Should Spalding have a council?

As the Civic Society, in their latest newsletter, is seeking to resurrect the debate around the creation of a town council for Spalding, I thought it might be worth republishing a previous entry on the subject, from nearly 2 years ago, that was itself a repeat of an even earlier one.  As they say, there’s nothing new in this world.  

Although the financials are somewhat out of date, page 127, of the agenda supplement that will be put before full council of 26th Feb 2014, gives the up to date numbers and hopefully can be viewed here as a PDF document:   http://democracy.sholland.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=119&MId=1351&Ver=4

In order to help with the conversation that is currently taking place via Twitter, I’ve been asked to offer more detailed comment via my blog page.  Never being one to turn down the opportunity to offer words of (dubious some would say) wisdom, I am starting off by republishing an entry I made in January 2008.

Spalding Special Expenses – Here we go again!

We had a special meeting of the cabinet today, mainly to approve various financial papers.  One of these was a consultation document on the Draft General Fund Revenue (GF) account.  Just like all things financial in local government, including the names they call things (GF!) the information (sorry data, information suggests useful data that makes sense!) is pretty impenetrable, unless you happen to be an accountant.  In my case, having the numeracy skills of a flip flop doesn’t help, so I’m normally the one asking the stupid questions.  Anyway, one of the items in the document was the Spalding Special Expenses and this is the prompt for my latest ramblings.

Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council, but it does have the equivalent of a parish precept called Spalding Special Expenses (SSE).  This amount makes up a very small part of a Spalding resident’s council tax bill, but actually generates a great deal of debate at this time of year.  The proposed increase this year is about 4.17% or 1.6p a week, making the average total SSE this year £21.49.  Chicken feed most people would say, but even a small amount collected from a lot of people adds up to quite a bit of money (approx £183,000).   However, the underlying issue is how this figure is arrived at, who decides it and what it should be spent on.

The final decision rests with the district council, because Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council and this is where the debate really gets going.  We have a Spalding Town Forum made up of elected members and some local organisation representatives.  However, it has no executive powers and can only make recommendations to the district council, which can of course choose to ignore them.

Should Spalding have a parish/town council?  I joined the district council in May 99 believing that Spalding should indeed have its own council, after all, how could so many people, 22,000+ then, be so under-represented compared to all of out smaller towns and villages?  However, now that I’ve doing this for a while, I’m less sure of the merits of this, especially when it comes to unravelling the finances, setting it up and paying the admin costs.  A major cost would be employing a clerk in the same way parishes do.  How much? £10k, £15k, £20k, who knows until it actually happens?  Finding a place to call home (an office) could cost anything from £2k to £10k.

What will the people of Spalding get for their money if they had a town council?  Apart from direct control over some very limited areas of council business, maintenance of Spalding Cemetery, Monks house Lane, Hailey Stewart and the provision of Christmas decorations to name a few, not a great deal as it stands!  However, once you have a parish or town council, theoretically the sky’s the limit (that’s a scary thought in itself).  

So, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still very much out on this issue and given the lack of feedback from the public of Spalding, I think it’s going to remain out for some time to come! 

If you want to know more about the issue of creating a parish/town council see: http://www.nalc.gov.uk/About_NALC/What_is_a_parish_or_town_council/What_is_a_council.aspx

Spalding Special Expenses Account –  Published for consultation purposes

  

 

Original 2007/08

  

Draft 2008/09

  

  

  

 

Budget

  

Budget

  

Variance

 

 

£

 

£

 

£

SpaldingCemetery  (see note 1)

 

45,280

 

47,170

 

1,890

Spalding Allotments

 

9,720

 

11,600

 

1,880

   Ayscoughfee (excluding gardens)

 

6,470

 

7,240

 

770

   Halley Stewart (see note 1)

 

31,150

 

41,330

 

10,180

  Thames Road(see note 2)

 

11,990

 

8,430

 

(3,560)

  Fulney Road

 

9,120

 

9,550

 

430

  Monkshouse Lane(see note 3)

 

21,260

 

26,010

 

4,760

Contribution to Voluntary Car Scheme

 

7,700

 

8,000

 

300

Christmas Decorations

 

16,260

 

17,400

 

1,140

Contrib. StMary & StNicolasParishChurch

 

650

 

680

 

