Thursday, 31 December 2009

Giles McNeill’s New Year’s Message



Earlier in the year I was pleased that Conservative led administration at West Lindsey District Council introduced the new ‘triple bin system’ which seems to be working well – delivering on our election promise in the 2008 local elections to provide a free green bin to every household that wants one. The three-bin system helps to reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill which is really good. Some local residents contacted me about having been charged the annual fee for the green bin shortly before they became free, I raised this with colleagues on the district council and the Conservatives have acted to ensure that a refund system is now in place.

The recent flooding in the North of England has brought back memories of the flooding that Nettleham suffered in the summer of 2007 and then again in January 2008. I have been working with colleagues at all levels to ensure that this threat is properly assessed and where possible mitigated. A few days before Christmas I and other members of the Parish Council met with two representatives of the Environment Agency to discuss our concerns about increased risk of flooding in the village. The meeting was very productive and has offered a number of reassurances and new avenues to follow-up. Highway drains are also now being cleaned more regularly.

The biggest issue of 2009 was the proposals of Lincoln Rugby Football Club to move their training ground to the village. The two public meetings held by the Parish Council demonstrated how much strong feeling there is in the village. I believe that there was little to object to on planning grounds in the Rugby Club’s planning application. West Lindsey District Council’s planning department has entered the spotlight in recent months with several stories related to planning in the Lincolnshire Echo. A number of problems have been identified and are now being put right. A new departmental manager is being recruited and I am optimistic that the service will be greatly improved in 2010 and beyond.

2010 is going to bring significant challenges. There will be cuts in public spending regardless of which party wins the general election. It is a testament to many long evenings spent pouring over the figures, that I was able to secure, at the current level, the precept – the money collected through Council Tax that goes to the Parish Council – so no increase on the 2008/09 budget.

I am constantly encouraged by the strong community spirit in Nettleham. For my part I will continue to do my best on behalf of local residents in the months ahead.

Wishing you the best for the New Year,

Giles McNeill
Nettleham Parish Councillor

Staff Battle to Save Care Home

The planned closure of several care homes in Lincolnshire has sparked anger from staff. Staff at Linelands Care Home in Nettleham, say their main concern is the elderly people who spend their days there. Potentially eight care homes may be closed and new provision set up.

There are no firm details of what can be expected as future plans are being developed with significant consultation with communities and the families of those being cared for. however, Lincolnshire Councty Council has said is that its vision is for new housing schemes which could include self-contained apartments with en-suite bedrooms with care support on site, communal areas and social facilities such as shops, cafes and pubs. Other big plans are specialised dementia centres. New facilities would be delivered in partnership with 'independent sector providers'.

UNISON representative Mr. Mick Barnshaw who is fighting against these changes on behalf of staff, has raided his concerns. Local parliamentarian, Mr. Edward Leigh MP, visited Linelands yesterday.

Mr Barnshaw told staff:
"We need to be clear, purpose-built care homes would be an obvious improvement for everyone.

"However, a building without quality staff to give first class care is not in anybody's interests.

"On current information provided by Lincolnshire County Council, it is undecided who will administer the care – public or private. It is strongly indicated it will be private.

"There is at present, a real lack of detail on the way forward.

"We need a thorough and detailed assessment, not just a glossy DVD and we need to have everyone involved."
A consultation meeting will take place at Nettleham Junior School, Mill Hill on Monday, 11th January 2010 starting at 6pm.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Big Brother Is Not Watching You!

Almost a quarter of all CCTV cameras operated by West Lindsey District Council.

The Lincolnshire Echo is reporting that seven surveillance cameras controlled by West Lindsey District Council are broken and currently not in use.

The authority operates twenty-nine cameras across the district which includes Gainsborough, Market Rasen, Saxilby and Nettleham.

Council officials say repair work on a number of 'CCTV issues' is required but they refused to disclose where the broken cameras are located for safety reasons.

All one hundred and twenty-six cameras used by the City of Lincoln Council and twelve controlled by North Kesteven District Council are currently working.

West Lindsey District Council spokesman Mr. Geoff O'Neill said:
"We can confirm that seven cameras are not working and we are urgently looking at the best way to deal with a number of CCTV issues throughout West Lindsey."

Iraq Hostage Freed is Lincoln-Man Peter Moore

An IT consultant from Lincoln is lone survivor of five taken in May 2007 militant raid on finance ministry in Baghdad.

Peter Moore, the only known survivor from five British hostages in Iraq, has been released in Baghdad.

The computer programmer was captured in the Iraqi capital in 2007 by Shia militants with four other Britons and spent 31 months in captivity. The bodies of all but one of the others have since been returned to Britain.

Moore, aged 39, was released to Iraqi officials this morning and then transferred to the British embassy in Baghdad. A young Shia cleric, Qais al-Ghazali, held by the US military, was being handed over for release to the Iraqi government in exchange, officials said.

Moore's captors called the Iraqi government early this morning and said they were willing to free him in east Baghdad. The hardline Islamic group known as the Righteous League had insisted on trading Moore for Ghazali, who was captured near Basra by the SAS along with his brother Laith al-Ghazali and a senior member of Lebanese Hezbollah in March 2007.

Moore's father, Graeme, 60, from Wigston, Leicestershire, said he was
"over the moon"
at the news.
"We are so relieved and we just want to get him home, back now to his
family and friends. I'm breaking down, I'm just so overjoyed for the lad. It's
been such a long haul. I know that there have been one or two people working in
the background to get Peter released.

"Peter is a very resilient lad and he always has been because of his
background … but I don't know how close he was to those others who have been
shot."

Graeme Moore said he felt the Foreign Office had been 'obstructive' in the effort to secure his son's safe release.

Gainsborough Market on the Move

With effect from Tuesday, 12th January 2010 the Tuesday and Saturday markets are being relocated to the old Guildhall and Ship Court car parks on Tuesdays and to the old Guildhall car park on Saturdays, to allow the Market Place and Silver Street to be refurbished.

But shoppers need have no fear as all your favourite traders have been allocated pitches at the new site and all businesses in the town centre will be open as usual during the work.

And to make the temporary move even more exciting, we've arranged for TV chef Rachel Green to be at the market on January 12 between 10am and 2pm when she will shop for all the top quality ingredients she needs to cook up a traditional Lincolnshire dish. Shoppers can watch the demonstrations free of charge.

And Rachel should be right at home as she is a county farmer's daughter who grew up collecting eggs and lambing ewes before making a name for herself by her passionate and committed championing of British produce.

She has several television series under her belt - from ITV Yorkshire's Flying Cook and World on a Plate, to Kill It Cook It! Eat! on BBC3 and Farm of Fussy Eaters on UK TV Style.

Her cookery demonstrations are renowned for their lively exuberance and she demonstrates all over the country, at the Divertimenti Cookery School in London, at the Royal Show and BBC Good Food Show, and is Celebrity Chef at Chatsworth Farm Shop.

This relationship inspired her new book, Rachel Green's Chatsworth Cookery Book, with a Foreword by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, herself a pioneer of local and seasonal produce. Rachel said:
"Food production is in my blood. My mother's quince jelly and lemon drizzle cake is sought after the length and breadth of Britain!"

To get the market site ready on Tuesdays the car parks will be closed at 6pm on Monday evenings until 6pm on Tuesdays. On Saturdays the Guildhall car park will be closed from 4am until 5pm. On market days disabled car parking facilities will be made available behind the doctors' surgery car park.

Access to adjacent buildings and private car parks will be maintained throughout and alternative car parking can be found at the following locations:

  • Bridge Street car park
  • Beaumont Street/Lindsey Centre multi-storey
  • North Streetcar park
  • Roseway car park
  • Whitton Gardens car park

The nearest public toilets are at Whitton Gardens.

Bailgate Restoration to Begin in New Year

A £1m project to return Lincoln’s Bailgate area to its historic look gets underway on 11 January – and it’s business as usual in the meantime.

'Bailgate Restored' is a Historic Lincoln Partnership scheme which will replace worn roads and paths, repaving with stone to bring back the historic feel. The Roman well and ancient site of St. Paul in the Bail will also be refurbished.

The improvements have been made possible following the Historic Lincoln Partnership (HLP) securing £400,000 from East Midlands Tourism matched with £780,000 from Lincolnshire County Council.

Cllr. Eddy Poll, Conservative (Spalding East and Moulton), Executive Member for Economic Development, said: "
Bailgate is one of the most important and historic streets in uphill Lincoln, but the street scene has been looking increasingly worn and shabby and not setting off the buildings to best advantage. Bailgate Restored is the result and we look forward to this exciting project which will enhance the character of this much-loved area, for the benefit of tourists, local businesses and residents alike. As well as giving the area a lift, this will improve safety and prevent hazards developing.

