Sunday, 31 July 2011

Saddness at Death of County Council's Deputy Leader

The Deputy Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Cllr. Barry Singleton, Conservative (Sleaford West and Leasingham Division) died on Saturday, 30th July, following a long period of illness. He had been a District Councillor for Sleaford’s Quarrington & Mareham Ward since 1999, for twelve years up to his retirement at the May elections this year.

Cllr. Singleton was also a member of Lincolnshire County Council for a decade, and subsequently was elected to be Conservative Deputy Group Leader.

Cllr. Singleton had represented the Sleaford West and Leasingham Division since his election to the council in June 2001 and his executive portfolio included Information Communication Technology and Corporate Development.

Cllr. Martin Hill OBE, Conservative (Folkingham Rural Division), Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said:
"Barry had been bravely fighting illness for some time, but that did not prevent him continuing his sterling work as a councillor and deputy leader.

"The county council was a better place for the presence of Barry and his loss will be keenly felt. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Shirley, and his family at this sad time."
Tribute were paid to Cllr. Singleton by those who worked closely with him.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Top Marks for Local School Playgrounds

Above: Nettleham Infants School
pupils play in the palyground
The Lincolshire Echo is today reporting that around the county school playgrounds are getting a facelift in a bid to encourage children to do more outdoor exercise. Approximately eoghty primary schools took part in a pilot project funded by Lincolnshire County Council where different activity zones were marked out in paint on playgrounds.

The markings are similar to the traditional painted spirals, hopscotch and other shapes that older generations fondly remember being on school yards, with the addition of number and alphabet grids to help with maths and language skills.

One school that took part in the pilot was Nettleham Infants School. Headteacher Mrs. Nicola Driffill said to the paper:
"After we had the activity markings installed, we were trained on how to use them from the local authority as part of the installation.

"That was really useful because all staff got trained on it.

"But then we took it further because we got training from the outdoor learning scheme about how to use it in other ways and not just for PE

"The old markings were very closed in what you could do. These are much more open-ended, you can use them for lots of different things.

"It makes it much more worthwhile for the kids to think that they can actually make up their own ideas as well. They enjoy that a lot."
The scheme will be rolled out across Lincolnshire as a result of the successful pilot. The drive to make young people more active is in line with new Government guidelines that say 5 to 18-year-olds should get a minimum of one hour of exercise a day.

It is hoped the changes to playground activities will help more children reach this target.

Cllr. Mrs. Patricia Bradwell said: "
The scheme has been recognised nationally for the contribution it makes in reducing childhood obesity through physical activity.

"It's not about forcing children into competitive sport that they don't want to do, but helping them enjoy fun activities with friends and classmates.

"If it encourages more young people to exercise, then it's got to be a good thing."
NHS Lincolnshire has been involved with the scheme and it is hoped there will be long-term health improvements across the county. Mr. John McIvor, Chief Executive of NHS Lincolnshire, said:
"Increasing activities is just one of the ways we are working with partners to reduce obesity levels and improve health."

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

County Council's Executive Vote to Close Linelands

Lincolnshire County Council’s Executive today voted unanimously to implement proposals for Lincolnshire's care services. The plans include five care homes closing in September and the other three -  including Linelands in Nettleham - will close at the end of March next year after suitable private alternatives are found.

Above: Unison members demonstrate outside Lincolnshire
County Council headquarters. © 2011 Lincolnshire Echo
The authority argues that delivering a better quality of social care in the future requires delivery by the private sector and the end of council-run care facilities. The authority expects savings, potentially running to millions of pounds. The plans will mean many jobs will be lost, although, Leader of the Council, Cllr. Martin Hill, Conservative (Folkingham Rural Division), insists that:
"the driver behind this is not financial savings."
Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr. Graham Marsh, Conservative (Alford & Sutton on Sea Division), told the meeting:
"I think it's very disappointing that some people would wish to deny people personal choice by insisting that we maintain expensive, out-of-date buildings to deliver services which can be delivered as far more cost effective, and as good quality, in the private and third sectors.

"When I retire, if I'm unfortunate enough to need services, I don't want to be given the same choices that my parents had, which was take it or leave it as there's nothing else available."
"This is change for the better – today's decision will be looked back on as the day the lives of care home residents took a huge stride forward in quality.

"We know the word 'closure' could be seen as negative and, very understandably, cause some carers and families to be worried. However, what we are closing are old, outdated homes – both the current and future generations of residents deserve better."
A rally against the proposals, co-ordinated by Unison outside the County Council’s offices, ahead of the executive meeting rallied only twenty-five people. Those at the rally could just be heard chanting:
"Martin Hill, here us say, how many homes have you shut today?"
Mrs. Elaine Smith, whose mother is a former care service user in the county, interrupted proceedings by shouting comments from the public gallery throughout the meeting until she declared that members of the council's Executive councillors were telling 'fairy tales' and Cllr. Hill was forced to suspend the meeting and threatened to have her removed from the public gallery. Mrs. Smith left the gallery.

Mrs. Smith told The Lincolnite:
"I think it’s totally wrong. Initially they were saying they want a mixed economy of care, which obviously includes public sector care as well as private care.

"There won’t be any mixed economy. There won’t be a benchmark and I do worry about the future of care that people will receive that now will lose these services and will need them in the future."
Mr. John Sharman, Lincolnshire Branch Secretary for Unison, unconvincingly tried to make an ill-informed link between the tough measures being taken by the Coalition Government as a result of the economic legacy left to the previous Labour government :
"What happens when the market gets it wrong?

"Let's remember that the whole attack on public spending and public services is predicated on another part of the market getting it wrong.

