Porter about to bow out of LGA? But his one liners will live on it seems

Local Government Chronicle online
Friday 06 May 2016
LGC briefing: Local elections analysed
Commentary on the local election results

Political earthquake of the day: Breaking: Porter predicts Tories have lost control of LGA

Under chaos theory a hurricane can ensue in China as a result of something as minor and apparently unrelated as a butterfly flapping its wings over New Mexico.

On a similar principle, something as insignificant as a set of local elections in which virtually no seats changed control is on the cusp of causing a political earthquake in Westminster.

The political earthquake takes the form of a change in power at the Local Government Association but the butterfly may be composed of slightly more than a set of only moderately compelling electoral contests. As will be explained below, political skulduggery lurked behind its local democracy wings.

To understand this chaos we need to cast our minds back a year when the results of the local elections left the LGA on a political knife-edge. The Conservative group came out slightly above Labour after all of the calculations were undertaken to determine which party was in the ascendancy.

Within the past 24 hours it seemed likely the Tories would retain LGA control. Few people believed Jeremy Corbyn’s prediction that he would gain seats and the first results last night showed the Conservatives doing better than Labour. All seemed set for another year of Gary Porter leading the LGA.

Cllr Porter – a rare politician, noticeable for his plain speaking – has won plaudits for his honesty and, should his term of office come to an end, he may well leave us with as many memorable quotes as his predecessors managed since the LGA came into being. This is no disrespect to the LGA’s former chairs, more a compliment to Cllr Porter’s outspokenness. His putting the District Councils Network “on the naughty step” for arguing its members should retain their current portion of business rates will live long in the memory.

Cllr Porter’s demise has not been caused by the electorate turning against the Tories – the parties have at the time of writing lost an almost identical (but fairly negligible) number of seats – but the arithmetic turning against them.

The earthquake has been the result of Sheffield City Council unexpectedly deciding to re-join the LGA, just before the deadline to do so last night. With the LGA’s power balance determined by the number of councillors each party holds and the population they serve, the readmission of a city with a population in excess of half a million people could be crucial.

Sheffield had previously been one of a small number of councils, including Barnet, Wandsworth and Bromley LBCs, which decided against LGA membership. Its decision to re-join the association shortly before a final deadline of 10pm seemed to catch most off guard.

The complex calculations that determine who wins LGA control have yet to be determined but Cllr Porter thought Sheffield would be the deciding factor. He told LGC’s David Paine: “I will be surprised if the LGA is still Conservative controlled by the time the final count is done.”

He may also consider it unfortunate that the remaining councils which are not LGA members are Conservative strongholds. None of the three Tory-dominated London boroughs had the political cunning – or the financial commitment – to opt to pay to join the LGA at the last minute. Even if they decide to join today, their membership will not be considered in the calculations until after next year’s election.

In the past 24 hours, announcements that have been timed to coincide with the polls have proved more significant than the polls themselves.

Of the 124 councils with elections, just four have so far changed political control.

But we have seen a new frontrunner emerge in the race to be Greater Manchester’s elected mayor in the form of Andy Burnham. The shadow home secretary let it be known that he was considering swapping national politics for local politics at 10pm, as the polls were closing.

While his move is being analysed by the national media for indicating frontbench despair with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, it also signifies a sea change: suddenly local politics offer prominent politicians an alternative career path to Westminster.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, it emerged that the government is to U-turn on its plan to force all schools to become academies. Many councils feared the move would result in them being unable to meet their duty to ensure all children had a school place.

This is one set of elections in which the burying of bad news (Mr Burnham’s possible departure from the frontbench is clearly bad for Mr Corbyn and the announcement had to be timed to minimise the damage) and political opportunism has triumphed over the ballot box.

Should Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes emerge as the new Labour LGA chair he will be hoping that Barnet, Bromley or Wandsworth do not attempt the same trick as Sheffield in a year’s time.

