Timely and welcome support from my fellow ward member

This is the text of a letter submitted by my fellow ward member, councillor Christine Lawton, to our local press.

“I am pleased that something amuses Mr Cronin, although I did not find his unhelpful attitude at the steering group which looked at the possibilities of building a community centre for Wygate at all funny. On the question of delay perhaps he should consider “motes and beams”.   

As to his central question “Why are the residents being restricted to a building?”, the simple answer is that the 106 money from developer was for a community building.  Like my predecessor (before your time Mr Cronin) I too am a simple soul – I believe that a facility which could accommodate such excellent groups as cubs, WI, dancing classes for children, a meeting place for the retired would be in principle a fine idea.  That is why the Wygate community is being surveyed  (by an independent charity) to ascertain the wishes and desires of the local residents.  That sounds pretty democratic to me!

I value team-work and loyalty and wish to associate myself with the efforts of Cllr Gambba-Jones and others in this attempt to discover the appetite for a centre for Wygate residents.  Let the people decide – it works for me.”

I’ve taken the liberty of adding the link to Wikipedia for those, like myself, who are unfamiliar with the parable, or just read the panel below.  I couldn’t have said it better myself – no actually, my education doesn’t stretch that far, so I couldn’t have said it at all; thank heavens for Christine!

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South Holland to benefit from working with the big boys?

Clearly, the landscape for local government will continue to be very uncertain, no matter what combination of political parties make up the next government.  Much as I would hope to see certainty and a Conservative majority returned, the British public seem so confused by what’s being offered to them and have such a short memory when it comes to the damage done by Labour whilst in power, that anything could happen.

It’s worth remembering that Labour didn’t just drain the national bank account dry and borrow billions of pounds on our behalf,  they also spent their time in office, unravelling much of what we consider to be the British way of life.  As well as liberalising the gambling industry, that now sees us suffer non-stop bingo, casino and betting adverts on the television, it was Labour that liberalised the licensing laws, leading to the town centre, drink sodden no- go areas, our police have to combat every weekend.

Labour also failed to take up the option of limiting access to the UK, from countries joining the EU, claiming that only 20,000 would come, when in fact 1 million did, and then dismantled our boarder controls, because they would now no longer be needed.  There’s a whole swath of badly drafted, back of a fag-packet policy, dreamt up by Tony Blair and his sofa cabinet, that we are still suffering the consequences of, yet some 30%+ of the British public remain willing to forgive and forget.  Come on Labour supporters, even if you can’t bring yourselves to vote Conservative, don’t let Labour and the two Eds back in so that can screw things up all over again, vote LibDem, or the Greens, they’re both pretty harmless in small numbers.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online.

Proposal for Peterborough based combined authority 22 April, 2015 | By Mark Smulia

 The leader of the Local Government Association’s Conservative group is backing a proposed combined authority that could stretch across four counties and two unitaries.  Gary Porter is also leader of South Holland DC where the local Conservative party election manifesto said the council would work with “new partners from Peterborough, Cambridge, Leicestershire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire to create a combined authority”.
This would seek to improve local transport, increase economic development and drive regeneration, the proposal added.  Cllr Porter told LGC: “It would not cover all the counties mentioned just the economic area with Peterborough at its centre.  “We’ve had talks among leaders and chief executives are working on ideas to go to a roundtable discussion after the elections, but I can’t say now who would be in and out.”
A South Holland council report last month said that councils potentially interested in a combined authority were Fenland DC, Peterborough City Council, Kings Lynn & West Norfolk BC, Rutland CC and South Kesteven DC and that Boston BC formed part of a ‘functioning economic area’.  Peterborough leader Marco Cereste (Con) told LGC the idea was “most definitely something we’re exploring”.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has previously mooted a ‘Greater Cambridgeshire’ combined authority including Peterborough and Cambridgeshire CC. The two authorities are currently piloting a scheme allowing them to retain 100% of business rates growth.  Cllr Cereste said he did not see “any conflict between what Gary and I are doing and our work with Cambridgeshire”.  “If that works it could be extended across any new structure that is created,” he added.  “No matter who wins the election local authorities are going to have to look at new things as times will still be difficult.”
But Boston leader Peter Bedford (Con) said: “Boston hopes to end up in whatever arrangement the [Lincolnshire] county council does.”  Asked about the idea promoted by South Holland, he said: “That is Gary’s thinking, but ours is to be with Lincolnshire. We’re 35 miles from Lincoln and from Peterborough and we are a rural area.”
South Holland’s initiative is a further attempt to solve the vexed question of how to create combined authorities in East Anglia.  The council voted last month to join the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership in addition to its membership of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP.

