Lincolnshire has played host to the annual conference of the Conservative Councillors’ Association at Broughton in North Lincolnshire.
The Conservative Councillors’ Association (CCA) is made up of almost every local councillor in the UK elected as a Conservative Party Candidate. The CCA exists to provide a strong and unified voice for all Conservative councillors both within the Party and in the wider community, it supports councillors in their important role and provides them with the tools to both work effectively on behalf of local residents and to campaign successfully as Conservatives.
The CCA’s Conservative Local Government Conference is a two-day conference for councillors from across the country to come together and discuss policy ideas, network and get motivated ahead of the May elections. The Conference took place between 24th and 25th February 2017 at the Forest Pines Hotel, Ermine Street, Broughton.
The conference opened with a welcome by CCA Chairman Cllr. Rory Love who introduced an address by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, who spoke on a range of issues facing local government and suggested that a second phase of devolution deals may be able to come forward in the future.
In the afternoon the conference gave a standing ovation to welcome the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP who had arrived directly from a victory rally in Copeland following the by-election success the night before, she said:
“Copeland is a seat that Labour describe as their ‘core-vote country’, it has returned Labour MPs without exception since the 1930s, it is a seat they thought they would win this time, and where they expected to increase their majority. It is true to say that the result is a devastating blow for them and proof that Labour are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary working people.”
Turning to the local elections in May she said:
“Last year, Labour’s deputy leader warned of entryism in Labour by the far left. This year, even the Stalinists in Momentum are complaining about being infiltrated by the Trotskyites.
“But for those of us who remember what Militant did to Liverpool, it doesn’t matter what term you use – we can’t allow Labour to get a foothold back in local government and let them do for local communities what they did to our country.”
Following the address there was an open question and answer session for about fifteen minutes. After the Prime Minister’s departure there was a question and answer session with Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, Marcus Jones MP (Minister of State for Local Government) and Lord Porter of Spalding (Chairman of the Local Government Association)
Cllr. Giles McNeill, who has attended the conference for the first time, as part of a delegation from APSE, was chairing two workshops on ‘Housing the nation’, following the Local Government question and answer session. The speaker panel included Ms Mo Baines, Head of Communication and Coordination from APSE and Mr. Rob Bailey, an APSE Principle Advisor. The workshops focused on how councils can be part of the solution to delivering the homes the country needs, generating an income stream from such activity, the role of local authority housing companies and delivering new homes for sale or rent. All delegates who participated received a copy of APSE’s latest research on housing. Cllr. McNeill commented:
“Firstly, it was very pleasing that the first workshop was at capacity, which just goes to show the appetite there is amongst Conservative councillors to recognise this issue and find solutions. We had some good discussions on how we can get Britain building the homes we need; and how local council must play a role in that. It was very pleasing to be stopped after the workshops concluded to be thanked and told how good and useful delegates had found the sessions.”
After the workshops the CCA’s AGM was held and that concluded the day’s formal proceedings.
In the evening TogetherSure and Barratt Developments kindly sponsored the evening’s Drinks Reception and Dinner respectively. The guest speaker was the Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, who provided an insight into her role and the part that local government play in supporting her to make sure the UK is safe from crime, secure from threats and in tackling issues around immigration. Cllr. McNeill said:
“It was a very good speech from the Home Secretary, at sometimes humours and other deeply serious. I was pleased to spend a little time with her chatting about crime in West Lindsey and issues around immigration and security; she was very generous with her time and engaging on these local concerns. ”
A referendum on support for moving Lincolnshire to unitary council status would cost in the region of £1 million, Lincolnshire districts have been told, despite public assurances from the Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Cllr. Martin Hill, that it would be ‘cost-free.’
Legal advice received by the district councils from Timothy Straker QC states that any attempt by the county council to combine their elections with such a referendum would be unlawful, with the plans being “contrary to the Election Rules and fraught with danger of litigation.” This means, in effect, the referendum would need to be held completely separately or on a different day, incurring costs to Lincolnshire’s taxpayers of around £1 million.