30

Contribution to footway lighting (note 4)

 

2,030

 

0

 

(2,030)

Administrative Support

 

3,630

 

3,740

 

110

Bus Shelter maintenance

 

410

 

410

 

0

Spalding Town Centre Promotion (see note 5)

 

4,000

 

2,000

 

(2,000)

Crime prevention (see note 6)

 

2,000

 

0

 

(2,000)

Total Expenditure

  

171,660

  

183,560

  

11,900

Funding

To be funded from Council Tax

 

171,660

 

183,560

 

  

Tax Base

 

8,320

 

8,540

 

  

Band D equivalent

 

20.63

 

21.49

 

  

Council Tax Increase                                                 

 

3.06%

 

4.17%

 

 

  

Balance Brought Forward

 

 

 

2007/08

 

2008/09

 

 

 

 

(36,000)

 

(36,000)

Earmarked for crime prevention

 

 

 

 

 

12,880

Agreed minimum balance 5% expenditure for contingency

 

 

 

8,580

 

9,180

Available Balance

 

 

 

(27,420)

 

 (13,940)

Notes

1. Tree works for Halley Stewart and the Cemetery have been estimated at £3,000 and £8,000 respectively.

2.  A spiking machine for the grounds (£6,000) has been added to Halley Stewart Playing Field.

3.  Maintenance of the Pavilion at Monks House and Legionella testing (£3,900) has been added  to the playing field budget.

4. The budget provision for footway lighting has been removed, since no new lights are currently being planned.

5. The Town Centre promotion budget has been reduced to £2,000, so that the spiking machine can be funded this year and council tax increases maintained.

6. The Crime Prevention budget has been reduced to nil for 2008/09 and balances will be used, should the Herring Lane Car park income not be sufficient to pay for the maintenance of CCTV.  In prior years this budget has not been called upon.

Advertisements

Look at all the stuff you can do online with SHDC

Just go to: http://www.sholland.gov.uk/doitonline/

Abandoned Vehicles Report an abandoned vehicle.
More information: Abandoned Vehicles – Information
 
Animal Fouling Report dog fouling.
More information: Dog Fouling | Dog Warden Service
 
Dead Animal Notification Notify us of a dead animal on the highway or publicly owned land.
More information:: Dead Animal Notification – Information
 
Flytipping Report flytipping.
More information: Flytipping – Information
 
Footway Lighting Report a fault with a footway light. Street lighting faults should be reported to Lincolnshire County Council.
More information: Street Lighting
 
Graffiti Report an instance of graffiti.
More information: Graffiti – Information
 
Street Cleaning Report a road that is in need of sweeping due to accumulation of leaves, litter, etc.
More information: Street Cleaning – Information
 
Litter Bin – Report Report an issue regarding a street litter bin (e.g. if a bin has been damaged or needs emptying).
More information: Street Litter Bins
 
Litter Bin – Request Request a litter bin for your street.
More information: Street Litter Bins
 
Benefits and Couuncil Tax Support
Housing Benefits Calculator and Claim form Fill out this form to see whether you may be entitled to Housing Benefit and to submit a claim if you wish. You can also use this on-line calculator and application form to apply for Council Tax Support (if applicable)
More information: Claiming Housing Benefit
 
Local Housing Allowance Calculator Calculate the possible amount of Housing Benefit available.
More information: Housing Benefit – Local Housing Allowance
 
Council Tax Support Calculator Use this calculator to see what your new entitlement might be under the Council Tax Support Scheme. Please note this Calculation should be used as a guide only.  
Refuse & Recycling
My Collections Find out your recycling and refuse collections days.
More information: Refuse and Recycling Collections
 
Missed Recycling Collection Report a missed recycling collection.
More information: Missed Recycling Information
 
Missed Refuse Collection Report a missed refuse collection.
More information: Missed Refuse Information
 
Business
Business Inspection Request Request a business inspection.
More information: Food business – food safety inspection |Health and Safety at work
 
Industrial Unit Enquiry Express an interest in one of our industrial units.
More information: Commercial Property Lettings Advice and Allocation
 
Tenancy
Communal Repairs Report a problem on your estate or in your block.
More information: Services and communal areas
 
