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
South Kesteven District Council has been paying an external consultancy more than £10,000 a month for advice on its communication strategy. Since June last year, Adrian Smith of Emulus Communications Limited has been engaged in the role as Head of Communications for the Conservative-led local authority. It is believed that the consultancy contract was originally established at the instruction of the Coun Matthew Lee who took over as Leader of the South Kesteven Conservatives two months earlier (April 2017). The two men have previously worked together in 2010 when Coun Lee was a Council Cabinet Member in Peterborough.
Independent Member for Market and West Deeping ward, Coun Ashley Baxter is alarmed: “I was shocked to discover that we are paying over £140,000 a year to an external consultant for work which should rightly be carried out by Council staff. During the last 12 months, I have communicated with Mr Smith several times about the lack of publicity for events and projects in the South of the District. When I met him at the end of March to discuss the problem, I was disappointed to learn that in nine months at the Council he had not even visited Market Deeping. Anyone being paid £10,000 to promote the District should make it their business to know every corner of their patch. The situation has improved recently but I can’t believe we’re paying more than a salary higher than that of a Government Minister for Mr Smith’s services.” Continue reading
Report to Market Deeping Full Council – July 11th 2018
Apart from watching World Cup football, I’ve had another busy month. Here are the edited highlights:
Friends of Mill Field
Since my last report, Friends of Mill Field have heard news from the Independent arbiter of the Village Green application. There will be a public inquiry into the application which will probably take place in November.
In an attempt to ‘lock the stable door’, the County Council has taken the gormless decision to register a landowner deposit to declare that they wish to put an end to the recreational use of the land.
I am trying to find out how many people responded to the so-called consultation about potential development on the land.
SKDC’s new Head of Town Centres, Paul Allen, contacted me for a meeting about growing the town’s economy, including an update on the Saturday market. I invited Cllr Virginia Moran to join me the meeting as I know she has done a significant amount of work planning this year’s Christmas market as well as acting as liaison with SKDC regarding the proposed Saturday market. We gave Mr Allen a short tour of Market Deeping explaining the key issues faced by retailers, residents and visitors.
Over 500 people responded to the recent SKDC consultation regarding a weekly market in the old market place. More than 85% of the responses were positive and the County Council is now being consulted because they are technically responsible for the market place. Assuming the County Council don’t drag their feet, the market could be launched in the autumn. Continue reading
Last week I blogged that Gravitas Housing Ltd has been planning to build houses in Bourne and that there are no definitive public evidence that South Kesteven’s Local Authority Controlled Company (LACC) is planning anything else.
On 10th January, the Deputy Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke, decided formally to sell the Wherry’s Lane site to Gravitas Housing Ltd. If I have understood correctly, the council also agreed to lend £250,000 to Gravitas in order that they could afford to buy the land.
So, after securing the land and almost a year of Shareholder Meetings held behind closed doors, the Gravitas Directors (who are all employed by SKDC) decided to request planning permission for the erection of 25 dwellings on Wherry’s Lane in Bourne. A valid application was received by SKDC planning department on 27th March 2018 (which had been prepared by a consultancy in Louth!). Continue reading
Gravitas Housing Ltd is a company established and wholly owned by South Kesteven District Council.
What is a LACC?
In order to become more agile, flexible and able to generate revenue, many Council’s have chosen to establish Local Authority Controlled Companies (LACCs or sometimes pronounced ‘Lac-Co’).
Some LACCs have been very successful, for example Norfolk Property Services (NPS) which now has a group structure and trades as Norse Commercial Services delivering services to the public in many local authority areas (geographic areas and service areas).
Other Local Authority commercial ventures have been a nightmare, e.g. Solutions SK which was described as a ‘Four-Star shambles‘ when it lost £4.7million pounds in a year. When I say ‘lost’ I mean they couldn’t find it. The highly paid Directors employed for their commercial acumen couldn’t explain where it had gone. There was no question of fraud, only incompetence on a grand scale. I happy to report that the ‘SK’ in ‘Solutions SK’ refers to Stockport not South Kesteven. Presumably they couldn’t even spell Stockport Council when they set up the LACC.
Gravitas slowly takes off
Back in 2015, South Kesteven Councillors decided that the LACC vehicle was a band-wagon worth jumping on to and so a Shareholders Committee was formed. This is an advisory group to keep the company directors on track. Due to the need for political balance, the membership consists of four Tories and one Independent (which is me).
The first meeting was scheduled 4th July 2016 but this was cancelled. Another date was set for 6th September 2016 but this was also cancelled. The Shareholder Committee finally met for the first time on 3rd October 2016 Continue reading