County Council Elections 2017
May 7th 2017
Boundary changesDue to a reduction in the numbers of county councillors from 77 to 70 there have been some quite profound boundary changes to most of the Lincolnshire County Council wards. This has inevitably meant a few seats have been abolished altogether, and the majority of seats have become much larger. Louth North grew to encompass an extra 10 villages to the north, whilst Louth Wolds moved from a doughnut-shaped ward around Louth to a much larger one to the west of it. The change means it will be slightly harder to have a personal connection with your county councillor; it's a role that is now both more distant and more influential.
Louth SouthIn Louth South, a ward which now includes Legbourne and Little Cawthorpe, Sarah Dodds won in a contest against Independent Jill Makinson-Sanders, Conservative Chris Green, UKIP Tristan Matthews, and someone else.
I know Sarah will do Louth South proud. Not only does she make great speeches at full council, she takes the trouble to meet people in person and takes casework very seriously.
MablethorpeIn Mablethorpe, Graham Cullen regained a seat for Labour in a four-way contest. Graham is a dedicated councillor with a warm, approachable personality who cares very deeply about the people in his area.
Issues on the doorstepI personally spoke to hundreds of people in Louth and the surrounding villages in the run up to the poll, and my campaigning buddies in the local Labour party spoke to hundreds more. There is never the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with everyone, but canvassing is a great way to take the pulse of an area and really dig deep into what matters to residents.
There was no doubt about the number one issue we encountered on the doorstop: Louth's Hospital. Patients and staff are hugely concerned about moves to downgrade it and about talk of moving its community facilities and those of Skegness to a single site. The prospect of having to travel miles to get emergency care is horrifying, especially when A&E at Grimsby can involve long waits.
The second most frequent hot topic was the state of the roads. Potholes are making road travel dangerous. I lost count of the number of people who told me their cars were damaged by driving over potholes; the county council may be saving money, but it's clearly at the expense of motorists who end up spending more for broken suspension and through increased journey times.
General road safety was also a frequent issue, with speeding traffic an issue on Louth's busier streets. There was also an issue of where people park, how traffic violations are enforced, and the need for road safety measures to be built into our streets as they need to cope with increases in traffic. This is an issue that needs co-operation between the police, traffic enforcement, and planning authorities to tackle effectively. Unfortunately it's an uphill struggle when none of those organisations have the money they used to. Indeed, the county council isn't currently implementing any new Traffic Restriction Orders unless they are directly related to a new development, as a measure designed to cut costs. That's a case of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing if ever there was one.
Street lights were another issue that came up frequently, with widespread (but not universal) disappointment about the switch-off that has left many local streets in the dark. There have been reports of ambulances not being able to see house numbers. Residents also told me about their fears of not being able to witness crimes, of stumbling home in the dark, and of suspicious activity in the dead of night.
This was a strange election because Britain leaving the EU kept coming up. It is possibly the most profound change to happen to the UK in recent years, so it's inevitable that it has dominated people's attention. However, county councillors will have little influence over the course of negotiations, and it has served to obscure many of the serious local issues that are affecting people already and that the county council is in a position to do something about.
The next four yearsThe new council term will feature a Tory-controlled authority in Lincolnshire. So far we've seen an agenda of harsh cuts and endless austerity. If that policy remains in place it will be bad news for anyone who wants to see roads you can drive on, safe streets, protection for the vulnerable, and a continuation of many of the myriad services the county council used to provide.
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