"There will inevitably be some temporary disruption, but phasing the works in sections and close liaison with local shops and residents will help keep this to a minimum. Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter has the greatest concentration of independent specialist retailers in the Midlands with over 150 small shops that provide both individuality and great service.Shoppers are reminded that all businesses remain open throughout, with pedestrian access maintained at all times.”
The first sequence of improvements will take place between the White Hart Hotel and the Bailgate/Westgate junction and will last for approximately 8 weeks.

Surfaces will be paved in high quality Yorkstone, and 'street clutter' including surplus bollards and signposts will be reduced by contractors North Midland Construction.

All of the uphill car parks will remain open at all times during the restoration project, and the walk and ride bus service which operates between uphill and downhill Lincoln will also be available.

Mr. Mark Hollingworth, Chairman of the Bailgate Guild, added: "
The Bailgate Guild has long been campaigning for improvements to be made to the street scene and so we are delighted that it is now happening. Bailgate used to be paved in York stone and we feel that this scheme will return it to how it should look, setting off the whole historic street scene. As ever, there is some pain before the long term gain, but we would like to"assure all our customers that we will be open throughout the work programme.”
The work is scheduled to be completed around June. For further information on the work programme, www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/bailgaterestored will be launched in early January, or call 01522 782070.

Taxpayers Footing £1,000,000 Bonus Bill

Bonus payments to top policemen and tradesmen in Lincolnshire have cost more than £1million in taxpayers' cash.

The Lincolnshire Echo has reported that the City of Lincoln Council and Lincolnshire Police have been paying the cash to staff over the last five years, on top of their basic salaries.

The bonus bill at City Hall totalled £940,876 between 2005 and 2006, when the council had a Labour administration, with the biggest single payout amounting to £15,001, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials from the authority say the practice was stopped in June 2006 and the bonuses were given to tradesmen as part of a national pay agreement.

Lincolnshire Police has paid out £224,693 in the same period within the 'executive', which includes the six chief officers such as the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable, receiving the majority of cash.

In 2005, the force only paid out £8,297 in bonuses but this has since soared to £43,999 in 2006, £51,560 in 2007 and £60,997 in 2008.

The figures disclosed to the paper for 2009 was £59,840, as of Monday, 7th December 2009. Within the last 12-months the Lincolnshire Police executive has received £52,140 of the total bonuses issued with staff lower down the hierarchy securing the remaining £7,700.

North Kesteven, West Lindsey and East Lindsey district councils and Lincolnshire County Council say they have not paid a single penny in staff bonuses in the same period.

City of Lincoln Council director of housing and community services, John Bibby, said there was no intention to bring them back.

Welton Surgery to Expand

The village surgery in Welton is set to grow. Work on extension plans is underway and the whole job is expected to be complete by March next year.

The project is proof that West Lindsey’s planning applications procedure really does work as pre-application discussions allowed the project to be approved speedily.

Planning Officer, Mr. Eric Marcroft said:
"It was a good lesson learnt, and came out of a team effort, with the agent, architect and planning staff all working well together. It shows that the pre-application discussions can save a lot of time and distress."
After discussions at an early stage, an acceptable and agreed way forward meant the plan could sail ahead. It was a straight forward application, where the Parish Council was supportive and there were no objections.

A contract has been issued to Horsman Construction and agent Peter Banks said:
"Set-up and some ground works got underway before Christmas so we should be reasonably comfortable to complete this project before March 31 2010. This will be for the benefit, I am sure, of all residents."
West Lindsey District Council has refocused the way it works within the Planning Department, placing the emphasis on help and advice to customers throughout the process.

Reaction to Briton Executed by China

China which, has warned Britain that it must stop its fierce condemnation of its judicial process, executed Akmal Shaikh for drug smuggling. The execution has provoked strong criticism from Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP who said in a statement that he was 'appalled'.

Shaikh was executed by lethal injection at 10.30am local time on Tuesday, 29th December 2009 (2:30am GMT) at the Xishan Detention Centre in Urumqi, in the far west of China. Government ministers repeatedly called on China to show clemency because Shaikh was believed to suffer from severe bipolar disorder.

In Lincoln yesterday I was surprised that the matter came up in conversation, and more surprised at the disconnect between the position of the British Government and the public. All, universally supported China's right to try, convict and punish offenders in their own way, without interference. A source who attended a prayer session at the cathedral in the city has reported that two Roman Catholic nuns also thought what China has done was right - obviously in spite of the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry expressed China’s anger at the British Government’s response to the death sentence. spokeswoman Jiang Yu said:
"Nobody has the right to speak ill of China’s judicial sovereignty.

"We express strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition over the groundless British accusations. We hope that the British side can view this matter rationally and not create new obstacles in bilateral relations."
Since Shaikh was arrested at Urumqi airport with four kilos of heroin in September 2007, China denied repeated requests for him to be examined by a doctor. His family insist he was tricked into carrying the drugs by a criminal gang.

China has a zero tolerance policy towards drug smugglers, whether Chinese or foreign. It is also extremely sensitive towards any attempts to interfere in what it regards as its internal affairs.

Housing Staff Win Inspection Awards

Five members of the housing team at West Lindsey District Council are now qualified to inspect houses and judge whether they are fit to live in.

The award is nationally recognised and can only be awarded by the University of Warwick.

Training for the award was carried out by Decent and Safe Homes, part of Derby City Council, and they were so impressed by the facilities available at the council headquarters at the Guildhall in Gainsborough, that they have decided to use it as their training base.

Council Chairman Cllr. Jessie Milne, Conservative (Lea Ward), presented the awards.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Microbiolgy Services 'Blighted' by Move to Scunthorpe

This Lincolnshire Echo reported yesterday that mislaid samples and delays have blighted the work of hospital staff after microbiology services were moved out of Lincoln, according to former consultant, Dr. Christopher Brightman who has told the paper that it took him
"considerably longer"
to get hold of certain results following the closure of the on-site microbiology laboratory at Lincoln County Hospital.

The service was transferred to Scunthorpe General Hospital by operator Path Links in April, with samples from patients in Lincoln now required to travel more than 27 miles for testing.

Dr. Brightman said he took early retirement from his microbiologist consultant role at Lincoln County Hospital in October, when he felt he could no longer deliver the same 'high standard' of service to his colleagues. Earlier in the month health officials labelled the transfer a success and said turnaround times for samples had become quicker since the move.

However, a source who serves on the Health Scrutiny Committee has reported that at the meeting of the committee the Acting Chief Executive, Mr. Bernard Chalk, was not not expecting to provide a detailed report on the impact of the move, blagged his way through when pressed by Chairman Cllr. Mrs. Christine Talbot, Conservative (Bracebridge Heath and Waddington Division), in spite of the expectations of the committee to the contrary.

Mr. Chalk also told the last Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee the quality of service had improved. However, Dr Brightman, who currently works as a locum general practitioner, said he took exception to that remark.

"I always found my work satisfying and enjoyable.

"We had a happy department and I believe that my colleague, our staff and I provided an excellent service, so I take great exception to the remark that the 'quality of the service has improved', since in my personal opinion that is not the case.

"My plan was to continue to work until I reached retirement age. However, I decided to retire at the end of this October since I did not believe that I could continue to provide a high standard of service to clinical colleagues without a laboratory on site.

"It took considerably longer to obtain results, I could no longer discuss technical problems with my staff, which is important since many results have to be interpreted by experienced technical and medical staff before appropriate advice can be given to clinicians."


Cllr. Mrs. Talbot has reported to me that Mr. Chalk has been invited back to Health Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, 27th January 2010.

Rebuilding Confidence in Planning Department

New procedures have been put in place to reassure people that the planning process at West Lindsey District Council is open and transparent.

An Audit Commission report into governance within the planning department is due to be published soon, but Planning Committee Chairman, Cllr. Chris Underwood-Frost, Conservative (Scotter Ward), has decided to introduce some changes immediately.

From Wednesday, 6th January 2010, meetings of the Committee will be web-cast to allow members of the public to watch proceedings live on the internet.

Speaking shortly before the festive period Cllr. Underwood-Frost said:

"We will also be reminding councillors of the Members’ Code of Conduct and the Standards Board for England’s DVD of the new code will be played at the start of the next meeting"

Other changes include:

  • Planning Briefings for councillors will be rescheduled for two weeks before meetings to bring them in line with other committees.
  • Clarity on the roles of Councillors and Officers has been reissued
  • The Interim Service Manager for Planning will be available for half an hour before meetings to answer questions from councillors on the reports for consideration
  • Councillors are being urged to check technical details of applications with the officer named in the report prior to the committee.

Cllr. Underwood-Frost said:

"I have also asked for public participation at Planning Committee to be reviewed and good practice from other Councils be investigated to ensure that the public has the best possible opportunity to make their views heard.

"We will obviously be looking carefully at any recommendations made in the Audit Commission report, but in the meantime I hope that these changes will begin to rebuild confidence in the planning service provided by West Lindsey District Council."

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow hits green waste collections in West Lindsey

-But residents told to keep putting their bins out

Snow and ice has caused the postponement of some waste and recycling collections across West Lindsey yesterday, with the Council outlining plans to catch up on collections later this week in a bid to clear waste and recycling before Christmas.