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Gary Porter to seek top job at Local Government Association

Copied from Local Government  Chronicle online

Porter expresses interest in LGA chair role 

19 May, 2015 | By David Paine

The leader of the Conservative group on the Local Government Association Gary Porter has confirmed his intention to apply for the role of chair.
Cllr Porter, who has to stand down as group leader this summer due to party rules, confirmed to LGC he was intending to throw his hat into the ring.
LGC reported last week that the Conservatives had regained control of the LGA after winning more than 500 seats and control of an extra 28 councils in this month’s local elections. The Tories have a majority of 0.6% and, as a result, Labour’s David Sparks is set to be replaced as the LGA’s chair.
While there is a time limit on the Conservative group leadership role, Cllr Porter said it does not prevent that person from applying for the chairmanship of the LGA should the party be in control.
Cllr Porter, who is also leader of South Holland DC, said the Tories “never expected” to win back control of the LGA this year. But now that they have he said: “It’s been usual for people to have been leader to express an interest in going for the chairmanship because it’s the only place to go to.”
Cllr Porter said he had not yet devised his manifesto but added “most people in the LGA know what I’m like…and they will either support that or they won’t.”

LGC reported yesterday how former Cheshire West & Chester Council leader Mike Jones (Con) is considering standing as chair.  Surrey CC leader and County Councils Network chair David Hodge has also been tipped as a potential chairmanship candidate but declined to comment on the matter last week when contacted by LGC.
The chairmanship of the LGA is set to be decided by the end of June

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.

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.

Comedy, irony, or just childish spite against Michael Fish?

From: j b [mailto:j.bex@hotmail.co.uk

Sent: 27 February 2015 12:44

To: Customer Services SHDC
Subject: Recycling

 

Dear sirs,

 

I thought I would bring to your attention a blatant disregard for recycling policy I came across the other day.

 

 

Any reasonable person knows it’s imperative to remove all screw tops from bottles to be recycled, however the perpetrator carried on regardless and also the person involved was ,oddly, happy to pose for a photo almost proud to be flying in the face of council policy.

 

I’ve attached a photo of said perpetrator ( who could possibly be a relation of tv weatherman Michael Fish) and trust you will investigate this matter with all means at your disposal.

 

Kind Regards

 

Concerned recycler.

 

View album

This album has 1 photo and will be available on SkyDrive until 28/05/2015.

 

As forecast, first public comment was a negative

Spalding Common

Spalding Common

I had a bet with the blokes putting up the first one, about what the tone of the first public comment would be, regarding the new Welcome to Spalding signs. Being a fully paid up member of the cynical B’s club, I bet on it being critical, negative and tinged with an element of spite – and I was right! Pay up guys.
I suppose we should be thankful that at least somebody has not only noticed them, but has taken the time to put pen to paper, given the lack of interest displayed by many when it comes to local issues – apart from planning applications that is.
The writer of today’s letter in the Spalding Guardian, is a regular contributor to the page.  He obviously missed the postage stamp sized story on these signs, the first time around, or I would have expected to see his critical appraisal published back then.
No, the signs are not made of Perspex (a trade name for acrylic) Mr Sadd, they are aluminium, with the image printed on – durable vinyl material, designed for this use.
The signs are as temporary as you want them to be Rodney. If you can find the several thousands of pounds, probably as much as £10,000 would be my guess, to commission, design, manufacture and install something similar to the wooden signs that Spalding once had, I’m sure we would all be very pleased to see these signs replaced.
My guess is, that there isn’t anybody out there already writing the cheque for this work and that these signs will remain in place for at least as long as the embarrassing ‘lollipops’ that they replaced – come on prove me wrong for once, I dare you. That’s not an invitation to go and nick them by the way.

Wygate Park intentional(?) blind spot identified

1. Approaching the build out obviously sweeps left, out of sight, requiring drivers to slow down because they are unable to see if it’s clear to drive around the build out.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

In these two final shots, you can see the road beginning to open up more, as I arrive at the exact location of the give way line on the road.  Clearly, if the driver is to proceed safely, they will need to be going slow enough at this point to make a decision as to whether or not to stop on the line.
Image