Leisure Event Bookings
Exhibition Booking at Ayscoughfee Book an exhibition at the Geest Gallery, Ayscoughfee Hall Museum.
More information: Ayscoughfee Hall Museum – Geest Gallery
 
Football Pitch Bookings Make a provisional football pitch booking.
Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field
Castle Playing Field
Monks House Lane
Fishpond Lane
 
Open Space Event Bookings Check availability and provide details of your proposed event.
Spalding Town Centre
Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field
Ayscoughfee Gardens
Castle Playing Field
 
Wedding at Ayscoughfee Check availability and provide details of your proposed event.
More information: Ayscoughfee Hall and Gardens – Wedding
 
Environmental
Dangerous Structures Notification Notify us of what appear to be potentially dangerous buildings, structures, or parts of a building.
More information: Dangerous Structures Notification – Information | Open and Derelict Properties
 
Markets – Cleaning Report an issue regarding market cleaning.
More information: Markets – Cleaning – Information
 
Noise Pollution Report an issue with Noise Pollution.
More information: Noise Pollution Information
 
Public Conveniences Report an issue regarding a public toilet.
More information: Public Conveniences – Information
 
Stray Dogs Report a stray dog.
More information: Stray Dogs – Information | Dog Warden Service
 
Parking
Parking Fine Appeal Appeal against a parking fine.
More information: Excess Charge Dispute
 
Parking Season Ticket Apply to go on the waiting list for a quarterly parking season ticket.
More information: Car Park Season Tickets
 
Miscellaneous
Consultation Sign Up We welcome all feedback so if you would be interested in receiving surveys or taking part in any form of consultation on Council matters, then please complete the form opposite.  
eAlerts Sign up for email alerts about job vacancies.  
E-billing Interest Register your interest in the forthcoming council tax/business rates e-billing service.  
My Lincolnshire What is My Lincolnshire?  

 

20 mph speed limit needed on our residential streets

Living Streets is a national charity that campaigns to make our streets and roads safer places for us all to use. Their strap line is, ‘putting people first’ and they have just launched a national campaign to encourage more councils to introduce a 20 mph limit in residential areas.

This is something I have been trying to get the county council to consider for sometime now and the more public support there is, the more likely it is LCC will give it some serious thought. If you would like to make the streets safer for our children, please go to the Living Streets website and take part in their ‘Show You Love 20mph’ campaign.

There would also be a further benefit to making the 20mph speed limit legally enforceable in Lincolnshire. Many of our schools have what is currently only an advisory 20mph speed limit on the street outside of them. This advisory status means that even when a driver is spotted exceeding it, the most they will currently get from the police is a ticking off and advice on being a more responsible and considerate driver.

And we thought Steppinstone Bridge was bad!

Rail bridge lights out for five years and counting

A pedestrians’ foot bridge has been left without lights for five years because repairs have been delayed for safety reasons. Hampshire County Council said it was waiting for permission from Network Rail to carry out the repairs.

Telegraph p16

Gore Lane Fly Tipping

Today’s press contains, yet again, a story about Gore Lane and the ongoing fly tipping problem there.  Although I gave the reporter a fairly comprehensive comment, repeated below, this was abridged for the press item.  

This is a long-term problem area, that is caused by a couple of issues.  The main area of fly tipping has been identified as the collection point for the refuse and recycling generated by adjacent properties.  This is not an ideal situation, but it does address the previous situation, whereby residents were dumping their full refuse bags onto the public footpath, despite many attempts to stop this anti-social practice.
Unfortunately, the creation of a collection point has not reduced the selfish practice of bags being disposed of in to the collection point when they are full, instead of only on the scheduled collection day.  This in turn has encouraged people to fly tip into the collection area.  Put simply, rubbish, attracts rubbish.
The problem of fly tipping is not just restricted to Spalding, or indeed South Holland.  In order to address it effectively, through the use of the law, we need to catch the offenders red-handed.  The very limited resources of the district council means that we need the help of the public to deal with these criminals.  I would therefore ask for the public’s help in identifying these ‘environmental terrorists’.  Without putting themselves at risk, we would ask anybody seeing suspicious activity, to make a note of what is being dumped, the type of vehicle being used, including its number plate if at all possible and a description of the people involved.  This information should be passed on to both the police and the district council.
Finally, the council is also looking at the responsibilities of landlords for the behaviour of their tenants and will be seeking to make them take a more proactive approach to this issue.