Commenting, Cllr. Giles McNeill, Chairman of West Lindsey District Council’s Governance and Audit Committee, said:
“The county council has stated, several times now, that it wants to run a referendum at the same time as the local elections on Thursday, 4th May; to test the level of public support for moving to a unitary authority. Because this would be the same date as their elections, there are significant legal obstacles about holding a referendum on this day.
“The legal advice means the only way a referendum could take place would be to hold it completely separately or on another date. This would mean that the full cost to the Lincolnshire taxpayer would be in the region of £1million.
“I doubt that anyone would think this as a good use of taxpayers’ money, especially as the outcome of this sort of referendum would not be binding.
“If the county council had consulted more widely on its proposal, with any of the district councils, prior to making an announcement, our concerns could have been considered. They chose not to.
“Hopefully, this will now lead them to realise their mistake, reconsider their plans and not progress with either an unlawful referendum or one costing a vast amount of public money.
“Asking people to make a decision on such an important subject, without having all the facts or knowing the alternatives, is an irresponsible way of conducting any kind of debate and I certainly think such an approach reprehensible.
“I know that the district council Leaders are in favour of a collective debate on the future of local government in Lincolnshire, but to hold a referendum at such an early stage in discussions is ridiculous, especially at such a cost.”
Speaking about the proposal for one unitary council for Lincolnshire, Cllr McNeill added:
“A single unitary council for the whole of Lincolnshire would be remote – we are one of the largest counties in the UK and contain a diverse range of areas with significantly differing challenges and needs.
“A county unitary would be too remote as the only layer of local government – district councils are best placed to deliver services that meet the needs of all their residents and businesses and we want to protect these services. This would not happen under a county unitary.
“The proposal by the county council is in response to its own financial circumstances, is not driven by a desire to act in the best interests of local residents.”
In addition, Cllr. McNeill said of the recent failed devolution bid for Greater Lincolnshire:
“District councils have been open to considering new methods of governance and are keen to discuss options with our neighbouring councils – the county council recently rejected a devolution deal that would have secured at least £450 million of new money for the region, to have been invested in housing and infrastructure. This unitary proposal secures no extra funding.”
Conservative West Lindsey District Councillor for the Nettleham Ward, Cllr. Giles McNeill, has welcomed an agreement between Lincolnshire Co-Operative and the Post Office who are preparing to expand the current counter service into a new and improved ‘main style’ branch.
The upgrade of the Nettleham Post Office is part of a programme of modernisation throughout the Post Office Network. Cllr. McNeill said:
“This is good news for Nettleham and surrounding villages. Local residents will in the future have access to more Post Office services for longer.”
Mr. Damian Mulholland, the Area Manager for the Post Office, has announced commented that:
“I’m delighted to tell you that we’ve decided, with the Lincolnshire Co-Operatives’s agreement, to change the Nettleham Post Office branch to one of our new main style branches.
“Our aim is to create a more modern and convenient retail experience for customers that will include longer opening hours.
“Nettleham Post Office will continue to offer the same products as services as before, together with a wider selection of on demand travel money. A new low level counter and hearing loop will aid accessibility.”
The post office will close for refurbishment on the evening of Thursday, 16th February and is expected to reopen at 1pm on Friday, 24th February 2017.
As 2017 begins I would like to wish everyone, particularly people who live in Grange-de-Lings, Nettleham and Riseholme, the people that I represent on West Lindsey District Council, my very best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2017.
In January I had great pleasure in attending a gala dinner at Newark Showground with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP. I even had opportunity to speak with him briefly and continue to press him to fund research in to SABRE hybrid-engine technology. I was also very pleased to invite the Chairman of Nettleham Parish Council and his consort, Terry and Kathleen Williams, to join us at the dinner. I did not anticipate that both would have stepped down from their respective posts by the summer. Towards the end of the month I completed a thousand mile round trip around the UK in 48 hours – Chairing a conference in Manchester, attending an Association Meeting of APSE in Edinburgh and then a flight down to London.
In the run up to May I was quite busy supporting Marc Jones’ election campaign to succeed Alan Hardwick as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire. As Treasurer of the Lincolnshire Area Conservative Party my main responsibilities revolved around fundraising. I was very pleased that Marc won the election, particularly as I had been critical of the previous campaign in 2012 and had pushed my own ideas – which proved fruitful.
