'Time to reflect on our achievements'
Column by Charmaine Morgan, Labour district councillor
As we approach the end of term for this District Council it is an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of our small but active local Labour Group members over the last five years across the District and County.
We challenged plans to cut our hospital maternity and A&E services and opposed cuts to public health services. We opposed cuts to important community services including social care, our library service, those supporting vulnerable adults, families, women suffering from domestic violence and mental health services. We propose the restoration of meals on wheels. We opposed punitive Government funding cuts that have led to the reduction in local policing and fire & rescue services and reduced schools budgets. We called for more local schools, especially in Grantham South.
We have proposed that South Kesteven District Council become more open and transparent in all its dealings and called for the independent scrutiny of its staff management, which has cost at least £700k. We challenged the refurbishment plans for the front of SKDC building which will cost over £1m and ask if it was really necessary for the new Cabinet leader’s office to take over an office formerly used by the Housing Solution team and re-carpeted and refurbished at the cost of thousands. We called for a halt to the creation of SKDC Inc. which has taken key functions of the council and handed them to a handful of cabinet members and sub-contractors. We opposed councillors receiving a rise in allowance when so many in our community are struggling. We opposed Government plans to remove key housing services from local council offices.
We asked if it was appropriate for members of the SKDC Development Management Committee to no longer be able to ask questions of members of the public giving evidence. And, we challenged a constitution which allows unelected planning officers to decide whether or not a planning application should come before the Committee at all.
We opposed the massive development planned for the edge of our town which will transform its character, lead to a significant increase in traffic, air and noise pollution and yet offer minimal affordable housing to our local residents. We called for the flats above shops and empty offices to be turned into homes. We called for more help for the homeless and more support for those affected by benefit cuts. We called for more council homes to be built. We called for funding to support the Citizens Advice Bureau and Foodbank, who are experiencing a significant increase in demand. We called for the council to recognise those in our community who are LGBT. We called for SKDC to recognise the needs of all residents and ensure it supports those with and without computer access.
We called for a clean up of our town centre, especially hotspot areas with fly tipping and graffiti. We called for more regular waste collection for residents who have nowhere outside to store food waste and proposed a return to black bin only collections where waste was collecting outside homes of multiple occupancy. We pushed for a Business Waste collection service with recycling, more street bins, the proper maintenance of SKDC owned West Grantham Canal and protection of youth facilities.
We called for improved parking in Grantham Town Centre, and proposed free parking to help our High Street compete with super markets and out of town shopping centres. We called for long awaited cycle lanes, and the enforcement of a ban on adult cyclists on pavements in our town centre. We opposed the implementation of yellow lines that would have a detrimental affect on local residents and businesses. We have also called for reactive speeding signs on the approaches to Grantham, the restoration of our street lighting at night and the tackling of poor paving and potholes throughout our district.
We called for a halt to the loss of hundreds of trees in Grantham Town centre, highlighted the risks of fracking in nearby authorities and remembered the sacrifice made in WW1 with a tree in Wyndham Park. We called for our historic town to be better recognised with a heritage & craft centre and the implementation of a pedestrianised town centre with benches and landscaping.
We called for Grantham to have its own Town Council so we may have a budget and say over many of the issues our town faces. It is not too much to ask that the thousands of children on our estates have parity with rural children and adults who enjoy the amenity of clean air, nearby safe open play spaces, excellent play equipment, village halls and community centres. It isn’t much to ask that our shoppers, many on low incomes, have the free parking enjoyed by visitors to Bourne or that all the visitors promised on the back of new development around Grantham, including the cinema, have somewhere to park. We have achieved so much already but there is a long way to go if the full potential of our amazing historic town is to be realised and the future of our town secured for the benefit of all.
Is it too much to expect that this Government, overseeing the increase in wealth to the top 1000 UK householders by over £700bn in the last 5 years, properly funds our local authorities, public services and infrastructure so we can properly plan for our future? We don’t believe it is.