Being an Independent Councillor looks a lot more exciting in Australia. It makes me glad I’m here in Lincolnshire.
Being an Independent Councillor looks a lot more exciting in Australia. It makes me glad I’m here in Lincolnshire.
The self-proclaimed ‘Tax-Payers Alliance’ published a blog last week by Charles Amos calling for the UK’s remaining Sunday trading laws to be abolished. This is not surprising from the right-leaning think-tank who appear to wish to abolish most laws.
The TPA was originally established to “speak for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government”. Regardless of whether you agrees with this sentiment, you have to admit that calling for the abolition of Sunday Trading laws is going a little off-topic. Sunday trading might prompt emotions about organised religion or access to supermarkets but it has little to do with public sector, wasteful or not. Nevertheless, Amos’s article is one-sided, myopic and, imho, wrong.
In the ‘good old days’ of the 50s, 60s and 70s lots of people thought Sundays were boring. The law did not allow large shops to open but smaller shops, e.g. corner shops and petrol stations remained open to allow people to buy newspapers, perishables and petrol. In terms of shopping, everyone knew that Sunday was ‘special’ so they did their proper shopping at other times of the week. Of course, these were also the days of street-markets, early closing days and before ATM cashpoints, let alone the internet.
Back in the early 1990s, the Keep Sunday Special campaign launched alternative proposals for liberalising Sunday trading which were designed to meet consumers’ needs without creating a free-for-all. These were called the REST proposals which was an acronym which stood, if I remember correctly for: Recreation, Entertainment, Sport and Transport (this was 30 years ago, feel free to jog my memory and I’ll edit accordingly). The REST proposals would have allowed certain stores such as DIY shops, garden centres, car dealerships and cycle shops while maintaining the rule on supermarkets – Remember these were the days before supermarkets sold absolutely everything! Sadly, the Government caved into the supermarket lobbyists and allowed six hours of trading on Sundays which was effectively game over for many of the opponents at that time.
I remember being involved in the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign during the emotive public discourse before the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act 1994. I might have even written to my then MP, Henry Bellingham, about the issue. The churches and the trade unions were both four-square against Sunday trading for good reasons which are just as valid now as they were then.
Sunday trading undermines family cohesion. In a traditional (or nuclear) family, if both parents work and either of them have to work on a Sunday then it is difficult for that family to have any time together to bond and stay in touch with each others needs. The same is true for couples and the same is even more true for single-parent households. If a single-parent with school-aged children has to work both days of the weekend then they have no ‘quality time’ with their offspring and will only see them both parent and child are worn out from the working day.
Sunday trading undermines workers’ rights. It is still illegal to force retail employees to work on a Sunday but it is relatively easy to find ways to justify ‘letting someone go’ if they decide they no longer wish to work on Sunday for religious or family reason. I know several people who have been refused work in call centres because they would not commit to Sunday working; this was not the reason given but it was undoubtedly the reason.
Sunday trading undermines communities. During the decade of debate before the 1994 legislation much of this argument centred around faith communities. The Christian churches were pretty much united in defending the Fourth Commandment (See Exodus 20). Nowadays, far fewer people attend Church of England Sunday morning services, partly perhaps because it is more difficult to attend as a family, let alone have a traditional Sunday roast at home afterwards. However, Sunday provides communities with the opportunity to play sport and take part in other activities all together at the same time. The rugby club in Deeping St James is very busy on a Sunday morning with kids and their parents participating in competitive sport. If more people are forced to work more hours on a Sunday then it will be more difficult for people to make fixtures and our kids will be less healthy and competitive and our communities much weaker as a result. Cycling clubs also meet on Sunday mornings because the roads are much quieter because far fewer people commute to work.
Sunday trading undermines small businesses which, alongside manufacturing, are supposedly the engine of our economy. In the mid-90s I lived in Forest Fields in Nottingham and I remember asking the owner of our local corner shop if his trade had been affected by the liberalisation of Sunday trading laws. He replied to say that his turnover had plummeted on Sundays from about £700 to barely £200. In subsequent years many corner shops like his collapsed due to the availability of cheap booze, cheap milk, cheap everything from supermarkets. Sunday trading was supposed to make more convenient but in reality it made buying a pint of milk much harder, especially if you didn’t have the luxury of a car. Increased Sunday opening also has a negative effect on other small businesses e.g. if you are a self-employed barber or beauty salon it is difficult to stay open seven days a week. The same goes for small suppliers of supermarkets who may be required by their retail customers either to provide goods and services during all store opening hours or conversely be available at ever more awkward hours when the store is closed.