The extreme weather has disrupted collections in many local authorities across the country, with more icy conditions forecast it raises the prospect of further disruption.

West Lindsey District Council explained that it had temporarily suspended all green waste collections because icy conditions had made it necessary to prioritise refuse and recycling at this time. The Council said that with temperatures predicted to plummet to as low as -6 degrees over the next few days emptying garden waste from the green bins is proving difficult it would resume collections after the thaw.

The Council advised residents to put out their waste and recycling as per the advertised times,(visit www.west-lindsey.gov.uk/mybinday for details) but pleaded for patience if collections are affected. It asked that, residents to leave uncollected bins out at their property boundary to enable crews to clear them as soon as it is possible.

As Waste Services Manager Glyn Pilkington explained there has also been some disruption to refuse collection services in some areas.
"The levels of snow and ice on untreated road surfaces in some rural areas around Market Rasen made it unwise to operate heavy machinery in these areas, or for teams to be lifting and carrying heavy waste long distances over slippery surfaces."
While noting that The Council would resume collections
"as soon as possible"
, he told residents in the affected areas that the safety of members of the public and collection crews was his highest priority and no risks would be taken

Adrian Selby, Operations Team Leader for West Lindsey Council explained the decision-making process used when suspending its collections today.
"The decision to make the collection, or to suspend, is taken by myself in conjunction with Senior Management immediately before the collections are due to start. In the event of a decision to suspend the collection, staff are retained until it is decided that collections during that day are impossible. Decisions are made on a day to day basis.

"When collections re-commence, the priority is to recover the lost waste collection routes as early as practicable using all available resources."
West Lindsey District Council stressed to residents that most waste and recycling collections were running today, as scheduled

Cllr. Irmgard Parrott, Conservative (Cherry Willinham Ward), Chairman of West Lindsey’s Community and Waste Committee, said:
"Our fantastic collection crews have been working hard to minimise any disruption to our services and they have been out as normal today.

"We are expecting some side roads to be impassable but any collections are unable to make today we hope to make tomorrow."

Monday, 21 December 2009

Pope to Visit Britain - Update

Update to Pope to Visit Britain.

The dates for a papal visit to Britain have been announced. Pope Benedict XVI will make a State and Pastoral visit between Thursday, 16th and Sunday, 19th September 2010. It will be the first papal visit to Britain since 1982, when Pope John Paul II's six-day tour drew huge crowds.

Pope Benedict's visit would only be the second by a head of the Catholic Church since Henry VIII declared himself head of the church in England more than 500 years ago.

There are an estimated 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales.

It is understood that the itinerary will consist of public masses and ecumenical functions but the Pope has declined an open-carriage procession and banquet at Buckingham Palace.

The Pope is expected to stay at the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission, in Wimbledon in southwest London.

Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, a prominent Catholic who is leading government plans for the visit has said:
"It's a unique constitutional arrangement as the pope is head of a faith and the head of state."
- And by 'unique' presumably the minister means exactly the same constitutional arrangement as we have in Britain. The Queen is Head of State and Head of the Church of England. Are we to assume that no one expects a minister to understand how the government he is part of functions? -
"The official title is papal visit with the status of a state visit. Normally state visits include banquets and gold carriages but the Vatican doesn't want that."
Mr. Murphy confirmed that Benedict XVI would spend three days in England and one day in Scotland, where he is likely to meet the Queen as she holidays in the country.

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the Scottish Bishops' Conference has drawn up an itinerary that has been passed to papal officials in Rome.
"It's a pretty imaginative mix of public masses, ecumenical events and other functions. Obviously, however, it's up to the Vatican to make the final decision on it."
Concluded Mr. Murphy.

Lincoln Rugby Football Club Battle for Hearts and Minds

Lincoln Rugby Football Club have launched a new phase in their public relations offensive with residents of Nettleham.

Yesterday morning a leaflet was put through the letterbox of homes in the village with the subject headline reading:
"Proposed Relocation of Lincoln Rugby Football Club"
The A5, four page, pamphlet has a three sided, open letter to residents from Mr. Bill Green, President of the Rugby Club, together with a diagramatic plan of the development proposed on Lodge Lane, Nettleham.

Mr. Green begins:
"You will perhaps by now be aware of the planning application submitted to develop land off Loge Lane to be the new home for Lincoln Rugby Football Club."
He continues and talks about correcting a number of misunderstandings that seem to have become popular fact, wishing to reassure residents. His letter includes details of the 8,000 trees that will be planted in conjunction with the Nettleham Woodland Trust, details of the rugby season, the efforts made to reduce the impact of the development both visually and on the environment. In some detail the issue of traffic has been discussed. Towards the end of the open letter he says:
"[W]e hope you realise, we are a community club with strong local roots, and wan tto work with you to get the site right - both for us, but importantly for you too, and become something of which the residents of Nettleham can be proud."
Giles McNeill said:
"I think that the Rugby Club are going to great lengths to win public opinion, something that a lot of other developers don't do. I hope people who recieve this leaflet will read it and it will correct any wrong information that they have recieved."
Following the departure from West Lindsey District Council of Mr. Ian Dickinson, the planning officer dealing with the club's application, it is not now known for certain when the planning application will appear before the Planning Committee of West Lindsey District Council.

ADMIN: Chistmas and New Year's Holiday's

Updates will be suspended from 12:00noon on Wednesday, 23rd, December 2009 and will resume from 12:00noon on Tuesday, 29th December 2009 for the Christmas period.

Updates will be suspended from 12:00noon on Thursday 31st December 2009 and will resume from 7:00am on Monday, 4th January 2010 for the New Year's period.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Lincolnshire's Conservative Prepare to Welcome Special Guest in 2010

Lincolnshire Conservatives will welcome a very special guest to the county in February 2010.

As an early Christmas present to members and activists throughout Lincolnshire the Conservatives' County Committee has announced:
"A surprise worth waiting for; we were given the go-ahead today. With your helpwe are going to give this our best shot toboost your campaign funds"
The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH will be the very special guest of Lincolnshire's Conservatives at a Dinner to be hosted at the Epic Centre, Lincolnshire Show Ground, North Carlton, on the evening of Thursday, 18th February 2010. Further details to follow.

Friday, 18 December 2009

New campaign to seek out UFOs

New research into freezer use from Love Food Hate Waste in our homes, reveals a third of us find food in the freezer we had forgotten about or can't identify.

‘Unidentified Frozen Objects’ in our freezer are estimated to be worth £860m, but doubts about freezing a wider variety of foods, and a belief that freezing is only for long-term storage, means that we are taking the freezer for granted.

Food that is thrown away which could have been frozen adds to the food waste problem.

In the run up to Christmas when the freezer comes into its own, West Lindsey’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign is calling on us all to find out what's inside our freezers. By making meals from what is already there we can save money, postpone our regular shop and make room for new festive foods, homemade meals and those inevitable leftovers.

Cllr. Irmgard Parrott, Conservative (Cherry Willingham Ward), Chairman of the Community and Waste Committee of West Lindsey District Council, is calling householders across the district to join the ‘Freezer Expedition’ at lovefoodhatewaste.com this weekend in preparation for the festive season.

West Lindsey Love Food Hate Waste spokesperson, Elaine Bilton, explains:
“The Freezer Expedition is a journey into the unknown for some of us. Our new
findings show that most of us would never freeze traditional Christmas foods if
we've over catered, even though freezing means we can choose to eat them later.
So West Lindsey's Love Food Hate Waste campaign is giving myth busting advice on
what we can freeze - and it's practically everything.”
Christmas cake, leftover turkey, potatoes and any extra stilton can all be frozen for another time.

Based on 2008 figures, households are about to spend more than £520m on Christmas dinner alone this year. So, starting the season with more room to freeze our Christmas foods and leftovers should help us all save money and reduce our food waste.

You can watch TV personality Sue Perkins at lovefoodhatewaste.com taking part in her own ‘Freezer Expedition’ and discovering practical tips as she goes. Sue says:
“The freezer is just like a ‘pause’ button to help save foods – it’s no longer a
dark, distant place to me.”
The website also features a new range of freezable family meals to make at home, many of which can be cooked straight from frozen for convenience over the holidays.
Top freezer tips from Love Food Hate Waste:
  1. Food can be frozen at any point up to the end of the ‘use by’ date
  2. If you defrost raw meat and then cook it thoroughly, you can freeze it again. Just take care to defrost thoroughly and re-heat until piping hot
  3. Freezing fresh foods and home-cooked meals is a great way to save food for later, sealing in the goodness until you are ready to eat it - freeze in portions or ‘meals’
  4. Almost any food (including hard cheese, milk, mashed potato, bread, homemade meals and cakes) can be frozen - check the website for more information
  5. Cooked food should be cooled before transferring into the freezer
  6. It is safe to defrost food at room temperature, provided you intend to eat it as soon as it's thawed. Or defrost in the fridge overnight and plan to eat within 2 days
  7. Labelling and dating foods before you put them in the freezer will help avoid 'UFOs' in the future
  8. You can prepare ahead for Christmas by parboiling your potatoes and freezing them
  9. If you're going away this Christmas don't forget you can freeze any unused milk before you go
  10. If you're struggling to get your portions right why not go to lovefoodhatewaste.com and use our portion calculator to find out exactly how much you need to cook Christmas dinner

Thursday, 17 December 2009

NHS Trust Hail Successful Laboratory Move

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has hailed the move of microbiology services away from Lincoln as a success. According to Acting Chief Executive Bernard Chalk turnaround times for test results are faster and the quality of the service has improved.

