As 2018 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 2018.
When last year’s civic year began in May 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.
It was also around this time that we had all been flung into a general election campaign. Without warning I was acting as Agent for Sir Edward Leigh and am very proud to have secured an increase in his majority. The loss of the Government’s majority continues to have serious knock on effects. Nevertheless, despite numerous set back, it appears progress is being made on securing a favourable Brexit deal.
Local government continues to face a tough financial settlement from 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 necessitates. But it means that we are having to make genuinely difficult choices about what services stay and what services have to go.
The decision to make a separate charge for our green wheelie bin garden waste collection service, rather than pay for the service through council tax, has now progressed and is expected to be introduced in April for a charge of £35. West Lindsey District Council is the last authority in the county to charge for this service, but with the loss of central government grants and a sluggish economic recovery, we haven’t been able to find an alternative source of revenue for this service. Nevertheless our programme of entrepreneurial-ship and commercialisation will deliver revenues of around £1.3m next year on a discretionary budget of around £8.7m – paying for frontline services which would either have to be cut or monies raised through tax (around a 25% increase).
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 was very with her re-election and look forward to working with her, particularly in finding a workable solution to the Linelands site on All Saints Lane, Nettleham. I was very pleased to act as Agent in the Gainsborough constituency for the Conservative candidates. The record surge in support for the party was the highest the party had received in forty years. Burt Keimach, who had represented the Market Rasen division retired at these elections, as too did Stuart Kinch (Gainsborough Rural South) and Denis Hoyes (Woodhall Spa & Wragby). The five local incumbent councillors who were standing were re-elected, following a boundary review, and were joined by Cllr. Richard Butroid (Gainsborough Rural South) and we gained Scotter Rural from the Liberal Democrats with the election of Clio Perraton-Williams. It was also pleasing to see Cllr. Mrs. Patricia Bradwell retain the seat vacated by Denis Hoyes with a 81.6% share of the vote.
During 2017 a number of very good district councillors retired from their office. This necessitated two by-elections. The first in the summer, following the resignation of Adam Duguid who had represented the Scotter & Blyton Ward, and then, more sadly, the resignation and subsequent death of Stuart Curtis, who had represented the nearby Sudbrooke ward, in the autumn. I was particularly pleased to act as Agent in the subsequent by-elections and with both seats held for the Conservatives I look forward to working with Councillors Bruce Allison and Bob Waller in 2018.
Locally, the biggest triumph of last year though was my victory in the planning appeal by Beal Homes for Land off Larch Avenue. The proposal to build 200 homes with roads, infrastructure and public open space was totally at odds with local sentiments – expressed in the Nettleham Neighbourhood Plan.
The original planning application was made in March 2015 and now over two years later I am glad that the matter has finally been concluded. I wrote the Council’s Statement of Case – which was longer than my dissertation at university – it took several weeks to pull together and at times I thought it might prove to be in vain.
I was particularly reassured that having adopted the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan the inspector has relied on the relevance of this document, together with that of the neighbourhood plan, in coming to his view that the proposal would be at odds with the amount and location of development for the village and would result in harm on the character and appearance of the area
In 2018 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.