I acknowledge that there are a lot of factors at work in undermining the fabric of our society. Family breakdown is not only caused by parents working on a Sunday. Small Businesses are not only closing because of competition from supermarkets. Playing rugby is not a panacea for childhood obesity. However, Sunday trading doesn’t help and allowing unfettered Sunday opening will only make matters worse. Allowing big shops to open for longer on a Sunday will not miraculously create more money to spend in those shops, it will only divert money away from alternative providers who do not have the resources to open their doors 24:7. At the same time it will generate more noise and traffic. Incidentally, people living in many secular states in continental Europe seem to cope with their shops being Sunday. What is about we British that renders us incapable of remembering to buy bread and milk on a Saturday?
There are obviously religious arguments why Christians in particular are opposed in principle to Sunday trading and “mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” is purportedly a fundamental British value. It is my opinion that when everything becomes the same then nothing is special. This is true of Sunday as much as anything else.
Disclaimer: Over the last thirty years, like most other people, I have got used to the shops being open for six hours on a Sunday. If you happen to spot me in Tesco on a Sunday afternoon, please don’t shout “Hypocrite” from across the store!
This Sunday, 11th November 2018, St Guthlac’s Church in Market Deeping is hosting a reprise of the ‘Deepings Remembers’ exhibition.
I am pleased to report that Deepings Heritage (and no doubt others) have facilitated another opportunity to see the Market Deeping posters, dossiers and photographs of those who served in the war. They were all prepared by the Deepings Remember 1914-18 Group as part of an exhibition in the Community Centre in November 2014. Other items connected with the war, and especially the Armistice and eventual peace, will be on display.
The exhibition was first presented to commemorate the centenery of the outbreak of war in 1914. The organising committee composed volunteers from across the Deepings. Four years ago, it was fêted by thousands of visitors including one dignatory who rightly claimed the Deepings display was ‘worthy of a city!’
New exhibits include:
The organisers hope you will join in remembering the men and women who served – those who survived and those who never returned to their families and to our community.
(This article has been adapted from a post from the Deepings Heritage WordPress site)
This Thursday, 8th November at 7.30pm, Deepings Heritage will host an illustrated talk by Dr Jonathan Foyle about the unique architecture of Peterborough Cathedral which is considered to be one of England’s most beautiful medieval buildings.
Mr Foyle grew up in Market Deeping and attended Deepings School where the talk will take place in the main hall. He is a regular visitor the Deepings where just a few years ago he officially re-opened the library after it’s reorganisation and refurbishment.
Jonathan Foyle’s talk starts at 7.30pm in the Main Hall at Deepings School. Tickets costing £6 are for sale at Deeping Library, or by phoning Geoff on 01778 343390. Seats may be available on the night, but reserving tickets is recommended.
For more information please read the Deepings Heritage blogpost: 900th Anniversary of Peterborough Cathedral
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
Fixed Odds Terminals are a scourge of our society. They lurk in high street bookmaker shops waiting for vulnerable gamblers to fritter away their wages. The consequences can be devastating for victims, their families and wider society.
Each machine allows a £100 stake to be gambled every 20 seconds. In 2016, gamblers in South Kesteven lost over £2.2million to these machines of which there are over 50 in the District. The figures for Peterborough are much higher as it is well-known that the machines are more prevalent in areas of financial deprivation.
This is why, in November 2017, I proposed a motion to South Kesteven District Council recommending that the Council support a reduction of the minimum stake from the current £100 down to £2. The motion was passed (unanimously as I recall) and the council responded to the Government consultation accordingly.
I was both surprised and delighted when it seemed that the Conservative government had listened to the consultation and were prepared to take action on the issue. Unfortunately, during this week’s budget the Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, has decided to kick the can down the road and not implement the reduction in the £100 stake until October 2019. Continue reading
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.
The 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.
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
Cycling 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
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.
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.
At last night’s SK Business and Economic Summit 2018, I was expecting there might be an announcement regarding progress towards the new Deepings Leisure Centre promised last year at the SK Business and Economic Summit 2017. I have been asking questions about this project, informally and formally, throughout the year.
There was indeed an announcement (Drum roll, please) …
“Last year I also made a commitment to renewing and upgrading our leisure provision across the District.
This is a major undertaking and will represent a significant investment in each of our four market towns.
Plans for this investment are progressing well and will see the provision of new leisure centres in Stamford and Market Deeping.
We will also be keeping and investing heavily in our facilities in Bourne and Grantham.
We are currently in the process of determining locations for each of these new sites and what facilities will be provided, and we intend to announce the details in early 2019.”
Cllr Matthew Lee, Leader of SKDC, 11th October 2018.
Well that’s a bit of a disappointment. A whole year has passed and we don’t even have a location and we don’t know what facilities will be provided. Continue reading