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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
In the Open Forum it was reported that SKDC Culture Committee is working at opening up the festivals held in the four towns to a wider audience. Also SKDC continues to hold a healthy level of reserves of £28 million as at 31 March 2019, for the General Fund. Within this figure is a specific allocation of £1.5 million to deal with any unforeseen fluctuations in annual expenditure. In terms of the annual accounts audit inspection, the council received a positive opinion for the last financial year, and fully expect a positive value for money opinion to be presented to the next Governance and Audit Committee meeting on 25 September.
Following the heavy storms and recent flooding members were pleased to be told that local flood defences are designed to protect the area for the next 100 years.
After many months of hard work a “Four Year Strategic Plan,” was…
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: