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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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.

Recycling rates under threat

Although we in South Holland are currently enjoying some success in our campaign to increase recycling, the article below highlights the challenges yet to come.
Just some of the emerging issues for us, will be the end of the external funding pot we succeeded in gaining a couple of years ago. Added to this, Lincolnshire County Council, in their wisdom and for no other reason than to save money for themselves and grab the available materials revenue, are in the process of taking control of our recycling. We will have to continue to collect the recycling, but the council will not receive any recycling credits from the county council, with the county also receiving the £10 a ton we currently get.
As is usual with everything the county council does, it hadn’t thought through the details and have now had to come up with an incentive scheme for those districts they have ‘stolen’ recycling collections from. Without such a scheme, why would we bother to continue to put any effort into increasing our recycling collection rate?
Further pressure is also being applied by the recycling industry, under the cloak of an environmental pressure group. Supposedly committed to ‘saving the planet’ by increasing recycling rates, the group is actually funded by the recycling industry, so have more of a financial imperative than an environmental one. I believe that, despite loosing a high court case, they are still trying to ‘force’ councils into collecting recycling in separate streams, as opposed to a single container, as we do in South Holland.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
Recycling could fall for first time this century
8 December, 2014 | By Corin Williams

Local authority budget cuts and new recycling standards could lead to a reduction in England’s recycling rates for the first time this century.

With a tiny 0.05 percentage point increase in English local authority household recycling between 2012 and 2013, to 44.16%, it is now considered highly unlikely that the UK will meet the target set by the EU that 50% of waste will be recycled by 2020.

The Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) said there was a “real risk” that recycling rates would decline over the next 12 months.

Chief executive Steve Lee said: “We have seen a lot of welcome emphasis recently on recycling quality. Now the government must put quantity back at the top of the priority list.”

A new code of practice aims to boost the quality of waste materials sent for recycling. One consequence of this could be that waste management companies increase the quality threshold for material they receive from local authorities – thereby reducing the recycling rate.

Steve Rymill, a waste management consultant at the environment and energy firm Ricardo-AEA, told LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World that councils’ environmental and regulatory service budgets had fallen by 16% between 2010-11 and 2013-14.

“Authorities have been evaluating what their statutory service requirements are and this has meant that a number of areas, such as communications and food waste collections, have been subject to significant cuts,” he said.

The budget just isn’t there to fund the much-needed communications campaigns required to further improve recycling performance.

“The authorities that have seen big increases in their recycling rate are where they have generally coincided with a service change – something which requires positive communications messages to residents.”

Mr Rymil said it was a particular concern that some councils had actually seen a decline in rates, which was partly blamed on street sweeping being reclassified and garden waste services being retracted.

“We’d expect this to continue next year, as more authorities are considering paring back their service, where permissible.”

Phil Conran, director at consultancy 360 environmental, told MRW some councils with high rates were seeing a significant proportion rejected with contractors complaining the material was not good enough to recycle.

High recycling rates achieved at the expense of quality are generally not sustainable,” he said.

“Some [recycling plants] might prevent local authorities from delivering [mixed]materials with glass in it, because of quality issues and because of the potential impact of the code of practice. If they revert to bottle banks to collect glass rather than as part of the mix, that would potentially depress recycling rates.

“I think there is every possibility that the rates will decline.”

Mr Conran added that many questions remained over why some English councils achieved high rates when others floundered. “The UK clearly can achieve [the EU target of] 50%. It’s just a matter of bringing everyone up to best practice,” he said.

Meanwhile, the latest statistics on waste and recycling in Wales indicate the country is on track to meet its 2015-16 statutory target, the Welsh environment ministry has said, with one council recycling more than 70% of its waste.

Between April and June, Welsh local authorities recycled, reused or composted 58% of municipal waste, an all-time high.

This is in line with a 58% target for 2015-16.

“Wales is the only UK nation to set statutory recycling targets and we are leading the way in the UK,” said natural resources minister Carl Sargeant. “Welsh local authorities are already meeting the European target of recycling a minimum of 50% by 2020.”