The laboratory, which tests samples taken from patients for infections such as MRSA, moved from Lincoln County Hospital to Scunthorpe Hospital in April 2009 following some considerable objection with a ‘Save the Microbiology Laboratory’ Campaign spearheaded by Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln, Mr. Karl McCartney.

At a United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust board meeting this week the agenda revealed there had been no recorded complaints of samples going missing from Lincoln during the journey to Scunthorpe. Nevertheless councillors raised concerns at yesterday's Lincolnshire Health Scrutiny Committee that adequate systems to monitor performance were not in place.

Cllr. Meg Davidson, Conservative (Fiskerton Ward), questioned whether the full picture had been revealed.
"Clearly this is a work in progress.

"I see from the trust's report that it says since the first few weeks of the service transferring, there have been no recorded complaints regarding missing samples. There is no mention that there is still work to do to sort out the incident reporting system. Perhaps that does not give the complete picture to the board."

Former Council Leader Drops Planning Application

Former Leader of West Lindsey District Council, Cllr. Bernard Theobald, (Wold View Ward), has dropped attempts to build a country house following rejection on appeal the Lincolnshire Echo is reporting.

Cllr. Theobald submitted proposals to develop a five-bedroom property on land he part-owns with colleague Cllr. Stuart Kinch, (Torksey Ward) and their respective wives for £155,000, before drawing up designs to turn the former sawmill site into a residential property at South Owersby in June.

The application was due to go before the council's planning committee with a report recommending it should be approved but was removed after serious concerns were expressed about it. Following the authority's failure to meet a statutory deadline to make a decision, Cllr. Theobald sent an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. But the former leader has now admitted defeat in his bid to build the property on the land after the Planning Inspectorate dismissed his case.

In the report, case inspector Alison Lea said:
"It is clear the council had concerns in respect of the approach adopted by the planning officer in the report marked draft/incomplete.

"Although the council failed to articulate those concerns in any detail, in my opinion the council did have substantive reasons to justify delaying the determination and this is not a case where development which should clearly have been permitted has been prevented or delayed.

"Indeed, I do not agree with the conclusion reached in the draft/incomplete report and have dismissed the appeal."
Cllr. Theobald said:
"It's a standard format – they look at the planning application, take a view and come to a decision.

"You never know which way it will go. That application has run its course."
BBC Radio Lincolnshire is also reporting that the a planning officer who was suspended by West Lindsey District Council has now resigned from the authority.

At a meeting of Nettleham Parish Council it was reported by Cllr. Malcolm Leaning, Liberal Democrat (Nettleham Ward), that Mr. Ian Dickinson, the Planning Officer who was responsible for the Lincoln Rugby Football Club's planning application had been sacked. The Chairman of the Parish Council, Cllr. Terry Williams pointedly requested that Cllr. Leaning wished the minutes to reflect that Mr. Dickinson had been sacked and Cllr. Leaning confirmed that was what he had been told. The following morning Cllr. Leaning clarified, via email, that:
"Although I repeated what I had been directly told last evening - I now have been informed that Ian Dickinson has left WLDC by ‘mutual agreement’.

"He is briefing the temporary Head of Planning today on his outstanding work which will include the ‘Rugby Club’ application."

West Lindsey's Council Tax Rise Less Than 1%

Next year's Council Tax increase from West Lindsey District Council will be less than 1%. That is the pledge from the ruling Conservative Group made by Acting Leader of the authority, Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward), following consultation meetings with local residents.
"We have spoken to householders who told us quite clearly that their budgets were under pressure in these difficult economic times and they wanted the lowest level of increase we could reasonably levy.

"Bearing this in mind, we have looked long and hard at our figures and because we made some difficult decisions last year we are now in a position where having an increase of less than 1% is sensible and will not lead to a reduction in key services or to massive cuts,"
Cllr. Duguid said that the foundations had now been laid for low council tax increases for the foreseeable future, but this did not mean that new projects and improvements would not be carried out.
"We set our priorities in August to do all we could to be a prosperous district and grow the economy in these difficult economic times.

"Our plans to build a swimming pool in Market Rasen remain on track and the project to make £3 million worth of improvements to Gainsborough town centre - funded by the Council and many other partners - will start on January 11th."
The meeting of West Lindsey District Council that will set the level of Council Tax is scheduled to take place on March 7 2010.

Residents in Nettleham will also be helped during the recession as Nettleham Parish Council has frozen the parish's precept - that part of the Council Tax raised for Nettleham Parish Council.

Leader of Lincolnshire Council Council, Cllr. Martin Hill OBE, Conservative (Folkingham Rural Division), recently has said:
"At the county council, we are preparing for substantial cuts in government funding, as the economic outlook for all local councils in England is the bleakest in decades."
It is expected that the increase in the proportion of the Council Tax collected for the county council will be around 2.5%.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Red Arrows Say 'Thanks' to Residents of West Lindsey

The world famous Red Arrows based at Royal Air Force Scampton in West Lindsey have thanked local people for their support.

Squadron Leader Ben Murphy, Officer Commanding and Team Leader of the Red Arrows, said:
"When we perform displays we are acting as ambassadors for both the Royal AirForce and the United Kingdom. We can't do this without the support of the peopleof Lincolnshire. For six months of the year we have to use the skies here to
practice and perfect the display. Without the support of local residents it would make things very difficult."
The Red Arrows winter training programme at Scampton runs from October through to March. For safety reasons each Red Arrows' display is designed to follow the same flight path over the ground.

Squadron Leader Murphy explained:
"To get to the standard needed for us to be allowed to display to the public we have to practice the same sequence of manoeuvres. We start with small formations of say four aircraft and gradually build up to nine as the winter months pass."
All military aircraft are required to avoid flying directly over residential areas, hospitals, schools, animal sanctuaries and other sensitive areas, whenever operationally possible.

The Red Arrows are no exception but given the location of some of the nearby villages to RAF Scampton, such as Burton, the Carltons, Scampton, Aisthorpe, Brattleby, Cammeringham, Ingham, Hackthorn, Nettleham, Dunholme and Welton, this is not always practicable.

Squadron Leader Murphy added:
"We do make every effort to avoid residential areas where possible. The aerobatic flying that we do is subject to the very strictest of safety rules and regulations, as are all of our engineering operations. If anyone has any questions about what we do please do get in touch. We are always happy to chat through local residents concerns."
For more information about the Red Arrows visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds.

Don't Forget to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Over eight million trees were bought last Christmas in the United Kingdom. Most are thrown away creating over 150,000 tonnes of additional rubbish - which is twenty-one times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. Local residents are bing asked to do their bit to reduce this amount of rubbish by recycling their Christmas Tree.

Green waste wheelie bin collections take place once a month during the Winter period (December - March) and every two weeks throughout the rest of the year.

So local people can put their Christmas tree out in the green bin on their regular garden waste collection day. Check your calendar or visit www.west-lindsey.gov.uk/mybinday. It would also help if branches are trimmed before putting in the bin.

Alternatively trees can be taken to one the Household Waste Recycling Centres at any of the following locations:

  • Summergangs Lane, Gainsborough
  • Whisby, near Lincoln
  • Great Northern Terrace, Lincoln
  • Bolingbroke Road, FairfieldIndustrial Estate, Louth
  • Redbourne Mere, Kirton Lindsey (in the North Lincolnshire Council area but West Lindsey residents can use this facility)
  • Bigby Road, Melton Ross, Barnetby (as above)

All of the Christmas trees collected will be recycled and turned into nutrient rich compost at one of four sites in the district. The trees, and other green waste, will be tipped by the collection vehicle on to a heap and aerated. The material will then be inspected for any contaminants such as plastic bags and once they have been removed, the material will be put into a pile and shredded. It is turned at least three times until it reaches its final product. This process takes approximately eight weeks before quality compost is produced.

If you have an artificial tree you are throwing away it is important to bear in mind that it will be sent to landfill sites where they are not biodegradable. When you no longer want your artificial tree, you can extend its life by giving it to a local group or Charity shop.

A second progress update on the administration of the Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
"A large part of the responsibility for this public administration debacle lies with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It has consistently failed to spot continuing problems with this scheme for paying EU grants to farmers and to get to grips with issues previously raised by this Committee. But this lack of attention has been compounded by poor leadership and management information in the Rural Payments Agency.

