Monday, 28 January 2008

Academy Opposition Against Party Policy

Below are two letters published in today's Lincolnshire Echo (Top from Giles McNeill).
It is now admitted by county council Labour group leader Coun Rob Parker that his group's academy plan opposition goes directly against his Labour Government's policy.

This is a policy that his colleague, the city's current Labour MP, whole- heartedly supports!

The current leader of the Labour group on the city council, Coun Ric Metcalfe, and his colleague Coun Karen Lee, both also castigated their own Labour Government's policy on academy schools.

So which parts of the Prime Minister's often repeated "There will be honest disclosure. We will be straight with the British people. There will be no sleight of hand. What you see will be what you get" do Lincoln's current Labour MP and her opposition councillors supposedly aspire to?

Having worked in a major education authority in the North West, and thereafter as a bursar of a large secondary comprehensive school, I was interested to note the story (January 17) with regard to the "rethink on school academies".

While I may agree with some of the comments made, I certainly believe that the education system in this country should go beyond party politics, and not be subject to the whims and so-called initiatives of Educational Secretaries of State.

What is required in the 21st century is to leave schools and teaching to the professionals, and to take into account exactly what our businesses and industrial companies require from their varied work forces to sustain a well balanced economy.

Surely the whole purpose of education is to create a situation where our young people can learn to read, write and express themselves articulately, to learn about our country's past achievements and relate them to the present world, and to develop their own personal skills and talents whether it be in practical vocations, the arts or in academic work.

This cannot happen when party politics chops and changes the directions of our education system, leaving less time for teachers to teach and as a result many pupils (or so it seems) do not have a grasp of the basics even when entering secondary school.

What is needed is a consensual approach to education by our politicians; agreement on a basic common syllabus at all stages, and a reduction of class sizes throughout the entire system.

Hopefully by reducing all unnecessary effort the standards of education would improve, and children would be encouraged and motivated by their teachers who would be able to teach, not undertake work towards unnecessary so-called administrative targets.

ALAN WADDINGTON Viking Way, Metheringham.

Friday, 25 January 2008

‘Gordon Brown’s fingerprints’ over another round of council tax rises

Fiddled funding and extra burdens to blame explains Giles McNeill

Local residents face yet another year of soaring council taxes, according to a new survey by town halls. The cross-party Local Government Association (LGA) has predicted that council tax bills across England will soar by 4% from this April, following a snapshot of the draft budgets of a hundred town halls.

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, responded that the blame must be put firmly where it belongs – with the extra regulations and burdens on local councils imposed by Whitehall without proper funding. Unfunded burdens the LGA has identified include the rising costs of social care due to an ageing population, extra costs of waste and recycling due to EU and Whitehall directives, the underfunded cost of free bus travel, transferring costs for family court hearings to councils and new 24 hour licensing laws.

· In West Lindsey, council tax bills have already risen by 103% over the last ten years.
· A typical home in England will pay an estimated £1,374 on Band D from April, equivalent to £115 a month. Scotland, on the other hand, will enjoy a tax freeze, with the same Band D home only paying £1,149.
· On average, families across England will have to find an extra £53 in tax from April, on top of existing council tax, the rising price of mortgages and rocketing utility bills. If council tax bills were were to rise by 4% inWest Lindsey, this would mean a rise of£53.
The precise rise in West Lindsey will depend on the individual budget decisions of Lincolnshire County Council, West Lindsey District Council, Nettleham, Greetwell, Riseholme and Grange-de-Lings parish councils, Lincolnshire police authority, Lincolnshire fire and rescue. Nettleham Parish Council has already voted through an increase in there part of the council tax of over 25% - which Giles McNeill is on record opposing.

Giles McNeill said:
“Gordon Brown’s fingerprints are all the doubling of council tax bills under Labour, making it his sneakiest stealth tax. The hikes have been forced up by Whitehall, leaving local councillors to take the blame when the ever more weighty bills hit the doormat.

