Report to Town and Parish Councils, December 2021

Report from Ashley Baxter – December 2021

County Councillor the Deepings West and Rural Division
and District Councillor for Market and West Deeping Ward

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all!

Details of meetings attended since 10th November

18/11/2021            SKDC            Planning Committee (re: Tallington Lakes)

I attended the committee and gave a short speech in opposition to the proposed new entrance to Tallington Lakes from Stamford Road. The Committee deferred the decision to a future meeting in order to allow committee members to attend a site visit.

25/11/2021            SKDC            Council

Another chaotic and dreadful Full Council meeting at the Meres Centre in Grantham. A good deal of time was spent dealing with the vacancies for Vice Chair of Council and Chair of the Governance and Audit Committee caused by the resignation from these roles by Cllr Ian Stokes (former Con) as a result of his racist comment at a recent Committee meeting.

Congratulations to Cllr Mark Whittington (Con) who is now Chair of two Committees and Vice-Chair of a third. There are other Councillors who would be well-suited to these roles but they are not members of the Conservative Group and therefore the Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) will not allow their appointment.

The meeting also considered a motion on Equality and Diversity proposed by Cllr Amanda Wheeler (Lib-Dem) partly in response to the recent episode concerning Cllr Stokes Snr which would have required councillors to undertake equality and diversity training before they could become members of Council Committees. The motion appeared to be widely supported until, at the very last moment, Cllr Rosemary Trollope-Bellew (Con) proposed a wrecking amendment which removed the word ‘mandatory’ thus making the training optional so that Councillors can continue to avoid equality training without any consequence. Even after the weeks of outraged headlines in newspapers and TV regarding the racist comment of an old-school Tory, his party colleagues still prefer to pretend there is no need to take preventative actions. Cllr George Chivers (Con) was the Conservative to vote against the wrecking motion (and therefore in favour of mandatory training); it is always encouraging when even one of the Conservatives are bold enough to vote contrary to the instructions of their blinkered and partisan political masters and it is a shame it doesn’t happen a lot more often.

26/11/2021            SKDC            Planning Committee (Consideration of Planning Review)           

Over the last 18 months, SKDC has spent £40,000 on a planning review from ‘Cratus’ consultants. Some of the recommendations have been implemented but are many are deeply unpopular among Councillors and, in my view, anti-democratic because they reduce the extent to which Councillors can participate and influence the planning process. In recent weeks, the Council appear to have taken more ownership of the process and further recommendations seem likely to filter through to the Constitution Committee in the months to come.

29/11/2021            LCC               Flood and Water Management Scrutiny Committee

This meeting in Lincoln informed Councillors about the number of flood incidents in recent months and the new pumping equipment which has been purchased by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.

I have requested that a briefing on the proposed South Lincolnshire reservoir (which will be between Bourne and the Deepings) be presented to a future meeting.

30/11/2021            LCC               Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee

This meeting also looked at flood incidents as well as the council’s dismal performance on waste and recycling. There were two papers relating to the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda which appears to be a slogan, like akin to ‘the Big Society’, ‘the Green New Deal’ and ‘Back to Basics’ in that it can mean all things to all people and, at the same time, nothing at all.

30/11/2021            SKDC            Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

I had to send my apologies to the SKDC Environment Committee because of a clash with the County Council equivalent meeting. In my absence, and at my request, the Committee consider the issues of water refill stations in the four towns of the District.

30/11/2021            SKDC            Joint Scrutiny Committee re Deepings Leisure Centre

At a heated meeting of the Finance Committee and the Tourism Committee, Independent Councillors tried to establish why, since 2007, there has been no financial commitment to the oft-promised new Deepings Leisure Centre and why the Conservatives have now broken their promises and reverted back to a refurbishment of the existing centre.

The meeting agreed to recommend to cabinet that an extensive refurbishment should take place and (at my suggestion) the details of the refurbishment should be subject to ‘meaningful consultation’.

6/12/2021             SKDC            Members briefing re Mallard Pass Solar Farm Proposals

An opportunity to learn more about the project and ask some of the question which have been raised by residents. The scheme will not be decided by local councillors because it is a NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) and therefore decided by the Secretary of State.

