The 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.