"It is an extremely serious charge from this Committee that negligible attention has been paid to taxpayers' interests. The £350 million IT systems underlying the scheme are cumbersome, overly complex and at risk of becoming obsolete and they continue to soak up huge sums of money. The information held is riddled with error and efforts to recover overpayments have been woefully slow, haphazard and ineffective, causing anxiety and concern to farmers.

"The Department is still unable to come to terms with its failure, first having confirmed the validity of the National Audit Office calculation of some £1,700 for the average cost of administering each claim and then offering an alternative cost of £700. The Committee's confidence in the Department's ability to cut costs in future was hardly boosted by its unconvincing explanation why its interpretation was more reliable than that of the NAO.

"The truth is that the Department has either not grasped the seriousness of what has been happening or been reluctant to face up to problems. We have now insisted, and the Department has agreed, that it provide us with clear evidence of what progress has been made and explain how it is meeting the NAO's recommendations."
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 1st Report of this Session. This is the third time in three years that the Committee has taken evidence on the £1.6 billion Single Payment Scheme in England administered by the Rural Payments Agency (the Agency) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (the Department). On the basis of a follow up report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Committee examined the progress made in addressing our previous concerns and the capacity of senior managers in the Agency and the Department to resolve matters.

Oversight of the Single Payment Scheme is a singular example of comprehensively poor administration on a grand scale. The paucity of good management information in the Agency and the complacent oversight by the Department have acted to obscure the true situation for far too long. A focus over the last two and a half years in bringing forward payments to farmers has enabled the Agency to bring its deadline forward by nearly seven weeks, but this is still six weeks off the deadline it had planned and a long way short of the standards set in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the meantime, there has been negligible attention to the protection of taxpayers' interests. Despite all the assurances previously given to this Committee, the Agency has spent £350 million on a cumbersome IT system that can only be supported at huge cost and which is increasingly at risk of becoming obsolete. The data held in the system remains riddled with errors and efforts to recover overpayments have been slow, disorganised and haphazard.

The root cause of this debacle has been poor leadership within the Agency and a lack of attention by the Department. Each claim costs over six times more to process in England than Scotland and yet the Chief Executive received a performance bonus in 2008-09. The Department was not able to demonstrate an adequate grasp of the costs of administering the scheme.

There has been a high turnover of expensive senior management appointments in the Agency and it appears to have been reluctant to face up to the problems by taking the firm action required to turn the organisation round.

Responsibility rests with the Accounting Officers to resolve this misadministration. The Committee is very concerned at the absence of progress to date and looks to the Departmental Accounting Officer to take personal responsibility for this scheme, develop an action plan and to report back to us regularly on progress. The Committee expects to receive the first progress report by the end of January 2010 and to see clear evidence that its concerns are being properly addressed.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Councillor Lives in India

A town councillor who has been living in India for the past four months while still being paid by council taxpayers is facing the sack.

Cllr. Yusuf Sidat, Liberal Democrat has attended only two meetings since May, the last one in June, but in that time has received £3,000 in allowances – the equivalent of £1,500 per meeting.

Last year Cllr. Sidat was welcomed back into the Liberal Democrat fold on Blackburn with Darwen Council in Lancashire after jetting off to India for three months. Residents have been unable to contact him for help or advice and council bosses have not been able to speak to him.

He has now been expelled from the Liberal Democrat Group again and will have to stand down if he has not attended a meeting by Christmas Day.

The Taxpayers Alliance said it was a
"disgrace"
that more effort was not made to track down Cll.r Sidat, who is paid an annual allowance of £6,000.

Susie Squire, the taxpayers Alliance’s political director, said:
"It’s all very well for the council to threaten to take his privileges away now, but this action should have been taken the minute it became clear that he was taking taxpayers’ money and yet performing no duties to merit his allowances."
Cllr. Sidat risked the wrath of party leaders when he spent from January to March in India last year.

Yesterday the Liberal Democrat Group Leader David Foster said:
"We have high expectations of our councillors. Councillor Sidat, due to his absence, has failed to live up to these expectations and to provide the standard of service to his constituents that Liberal Democrats demand from councillors."

Crime Figures for Nettleham (Nov/Dec 2009)

The following details emerged in a Police Report that was submitted and considered at last night's Nettleham Parish Council Meeting, it give details of occurrences in Nettleham between Wednesday, 11th November 2009 to Friday, 11th December 2009.

Between the dates the Police had twenty-five incidents reported to them. The incidents highlighted to the parish council were as follows:

Wednesday, 9th December 2009 – A member of public reported seeing a vehicle being driven around Mulsanne Car Park, the registration number was obtained. Enquiries are currently ongoing and the intention will be to issue the driver with a section 59 notice.

Tuesday, 1st December 2009 – A report that during early hours a suspicious van had been seen on Medway Close. No details of van taken. Incident had occurred at approx 4:10am but not reported until later in the day, so no opportunity for officers to search for the van.

Saturday, 21st November 2009 – A report was received of a male purchasing alcohol at the Premier Shop, Lodge Lane and handing it over to teenagers. However on investigation by officers this was not the case.

Between Friday, 20th November 2009 and Monday, 23rd November 2009 – A report of five vehicles crimes, theft from and/or damage to over night.

Between the above dates there have been thirteen crimes recorded by the Police for the Nettleham area, the crimes of note highlighted for the Parish Council were as follows:

Overnight following Thursday, 19th November 2009 – A work van broken into on private driveway in Brookfield Avenue, possibility that the van had been left insecure. Property stolen from within vehicle.

Overnight following Sunday, 22nd November 2009 – An attempt was made to break into a vehicle on a private driveway on Herrington Avenue, damage only caused.

Overnight following Sunday, 22nd November 2009 – Vehicle broken into whilst parked on private driveway Ridgeway. Property stolen from within vehicle.

Overnight following Sunday, 22nd November 2009 – Vehicle broken into whilst parked on private driveway on Kerrison View. Property stolen from within vehicle.

Between Monday, 23rd November 2009 and Wednesday, 25th November 2009 – Interference with motorvehicle whilst parked on private driveway in Squires Place. An attempt made to enter vehicle but damage only caused.

On all the above crimes there have been no witnesses or suspects and nothing of value; for scenes of crime so at this time all remain undetected.

Between Monday, 16th November 2009 and Friday, 21st November 2009 a garage has been entered and a pedal cycle stolen from within. This occurred on Ashtree Avenue.

On Saturday, 5th December 2009 there were two assaults reported from Mulsanne Park, however these were between two persons playing a football match. Both are being investigated by the respective officers.

Overnight following Wednesday 9th December 2009 a shed broken into at property on Lincoln Road and bikes and a petrol mower were stolen. This is still currently being looked into by the investigating officer.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Nettleham's Conservatives Enjoy Festive Coffee Morning Success

Nettleham & District Conservatives hosted a Coffee Morning at the Large Hall of the Old School, Nettleham on Saturday. Local Member of Parliament, Edward Leigh was in attendance and gave a rousing speech calling local activists to be ready for a general election at any time.

Above: Members of the Committee of Nettleham & Dsitrict Conservatives with Our Lady of Lincoln Carollers.

An excellent selection of carols were provided by Our Lady of Lincoln Carollers who collect for local charities.

Giles McNeill, Branch Secretary, said:

"We've had a bit of a difficult time in recent weeks in West Lindsey, but here on the Lincoln fringe we are continuing to pull together to get David Cameron into Number 10, Edward Leigh re-elected and local councillors and more local candidates elected to the district council."

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Leadership Contest Speculation Begins

The Lincolnshire Echo is reporting that A former Conservative Group Leader has emerged as the favourite to take control of the West Lindsey District Council Conservative Group. Apparently, sources described as 'close to the Echo' - whoever they are - have revealed that Cllr. Ian Fleetwood, Conservative (Bardney Ward), is the front runner to replace Cllr. Bernard Theobald (Wold View Ward) as the Leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Cllr. Fleetwood previously held the position of Conservative Group Leader at the authority and is also a Lincolnshire County Council member representing the Bardney and Cherry Willingham Division. The Lincolnshire Echo have clearly forgotton that whilst Cllr. Fleetwood may have once been a contender it is hard to fathom how, following the suspension of his driving licence for a drink-driving offence earlier in the year, he emerges as front runner. Cllr. Fleetwood also represents Lincolnshire on a number of committees at the European level and so is often out of the country.

The Lincolnshire Echo also suggest Councillors Lewis Strange, Conservative (Kelsey Ward), and Chris Underwood-Frost, Conservative (Scottor Ward), as also being considered for the top job.

Cllr. Strange, who is County Councillor for the Ancholme Cliff Division, is an unlikely choice following publicly defending the achievements of Cllr. Theobald leadership although he is genteel, personable and one of the longest serving members of the Conservative Group, it is unlikely that as a portfolio holder on Lincolnshire County Council he has the time to commit to also being leader a district authority.