Kings Lynn & West Norfolk leader Nick Daubeny (Con) last week said he’d spoken “in general terms” to Norfolk councils, Peterborough and Fenland about the combined authority idea, while South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller (Con) predicted councils would “cluster round Norwich, Ipswich, Peterborough and Cambridge”.

Cambridgeshire CC leader Steve Count said: “There are a lot of different ideas around at the moment and its right everyone puts theirs forward and see where we get to.”  Rutland leader Roger Begy (Con) said: “The council like many others is considering a number of possible options.”

Top Tory leaders admit doubts over right-to-buy extension

For all those people who think we dance to the Party’s tune on every issue, below is an article that tells a different story.

I echo Gary’s concerns and fear that the ordinary working class people, that the cities depend on to run it’s services and pander to the needs of the rich and powerful who can afford to buy a home, no matter the price, will soon be banished to locations, not even classed as the suburbs, by this sort of policy.  London will undoubtedly lead the way, with social housing within the M25, often falling foul of the ‘most expensive on the books’ category.

Without stringent controls on these proposed sales, such as a profit claw-back clause, if the house is sold into the private sector with a certain number of years, or changes to the capital gains taxation rules, the only social housing available, will be on remote sink estates, in the back of beyond and populated by people that have no other choice available to them.  Underlying all of this, is the implausible suggestion that the sales will fund their replacement with modern, cheaper housing.  The numbers don’t add up, especially as the proposal is for the government to manage the redistribution.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online article of 21 April, 2015 

By David Paine

 Two senior Conservative politicians have expressed doubts about their party’s proposal to extend the right-to-buy, as it emerged housing minister Kris Hopkins had previously warned the policy could mean a huge cost to the public purse.  The Conservative manifesto, published last week, said the party would force councils to sell off their most valuable homes to pay for a new right-to-buy for housing association tenants.
However, the proposal was met with widespread opposition with the National Housing Federation claiming it would make it more difficult for housing associations to borrow to build more homes. These concerns appeared to be shared by Mr Hopkins in a letter he sent to Tessa Munt, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wells, in October 2013.
In it he said if housing associations were “obliged to consistently sell off their stock at less than market value they might find it difficult to borrow” and added that could “impact adversely” on investment in existing properties and “affect the future provision of affordable housing”.  Mr Hopkins’ letter added the government at the time did not “consider that it would be reasonable to require housing associations to sell these properties at a discount” as extending the scheme could result in “a high liability for the public purse”.
In response, Mr Hopkins said his letter showed “we would look at expanding home ownership through extending right-to-buy” and added his party’s “sensible, affordable” proposal would “ensure that housing associations are compensated”.  The maximum discount under right-to-buy on council properties is £77,900 across England, except in London boroughs where it’s £103,900.
Leader of the Local Government Association Conservative group Gary Porter told LGC he had “not fully bought in to the party’s position” while Kent CC’s leader Paul Carter told LGC he had “some empathy” with housing associations that face losing homes.  Cllr Carter said he was “a great believer in home ownership” but thought the way to “encourage more housing to be built” was to invest in infrastructure, especially transport.
Cllr Porter, leader of South Holland DC, said the right-to-buy was a “great idea and long overdue for homes that were built with public money” but added: “If they weren’t built with public money then they shouldn’t be touched, it shouldn’t apply.”  Catherine Ryder, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, told LGC legislation would almost certainly have to be amended or introduced as housing associations are currently exempt from right-to-buy due to their charitable status.
Ms Ryder said extending the right-to-buy could impact on housing associations’ ability to borrow “even if the discounts are funded”. She said: “If you’re selling off your assets the certainty of your income is more difficult to predict so it’s going to be more difficult to borrow money to build new affordable homes.”  She also questioned how quickly high-value properties sold off by councils to fund the scheme would be replaced and where they would be built.
A recent survey by the Local Government Association, Chartered Institute of Housing, and the National Federation of ALMOs found only half or fewer of homes sold under the existing right-to-buy for council homes had been replaced.