My final paragraph could, potentially, of given the reporter a stick with which to beat the council, as the area in question may well belong to SHDC.  That said, if it does, it also gives me a better chance of sorting the problem out as, in the worst case scenario, I will be pushing to have the car park closed, thereby limiting access to the dump site by any vehicles.

This rubbish doesn’t get there on its own and, in the case of a mattress, is unlikely to be carried through the streets by somebody without being noticed.  I have asked for the public’s help in fighting this crime because, without it, we are likely to be fighting a loosing battle.

Could a town council be fit for purpose AND affordable?

Some very pertinent comments and observations on the subject of a town council for Spalding, but there is a need to always keep in mind the cost of this. Are the people of Spalding prepared to see the charge of £23, currently identified as the Spalding Special Expenses, double, just for the pleasure of saying, ‘we have a town council’?

I say double, because even though the SSE stands at £209,000 and doubling it would take it to £418,000, which seems excessive, one has to use a worse case scenario, in order not to get a very nasty shock once any town council is established. I would anticipate the need to employ at least three full time staff for a town the size of Spalding. Given that one of our towns has just employed a new parish clerk at a cost of some £27k, to which they will need to add 20% at least, to cover employment costs, it doesn’t take much to see that the numbers roll up very quickly.

I also have a suspicion that, once any town council was in place, SHDC non-Spalding members would soon start to identified items of Spalding based expenditure, that they felt should be on the town council’s books and not on South Holland District Council’s.

Don’t get me wrong, when I first joined the district council, I was amazed to find that Spalding was unparished and that the district council controlled everything via the SSE. As I was in the privileged position of being the chairman of the newly resurrected STF, I did ask for the possibility of a town council to be explored. Even back then, a figure of £40k had been spoken of previously. This on a SSE, at the time, of approximately £85k. This figure was however questioned by some members, who believed that SHDC had manufactured that number as a scare tactic, in order to kill off the process. This at a time when the council was controlled by independents – I’ll leave it at that.

Recently, I did look at this issue again and even wrote to several town councils in the area, asking if they could give me some idea of their running costs. Unsurprisingly, none of them wrote back – parish and town councils have a reputation for being less than transparent in such matters. One council I did look at more closely, in order to draw some parallels, was Sleaford. According to their master plan, Sleaford has a population of around 17000, approximately half that of Spalding – Sleaford Town Council has a staff of SIX and 17 elected members. I don’t know how much SHDC would wish to charge a town council for office space, but I do know that it would not be free.

Wimbledon is showing on the TV as I type this, so I could be tempted to claim game, set and match on this question, simply based on affordability. However, things are never that simple. One has to accept that the will of the people could well outweigh purely financial considerations, especially if the right question is asked of them.

Instead of looking for conventional solutions to this perceived democratic deficit and given the financial depression most taxpayers find themselves faced with, is there another way to achieve the desired outcome? The Localism Bill introduced a right to challenge, perhaps a group of local people should start looking at ways of using this as a cost effective way of addressing this issue, in part at least.

A town council for Spalding?

As request here are some intial thoughts on the question of a council for Spalding.  To start the ball rolling, I have reproduced an entry I made in January 2008.

Spalding Special Expenses – Here we go again!

We had a special meeting of the cabinet today, mainly to approve various financial papers.  One of these was a consultation document on the Draft General Fund Revenue (GF) account.  Just like all things financial in local government, including the names they call things (GF!) the information (sorry data, information suggests useful data that makes sense!) is pretty impenetrable, unless you happen to be an accountant.  In my case, having the numeracy skills of a flip flop doesn’t help, so I’m normally the one asking the stupid questions.  Anyway, one of the items in the document was the Spalding Special Expenses and this is the prompt for my latest ramblings.

Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council, but it does have the equivalent of a parish precept called Spalding Special Expenses (SSE).  This amount makes up a very small part of a Spalding resident’s council tax bill, but actually generates a great deal of debate at this time of year.  The proposed increase this year is about 4.17% or 1.6p a week, making the average total SSE this year £21.49.  Chicken feed most people would say, but even a small amount collected from a lot of people adds up to quite a bit of money (approx £183,000).   However, the underlying issue is how this figure is arrived at, who decides it and what it should be spent on.