Cllr. Underwood-Frost is certainly known to have some limited ambitions in direction of the leadership, he would likely make a good leader in the inter-rim but may lack a desire to steer the council in the long term.

According to the Lincolnshire Echo's report Acting Leader Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward) and former Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association Chairman until March of this year, has ruled himself out of the running for the leadership but said he would continue as a 'caretaker' until a new appointment is made.

The paper omits a number of other likely contenders who would make good Group Leaders: Former Deputy Group Leader, Cllr. Mrs. Meg Davidson, Conservative (Fiskerton Ward) and Chairman of the Council, Cllr. Mrs. Jessie Milne, Conservative (Lea Ward).

The Lincolnshire Echo suggest that a new leader could be confirmed at Monday's extraordinary council meeting or be left until the new year. I suspect that a Group Meeting will not select a new leader until after Tuesday, 22nd December 2009 and most likely not until the new year.

One change that is expected is to have two deputy leaders rather than the current system of just one. Following the Conservative Group's victory in the May 2008 local elections Cllr. Theobald was elected by the group as leader, Cllr. Mrs. Davidson was elected as Deputy Group Leader and Cllr. Theobald appointed Cllr. Duguid as Deputy Leader of the Council so having two deputies is not so unusual. If the leadership of the group changes there is also the possibility that other officers - such as the Chief Whip - may also be re-appointed.

The paper quotes Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen) as saying that an announcement would be made
"when the time is right".

"We have had a meeting about it and that is all I can say."

"We are satisfied with the progress made. We wanted someone with good political experience and all the qualities necessary for good leadership - lead by consensus and democracy rather than any other less inclusive qualities. We don't want anyone to take executive decisions."

Video Blog No. 9: Riverdale Sub-Station Improved



Back in the spring of 2008 one resident of Riverdale in Nettleham contacted me about trying to get the fencing panels that shield the electricity sub-station replaced as they were beginning to look particularly shabby and unsecure.



Above: Giles McNeill takes down details of the delaperdated structure on Riverdale, Nettleham in Spring 2008 following a complaint by a local resident.
Below: Giles McNeill admires the newly installed gates and fencing.




I am pleased to report that, although it has taken longer than I would have liked, new fencing panels and study metal gates have been erected at the Riverdale sub-station today and have, in my view, really improved what had been in a sorry state.

I have spoken with the resident concerned and she seems very pleased with the results.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Stuart Kinch Resigns from WLDC Conservative Group - Lib Dem Suggests

I have just been speaking on the telephone to a Liberal Democrat member of West Lindsey District Council who has suggested to me that Cllr. Stuart Kinch, (Torksey Ward) has resigned as a member of the Conservative Group on West Lindsey District Council. Whilst this report remains unconfirmed if true it is serious.

Left: Cllr. Stuart Kinch.

Cllr. Kinch was elected as a Conservative in the local elections of 2003 and subsequently re-elected in 2007 with a modest majority of 305 votes. In March of this year Cllr. Kinch was elected as one of the Deputy Chairman of the Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association. Cllr. Kinch was elected as a Conservative County Councillor in June 2009 for the Gainsborough Rural South Division of Lincolnshire County Council.

It is unknown at this time if such a resignation would be consequential to the planning application sought for land purchased with Cllr. Theobald who resigned last week as leader of the council, and has been suspended from the local Conservative Party, and the Audit Commission report into the planning department at West Lindsey District Council.

The Documents, available on the West Lindsey District Council website, for the extraordinary meeting taking place on Monday 14th December 2009, where only the appointment of committees is to be transacted shows the names of:

"Councillor Bernard Theobald"
and

"Councillor Stuart Kinch"
highlighted together with a

"Vacancy (Liberal Democrat)"
which presumably is the space made by the resignation of Peter Heath in November earlier in the year.

Beat Manager Changes Again!

An e-mail from the Parish Office reveals that Con. Dave Morgan (PC 440) will be away for three months and replaced by Con. Donnah Thompson (PC 277), she says:
"To let you know in advance the current Beat Manager Pc 440 Dave Morgan, will be away from the area for approx 3 months, starting Monday 14th December 2009.

"I will be taking over his position whilst he is away on a temporary basis and working along side PCSO Jackie Parker.

"Please feel free to contact me over any local issues, and if you could include me until further notice in emails on any Police related matters it would be much appreciated.

"I look forward to meeting you all at some point in the near future."

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Gillian Merron Surprise Appearance on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two

Much to the surprise of many no doubt Gillian Merron MP (Lincoln) appeared on tonight's BBC 2 'It Takes Two' - the sister show of the BBC's highly acclaimed Strictly Come Dancing.


Gillian Merron appears in prime time on BBC 2's 'It Takes Two' about twenty minutes into the show commenting on the government's Dance4Life inititive.

The Minister of State for Public Health recently launched a nationwide government campaign to get 100,00 more people active through dance.

The Department of Health’s 'Dance Champions' Group, including Arlene Phillips - a former judge on Strictly Come Dancing who left earlier in the year and was replaced, controversially by Alisha Dixson - former Come Dancing presenter Angela Rippon, Capital Radio’s Lisa Snowden and Strictly Come Dancing pro Darren Bennett, joined with Gillian Merron to announce a nationwide tour to get the country dancing in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

The City MP spoke of her experience in joining Lincoln's Park Street Age Concern's 'line dancing' class, to illustrate how dance can bring people together and improve fitness and flexibility for all ages.

Gillian Merron said:

"Our Dance Champions are some of the best known and leading talents of the dance world, but you don’t have to be a professional to enjoy dancing and feel the positive effect it can have on your health.

"People of all ages and abilities can get active to music and have a lot of fun too.

"Park Street Age Concern's 'line dancing' class is a perfect example of how everyone of every ability can get involved, and I was pleased to launch today's campaign using this lesson from Lincoln.

"The Chief Medical Officer recommends that adults do 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week, but over 27 million of us don’t manage it. With the leadership of the dance champions, we want to capture the national enthusiasm for dance and get at least 100,000 more adults active through dance in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

"The Dance Champions will help to make Dance4Life 'come to life' for thousands of people across the country"
Certainly she has stolen a march on Conservative parliamentary hopeful, Karl McCartney in terms of publicity by bagging a few moments in the prime time evening slot show. Karl had previously managed to generate a full front page of the Lincolnshire Echo earlier in the year when he appeared with shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt outlining potential plans for the Lincoln Racecourse on Carholme Road - an achievement that not even Ms. Merron has managed in her twelve year career. Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Reg Shore has also been getting some publicity for his campaign against Bernard Theobald's leadership of West Lindsey District Council and investigations into possible fraud and mismanagement in the planning department.

Labour U-Turn on Kelly Report: There Will Be Legislation

There will legislation to enact part of the Kelly Report on parliamentary expenses. A bit of an embarrassing U-turn this, as it comes only three weeks after the Queen’s speech, which had no mention of special laws to enact the Kelly report.

That seriously hacked off Sir Christopher Kelly, it gave David Cameron an open goal… and there’s now been a re-think at the top of government. Harriet Harman’s statement is here.

The Kelly report was damning about the way the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was legislated for in the first place. This all comes on the day we get the MPs’ expenses for 2008/9 and, later today, a league table of big spenders.

David Cameron made something of the fact that the latter wasn’t going to be published in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday but I hear this was not a cover-up, more a cock-up – it wasn’t specifically requested in the work commissioned for publication.

Some MPs will be getting a double whammy today because Sir Thomas Legg’s final demand letters are running late and the last of them will reach MPs today.

The 2008/9 “big spenders” totals when they come, later today, will not include any repayments that may have been made to Sir Thomas.

In some cases you’ll be able to tie up the two because the MP has publicised his or her repayment, in some cases that repayment hasn’t happened yet, or hasn’t yet been disclosed (they all get published when Legg’s report is finalised – now expected January 2010).

Save General Election Night EDM

In October, the Labour MP Tom Harris tabled an early day motion - which was seconded by Eric Pickles - backing the campaign to Save General Election Night.

Despite it being tabled in the last few weeks of the 2008-2009 parliamentary session, 220 MPs signed the motion, making it one of the most supported EDMs of the session - an important sign of the broad cross-party consensus on the issue.

But since EDMs fall at the end of each session, it has been retabled and appears in this new session as EDM 334, but the text is the same:


"SAVE GENERAL ELECTION NIGHT CAMPAIGN

"That this House is concerned at reports that growing numbers of Returning
Officers are considering postponing the counting of votes cast on the day of the
General Election until the day after polling; believes that in the 21st century
it would be a regressive move not to announce constituency results as early as
possible; further believes that public confidence in the results could be
undermined by delays in the counting of ballot papers and that fewer voters
would be able to watch the results being announced if this were done on a Friday
afternoon; and calls on local authorities throughout the United Kingdom to
ensure that all ballot papers are counted immediately after the close of polls
on General Election night, as has been the practice in previous General
Elections."