Later that month I was thrilled to go to Buckingham Palace, at the invitation of the Queen, with my good friend Cllr. Mrs. Jackie Brockway, for a Garden Party. The afternoon began a little after half past two when guests were allowed into the Palace. Afternoon tea was served from half past three. The Yeomen of the Guard ‘hold ground’ and a two rows emerge across the lawn between the Palace’s West Terrace and the Royal Tea Tent by the lake. At four o’clock, prompt, the Queen and other members of the Royal Family emerge from the Palace to the National anthem and then make their way from the Palace to the Royal Tea Tent over the course of an hour with small groups of specially selected individuals being presented, usually from Charities and bodies to which the Royal is a patron.
There are two military bands that play music alternatively throughout the afternoon, including, on this occasion, at one point, the theme tune to Family Guy. Guests are able to walk freely around the garden which includes a lake, the broad stretches of lawn, a 170 metre long herbaceous border, a curved avenue on Indian chestnut (added by the Queen in 1961), the Admiralty Summer House, and a rose garden – at the centre of which is the Waterloo Vase, made from carrara marble, originally made for Nepoleon and given by King Edward VII in 1903.
I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity to continue my service as Chairman of the Governance and Audit Committee by the Council’s Leader, Cllr. Jeff Summers and also to continue in the role as the administration’s Chief Whip. My colleagues also decided to elect me as the Group’s Treasurer. So I guess the old adage is true. If you want a job doing, find a busy person.
In March the Nettleham Neighbourhood Plan was formally presented to the district council for its formal adoption and later in the year in November so too was Riseholme’s Neighbourhood Plan. These documents form a vital set of criteria with which to judge planning application within the two parishes – and with the Beal Homes Appeal, in Nettleham and the University of Lincoln’s proposals at Riseholme lingering into the New Year these documents will play an important role.
I was delighted to welcome Rt. Hon. Priti Patel to Gainsborough in March with colleagues and officers for a tour of our joint public services hub at the Guildhall; many local authorities are working in partnership and following suite. I am confident that we will bring forward ambitions plans for a second stage of collaborative working in the near future.
The summer brought a significant upheaval to the cosy liberal-left orthodoxy that has prevailed in recent decades as, in the biggest democratic decision ever taken by the British peoples, we voted to leave the European Union. Whilst many were surprised at this result, I was not. What I did not expect was the whinging from the losing side, which is suffused with an unnecessary bitterness and contempt for their rivals. I also note that the Scottish government is attempting to remain in the EU, despite the historical precedent that when we last voted, in 1973, they voted to leave and nevertheless remained in with the rest of the UK.
The referendum led to the resignation of David Cameron as Prime Minister. I first met him in 2006 and we had become fairly well acquainted through our various meetings at Party events. I was saddened that he had taken the decision to step-down, however understandable under the circumstances.
In October I had the good fortune to have lunch with his successor the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, and we spoke briefly about Lincolnshire and her cabinet appointments.
Local government continues to face a tough financial settlement with central government and your local councillors are very much on the front-line. West Lindsey is well placed to adapt to the changes that reducing monies from central government will necessitate. But it means that we are having to make genuinely difficult choices about what services stay and what services have to go. I can well imagine that the time is fast approaching when we in West Lindsey will have to follow all the other parts of Lincolnshire in paying for our green wheelie bin garden waste collection. I do not envy colleagues who are less well placed, such as County Council colleagues who have a significantly more difficult task in balancing their budgets with pressures around adult social care and delivery of essential services. Locally our county councillor Jackie Brockway is a huge asset to us and I very much look forward to supporting her campaign for re-election in the coming year.
In 2017 I hope we can renew our commitment to make our communities better, putting aside partisan tendencies, and working with one another on the many things we agree upon. For each and all I offer my sincere wish for health, prosperity and happiness.
Giles McNeill – Working hard for the Nettleham Ward
Giles McNeill, the Conservative District Councillor who represents the Nettleham Ward, has joined local residents in welcoming news from Lincolnshire County Council that resurfacing work will begin on Deepdale Lane in early December.
