Grantham Journal column: Key questions are not being answered

Councillor Charmaine Morgan
Councillor Charmaine Morgan
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At a recent meeting of the SKDC Cabinet, during which the council’s proposed budget was considered,​ Labour councillors observed a number of our group proposals are being adopted as council policy but key questions remain over others. ​A​ common theme was the need for SKDC to improve its strategic thinking.

The Labour Group has persistently contested plans to develop the Spitalgate Heath site citing ​local concern​s ​which include the lack of supporting infrastructure, ​significant ​highways impact​,​ and​​ lack​ of​ affordable housing. Only Labour councillors have to date voted against it. With a ​new ​site ​including ​over 3,500 houses​ and estimated 4,000 business places,​ local people will face thousands of additional cars on the road in South Grantham. The new retail outlet, which has been approved for development​,​ prior to the relief road being complete​d​, will also attract 3.5m visitors a year in th​at ​vicinity.

Promises of economic gain for the town sound hollow when there is inadequate parking to offer new visitors. I suggested that SKDC consider purchasing more land or partnering with private landowners to address the severe shortage of on-street parking already near the town centre​, combined with an over reliance by SKDC on private car parks​,​ which have strict time limits​ and​​ hefty fines associated with them.

Over four years ago the Labour group, after listening to SKDC staff and local businesses, also called for a business waste collection Service. This would not only improve the offering available to local businesses but also provide much needed revenue for the council. This has finally started to take off, but ​we ​note recycling is not yet included. The Labour group also called four years ago for SKDC ​to ​promote our town​‘​s heritage and provided proposals for a historic and craft venture. Another idea finally being implemented.

The provision of healthcare is vital for all living, working and visiting our area. It also supports the councils’ strategic growth Plans. Yet, unlike other councils ​(​many of whom have taken ​direct action​ in the campaign​ to protect health services​, including payment for judicial reviews and legal action​) SKDC and LCC have taken a back seat​,​ responding to the calls of campaigners​,​ rather than being proactive themselves. With notable exceptions, at best platitudes have been expressed​,​ and​​ the odd letter sent.

Whilst ​stating ​‘100%​ support for our campaign​’, SKDCs Conservative Group would not back a recent plea for £1,000, which would have enabled campaigners to seek immediate legal advice on ​how ​to best progress the hospital campaign. For a minimal outlay SKDC could have made an important timely, practical and symbolic contribution. The Conservative Group, chose not to.

Local councillors have ​other opportunities to consider their position, ​whether ​through personal donations, or through the use of the new Grant Scheme. The debate at last week’s United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust Board meeting was a sobering reminder of why action must be taken​. The board’s strategic focus ​being​ how to save ​£76m and what services will have to be cut in the ​process​.​