7/12/2021             SKDC            Cabinet

Further discussion of the Deepings Leisure Centre caused me concern that the ‘meaningful consultation’ might not be so ‘meaningful’ as we would like. This is a shame because since the first announcement there has been a pitiful, almost neglible, amount of consultation with local residents, sports clubs and other users of the centre.

8/12/2021             Lincolnshire    Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education

My first attendance at SACRE focused on a recent survey of Lincolnshire Schools regarding their provision of RE lessons.


In the last few months I have also undertaken the following training:

Via Teams

5/11/2021             LCC               “Understanding your role as a Corporate Parent”

6/12/2021             SKDC            “The Model Code of Conduct”

Virtual safeguarding training completed via the Lincolnshire Virtual College

30/09/2021            “Introduction to Safeguarding Everyone in Lincolnshire”

03/10/2021            “Understanding the Impacts of Hate Crime”

04/10/2021            “Radicalisation and Extremism”

04/10/2021            “LGBTQ+ Awareness”

18/10/2021            “Friends Against Scams”

25/10/2021            “Modern Slavery and Trafficking”

Some of the training offered by the Lincolnshire Virtual College is provided free of charge via ‘Open Access’ to anyone who registers. Some of it is quite interesting and informative.

Other information

During November, I attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the Deepings Garden of Remembrance as well as participating in the Royal British Legion wreath-laying ceremonies at Baston as well as Market Deeping.

As ever, if you require any further information or assistance with District or County Council issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Ashley Baxter
8th December, 2021

01778 344070
07799 077090

Interactive council cuts comparator


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

Jobs for the Boys (and Girls) policy at @Southkesteven.

Press Release – 26th July 2018

A recent Freedom of Information request by Independent SKDC Councillor Ashley Baxter has revealed that at least ten jobs have been recruited without the ‘normal’ competitive process of advertising and shortlisting for the roles.

In several cases the new recruits are former colleagues of senior Conservative Councillors at SKDC. Some of the direct recruitments have been for very senior roles.

Cllr Ashley Baxter comments: “This is a disgrace and a scandal. Nepotism and cronyism on this scale was supposed to have been eradicated with the Northcote Trevelyan Report of 1854 and is contrary to every rule of common sense in local government.”  Cllr Baxter is keen to point out that his opposition to the recruitments is not related to the nominated individuals, most of who he has never met, but to the principles of transparency, due process, fairness and equality.

Cllr Baxter has made a formal complaint to the council about the number of appointments. He believes that most, if not all, of the appointments might be illegal and in contravention of the Equalities Act 2010 and the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Excerpt from Local Govt and Housing Act 1989

The full list of directly recruited posts is as follows: Continue reading

Grantham needs a Town Council.

At the last Full Meeting of South Kesteven District Council I proposed a motion that Grantham should have a Community Governance Review to enable residents of the town to choose whether they wish to have a town council. My proposal was criticised with a succession of weak arguments along the lines of: ‘we once held a couple of meetings a few years ago but no-one turned up’; ‘we think it might cost a lot’; and ‘you live in the Deepings so what’s it got to do with you?’ (I’m paraphrasing!)

The conclusion of the debate was the passing of wrecking amendment put forward by Coun Ray Wootten (Con)  to say the Council would have hold a review only if they were legally obliged to or if SKDC ceased to exist. So, the Tories were able to say they were not against a Town Council in principle but would only vote for it in specific circumstances (and those circumstances would be if they had no other choice).


Coun Ray Wootten (Con) and his wife Coun Linda Wootten (Con) pictured in 2016 with mayor’s hat, chain and ermine but no Town Council to preside over.

I’m pleased to read that this week’s Grantham Journal proves at least one resident supports the idea of replacing the Charter Trustees with a proper town council by publishing the following letter from Ann Wright: Continue reading

Gravitas – Is something LACC-ing?

Gravitas Housing Ltd is a company established and wholly owned by South Kesteven District Council.Wherry

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