Town Council Round-Up: Judicial Review, Town Partnership Closure, And Cattle Markets
December 17th 2014The last town council meeting of 2014 took place on on Tuesday, 16th December in the wake of the news that the town partnership will dissolve at the end of the year due to lack of funding.
In the public forum Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders thanked members of the community for helping to raise almost £800 for the Salvation Army Christmas dinners for the lonely in Louth.
Councillor George Horton raised the idea of creating an award for the best dressed house or garden for Christmas decorations. "People have put a lot of effort into a lot of the decorations around the town and they really do look good, and I think it ought to be recognised in some way."
I'm not convinced that would be a great use of time and public money, when people are already willing to put up lights without an award to provide incentive.
Louth Town PartnershipThe closure of the town partnership puts several annual events in jeopardy, including the St James Food Festival, the Victorian Fayre, and the partnership's Christmas fair. It also means the end of the Love Louth magazine, which the town council had recently agreed to rely on for its newsletter, a communication it needs in order to achieve Quality Council status. In the public forum I asked councillors whether the town council or district council might be able to take over some of the partnership's events.
Councillor Horton, who was a member of the town partnership, branded ELDC's decision to cut funding "very strange and very sad." He defended the partnership's changes of personnel over the years saying the partnership was "very stable and very thriving at that time".
"Over the last twelve to fifteen months a lot of pressure has been put on the partnership by East Lindsey to deliver with an ultimate aim to be self-sufficient," Councillor Horton said. He criticised ELDC for failing to provide the organisation with enough guidance, and he praised the partnership's events. "Each year those events have got bigger and better."
Councillor Sue Locking said: "I thought the whole idea was to increase footfall in the town, to increase the viability of the town, to help the traders." She stated the partnership "was always unlikely to be self sufficient."
"East Lindsey should never have set this sort of thing up, knowing it could never really be made self-sufficient, because it was always going to end like this," Councillor Locking said. "I hope that something could happen to save these events."
Councillor Margaret Ottaway branded the move "appalling," saying: "We are always being let down by East Lindsey."
Councillor Laura Stephenson pointed out that the SO Festival isn't self-funding. "If we could get a just little bit more funding towards the town council setting these things up that would be fantastic," she suggested.
"I think a few people work very hard." Councillor Gus Robertson said, praising the work of volunteers. "You don't need a town manager, you need a group leader."
Councillor Horton argued against allowing the town council to run these markets, saying: "I don't believe we've got that kind of expertise."
Councillor Pauline Watson queried the length of time of ELDC had agreed to fund the partnership. The Town Clerk, Linda Blankley, confirmed that their funding "should have gone through to September 2015."
Councillor Makinson-Sanders paid tribute to the partnership's volunteers, and claimed the partnership's events "wiped the floor with that stupid SO Festival that cost so much money." She pointed out that the Christmas lights will be a risk to the town council, and that the town manager had planned wifi for the town centre in 2015, which won't go ahead now.
Councillor Eileen Ballard said. "I think ELDC have really been very short sighted. Five years is nothing to get something off the ground."
The council resolved to send a letter of complaint to ELDC asking that the portfolio holder come to Louth to explain himself.
Austerity, austerity, austerityI think it's not inconceivable for the town council to take over some of the events, because running markets isn't rocket science. But nor is it something that could be done without a slice of the £45,000 that ELDC are no longer giving the town partnership. You can only ask volunteers to do so much, but there is a potential saving to be made on rent and branding by bringing the partnership's activities under one roof, both literally and figuratively. In other words, I'm in favour of employing someone qualified to organise these events, and having them operate from the Sessions House.
However, I don't hold out any hope of this happening whilst the current government is set on underfunding local authorities.
Judicial review thrown outThe town council's request for a judicial review over the cattle market was refused by the judge. The Mayor, Andrew Leonard, commented that the case was looked at "much earlier than we expected." He reported that the cost to the council was £1000, and that Keep Louth Special picked up the other costs.
During the public forum Jason Garrett asked whether the town council would be prepared to work with East Lindsey in light of this High Court decision.
"It depends on what the plans and drawings are," Councillor Horton responded.
"I just hope ALDI do make a mark in town," Councillor David Wing said.
Councillor Stephenson spoke of the need to get the Nipper bus up to a new cattle market on the industrial estate. "We need to... make sure we have all the facilities we need," she said.
There was a discussion about Newark's cattle market, and how it compares with the one in Louth.
"Newark is successful because they've got a really good man who runs it," Councillor Makinson-Sanders said. "Buyers have told me a market on Thursday is the wrong day." She suggested Monday as an alternative.
Councillor Sue Locking expressed concern about the way ELDC may handle the livestock market in future. "They were happy to acknowledge the charters and provide a cattle market if there was a need for it," she said. "My greatest fear is that they let it run down. They will then turn round at the end and say, look, there's hardly a need for it."
The Mayor also expressed concern about the way ASDA may handle the current cattle market site if they buy it. "They may land bank it and not build on it for years," he said.
Austerity, austerity, austerityIn some ways the judge's ruling was the least expensive result for the people of Louth, at least in the short term. But in the long term there's no telling what the move will cost Louth. What I am sure of is the gradual sale of state assets has a consistent track record. We can look at the sale of the railways, of council housing, and of water for a forecast of how things are likely to pan out for the people of Louth.
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