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