Most Welsh councils reported a quarter-on-quarter increase in the period and recycled over half of the waste they collected, except for Rhondda Cynon Taf, which slipped six percentage points to 47%.

The best performer was Denbighshire, which topped the table with a municipal waste reuse, recycling and composting rate of 71%, followed by Pembrokeshire at 69%, Monmouthshire at 66% and Bridgend at 64%.

There’ll be no enlightenment from this Dark(ness)

litter chase not text

‘An officer of the district council, should follow somebody they see carrying a drinks can and when they drop it, they should give them an on the spot fine’. Cllr Graham Dark at a full council meeting.

According to this weeks edition of  Spalding Voice Graham Dark wishes to enlighten people on the subject of litter.

Using the letters page, this independent councillor and dedicated navel gazer,  has decided to get an early start to his 2015 re-election campaign.  He does this with a very brief offering of praise for the litter picking efforts of a young Conservatives group, all with Sandra and Tony White, dedicated and tenacious Spalding residents.

However, the real purpose of his politically motivated letter, is to attack the council’s Conservative group and in particular myself, as the cabinet member for waste and recycling.

Councillor Dark appears to be obsessed with use of tickets and fines, obviously a left over from his days as a police officer.  Unfortunately, his time as a cop hasn’t given him any understanding of the difference between having a robust policy and actually having sufficient resources to apply it regularly – certainly not to the extent he desires.  In fact, this desire is so compelling, he seems willing to see other council services suffer, in order to satisfy it.

Cllr Dark, having seen his previous obsession, a bandstand in Ayscoughfee Gardens gain financial support via Springfield’s s106 monies, has now turned his myopic gaze towards litter and the catching of those who drop it.  His repeated references to one thing in particular, enforcement, is becoming a little tedious.

I accept that, some years ago, an undertaking was made to empower certain council officers, to serve fixed penalty notices on littering offenders.  In practice, this was never a realistic option, given that few, if any, of our officers were ever in a position to witness, let alone act, when such offences occurred.  I am of course assuming that cllr Dark wasn’t expecting these officers to do this enforcement in their lunch breaks, but one can never be sure, when it comes to a member of the Independent group, as they seldom allow reality to get in the way of a bright idea.

I may of course be wrong on this last point because, if memory serves, at a recent full council meeting, he made the quite extraordinary suggestion, that potential litter droppers should be ‘stalked’ by suitably empowered council officers.

Graham Dark considers it acceptable for a professional Housing, Planning, or Environmental Health officers, to wander the streets of Spalding, looking out for anybody with a drinks can in hand.  The officer would then follow that person, keeping a careful watch on them and this potentially source of litter.  Should that person discard their can improperly, the officer would pounce on them, book of fixed penalty notices in hand, no doubt crying, ‘your nicked’, or something similar.  How far and for how long this stalking had to take place is unclear.  Suffice it to say, this procedure will not be written in to the council’s robust littering policy, anytime soon.

Incidentally, Graham Dark and his partner in crime Roger Perkins, are both members of a committee that has the role of scrutinising the council’s performance.  Despite this, at no time in their ‘years’ of allegedly banging on about it, have they bothered to get the issue of litter enforcement placed on the agenda of that committee, so that the council’s so called, ‘abysmal performance’ can be properly scrutinised.  I wonder if Graham Dark would care to enlighten me on the reason for this?

Littering is a serious problem and  a blight on our towns and villages. With its larger population and busier streets, Spalding suffers the most problems and presents the greatest challenges.

Finally, can I enlighten you as to what the future might hold.   There has been a major reduction in local government funding, due to the previous Labour government’s mismanagement of the economy.  As such, I cannot promise to commit any more resources to this problem, than those currently available.  We are however, doing our best to encourage and support the sort of community involvement and pride displayed by Jack McLean, young Conservatives, and Sandra and Tony White.  If you would like to offer your help, please do get in touch.