The next season of performances have been booked for West Deeping and they are as follows:

Honey

Saturday, 13th October 2018, 7:30 PM

An intimate, thoughtful, atmospheric evocation of fragile family and community allegiances within a remote Welsh village, tracing the lives of a young autistic man, his absentee soldier father, his alcoholic beekeeper mother and her tattoo artist sister.

Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More

Saturday, 24th November 2018, 7:30 PM

Staged with great panache, gorgeous period detail and an impressive film noir/jazz-swing soundtrack, this is an absolute hoot of a show, chronicling Lady Pamela More’s 1930s life as a fashion editor, socialite and secret agent.

The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster

Friday, 1st March 2019, 7:30 PM

An intimate and spellbinding telling of the true story of the notorious and bloody 16th century Pendle Witch trials, combining bold theatricality, haunting a capella hymn singing and striking dark humour.

Sounds like a fun night out, eh? Most people combine these performances with a visit to the excellent Red Lion pub across the road either before, after and or during the performance. Village life at its best!