As well as firing blanks this time, he’s also got his eyes shut!

 

Independent election candidate, had his eyes closed when he came up with this.

Independent election candidate, had his eyes closed when he came up with this.

Below is the text of a letter I have sent to The Lincs Freepress / Spalding Guardian, in response to an extraordinary letter sent by one of my independent opponents.  You can take a look at what he’s got to say for himself here:  http://www.spaldingtoday.co.uk/news/latest-news/politics-a-community-is-built-by-giving-people-choices-1-6696891

I have to say, I couldn’t buy this sort of publicity, well I could, but the price would be a bit steep and probably break the rules on election expenses!   As mentioned in my previous post about the independents election leaflets, this candidate has a personal axe to grind with me on this issue.

Looking at the impressive list of things he’s inserted himself into within the district, he clearly feels robbed of the opportunity to add management of the Wygate Park community centre to it.  Far be it from me to suggest that he was angling for the job of centre manager, given his current employment status, but there must be more to his anger, than a simple difference of opinion with me.

 

Choice – exactly what’s on the table

In response to the letter about the community survey currently underway in Wygate Park, Spalding.  Clearly, the writer has allowed emotion to cloud his ‘view’ and has failed to read the covering flyer, or even the survey form itself.

Both of these documents refer to ‘a community facility’ not a building, although that is indeed an option.  The documents were drafted and approved by Community Lincs and South Holland District Council respectively, not by me.  As a courtesy, I was supplied with a draft copy of these documents, but I had no involvement in their drafting.  I also supplied maps of the area and lists of roads within a 10 minute walk time of the potential site for any facility.  On behalf of the highly professional officers from both organisations, I believe the writer owes them a public apology, for questioning their integrity, impartiality and professionalism.

Despite his previous profession, the writer continues to ignore the legal framework that made both the land and the financial contribution available in the first place.  A legal agreement, a section 106, was signed between South Holland DC and Allison Homes, the original developer.  Allison Homes agreed to build a community centre, on part of the public open space, adjacent to what is now the Wygate Academy School – nothing else. A new legal agreement would be needed to use the actual money for anything else; something that Kier, the new developer, can choose not to do.

The steering group was formed in the hope that the community would, either agree to seeing the proposed building managed by South Holland Community Church, for and on behalf of the community, or decide to form their own community group, to take on the task.

For various reasons, the first option is now off of the table, in part at least, because of the written hostility of the letter writer in emails he circulated.  I also believe that this aggression played a significant role in reducing the group’s membership.

The second option is still available to anybody, including the writer, wishing to take up the challenge.  The results of the community survey will become valuable evidence for any group when bidding for the additional grant funding, essential to making the project a success.

Finally, if you live in Wygate Park and are one of the 1435 households to receive a survey, please take the time to read it carefully and make up your own mind as to whether, or not a building is the only choice available.

Once you’ve seen for yourself that it isn’t – so there’s no need to spoil your ballot paper on the 7th May  – please do complete the survey and leave it outside your front door for collection on 9th May.  There are also details about how to complete the survey online.

Flyer delivered to 1435 properties by Community Lincs.

Flyer delivered to 1435 properties by Community Lincs.

Independent candidates fire blanks

bazookaThe two independents candidates, standing against myself and Christine Lawton on 7th May in the district council elections, have delivered their first election leaflets.

As always, leaflets from the opposition are essential reading, if only to understand where they are coming from campaign wise. In the case of these two, there are few if any surprises. There are however some clear misunderstandings when it comes to what can and cannot be achieved as a district councillor, but given that they are new at this, it’s understandable. I am however, not so understanding as to allow them to pass without comment, this is after all politics and there’s an election to win.