“I have no confidence whatsoever in using the private sector market as a regulator of services."
"I wouldn’t want to give false expectations in saying that we believe that a campaign will guarantee [the county council will keep its public care services], but if I didn't have that hope, and if I didn’t believe that what we do could produce a result, I'd pack up and go home, quite frankly.

"I have no intention of doing that."
Mrs. Phyl Lynn, a senior member of staff at Linelands, said:
"It's horrendous. These homes are a lifeline for the residents there. They're important for people to mix with other people. It's everything to them."
Nettleham Parish Councillor Giles McNeill said:
"There are two issues. The first is weather it is right to close the current stock of council-run care homes, the second is the issue of how the staff of these facilities have been treated.
"I have no particular problem with the County Council looking to make the best provision possible available to local residents, unfortunately that means beloved local facilities are having to close. However, it is clear to me that the way the staff have been handled has been very much below standard - the offcious letters, the endless churn of senior staff as individuals have seemingly jumped ship. There have clearly been severe problems in terms of the management of the very valuable human resourse the council employs."

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Chancellor Announces Reform of Queen's Accounts

The Queen's accounts are to be subject to full National Audit Office scrutiny and open to questioning by the Commons' Public Accounts Committee, in a radical reform of royal finances unveiled by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP.  
Mr. Osborne said that his Sovereign Grant Bill will provide for the Sovereign Grant accounts to be audited by the comptroller and auditor general and laid before Parliament, where they will be subject to the Public Accounts Committee.

Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Mrs. Margaret Hodge MP described the move as 'historic', adding:
"It is hugely important for the future stability of the monarchy and its role in our constitutional settlement that we should modernise our structures, so that they are fit for purpose in today's world and properly meet the legitimate expectations of the taxpayer and the general public.
"This puts, for the first time, those parts of the royal finances that come directly from the taxpayer each year on a transparent basis, consistent with other public expenditure.
"The PAC has a long and well-established history in effective public scrutiny and we will, I am sure, approach these new responsibilities in our traditional way, working objectively and thoroughly on behalf of Parliament and the taxpayer."
Gainsborough Parliamentarian Edward Leigh MP, and Mrs. Hodges' immediate predecessor, said the committee had, under his chairmanship and that of Mrs. Hodge, fought to improve scrutiny of royal finances but added:
"I never thought this day would come."
"This will be tough for the royal household – there is no doubt about that – and there will be strong questioning in the committee, as there is on all these subjects, but that is absolutely right because that is what we are about: accountability. I think they have absolutely nothing to fear."
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls MP welcomed the change and remarked that it was vital Parliament should properly scrutinise such significant sums of revenue.

Conservative economic secretary Ms Justine Greening MP, an accountant, said the Bill brings accountability arrangements for the royal household into line with those for other government departments. She commented:
"Sovereign grant expenditure will be audited annually by the comptroller and auditor general and those reports will be laid before Parliament. Should it wish to do so, the Committee of Public Accounts will also be able to scrutinise grant expenditure and will be able to invite the royal household to give evidence."

Boundary Planters & Village Hall Blamed for Best Kept Village Failure

Above: Nettleham's score sheet
(click to enlarge).
Nettleham Village Hall and the Planters at the village limits are to blame for the failure of Nettleham to make it through to the second round of judging in the Lincolnshire Best Kept Village Competition.

As reported on this blog (here) Nettleham fell out of the race to be named Lincolnshire's Best Kept Village in the third category; Large Village or Small Town earlier this month. Hard work by the staff of Nettleham Parish Council has led to the release of the score sheet months before it would normally be available. One judge comments:
"First impression were good, but the appearance of the Village Hall and the flower boxes at two approaches to the village were noticeably disappointing."
Nettleham Village Hall is currently scheduled for major renovation works this August with a new roof and new toilet facilities. Nettleham Parish Council is committing the majority of the funding for the project (£60k-£70k) whilst the Village Hall Committee is contributing around £20,000.

The wooden planters, installed at a number of the entrances of the village, a few years ago, were done so without the fulsome endorsement of the Parish Council at the time. However, councillors were, narrowly, minded to approve the scheme. The matter was discussed at some length at the May meeting of Nettleham Parish Council's Property Committee.

Monday, 4 July 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Roof Lead Stolen from All Saints Church, Nettleham

Nettleham residents have reacted with anger today upon discovering that a significant amount of lead has been stolen from the church roof.

Thieves, believed to be highly organised, are thought to have struck during the early hours of Monday, 4th July in the tranquil rural village of Nettleham.

Police Community Support Officer, Mrs. Jackie Parker, said:
"It just shows that nothing is sacred any more."
Nettleham Parish Councillor, Giles McNeill, who has responsibility for keeping an eye of the church yard for the parish council's Property Committee said:
"It really is terrible, but with prices for raw materials at all time high it is something we are all having to increasingly be vigilant about. I know that at Fiskerton's church they had three thefts in succession of lead from their roof and one can only hope the same will not be true in Nettleham."

Friday, 1 July 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Eric Pickles Set To Visit County

Above:  During the 2010 General Election campaign in
Lincoln's Castle Square Eric Pickles with Karl McCartney
This blog can exclusively reveal the the Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will be visiting Lincolnshire in the coming months.
Whilst details of the visit are understood to still be being finalised it is expected that Mr. Pickles will be in the here this autumn and will tour a number of projects in the county before being the guest of honor at a Gala Dinner in the evening.

Benedict Brogan, of the Daily Mail, says of the popular grass-roots politician:

"If you ever start to worry that Dave's Conservatives are all soft-cheeked trendy toffs, take a moment to admire the girth, the stout cloth, dammit, even the tie-clip of this briny, plain-speaking, subtle, human politician."