Lincolnshire County Council will be carrying our essential carriageway maintenance works on Deepdale Lane, Nettleham from Wednesday, 7th December 2016. The works are expected to be completed within two days with work being undertaken during the daytime (7:30am – 5:00pm), commencing at the junction with the A46 moving down towards the Scothern Road junction.
Because of the nature of the works the road will be closed to through traffic, with a fully signed diversion route in place. Local access to properties will be maintained although residents might experience slight delays or need to take advantage of the diversion route. Gatemen will be in place at each end of the road closure. Cllr. McNeill commented:
“I am very grateful to our County Councillor Jackie Brockway, who I know has been championing getting the terrible stretch of highway repaired. Keeping Nettleham in the gaze of decision makers is an important role that Jackie does very well. She promised to have Deepdale Lane tackled by Highways by the end of the year and it looks like she will be keeping her promise. It is one of the issue that I often get in my post-bag and I am please that action is being taken.”
Cllr. Giles McNeill, the Conservative West Lindsey District Councillor for the Nettleham ward, that includes Risehome, has welcome news, announced by local parliamentarian Sir Edward Leigh, that the Government will commence legal action against the University of Lincoln.
The University of Lincoln has plans to demolish part of the Riseholme Park Campus and develop a housing. Sir Edward was speaking at the opening of Phase Two of the Riseholme College Showground Campus, he said:
“I can also reveal today that the Department for Education, through the Skills Funding Agency, is taking steps to commence legal proceedings against the University of Lincoln over its plans to demolish the Riseholme Park Campus and replace it with a housing development.
“This unprecedented step has been confirmed to me in writing by the Skills Minister Robert Halfon.
“The land and assets at Riseholme Park are protected by a legally binding Asset Deed and the SFA has said it will proceed with legal action to enforce the deed unless the University makes a satisfactory offer to settle the dispute.
“This is a hugely significant development and one which will hopefully protect the campus for future use by generations of Lincolnshire farmers and other workers.”
The Government is clear that the value of the land is protected by an Asset Deed which was effected when the land was originally transferred from the Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture in 1994 to De Montfort University, who subsequently transferred to Lincoln University.
The University of Lincoln will be expected to make good its obligation by paying a sum for the value of the assets which they are no longer making available for the original purpose of further education. An asset deed can secure repayment for the value of the assets held or disposed of by the University, it cannot prevent the sale of the land by the university.
Cllr. Giles McNeill commented:
“I have been working hard with my Conservative colleagues, Jackie Brockway our County Councillor and Sir Edward on this issue. Today it is clear that the Government will uphold the Asset Deed on the site which is almost certainly going to force the University of Lincoln to reconsider their unpopular plans.
“I feel that the University of Lincoln continue to act in an imperious and arrogant manner. Their lack of respect for local people, or their elected representatives, endures. Universities should be places of learning, research and knowledge not an exercise in turning a profit. There persistent attitude calls into question their institution’s values.”
West Lindsey District Council has approved the Riseholme Neighbourhood plan at Full Council on Monday, 14th November, making it the fourth plan to be adopted in the district.
It means the Riseholme community can ensure planning applications are developed in line with what residents want as this is now taking into consideration as part of the planning process.
As previously reported, Riseholme Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, which is made up of residents, spent two years working together to carefully shape the document. They undertook a significant amount of public consultation before officially handing it over to the council in July.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a planning policy document, produced by a community, designed to enable local people to have a greater say in how their community develops in the future.
The Riseholme Neighbourhood Plan outlines policies for particular planning issues such as the location and type of future housing, protection of the surrounding environment, landscape character and the historic environment and seeks to enhance connectivity through improved and new public rights of way.
Cllr. Giles McNeill, who represents Riseholme and is a member of the Planning Committee, welcomed the news. He said:
“I’m tremendously pleased that colleagues voted unanimously to formally adopt the Riseholme neighbourhood development plan. The fact that these plans are made on a statutory basis, unlike any previous plan at a parish level, gives them the real bite. Lots of people from across the community has worked for over two years to deliver this plan their combined efforts are much appreciated.”
If you would like to produce a Neighbourhood Plan for your community, please contact email@example.com
A landlord, in the neighbouring Dunholme & Welton ward, at Newtoft, let a property with ‘extremely dangerous electrics’, no heating system and a leaking roof, a court heard.
