Monday, 26 August 2013

Residents' Views Sought on £3,000,000 Cuts

West Lindsey District Council is preparing itself for continuing reductions to the central government grant, which is a significant portion of the authority's income, in the future.

Above: A consultation event is well attended at the Old
School, Mill Hill, Nettleham.
With a prolonged and difficult financial climate the government has announced further cuts to the Council’s grant over the next three financial years. It means the Council will need to find £3,000,000 of savings.

To do this the Council needs to understand what local residents think about current services provided by the Council and what should be the Council's priorities for the future. Local residents, across the district, have had the opportunity to attend workshops. For those residents that have not attended they are invited to complete an online questionnaire (click here) to ensure that their views are heard.

Cllr. Giles McNeill, Conservative (Nettleham Ward), said:
"I hope as many people as possible will take the survey. It is really important that we get a good sample of respondents as it will help us ensure that valued services are retained, whilst services that the vast majority of people don't support can be cut.
"I attended the event at the Old School in Nettleham and was very proud of the turnout from Nettleham, Greetwell and other neighbouring parishes." 
All responses must be submitted by Monday, 2nd September 2013. Residents with any questions should e-mail: engagement@west-lindsey.gov.uk.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Labour Win in Bracebridge By-Election

Labour had an impressive night in the by-election for the Bracebridge Ward seat, vacated by former Council Leader Darren Grice, coming top of the poll to secure an extra seat on Lincoln City Council and getting their poll up, despite recent slippage in national opinion polls.

Above: Bracebridge Ward By-Election Result
22nd August 2013
If Ed Miliband, the Labour Party Leader, is having a 'Summer of Discontent' then there was no sign of it in Lincoln last night as votes were counted and victory declared for Lincoln's newest City Councillor Mrs. Katie Vause, Labour (Bracebridge Ward).

Cllr. Mrs. Vause, a Geography Teacher, was elected as Labour's 25th man on to the 33 member authority. The Labour advance continues in Lincoln, in an area hitherto that has not been strong for them in recent years. It will be taken as a signal by Lincoln Labour that they are doing the right things to unseat incumbent Conservative, Karl McCartney MP, in the 2015 General Election.

The night saw Conservative trooper Mr. David Denman pipped to the post by a narrow margin of less than 100 votes. Perhaps as a kicking from the electorate for the way in which Darren Grice was forced out of office, or perhaps for other reasons, the Conservative poll was down nearly four percentage point, with voters switching to Labour. With a general election now only 21 months away this was not the result that the party would have been wanting.

Above: Election results in the Bracebridge
Ward & Division 2007 - 2013
The Liberal Democrats' Mr. Ross Pepper improved the party's poll standing back to above the 5% mark - just - as was suggested by the blog (here) earlier in the year. However, at only 5.03%, it is hardly the improvement that the party needs to be considered in the running in Lincoln's politics. Nevertheless, it will be argued by them that this shows that the party is healing after bruising polls following joining the Conservatives in the Coalition Government in 2010. Whilst not to the dizzy highs the party achieved in 2009 & 2010, nevertheless they are back to 2007 levels and this will restore their hope.

Mrs. Elane Warde for the UK Independence Party polled a respectable 23%. Demonstrating that if the UKIP bubble of May earlier this year is bursting, it is doing so at a snails pace. The local party will seize on this as evidence that the party is here to stay. Only time will tell.

Finally Ms Karen Williams for the Trades Union Socialists Against the Cuts coalition had a poor performance picking up only four more votes than nominees that got her on the ballot and polling less than a percent.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Police Commissioner's Report Clears Chief Constable

Commissioner Alan Hardwick, Independent (Lincolnshire Force Area), has been forced to accept the conclusions of a report he himself commissioned into allegations made against Temporary Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes.

In another misstep for Commissioner Hardwick a report, by the widely respected Chief Constable of Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, has declared that allegations against Chief Constable Rhodes as "unsubstantiated".

Chief Constable Rhodes was suspended over his involvement in a dispute where he was accused of helping a former employee at West Yorkshire Police pursue a claim of racial discrimination which he knew to be contrived.

The report concluded there was no evidence to suggest that Neil Rhodes acted improperly in his role as a Chief Police Officers Staff Association "friend" to the employee. In the report Sir Peter said he had 'complete confidence' Chief Constable Rhodes acted 'from the best of motives' to try and 'achieve a reasonable compromise' He added:
"The investigation team conclude that Mr Rhodes did not exceed the intended boundaries or scope of a CPOSA friend as he properly understood them."
The report accepted there might have been a conflict of interest in some areas but also suggested more clarity is needed nationally, on the role of CPOSA friends.

In response to the report, Mr Hardwick said: 
"I had to take on a serious complaint that was made to me and the way I went around that, I believe, was the right way. I couldn't ignore it. 
"I remain troubled by the nature of the allegation and that it has not been possible for the investigating officer to determine exactly what happened in a private conversation between two highly regarded and credible professionals."
Commissioner Hardwick said the suspension had never been a personal issue and a judicial review had cost him £37,500, alone - questions are still to be answered about the cost to taxpayers about this sorry affair. Back in March Mr. Justice Stuart-Smith ruled that the Commissioner's decision was 'irrational' and 'perverse', determining that the Chief Constable's suspension was therefore unlawful. The judicial intervention was sparked when the Independent Police Complaints Commission were approach by Commissioner Hardwick to investigate and they determined that there was insufficient evidence for them to conduct an investigation.