I’ll deal with their suggested policies first, before dealing with the ever present irony that is the ‘Independent Group’, to which they have attached themselves.

These are from the first ‘independent’ candidate’s leaflet.

1. A temporary cut in business rates to encourage small businesses.

Setting the business rates is not a district council function and cannot be done. The best we can do, is offer discretionary relief to a limited range of activities, such as the only pub in a village, a small village shop, or a non-profit making social club venue.

2. Waste and recycling collections to stay weekly

This has been the Conservative group’s position since it took control in 1999 and this has not changed.   Neither can it change in the near future, as we accepted grant funding from central government on the basis of retaining weekly collections for at least 5 years and we’ve no intention of giving back the £1.7m received!

3. A really good garden waste collection to serve gardeners in the town.

You wouldn’t intentionally offer a really bad garden waste collection, would you?

Only in the town, what about everybody else? What about every other town come to that?   This independent candidate is beginning to think and sound like a parish councillor already.

We are already working on a paid for green waste collection. This needs a significant outlay in capital and a more detailed survey, to identify potential users, will be carried out soon.

4. Make our environment as litter free as we can …….not just in run up to election…

Can you call a campaign that has been running for nearly 9 months, an election ploy? I think not. Had central government confirmed the local government finance settlement at the normal time and not the eleventh hour and 59th minute, as they did, we would have been able to start the South Holland Pride campaign some 12 months ago. This was the plan, but we could only find enough funding to appoint a part time enforcement officer at that time.

5. Better community policing

Yet another area over which the district council has no control. Lincolnshire Police raise their own precept via the council tax. This year that was increased by 1.9% to £197.64 SHDC’s council tax take was reduced by 0.5% to £154.84 for a band D property.

6. Better value for money when looking at provision of services….

I’d love to comment on this one, but I haven’t got a clue what its referring to!

7. More thought to planning applications, so that they benefit the town and not just the applicant…..

This is another one that’s got me guessing at to its meaning, let alone its ambition. The planning system isn’t there as a way of getting goodies, from the people who apply for planning permission, unless those ‘goodies’ are essential to making the application acceptable in planning terms.

Moving on to the second ‘independent’.

This one makes some pledges which reflect some double standards and a clear misunderstanding of what the overall role of a district councillor is.

1. I will not have any hidden agendas

My personal experience says otherwise.

2. I will work with any councillor…………..acting in the best interests of Wygate Park and Spalding!

Just because the ward is called Spalding Wygate, doesn’t mean it just covers the Wygate Park area, where this candidate happens to live.

As well as being limited to half the ward, the horizon of this independent only stretches as far as the boundaries of Spalding it seems.

As a district councillor, your role, first and foremost, is to represent the interests of all South Holland residents, not just those who voted for you, or happen to live in the ward you represent. This applies even when a decision might have a negative impact in your ward.

Some of the issues this candidate will support.

3. Pride in South Holland. My answer to this claim is the same as for the other independent and our manifesto actually contains a commitment to continue the campaign.

4. Highways – poor state of some pavements. This is a county council function. You don’t need to be a district councillor to get these fixed. Just report them on line, I do so regularly.

5. Road safety – road markings. Again, a county council function, not the district.

I submitted a defect report on these makings over 12 months ago. The answer from highways was very clear. It is not their policy to maintain any form of road markings within residential estates, when those roads only serve residents and have no other purpose, as this would not be a good use of their limited budgets. The road marking in question were put there by the developer, during initial build and were never a requirement of the detailed plans approval, or of the highways adoption process.

6. Community – Support for events…………Nothing new here, as all Spalding councillors have made financial contributions to such events.

7. Traffic – Stating the blindingly obvious here.  Again, something only the county council can rectify. Spalding Town Forum are already extremely active in pressing for a solution.

8. Planning – local services must keep pace.  Nothing offered here, other than a statement of wishful thinking. The planning system has no powers to require developers to provide funding for local services as a matter of law. Everything we achieve, outside of the planning policy requirements, is done by active negotiation and persuasion.