West Lindsey District Council has successfully prosecuted Mr. Joe Burgess, of Newark Road, Lincoln, for failing to comply with housing regulations. The court heard the case in the absence of Mr. Burgess at Lincoln Magistrates Court on Wednesday 26th October.
Mr. Burgess made a property he owns in Newtoft available to a tenant, despite it being in a very poor state of repair. The property had extremely dangerous electrics, no heating system, excessive damp, a leaking roof and no fire detection.
West Lindsey District Council served notices on the landlord but after he failed to comply, the council incurred considerable costs making the property safe for occupation. Mr. Burgess was found guilty and fined £440, and ordered to pay £400 legal costs, £376 investigation costs and a victim surcharge of £44.
Cllr. Mrs. Sheila Bibb, Chairman of the council’s Prosperous Communities Committee said:
“This is the second successful prosecution we have undertaken this year and demonstrates the council’s commitment to tackling criminal and rogue landlords.
“We hope this case sends a clear message to landlords that we will use all of the powers available to us if they do not comply with our requests when we serve formal notices. Nobody should have to live in unsafe accommodation in the district.
“In this day and age there is no excuse for landlords who choose to ignore the law and we intend to continue to pursue them wherever their properties may be in our district. I would like to thank officers for their excellent work on this case.”
If any tenants have issues of disrepair within their property that are not being addressed by their landlord they can report these to the council using the online forms at www.west-lindsey.gov.uk.
West Lindsey District Council has been given a clean bill of health according to the annual audit into its financial accounts.
The audit was undertaken by the council’s independent external auditors KPMG, to assess the council on its financial statements for the 2015/2016 financial year, and they have given the best possible result, an unqualified opinion. The report states:
“In our opinion the financial statements give a true and fair view of the financial position of the authority as at 31 March 2016 and of the authority’s expenditure and income for the year then ended.”
The report concluded that the council achieved ‘unqualified value for money’. This means they are satisfied that the authority has proper arrangements for securing financial resilience and challenging how it secures economy, efficiency and effectiveness. The independent assessment has been welcomed by the chairman of the Governance and Audit Committee, Cllr. Giles McNeill who said:
“I am pleased to see that we have a received independent confirmation that the Council are managing its public finances well, continuing to support our communities.
“The council made £2.6 million available across the district to enable our communities to develop and thrive through 165 individual projects.
“In addition, almost 400 individual grants were awarded, totalling more than three quarters of a million pounds to support community based schemes. This in turn, brought in match funding in excess of eight hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
“Together with local communities and our partners we have been able to achieve a great deal.”
The Council has also worked to encourage volunteering across the district, resulting in almost 49,000 volunteer hours undertaken. This equates to over £500,000 of social value invested across the district.
Other success include:
- Trinity Arts Centre is receiving less financial support from council funds than it would if it was left This is due to an improved entertainment offer drawing larger audiences.
- Job Centre Plus and Citizens Advice moved in to the offices at the Guildhall to join existing tenants from Lincolnshire County Council. The creation of the Public Services Hub was designed to provide joined up, complementary services to customers. This method of joined up working has been recognised
- 11 Public access terminals have also been set up to enable customers to access services and information online.
- The council has one of the highest collection rates in the country for council tax 98.34% and 99.44% for Business Rates.
The Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership wants to hear local residents views on crime and anti-social behaviour, to help shape its action plans for the coming year.
The The Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership is a partnership including Lincolnshire County Council, the district councils, Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service, Probation, Addaction, Clinical Commissioning Groups and the Police and Crime Commissioner to set priorities and target actions at a local level. Cllr. Giles McNeill said:
“Part of the The Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership’s work is to consult the public on how people feel about crime and anti-social behaviour in our area.
“This year a survey has been developed and rolled out across the county to gather views and opinions – and I would encourage local residents to take part.”
You can complete the survey by visiting the Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership website at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/lincolnshire-community-safety-partnership.
Paper copies of the survey are also available from the West Lindsey District Council office at the Guildhall in Gainsborough. The survey is open now and closes on Friday, 11th November 2016.