Grantham area committee ‘is cheaper alternative to a town council’

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A committee tasked with looking specifically at issues in Grantham is a better alternative to a town council, believes the councillor setting it up.

The Grantham Area Committee aims to bring Grantham district and county councillors together with representatives of business, residents’ groups and members of the public.

The idea has been put forward by Grantham county councillor Richard Davies, who says he wants to see local issues highlighted and discussed without any political bias.

The first meeting will be held in Grantham Museum on July 15 at 7pm. It is hoped it will be held four times a year.

Coun Davies said: “Grantham doesn’t have a town council, or similar, and having seen these type of committees work well in other areas of the county I thought it was time we put political differences to one side and do something to address the problems and issues our town has.”

An agenda has been drawn up for the meeting and issues to be discussed include the southern bypass, Grantham Market, broadband and development. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Coun Davies said he favoured parish councils and felt they had an important role to play. He wants people to come forward and talk about specific problems, whether it is a parking problem or the need for a bin at the end of the street.

He said: “Parish councils provide that kind of forum really well and an area committee can do that with the added advantage of bringing together the various tiers of local government.”

He added: “The criticism is that these are just talking shops, but I think people need a venue they can go to and highlight any problems.

“I do not want this to become a political talking shop. There is a time and a place for that.”

Coun Davies says he does not believe in a town council for Grantham now. He says it would add an extra level of bureaucracy to local government which could cost between £150,000 and £200,000 per year which is passed on to the taxpayer.

He said ‘area committees’ have existed across the county for many years and have helped to provide central forums to discuss key issues from planning through to transport which often cover a range of responsibilities and different layers of local government and officialdom.

Labour Group Leader on South Kesteven District Council Charmaine Morgan questioned whether the committee could be an effective force. Coun Morgan, who represents St Vincent’s ward on the district council, says she is in favour of a town council as a legal body that is accountable to the people of Grantham. She said: “I feel strongly that Grantham has a voice especially when it comes to planning matters. Parish councils can put forward a statement on planning document, but Grantham has no voice in these matters and that is wrong. There are people on a town council who will focus on the town centre. We should work together on a forum that represents the town but it does not replace the democratic process of a town council. I think a town council is the better solution.”

Coun Morgan said a town council would be financially viable, costing the taxpayer in Grantham about an extra five pounds per year. She said she would be petitioning for a town council again once the county council by-election in Barrowby was over.

Chairman of the Grantham Business Club, Stuart Pigram, has been invited to the meeting. He said he would go to the meeting to see what was being said, but his focus was more on the Grantham BID (Business Improvement District).

Mr Pigram said: “I am going to make no judgement and go along to see what it’s all about. But we are at an extremely exciting stage of the BID and coming to the end of the feasability stage and the report is being written.”

Coun Davies said he would not be putting himself forward as chairman of the area committee and said he would like to take more of a back seat as time went on.

He said representatives of the police has shown an interest in addressing the area committee and that it would be a good idea for a representative of the health trust to attend a meeting.