“Gordon Brown’s fiddled funding and new duties imposed on local councils will mean yet more money snatched from people’s pensions and pay packets. Labour’s only plan is to hike taxes yet further – with new bin taxes on the way.”

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Disgusted at being locked out from Flooding Inquiry

Below is a selection of letters from today's Lincolnshire Echo, including one from Giles McNeill (first), Nettleham Ward candidate for West Lindsey District Council.

Following on from the report (January 21) 'Opening the floodgates' - Nettleham was once again on alert as the waters of the beck rose.

As a parish councillor in the village, I know the misery this has caused residents of the village.

Therefore I joined the Conservative councillors and numerous members of the public from across West Lindsey outside the new Guildhall in Gainsborough to protest at the exclusion of councillors and the public from the 'citizens' jury'.

On January 10 the council's own website had an introduction to "the public inquiry into the June 2007 flooding" by Councillor Reg Shore, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council.

I was shocked and disgusted when I and other West Lindsey residents were told we could not even watch events!

The summer flooding of 2007 affected families across the district from Nettleham all the way to Scotter, north of Gainsborough.

I think Coun Shore really should stop pretending that this 'public inquiry' is anything more than a publicity exercise.

GILES McNEILL Nettleham parish councillor.

Can we all remember not so long ago the heatwave we were having and how hosepipe bans where in operation?

It caused so much damage to crops and farmland and many of the country's young and old found it difficult to cope with the high temperatures burning down on our heads.

Now the floods are here again. Maybe we prayed a bit too hard for rain!

NICK McGUIRE Bracebridge Heath.

I feel sorry for people who live at Shuttleworth House and in that area of Lincoln.

The way the weather is going, flooding is likely to happen again.

Hopefully we will be well prepared next time round.

JODIE-ANN SIDEBOTTOM Lower Church Road, Skellingthorpe.

In the Echo there was the headline 'In Deep Water'. Comments under the Grapevine heading (January 17) told of a ditch in Cranwell collecting rubbish and debris.

While travelling around the county and Nottingham recently, I did wonder whether the field drainage ditches and major drains are kept as clear of vegetation and other debris as they once were.

In the last few days many were very close to overflowing and filled with swirling, muddy water.

Who exactly is required to regularly maintain these drainage ditches? And indeed is this done on a regular basis?

With regard to the report (January 15), 'Flawed planning report attacked', I would condemn the statement that Lincoln's economy could face years of decline if the Government prevents a massive development going ahead.

I am of course referring to the proposed, and I believe ill-thought out, development of Swanpool.

I fear that the councillors and planners at the city council are totally at fault for even thinking of any development on a flood plain (I have seen what can happen to such an area, in West Sussex in 1979).

The historic term "Swanpool" must surely indicate what has happened in the past and may well happen in future years.

I for one would never consider buying a property, or investing in a business development on what the Environment Agency considers to be an area at risk from flooding.

If flooding does happen we can be sure that the city council will not fork out any compensation for damage and it would doubtless be uneconomic to provide household or other insurance policies to either households or businesses located on that site.

A. M. WADDINGTON Viking Way, Metheringham.

Monday, 21 January 2008

‘March of the quangos’ will silence voice of local people warns Giles McNeill

Yet more planning powers taken from councils and given to unelected bodies

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, today expressed his concern about a raft of new laws before Parliament which will take away power from local people across West Lindsey on planning issues, and impose a host of unelected planning quangos on them. The upshot could be unsustainable development, overriding local opinion and harming the local environment.

Gordon Brown’s new quangos include:
· The new unelected Homes & Communities Agency, with powers to seize land, enter private property and act as its own planning authority.
· The new Infrastructure Planning Commission, which will take complete control of planning permissions for large developments like airports, power stations, motorways, sewage plants and hazardous landfill sites: the types of development which rightly concern local people so much.
· And unelected Regional Development Agencies which (outside London) will adopt all the powers of the unelected Regional Assemblies, but with no local councillor involvement.
Ministers have confirmed in recent answers to Parliamentary Questions that local councils and elected MPs will have absolutely no say on the appointments of any of these quangocrats. This is despite Gordon Brown’s pledge last May to stop politics becoming a ‘spectator sport’ and build trust in democracy.