The final decision rests with the district council, because Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council and this is where the debate really gets going.  We have a Spalding Town Forum made up of elected members and some local organisation representatives.  However, it has no executive powers and can only make recommendations to the district council, which can of course choose to ignore them.

Should Spalding have a parish/town council?  I joined the district council in May 99 believing that Spalding should indeed have its own council, after all, how could so many people, 22,000+ then, be so under-represented compared to all of out smaller towns and villages?  However, now that I’ve doing this for a while, I’m less sure of the merits of this, especially when it comes to unravelling the finances, setting it up and paying the admin costs.  A major cost would be employing a clerk in the same way parishes do.  How much? £10k, £15k, £20k, who knows until it actually happens?  Finding a place to call home (an office) could cost anything from £2k to £10k.

What will the people of Spalding get for their money if they had a town council?  Apart from direct control over some very limited areas of council business, maintenance of Spalding Cemetery, Monks house Lane, Hailey Stewart and the provision of Christmas decorations to name a few, not a great deal as it stands!  However, once you have a parish or town council, theoretically the sky’s the limit (that’s a scary thought in itself).  

So, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still very much out on this issue and given the lack of feedback from the public of Spalding, I think it’s going to remain out for some time to come! 

If you want to know more about the issue of creating a parish/town council see: http://www.nalc.gov.uk/About_NALC/What_is_a_parish_or_town_council/What_is_a_council.aspx

Spalding Special Expenses Account –  Published for consultation purposes

  

 

Original 2007/08

  

Draft 2008/09

  

  

  

 

Budget

  

Budget

  

Variance

 

 

£

 

£

 

£

SpaldingCemetery  (see note 1)

 

45,280

 

47,170

 

1,890

Spalding Allotments

 

9,720

 

11,600

 

1,880

   Ayscoughfee (excluding gardens)

 

6,470

 

7,240

 

770

   Halley Stewart (see note 1)

 

31,150

 

41,330

 

10,180

  Thames Road(see note 2)

 

11,990

 

8,430

 

(3,560)

  Fulney Road

 

9,120

 

9,550

 

430

  Monkshouse Lane(see note 3)

 

21,260

 

26,010

 

4,760

Contribution to Voluntary Car Scheme

 

7,700

 

8,000

 

300

Christmas Decorations

 

16,260

 

17,400

 

1,140

Contrib. StMary & StNicolasParishChurch

 

650

 

680

 

30

Contribution to footway lighting (note 4)

 

2,030

 

0

 

(2,030)

Administrative Support

 

3,630

 

3,740

 

110

Bus Shelter maintenance

 

410

 

410

 

0

Spalding Town Centre Promotion (see note 5)

 

4,000

 

2,000

 

(2,000)

Crime prevention (see note 6)

 

2,000

 

0

 

(2,000)

Total Expenditure

  

171,660

  

183,560

  

11,900

Funding

To be funded from Council Tax

 

171,660

 

183,560

 

  

Tax Base

 

8,320

 

8,540

 

  

Band D equivalent

 

20.63

 

21.49

 

  

Council Tax Increase                                                 

 

3.06%

 

4.17%

 

 

  

Balance Brought Forward

 

 

 

2007/08

 

2008/09

 

 

 

 

(36,000)

 

(36,000)

Earmarked for crime prevention

 

 

 

 

 

12,880

Agreed minimum balance 5% expenditure for contingency

 

 

 

8,580

 

9,180

Available Balance

 

 

 

(27,420)

 

 (13,940)

Notes

1. Tree works for Halley Stewart and the Cemetery have been estimated at £3,000 and £8,000 respectively.

2.  A spiking machine for the grounds (£6,000) has been added to Halley Stewart Playing Field.

3.  Maintenance of the Pavilion at Monks House and Legionella testing (£3,900) has been added  to the playing field budget.

4. The budget provision for footway lighting has been removed, since no new lights are currently being planned.

5. The Town Centre promotion budget has been reduced to £2,000, so that the spiking machine can be funded this year and council tax increases maintained.

6. The Crime Prevention budget has been reduced to nil for 2008/09 and balances will be used, should the Herring Lane Car park income not be sufficient to pay for the maintenance of CCTV.  In prior years this budget has not been called upon.