83 MPs from across the Commons have already shown their support for it again, but as before, please lobby your MP to add their signature to the motion if they haven't already done so.
The Guardian reported earlier this week that the BBC was having to prepare an election "night" marathon running through until Friday afternoon because of the refusal of some Returning Officers to count on the night itself.

According to the Electoral Commission's survey of Returning Officers, as of last week 273 counts are confirmed to take place on Election Night with 53 constituencies currently planning on counting on the Friday. Crucially, 154 Returning Officers are saying they are undecided, which means they are hopefully still open to persuasion on a local level.

Giles McNeill supports the Save The General Election Night campaign and the campaign's Facebook group is still live and has nearly 6,000 members, so do join and show your support.

The Morning After the Pre-Budget Report Before.

If the chancellor had a pound for every negative verdict on his budget plans in this morning's papers, the United Kingdom's finances might be in better shape!

The Times says Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report is the latest instalment in a farcical but unfunny comedy series it dubs 'Carry On Spending'. Whilst The Daily Express reports a 'furious backlash' over an epic election spending splurge.

'Pain postponed' is the view of the Independent front page.

A Guardian editorial suggests the chancellor 'did enough... to secure a few not-entirely-awful headlines'. But that prediction is only really backed up by the Daily Mirror, the front page of which offers in tabloid style: 'Bank you Darling!'


"Some early Christmas cheer"
was delivered, it says, by a tax on bonuses
"bashing the bankers who dragged us to the brink of economic meltdown".
More typically, the Daily Telegraph brands it a 'political survival plan' not an 'economic recovery plan'. The Daily Mail suggests that it was a time for:
"acutely painful and inevitably unpopular measures necessary to pull Britain back
from the brink
of bankruptcy".
But the chancellor
"shut his eyes to the reality of our plight"
Amid
"the biggest economic crisis of our lifetimes"
Mr Darling's answer is replacing old boilers, jeers The Sun.

And finally The Daily Star offers its readers 'one silver lining', pointing out that:
"Darling's likely to be unemployed himself by next summer!"

Pre-Budget Report 2009 Summary

A summary of the key announcements in Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report.

TAX



  • All national insurance rates to rise by a further 0.5% from April 2011, raising £3bn a year

  • VAT to return to 17.5% from 15% from 1 January 2010. No other changes to VAT

  • One-off 50% tax on bank bonuses of more than £25,000

  • Stamp duty holiday on certain properties to end on 1 January 2010

  • Bingo duty to be cut from 22% to 20%

ECONOMIC FORECASTS



  • Economy forecast to shrink 4.75% in 2009, worse than 3.5% forecast in April

  • Growth of 1%-1.5% expected in 2010 and 3.5% in 2011 and 2012

BORROWING



  • 2009 forecast raised by £3bn to £178bn

  • Estimated borrowing of £176bn in 2010 and £140bn in 2011, falling to £96bn in 2013

  • Budget deficit to be halved by 2013

  • Estimated public loss from bank bailouts reduced from £50bn to £10bn

SPENDING



  • Total spending in 2010-11 to rise by £31bn.

  • No spending review for period after that

  • Current spending estimated to fall by 0.8% between 2011-2 and 2014-5

PAY, PENSIONS AND BENEFITS



  • Basic state pension will rise by 2.5% in April 2010

  • Child and disability benefit to rise by 1.5% in 2010

  • Contributions to public sector pensions to be cut by £1bn a year

  • All public sector pay settlements to be capped at 1% for two years from 2011

ENVIRONMENT



  • £160m investment in low-carbon and renewable projects

  • £200m extra investment for Warm Front insulation scheme, helping 65,000 households

  • Boiler scrappage scheme for 125,000 households

  • Electric cars to be exempt from company car tax for five years

  • Tax rebate for installation of wind turbines and solar panels

EMPLOYMENT



  • Under-24s to be guaranteed work or training after six months out of work

  • Training or education guarantee for 16 and 17-year-old to be extended to 2010

BUSINESS



  • New 50p tax on landline phones to pay for superfast broadband

  • New 10% tax on income from patents to boost science development

  • 1p increase in corporation tax for small firms to be deferred

FAMILIES



  • Free school meals to an extra 500,000 low income families

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Green Wheelie Bin Overpayment Rebate

One of the central campaign promises of the Conservatives when they won in the Local Elections in 2008 was a promise to scrap the £24.50 annual charge for Green Bins, initially for pensioners and when council finances permitted, for all users of the service.

The introduction of free green bin collections to everyone in the district means that those who had paid in advance have effectively overpaid. The Conservative administration of the Council have now decided to reimburse those who have been disadvantaged.

The cost of the refunds is being met from the savings that are being achieved by the triple bin waste collection. Repayments will be for as little as £2 up to more than £22. Because of the relatively small amounts involved, customers are being urged to allow their refunds to be credited against their Council Tax.

To make your claim please use the form here.

Local People Think West Lindsey is a Good Place to Live

87% of locals think West Lindsey is a good place to live. That's the view of the Oneplace assessment released today - part of the Government's Comprehensive Area Assessment performance monitoring programme aimed at providing the community with an overview of how public services perform in their area.

The report also says that the regeneration of Marshall's Yard in Gainsborough shows that the Council can manage large development projects and that this bodes well for the regeneration of the town centre and the developments to the south of the town.

The Council's commitment to the whole of the district is demonstrated by the First Contact Scheme which allows people over 60 to access a wide range of services from their homes, the report adds.

Acting Leader of the Council, Cllr Adam Duguid said:
"Our overall rating of two out of four in all sections means that we areofficially scored as performing adequately. This is a little disappointing as I believe we are already doing well in many areas and I am certain that we will soon be recognised for our work."
The report says the area is clean and that waste collection and recycling services are highly rated by local people. Cllr Duguid continued:
"We work closely with other organisations like the County Council, other district councils, health services and the police and we seek out the best way of providing services,"
A recent survey showed that 46% of residents were satisfied with the Council - slightly above the average for England. The Council also recognised that sports and leisure facilities could be improved and had ensured that a new leisure contract for its facilities at Gainsborough, Market Rasen and Caistor, is now focused on what people want.

The report also comments on the fact that West Lindsey was the first Council in England to be awarded the 'achieving level' of the new Equalities Framework which supports an equal society.
Cllr Duguid said:
"More than 84% of residents believe people from different backgrounds get on
well together which is the highest rating in Lincolnshire. The Council has
invested to reduce anti-social behaviour and now fewer than 10% of residents
consider anti-social behaviour to be a problem."
The report notes that the Council is aware that more jobs are needed as Gainsborough grows. The Council's purchase of the Plough pub in the town has allowed the site to be redeveloped for business use as part of the town centre improvement plan. The Growth Point development, which will allow the town to double in size over the next 20 years, was being well-managed and the renewal of some of the most deprived areas was making good progress.

The report also pointed to the authority's commitment to combat global warming even though the design of the new headquarters means the Council already has low carbon emissions when compared to others.

Coun Duguid added:
"I am also very pleased that the report comments on the fact that we look at what money we have to spend and make our plans based on this. People have taken part in our budget process and we have taken their views into account.

"The cost of some services, like waste collection and benefits, are above average.
This is because West Lindsey covers such a large geographical area with a relatively small population; but the report confirms that people are happy with services overall.

"We are working hard to given even better value for money and we are helping to save money by buying goods and services with other councils, sharing legal services and using outside businesses to collect rates and run leisure facilities.

"Overall, the report is very positive and known weaknesses in planning are being tackled, as is the strategic housing service which we are improving to make sure we understand housing needs so that we can provide a better service for the homeless."

Tour of Regained Gainsborough for County's VIPs

Regeneration work in Gainsborough and plans to make the town even more attractive for local people, investors and visitors have been showcased in the town.

Chairman of West Lindsey District Council, Cllr Jessie Milne, welcomed guests including High Sheriff of Lincolnshire and sister of the late Princess Diana, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, Tony Worth.

Also on the VIP list was Chairman of the County Council, Roy Chapman, Vice Chairman Peter Bedford, Mayor of Lincoln David Gratrick, Sheriff of Lincoln Lance Pennell and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development at South Kesteven District Council, Frances Cartwright.

Cllr Milne said:
"There is tremendous interest in how Gainsborough has been transformed by the creation of the Riverside Walk and Marshall's Yard and the work that still has to be done to refurbish the Market Place and town centre.

"We took all of our visitors on a walking tour accompanied by Regeneration Services Manager Suzanne Fysh who was able to explain in detail how such a massive improvement had been achieved.

"All of our visitors were very impressed with what they saw and went away with a very positive view of the town."


Cllr Roy Chapman, Chairman of Lincolnshire County Council, said:
"The developments in Marshall's Yard are most impressive, and the range of shops and facilities is quite amazing. The use of the old machinery, such as the gantry at the entrance, shows real imagination.

"The transformation of Whittons Mill was quite staggering - what had been patently industrial is now residential and attractive. The Art Gallery and Restaurant were particularly pleasant and appealing also, and it was wonderful to see such a wide variety of shops in the Market Place.