Giles McNeill said:
“After ten years of Labour, the number of people who own their home is now falling for the first time. Labour’s planning laws and Whitehall targets have clogged up the planning system, and weakened the say of local residents. Ever higher stamp duty and soaring council tax bills have made it so difficult for people in West Lindsey to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder.

“Gordon Brown is now showing his true control freak instincts with an army of new quangos on the march. The planning system needs reform, but the voice of local communities must be loud and clear. Conservatives will stand up for residents in West Lindsey and protect local democracy.”

Nettleham to flood again? - Sewage contaminates beck.

Giles McNeill has said:
"I was very concerned this morning as I walked past the beck at several points that it is on the rise. I notified the parish clerk who has ordered 250 sandbags as a priority.

My thoughts and prayers are with local residents who may be affected at this time. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we don't have a repeat of the summer floods."
UPDATE: Giles said:
"The Sandbags have arrived and have been strategically placed - lets hope that the waters continue to subside nd we get a bit of a dry spell. I hav ealso been informed that four of the drain covers have lifted in the Watermill Lane are and that raw sewage is now contaminating the beck - I am more concerned that local children have been playing in the beck and would urge everyone to caution the young against the dangers of such activities during flooding."

Shouldn’t a Public Inquiry be held in Public?

Conservatives and West Lindsey residents protest in anger at Liberal Democrats’ restriction of attendance by public and councillors at Citizens’ Jury.Conservative councillors and residents living across north-west Lincolnshire have reacted with anger to Liberal Democrat led West Lindsey District Council excluding district and county councillors together with interested members of the public from observing the proceedings of the Citizens’ Jury looking into the summer floods of 2007.

Conservative councillors at West Lindsey District Council are furious at being told by Cllr. Reginald Shore, the Leader of the Council, that they were not allowed to attend the Citizens’ Jury that took place at the new Council offices at Marshalls Yard in Gainsborough on Saturday 19th January 2008. The jury met in seclusion with representatives of Anglian Water, County Highways Department, the Environment Agency, Witham Drainage Boards, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, the Police, Severn Trent Water, council officers and other select invitees. The jury did not, as had been widely assumed by both councillors and residents, meet in open session.

County, District and Parish Councillors protested outside the New Guildhall brandishing placards asking “Shouldn’t a Public Inquiry be held in Public?” and collected signatures for a petition objecting to local residents’ elected representatives being barred from the meeting.

Cllr. Bernard Theobald, Conservative Group Leader said:
“The Council proclaims its values as ‘honest, professional and straightforward’ but this whole inquiry has been handled in a way that is anything but. Cllr. Shore has flip-flopped over the reasons for denying access – first it was because the room wasn’t big enough and now it is because “it is crucial to its success that the jury itself is not held in public”.
Cllr Meg Davidson who made the original suggestion last July that there should be a District-wide flood inquiry said:
"I represent an area which was badly affected by last summer’s floods and where there is now renewed anxiety as water levels are again running very high. I fully expected and intended to be present at the Inquiry on Saturday to observe the proceedings. I find it bizarre that the press was admitted to observe the Citizens’ Jury in action whilst the councillors, the elected representatives of the residents of West Lindsey were excluded."
Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor said:
“We had several days of flooding in Nettleham, and it disgusts me that it has taken over six months to get answers from the various authorities; but I expected it to be a public event at which people like myself would be able to observe proceedings, even participate – I never imagined that it would be by invitation only and that they would need to pay people to attend!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

West Lindsey Flood Inquiry becomes 'Damp Squib'

Conservative councillors at West Lindsey District Council are furious at being told by Cllr Reg Shore, the Lib Dem Leader of the Council, that they are not allowed to attend Saturday’s Flood Inquiry even as observers. The “Citizens’ Jury Flooding Review” to be held at the new Council offices at Marshalls Yard in Gainsborough on Saturday 19th January 2008 is not, as widely assumed by both councillors and residents, going to be held in public. Last week councillors were told this was because the new Council Chamber was too small, now they have been told that their presence would mean that “it might as well be a Public meeting and not a Jury”.

