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South Kesteven District Councillors support review into creation of town council in Grantham

Councillors have given the go ahead for a review into the creation of a town council for Grantham.

The motion was put forward at a South Kesteven District Council meeting yesterday (Thursday) by Deputy Mayor of Grantham, Councillor Graham Jeal (Con - Grantham St Vincent's).

He called on the council to approve the commencement of a Community Governance Review in relation to the establishment of a town council for Grantham.

Guildhall Arts Centre in Grantham. (43763766)
Guildhall Arts Centre in Grantham. (43763766)

Coun Jeal said that while he is not criticising the current set up in Grantham, 'it is unusual'.

"It does sometimes feel decisions about Grantham are not always taken by people of Grantham," he added.

"Local government reorganisation could make this worse, with decisions about Grantham taken in Lincoln or by Whitehall.

"It seems to me that now is the right time to ask questions about local governance."

The recommendations of the review must improve community engagement, bring the community closer together, create better democracy and result in more efficient delivery of services.

The motion was seconded by Councillor Ray Wootten (Con - Grantham St Wulfram's) with many councillors voicing their support towards it.

Councillor Ian Selby (Unaligned - Grantham Harrowby) suggested they speak to town councillors in Stamford and Bourne about how it benefits them but questioned whether the devolved powers would confuse residents about which council represents what.

He said: "At the end of the day it's the public that matter so we have to represent them."

In May 2018, Independent councillor Ashley Baxter (Market and West Deeping), called for Grantham to have its own town council, but the motion was turned down by Conservatives who voted that a town council should only be formed if Grantham came under a unitary authority, replacing Lincolnshire County Council and SKDC.

Confused by the U-turn, Coun Baxter questioned if the latest proposal by the Conservatives meant that there were plans for reorganisation of the councils, adding that it would be "useful for Grantham to have an elected representative which is meaningful".

Conservative leader Coun Kelham Cooke (Casewick), responded to the concerns. He said: “I always said I would keep the council updated on local government reorganisation and also devolution. I would rather we were in the driving seat for the people of Grantham rather than have anything imposed upon us.”

The Labour Group also supported the motion as Coun Lee Steptoe (Grantham Earlesfield), welcomed the Tories' u-turn. He said: "I agree totally with this proposal. I hope we can move forward with this on a cross-party basis."

Coun Charmaine Morgan (Grantham St Vincent's), who believes costed options should be drawn up before a final decision is made, added: "The Labour group has always felt the best democratic way for people of Grantham is through a town council.

"It's not just for the sake of it, you look at any planning paper you see representatives from the town planning."

Town councillors in other parts of the district spoke about the benefits of the devolved power and how they value their role.

Stamford Town Councillor, John Dawson (Con - Stamford St. John's), said that the motion is a 'very good idea' as town councillors 'do it for the love of it' rather than because they are getting any money.

Bourne Town Councillor, Paul Fellows (Ind - Bourne Austerby), added that he would rather see the demise of the county and district councils than the town council.

With all councillors, bar one abstention, in favour of the proposal, the motion was carried, which means the district council will look into whether a town council is wanted by Grantham residents.

According to the government, to set up a town council there must be a petition submitted containing the signatures of at least 7.5 per cent of the local population.

According to the ONS in 2016, this was around 44,580 for Grantham and so would need 3,344 signatures.

Details such as the cost of setting up the council are not clear, however, Bexhill Town Council which covers a similar population and was set up this year, was estimated to cost up to £100,000.

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