I would like to wish all the people of Greetwell, Grange-de-Lings, Nettleham and Riseholme – the people that I represent on West Lindsey District Council – my best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.
Local government, across the country, is under increasing pressure. Councils are already tackling budget cuts of 28% and face a tough outlook.
The economic legacy left by Labour’s lassie-faire and lacking approach to debt – whether national or personal – is driving an unprecedented process of change as local authorities have to radically reform their services to meet the challenges the ‘Age of Austerity’.
Councillors are on the frontline. We are having to make the difficult choices about what services stay and what services have to go. We are choosing what can be transformed and what has to be decommissioned.
Elected by local people to protect their interests and represent them we must lead a process of innovation, adaption and change; doing so against a back-drop of declining trust in politics and politicians.
During my election campaign in the summer I made four pledges to local residents.
At the time of the by-election I said that ‘Low Council Tax was my priority. It remains so. Your money must be spent well by the council, but I am sure you want to keep as much as possible for your own needs. Through my work on West Lindsey’s Governance and Audit Committee I scrutinise how effective the council’s organisation is and will continue to make the case for keeping the Council Tax frozen.
I also promised to bring the Linelands site back into use as an extra care home for the elderly with daycentre facilities. I am pleased to say that it is anticipated that a formal tendering process will begin soon to bring the site back into use as adult social care provision. I have been active on this issue, holding preliminary conversations with potential providers within the sector and encouraging them to prepare bids.
I made it clear that Nettleham was not the right place for operational police services to be moved from West Parade, Lincoln. I opposed the plans for a ‘Custody Suite’ at Police Headquarters on Deepdale Lane. I am very pleased to report that through concerted effort with fellow councillors at all levels and with the excellent campaign organised by SOLVE this view has prevailed and the new Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick, who I met the day following his election, and who was able to reassure me, has scrapped this proposal.
Finally I pledged to protect our villages from unsuitable development. I am pleased that I now serve on the Planning Committee, giving me my say in development plans across the district – a firm voice for our communities.
The past year has been one of change. As a Governor at Nettleham Infants School, we changed to Academy status in September. I have been working to reduce inconsiderate parking which local residents find vexing. I am particularly concerned, and hope to tackle in the coming year, parking around the school when the school safety zone is not in effect and the reports of rudeness by parents to local residents.
In 2013 I hope to bring back on to the agenda the issue of flooding. Nettleham seems to have missed out since the floods of 2007 in getting real help to mitigate the risk of flooding. At the end of 2012 we came very close to a repeat of those floods, with the path along the Beckside between Church Street and Vicarage Lane flooded.
In May we will once again be invited to go to the polling stations to vote in elections to Lincolnshire County Council. I am certain that participation will be higher than the paltry 15.3% achieved in the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections. However, decisions are made by those who show up, so I would encourage everyone to go and vote and if circumstances require I would urge you to consider if obtaining a postal vote is the right thing for you. I am confident that the Conservatives will remain in control of Lincolnshire County Council, where they are delivering for all the people of Lincolnshire in these tough times.
In 2013 I hope we can renew our commitment to heal our communities from the woes of the global economic recession, put aside partisan tendencies, and work with our political opponents on the many things we agree upon.
For each and all I offer my sincere wish for health, prosperity and happiness.
Working hard for the Nettleham Ward of West Lindsey District Council