The Council has hired Birmingham based market research firm, BMG Research to run the event. BMG has promised to pay £50 in cash to each member of the Citizens’ Jury who attends. However, as WLDC is footing the bill, ultimately the £50 cash payouts will be coming from the Council taxpayers of West Lindsey.

Cllr Meg Davidson who made the original suggestion last July that there should be a District-wide flood inquiry said:
“This inquiry is in danger of becoming a ‘damp squib’. The event as now arranged is a far cry from what was implied at the start, namely an inquiry along the lines of a Parliamentary Select Committee. The intention was that senior representatives of the relevant agencies would give evidence, answer questions and be held to account and the proceedings would be held in public. That is the expectation of the residents of Langworth in my ward, one of the areas worst affected by last summer’s floods.

We were told that the jury would be given intensive training beforehand so that they would be fully briefed and knowledgeable on the day. It now turns out that the Citizens’ Jury will meet for the first time on the day of the event and the only briefing they have received is contained on 3 sides of A4 paper. I question how rigorous and well informed the Jury can be.”
Cllr. Bernard Theobald, Conservative Group Leader said:
“The Liberal Democrats have decided that the inquiry into recent Flooding in West Lindsey – that was supposed to be an opportunity for the public to attend and see the Water Authorities and other agencies being cross examined as to the cause of why so many of them were flooded out of their homes is to be held in all but secret.

“Members of the public and Conservative Councillors who wished to go to the meeting to listen to what was being said have been told they are not allowed to attend. The reason given changes on a daily basis: first it was insufficient space in the New Guildhall, then it was that observers would detract from the objective of the Jury, now we are told that it would turn into a public meeting. The Liberal Democrats have turned the Flood Inquiry into a sham and a farce and the residents of West Lindsey who are footing the bill are being treated with contempt.”

“There are also questions to be asked as to why those people who are on the list of select ‘invitees’ have been promised £50 cash, in a ‘brown envelope’, if they turn up on the day.”
Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, said:
"It really is a poor approach to take; numerous residents in Nettleham were affected by the flooding last summer and with the current rain the Beck is again swollen, and home-owners are on 'standby'."
Nettleham Green was badly flooded in the summer of 2007

Monday, 14 January 2008

Welfare reform needed to tackle family breakdown and long-term poverty

Giles McNeill backs plans to help people get back to work in West Lindsey and achieve success

Giles McNeill, Nettleham Parish Councillor, today added his support to calls to reduce long-term welfare dependency, tackle long-term poverty and re-create stable families.

The policy ideas entitled “Work for Welfare” were launched by Conservative leader, David Cameron. They aim to help people find fulfilling jobs, while continuing to support those who genuinely cannot work. Currently across Gainsborough Constituency, there are 3,450 people on Incapacity Benefit and 1,110 on Jobseeker’s Allowance. Under the new Conservative proposals:
Respect for those who cannot work:
Recipients of Incapacity Benefit who really cannot work will receive continued support and will remain outside the return-to-work process.

Employment for those who can:
Every out-of-work benefit claimant will be expected to work or prepare for work. There will be a comprehensive programme of support for job seekers including training, development and work experience. Welfare-to-work services will be provided by the private and voluntary sectors on a payment by results basis.

Assessments for those claiming benefits:
There will be rapid assessments of all new and existing claimants for out-of-work benefits.

Limits to claiming out of work benefits:
People who refuse to join a return-to-work programme will lose the right to claim out-of-work benefits until they do. People who refuse to accept reasonable job offers could lose the right to claim out-of-work benefits.