 Following publication of Sir Peter's report, in a statement, Mr Rhodes said:
"I have sought over the last six months to maintain a dignified silence, safe in the knowledge that I knew there was never any substance in the spurious allegation. 
"The past few months have been unusually challenging. Following the judicial review decision, the commissioner and I resolved that we must draw a line beneath this matter, for the good of Lincolnshire, and demonstrate we could work together productively and positively."
Commissioner Hardwick had been Lincolnshire's Police and Crime Commissioner for just three months when he took the decision to suspend Neil Rhodes. The matter has attracted critics at Westminster, with the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP, describing the way the chief constable's suspension was handled as a 'sorry state of affairs'. There have also been calls for Commisioner Hardwick to resign, amongst these local West Lindsey District Councillor, Cllr. Giles McNeill, Conservative (Nettleham Ward), who said:
"Commissioner Hardwick has once again been found wanting. First we had the refusal of the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate the matter then the Judge's ruling and now the investigation that he set up himself has found that the allegations were unsubstantiated.
 "It is hardly a surprise then that people are calling for the TV anchorman-come-Police Commissioner to resign. He has demonstrated again, clearly that he is not up to the job.
It is understood that Chief Constable Rhodes intends to apply for the post of permanent chief constable when it is advertised.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Full Slate of Candidates to Contest Bracebridge By-Election

On Thursday, 22nd August 2013 voters in Lincoln's Bracebridge Ward will have the opportunity to go to the polls for a by-election.

A vacancy was declared following the non-attendance of former Council Leader Darren Grice, who was removed from his post for his failure to attend meetings. Five individuals will contest the election.

David Denman
At the top of the ballot will be Mr. David Denman, the Conservative Party candidate, of Mallory Close, Lincoln. He is an Ecologist and formerly a Lincoln City Councillor, serving on the authority from 2008 - 2012, making him the most experienced choice for voters. Mr. Denman says:
"I want to work with local schools and residents to find lasting solutions to parking issues, particularly on Hykeham Road. Additionally, monitor planning applications for Bracebridge to ensure that they are in the best interests of residents and local businesses. I’ll work with all community leaders to improve Bracebridge with better facilities and services for local people, including protecting and enhancing local bus services for our community."
Ross Pepper
Second on the ballot is Mr. Ross Pepper, the Liberal Democrat candidate, of Roydon Grove, Lincoln. He is the youngest candidate on the ballot and has run, unsuccessfully on a number of occassions, most recently in the Lincolnshire County Council election in May 2013 for the Moorlands Division. The Liberal Democrats, who have never had particular strength in Lincoln, will want to improve their poll rating and see it back above 5%. Mr. Pepper says:
"I got into politics during my sixth form days at St Peter and St Paul’s. It was during the Iraq War and I found myself opposing the vast majority of staff and students by saying the invasion was illegal."
Katie Vause
Third on the ballot is Mrs. Katie Vause, the Labour Party candidate, of Hykeham Road, Lincoln. She is a teacher of Geography at the Lincoln Castle Academy and serves as one of 13 Directors of the Academy of Lincoln Trust, which operates the school. Mrs Vause says:
"I am petrified of balloons!
"The most important factor for me from being a local resident of the ward myself is that a councillor must be someone who is willing to listen and action casework even if this is on an individual basis — and this is exactly what I intend to do."
The contest pits the Conservatives against Labour in a straightforward two-way fight - both parties were close in the County Council contest in May, earlier in the year.

Elaine Warde
Fourth on the ballot is Mrs. Elane Warde,the UK Independence Party candidate, of Malham Drive, Lincoln. UKIP are starting in third place based on the County poll in May, a good distance behind the two main parties - but a position they have seized from the Liberal Democrats in recent years. Mrs. Warde says:
"There are many issues that need to be addressed, however I believe the most important issue at present is the proposal to close libraries. 
"I’ll support the people of the Bracebridge Ward in lobbying the County Council to rethink their actions.
Fifth on the ballot is Ms Karen Williams, the the Trades Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts candidate, of Robertson Road, North Hykeham. She is a member of Unison and  has run, unsuccessfully for the party a number of times, most recently in the Lincolnshire County Council election in May 2013 for the Moorlands Division. You can expect the Trade Unionist and Socialist Against the Cuts (who did not field a candidate here in May) will be scrapping about in the lower single digits. She says:
"I was brought up to believe in the greater good and have always been a socialist. Got into local and environmental politics five years ago."
Labour will hope to show they are making advances, although this is not a strong area for them - they took a city council seat in 2012 with a majority of seven votes. With the national opinion polls showing a slip in support for Labour and Conservatives regaining supporters from UKIP the Conservatives will hope their candidate is successful, and have impressive form in the area with six out of seven wins since 2007.