9. Licensing policy changes – another piece of wishful thinking, without any consideration of the reality. Like planning, the licensing system is controlled by national laws and policies, that offer the district council little leeway when it comes to resisting the granting of new licenses.

Now turning back to the various claims made about being unfettered and un-whipped independents.

The back of both very similar looking leaflets, has the same heading and the same piece of text, ‘A message from Angela Newton……..Independent Councillor and Leader of South Holland the Independent Group.’ ……………….

So, having declared themselves as intending to be, ‘Independent Councillors’ (sic) and not tied to any Political Party (sic) (they do like their capital letters don’t they!), they willingly attach themselves to somebody stating that, they are actually the leader of a group of independents. Using the word group and independent in the same sentence is an oxymoron isn’t it?

Splitting hairs, you could argue that Angela Newton is not leading a recognised political party, but it is very clearly a group involved in politics, making it, at the very least, a political group and therein lies the irony of the claims trotted out be these so called independents.

Just to add insult to injury. This non-group, group of independents, hold group meetings before full council meetings, in exactly the same way as the Conservative group do, but somehow they manage to make them last even longer than ours and there’s only twelve of them compared to 25 of us!

It must be all the effort required to be totally independent of each other, that makes their ‘group’ meetings last so long.

Without doubt, this applies equally to local government 

Public sector praised

Mark Frary in the Times looks at how the public sector is far more representative of the population than the private sector. Statistics looking at the makeup of civil service employees shows that over 50% are female, 10.1% are from an ethnic minority and 8.8% are disabled. Ruth Cooper-Dickson of inclusive recruitment consultancy Equal Approach says: “There is clear evidence that organisations which have an inclusive, diverse culture … are happier places to work, make better decisions and achieve the best results.”

The Times, Page: 2

Criticising without a shred of evidence – it’s the UKIP way

A letter published on the SpaldingToday website and probably in next Tuesday’s Freepress, is so

 breathtaking in its hypocrisy, contradiction and nonsense, I am driven to challenge it.  This is the link to it.  ‘We could have a council non-political on local issues’ – http://goo.gl/alerts/S4Wl. 

Normally, I would ignore much of what a UKIP’er has to say, because once you scratch the surface, it’s either airy-fairy wishful thinking, have little grounding in reality, or simply makes no sense – this letter is no exception. 

 Paul Foyster of UKIP, writes claiming that his party’s way is the right way and the rest of us are wrong and failing to serve the taxpayers.  He claims that having a political group running the council, somehow inhibits good decision making on behalf of those taxpayers.   However, he fails to offer a single example of any such failings.   Perhaps he’s referring to the reduction in council tax we’ve made, for the fourth year running.  Or maybe it’s our policy of collecting household refuse and recycling every week – unlike many other councils – that’s providing poor service to South Holland’s taxpayers.

Having criticised political groupings, he goes on to suggest that a group of independent people working together, can make a difference!  What is it Mr Foyster – everybody independent and doing their own thing,  or everybody working together to make a difference?  You can’t have it both ways sir!

The fact that he even refers to a group of people ‘working together to make a difference’ is comical, given UKIP’s farcical performance at Lincolnshire County Council.   One minute the UKIP ‘group’ is holding the balance of power, as the largest minority grouping, giving them them the opportunity to influence the decision making process.  Next, they’re showing their inexperience and amateurishness, by having an internal cat fight, that sees their so called ‘group’ fragment into two ineffective and virtually pointless minority groups.  So that’s the UKIP version of people working together, for the benefit of the taxpayers is it Mr Foyster?

Finally, Mr Foyster suggests that the amount of publicity being put out by the Conservatives, is an indication of our concern about the threat posed by his political group.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  We don’t panic in elections, we just work at getting our message out, something that his party seem to think they don’t need to do, based on my own experience during the county council elections.  Is this arrogance on their part, or are they just too lazy to do the work and therefore leave it to a beer swilling, chain smoker, fag packet policy maker to do their publicity for them, via the tabloid press and TV ?

My message to the voters of South Holland is a simple one.  Look at the record of UKIP in South Holland to date and how they’ve been disfunctional and virtually invisible at the county council. Now decide if you want the same outcomes for South Holland District Council over the next four years.