Community work:
Those who claim for more than two years out of three will be required to help out on community work programmes.

End Tax Credit discrimination:
The savings from these reforms will be used to end the discrimination against couples in the Tax Credits system.
Giles McNeill said:
"Real welfare reform will help reverse the disastrous rise in family breakdown under Labour and tackle the persistent and often hidden poverty that shames our nation."

"Labour’s old politics on welfare reform simply are not working. Higher numbers of Incapacity Benefit claimants and high youth unemployment show that the policies of the last ten years have failed. It’s time for change."

"Rather than Whitehall taking responsibility away from people and making them dependent, we need to help people across West Lindsey to take responsibility for themselves and achieve success and independence."
The full ‘Green Paper’ entitled ‘Work for Welfare’was launched on 8th January 2008and can be downloaded here.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Truelove Construction's vision of the villages' future

Nettleham Parish Council convened at the Sports Pavillion to discuss proposals for the removal of debris in the beck near the Watermill Ford and to recieve a presentation from Truelove Construction.

The plans envisage sustainable development for the village until the middle of the 2040s. The proposals included an extensive network of path and woodland development around the village, a new medical practice, a new community centre, a purpose build development close to the new medical practice for the elderly and gradual development of between 300-450 including affordable housing for the young.

Plans are currently in a particularly early stage, but the Parish Council agreed to consult further with Truelove Construction and then more widely with residents.

The East Midlands Regional Assembly will soon make their recommendations regarding housing need in our area and the regional planning policy suggests that West Lindsey will be expected to find land for 552 dwellings per year.

Further information is needed, further consultation is needed, Further consideration of the impact is needed and we will need to be clear about the terms of such delevopment if the council preceeds further.

Giles McNeill said:
"We have been presented a rare opportunity here to direct the course of development in our village to the middle of the century, but we must be clear about what we are entering into should we ultimately decide to give backing to these proposals. I am concerned that such a development may increase flood risk and so appropriate measures would need to be in place. I welcome these proposals and look forward to recieving a more complete and detailed proposal in the future."

Click on the image left to enlarge. The picture shows the Truelove proposal.


Blue: Housing
Green: Elderly Residents Village
Light Gray: Community Centre
Dark Gray: Medical Centre

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Giles McNeill's New Year Message January 2008

Nettleham Ward Conservatives
Grange-de-Lings, Greetwell, Nettleham & Riseholme

May I wish all of you a very happy New Year. It is a privilege to serve the community as a member of Nettleham's Parish Council and hopefully in 2008 I will be able to do more to serve Nettleham better together with residents of Grange-de-Lings, Greetwell and Riseholme.

Floods in the summer dominated 2007 and Nettleham Parish Council have commissioned an extensive report into the summer floods (click here) and will discuss what further actions need to be taken early in the new year. Village residents along Beckside, near the Green and on Danby Hill were all affected, taking the worst of the flooding, but the response of local residents to this event was tremendous and I believe has brought our community closer together.

Since Star Energy withdrew its appeal against Lincolnshire County Council's refusal of planning permission to store gas in the 'Welton Oilfield', it has gone very quiet on the 'gas storage front'. I have been active in supporting my colleages efforts, particularly District Councillor Meg Davidson (Fiskerton), who has contributed extensively to the government consultaton of the Gas Act, and we will be keeping an eye on future developments.

I was particularly aggitated by the Parish Council's decision to go ahead with a particularly high increase in the Precept (the portion of council tax that goes to the Parish Council). An increase to £65.00 onthe Band D average of around £50.00 last year. Progress has been made to improve the council's financial controls with the recruitment of an accounctant who will provide regular reports to the council of its finances. The increase, however, has caused me great concern and shows that in 2008 I will re-double and continue my campaign to re-establish the Parish Council's Finance Committee.

I would like to wish you all the best for 2008,

Giles McNeill