"The town has shown quite dramatically what can be done, and there was a distinct atmosphere that this is something of a beginning with lots more to follow."

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Former Council Leader Continues to Lose Power and Influence

The Lincolnshire Echo is today reporting that Cllr. Bernard Theobald (Wold View Ward), who resigned as the leader of West Lindsey District Council last Thursday will lose his position on six local authority groups following his decision to resign.

Cllr. Theobald quit his leadership role on West Lindsey District Council last week after allegations were made against him and the authority.

The Lincolnshire Echo investigation highlighted that a planning application submitted by Cllr. Theobald to build a country house on land he part-owned was under investigation. His own deputy Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen), then called for him to resign on Wednesday last week. Cllr. Theobald has been suspended from the Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association.

The independent Audit Commission is expected to publish a report on governance issues at the council by Friday while its planning department is also under investigation.

As leader, Cllr Theobald was responsible for representing the authority on the East Midlands Regional Assembly, Lincolnshire Assembly, Local Government Association General Assembly plus the Local Government East Midlands General Meeting.

The Lincolnshire Echo report that Cllr. Theobald is required to vacate these roles along with positions held on the West Lindsey Local Strategic Partnership and the West Lindsey Local Strategic Partnership Strategic Housing Board.

A spokesman for West Lindsey District Council said:
"The seat on these organisations belongs to whoever is leader of West Lindsey District Council."
Cllr. Theobald's chairmanship of another group - the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee - will be discussed at its next meeting in the new year.

The paper report that Cllr. Theobald declined to comment. Cllr. Theobald has blamed the Lincolnshire Echo investigation as the reason for his resignation. It is understood he is seeking legal recourse.

Purchase of City Hall to Save Taxpayers £230 million

Lincoln City Council has agreed a deal which will save taxpayers in Lincoln an estimated £230 million, following a decision to purchase the leasehold for City Hall. The council have owned the freehold for the land, but following a unanimous decision by councillors on Friday, the authority will buy the building for £13 million, doubtlessly utilising money from the public works loans board or a bank.

Prior to the exchange of contracts, the authority had been tied into a 127-lease that began in 1971. The estimated £230 million savings includes rental costs over the remaining lease period, less the cost of borrowing.

Leader of the City of Lincoln Council, councillor Darren Grice, said:
"We are now the masters of our own destiny in terms of what we do with City Hall.

"Thanks to this decision the city council will no longer have to pay an annual rent and even including borrowing costs this will save Lincoln taxpayers over £230 million.

"We have exchanged contracts at exactly the correct time, when property values are relatively low, and when borrowing is at an affordable level."
Had the council's lease run to its completion it would have ended in 2097.

In 1971 the rent was £62,000 a year. This figure has been reviewed on a seven year cycle and in 2006 was set at £619,656 a year. It is estimated that if the authority continued to rent the property, it would cost the taxpayer £762,099 by 2013 and over £9 million by 2097.

Reza Shah Elected Lincolnshire CF Chairman

Mr. Reza Shah was last night elected Chairman of Conservative Future in Lincolnshire following the dismissal of previous incumbent Mr. Fraiser McFarlane.

Mr. Shah secured his victory with twice as many votes as the other candidate.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Nettleham's Pupils Stage Musical World Premier

School Children from Nettleham together with two city schools will produce a concert tomorrow night. Around one hundred pupils from Nettleham Junior School together with pupils from Monks Abbey Primary School and students from The Priory Academy LSST will be hosting a concert at Lincoln's Drill Hall.

The young performers will be performing some of their own musical compositions on stage, alongside professional musicians, after joining forces with the East Midlands' only resident orchestra, Sinfonia ViVA, and Lincoln Drill Hall.

The children, aged between nine and eleven have been working alongside the orchestra’s musicians and composer James Redwood to create original music. The performance starts at 8:00pm, with tickets costing £5.00. Book through the Lincoln Drill Hall box office on (01522) 873894.

Council Was Warned of Burton Blaze Risk

The Lincolnshire Echo has reported that officials were warned there was a fire risk at a recycling site months before a major blaze broke out there. Five hundred tonnes of woodchips went up in flames at the site on a farm in Burton, on Monday last week. The fire was still being tackled by firefighters as late as Friday.

Officials at West Lindsey District Council are reported to have not revealed the identity of the firm running the recycling centre there. However, the authority has been forced to defend itself after it was revealed it had previously been warned about concerns that a large pile of wood at the site could pose a fire risk.

Anna Draper, a photographer with the paper, warned the council that the large heaps of wood amassed there were a fire hazard. They report she felt compelled to raise the alert after a large fire broke out at a recycling plant at Hemswell Cliff earlier in the year.

In an email sent on Tuesday, 1st September 2009 and later forwarded to the county's fire service and the Environment Agency, she said:
"I travel to Lincoln almost every day via Till Bridge Lane and Burton Road,
and over the months I have seen a massive pile of what I believe to be wood
piling up and getting bigger and bigger.

"From the road, one of the piles looks to be significantly higher than the
nearby industrial building.

"Although it is quite a distance from the road, the massive size of the
piles make it quite noticeable .

"Obviously I'm no expert but I am sure that this is a fire hazard."


Three months later, fire broke out at the site, sending clouds of smoke into the county skies.
Officials said they did follow up warnings contained in the e-mail. However, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue said the blaze had been caused by spontaneous combustion, and could therefore not have been prevented.

Vandals Steal Donations From Nativity Crib Destined For The Homeless

Vandals have damaged a Nativity display and stolen cash donations that were destined to spread festive cheer among Lincoln's homeless. They attacked the Christmas Crib close to the Halifax Bank in the Cornhill square in Lincoln city centre.

The display was pushed onto its side so the thieves could gain access to the compartment that is used to collect donations for the Nomad Trust. The Knights of Saint Columba, an organisation within the Catholic community, who organise for the Nativity scenes to be exhibited at the Cornhill and in Castle Square say they may never put them up again.

Gordon Reynolds, who attends Our Lady of Lincoln Catholic Church, said the action of the yobs would deprive the Nomad Trust of vital funds.
"This just shows what society seems to be descending into.
"It's so sad that
we paint and repair the cribs and tend to them and then someone does
this.
"For the past few years we've been bolting the display around a tree to
try and stop vandalism. I just don't understand why they have done it.
"If
they don't agree with the religious aspect of it then they should just walk by.
We are not asking them to stand and look at it if they don't want to."
The Nativity scenes have been a festive fixture in the city for more than 30 years, with the city’s Catholic community spending their free time tending to the displays in an effort to raise money for charity. Around £300 is raised each year.

The vandalism, which happened overnight on Thursday last week, has been reported to Lincolnshire Police and officers are now appealing for information. Anyone with information about the incident should call Lincolnshire Police on (01522) 532222, quoting incident number 87 and give the date of Friday, 4th December 2009.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Bernard Theobald Resigns as Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Cllr. Bernard Theobald (Wold View Ward) today announced his resignation as Leader of West Lindsey District Council.

Cllr. Theobald with David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, during a tour of regeneration work in Gainsborough. Between Mr. Cameron and Cllr. Theobald, in the rear, can be seen Cllr. Mrs. Meg Davidson.

In a statement Cllr. Theobald said:
"On Tuesday of this week a report appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo under the heading, 'Revealed: The Truth Behind Planning Outcry' claiming that a planning application submitted by me has resulted in an officer's suspension and investigation by the Audit Commission.

"This report is wholly unfounded and has been passed to my lawyers.

"However, I am of the opinion that the aspersions cast on my reputation and integrity in that report make my position as council leader untenable until these accusations can be properly revoked.

"This report not only harms me but I believe, serves to bring the council and my colleagues into disrepute.

"I have therefore, with the greatest regret, decided to stand down from my position of leader of the council whilst challenging the accuracy and facts in this newspaper report."
Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward), said:
"There is unease in the council about the political situation. Some councillors are not happy with the style of his leadership.

"The resignation will help us get our house in order. The question is do we clean the house completely in terms of leadership and committee heads or let some remain?"
Cllr. Mrs. Meg Davidson, Conservative (Fiskerton Ward), said:
"I think he has done the right thing to step aside while all these things are looked into."
Cllr. Lewis Strange, Conservative (Kelsey Ward), said:

"I think it is all very sad for everybody concerned. Cllr. Theobald did many great things for West Lindsey and I can not comment further until I see the outcome of the Audit Commission [Report]."

Cllr. Kristan Smith, Liberal Democrat (Gainsborough East Ward), has said:

"The crux of the matter is that the Leader has lost the confidence of the
councillors, the public and the officers."

Former Labour County Councillor Mr. Phil Dilks said:

"I'm fairly certain that if Bernard Theobald were a Labour Leader forced out of office in similar circumstances, it would have been all over the Daily Mail and other choice publications by now."
Cllr. Theobald's membership of the Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association has been suspended pending approval of the Association's Executive. It is understood that Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr. Adam Duguid, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward), is expected to take the role of acting leader until the next full council meeting.