We are inching towards a town council for Grantham
January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, says Councillor Lee Steptoe, a Labour member (Grantham Earlesfield) on South Kesteven District Council.
He had two faces as he looked back to the past year and forward to the new one. January traditionally brings with it reflections and resolutions to better ourselves.
For the second consecutive January, we find ourselves doing this in truly challenging times and I would like to wish all Journal readers a healthy, prosperous and peaceful 2022.
As a local politician in an area that is dominated by one’s opponents it pays to be realistic about what can be achieved, but we are inching towards something in Grantham that I have long called for: a town council. After major local government reorganisation in the 1970s, our town was just one of a tiny few, within counties, that were left without their own town council, (that have the same jurisdiction as the thousands of parish councils across England.) Within South Kesteven, Stamford and Bourne have one, but not us.
Instead, we have Charter Trustees, the 15 district councillors that represent seven wards across the town and whose only function is to select a mayor and deputy who carry out purely ceremonial civic duties. This costs Grantham Council Taxpayers around £50,000 a year and is an expensive Tory chumocracy. It is mired in secrecy and unaccountability and from what I’ve seen makes things up as it goes along to a level that most would find shocking.
It is time to end this anachronism and introduce a town council, that whilst probably costing about an extra tenner per household a year would introduce proper
democracy and accountability to grassroot community affairs. This will be particularly important if the government goes ahead with its plans to scrap district councils and hand powers to county based mayors or ‘governors’ (an unwanted American term in my view.) This is what has been leaked from the upcoming White Paper on ‘Levelling Up’ from Michael Gove.
Without a town council this would lead to all decisions about Grantham being made in Lincoln under an authority that covers the whole of Greater Lincolnshire’s 750,000 residents. Past attempts to get a town council have failed through apathy, but I hope that when a consultation starts in the spring local people give it the support that it will need to hold its first elections in May 2023 and that Grantham people can start to take back control.