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Town Council Round-Up: Judicial Review Could Prove Costly

September 18th 2014

Dogs on leads sign
This is going to be a long post because the town council meeting of Tuesday, 16th September was quite involved, and there was a lot to say.

I was the first to speak in the public forum, where I raised the matter of the stroke and ENT services consultation that I mentioned in a post on 9th September.

Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders commented on the proposal for having stroke services centralised in Scunthorpe, saying: "forty miles is too far to go. We should be hugely concerned about it. The ambulance is going to be out of circulation."

"We are treated very badly in many ways," Councillor Pauline Watson said. "We are in different counties. I think we're being marginalised by that."

Since the consultation closes on the 26th of September it seems that the people of Louth are being rushed into a response, and we won't get adequate opportunity to say anything about the matter. The town council agreed to send out a corporate response to the consultation.

Jason Garrett then spoke about the state of Louth's overgrown verges and hedgerows. "It is getting quite dangerous," he said. "A lot of the road signs are getting obliterated."

"There is a real need to get to grips with it," Councillor Makinson-Sanders agreed.

The town council voted to write to LCC Highways and endorse Mr Garrett's concerns.

Also on the topic of safety, Shari-Ann Hubball mentioned her growing concerns about A-boards on pavements. "People with scooters can't get by," she said. "It is an accident waiting to happen. There are a lot of people who won't come to Louth because of the condition of the pavements."

The town council responded by voting to take this issue up with ELDC.

Councillor George Horton spoke about his concerns about ambulance response times, citing an incident in which someone had to wait an hour an twenty minutes for one recently, which he described as "not acceptable."

"At the moment they are not providing. It could be life threatening."

Mayor's remarks

The Mayor, Andrew Leonard, told the council that Louth Rotary Club had won a trophy as a result of the ecological use of old Christmas trees to build up the banks of the river Lud. He also mentioned that the Hubbard's Hills Trust is entering into negotiations with the National Lottery for funding. With regard to dog controls agreed on in a previous council meeting, the Mayor noted that new signs had been installed.

Internal demolition of the Malt Kiln has already started, and the Mayor reported that we are likely to see outward signs from around the 6th to the 8th of October.

Rate relief for the Ants and Nats

The Louth Naturalists, Antiquarian and Literary Society applied to the council for rate relief for 12 and 14 Upgate, which the council granted. Councillor Sue Locking noted that the group had to spend 3000 just to clear out the premises.

The council also agreed to allow the Chess Club to use the town's crest, and to release 1000 of previously agreed funding for the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Trains

A group known as Lincolnshire Disused Railways (nothing to do with the Lincs Wolds Railway) have queried the town council about reinstating the train line from Louth to Grimsby.

There was some discussion, but not a lot because of the costs involved. Councillor Locking summed it up as, "We support it in principle, but don't have the money." The council resolved against supporting this application without further information from the group.

Livestock market judicial review

The town council have been in discussion with Sam Skinner, a barrister who specialises in judicial reviews, about taking ELDC to court over their handling of the sale of the cattle market. They want to do this in conjunction with Keep Louth Special (KLS). However, the costs involved in this action are not minor.

There is a possibility that ELDC do not actually own the cattle market, due to the 1848 Louth Markets and Improvement Act which may not have been repealed, which would give the Mayor ownership of the building (but not the land it sits on). "If it still stands then the district council do not own the cattle market," the Mayor said. This needs to be investigated.

"The whole process of judicial review is about process," the Mayor said. "We have said before we believe that process is flawed."

The initial consultation with Sam Skinner cost 1000 plus VAT. The Mayor was very positive about this lawyer, describing him as "a very, very clever guy" who was "99% sure he will win". "I was in no doubt that we had a more than strong case to win."

However, those costs.

"To get it into court and heard and done you are talking around 25, 000," the Mayor said. "With everything in life there is no guarantee. From a financial side KLS have substantial funds... and they haven't even started." He mentioned a figure of 12,000 to 13,000 in terms of the money KLS has raised so far.

"I'm not sure that spending public money to do this is a brilliant idea," Councillor Laura Stephenson said. "The people of Louth should not be forced into having money spent against their will."

"If we were to lose the potential loss jumps to 50,000," the Mayor said.

The Town Clerk, Linda Blankley, advised that if the town council took donations towards a judicial review fund it would have to be done in such a way that there was "no obvious VAT avoidance".

"I've got great reservations," Councillor Fran Treanor said. "Every year we are given a lump sum of money... All this money is to virtually get the district council to admit that they did the wrong thing. Walmart are the largest company in the world. They are loaded... It may come back to bite us in the backside."

Councillor Horton revealed that "one businessman has put 10,000 into the pot."

"We rely on ELDC," Councillor Pauline Watson said.

"If I'm in a fight I want it to be a fair fight," Councillor Andrew Austin said. "It would appear that ELDC have not stuck within the rules of the fight."

Councillor Stephenson said: "It's us taxpayers who are going to pay." She suggested having a referendum on the matter.

"This is a matter of principle," Councillor Chris Green said. "The question is, has the proper procedure been followed. I believe it hasn't. Doing nothing isn't an option. Yes, it's sad that we'll have to pay the extra money as taxpayers."

Councillor David Wing branded the two Nathaniel Lichfield retail reports as "expensive" and "flawed". "That didn't go to the people," he said.

"If I vote I am voting for the council at ELDC to lose a lot of money," Councillor Watson said. "It's not in the interests of my ratepayer."

"We are here as bastions of democracy," Councillor Makinson-Sanders said. "Walmart may be the biggest company in the world but bullies don't always win."

The proposal was to go forward with this legal action up to a value of 25,000, with KLS paying 12,500 and LTC contributing up to 12,500 plus VAT. The Town Clerk warned that LTC should not contribute more than 50% of the costs, because LTC doesn't "have enough money to meet other commitments otherwise." This is how the vote broke down:
ForAgainstAbstainAbsent
Andrew Austin
Brian Burnett
Chris Green
Andrew Leonard
Sue Locking
Jill Makinson-Sanders
Margaret Ottaway
James Pocklington
Gus Robertson
David Wing
David Hall
Laura Stephenson
Neil Ward
George Horton
Fran Treanor
Pauline Watson
Jack Wood
Roger Featherstone
Eileen Ballard
Fabian Coonghe
Trevor Marris
It's a hefty legal bill, and there are many better ways the town could be spending our money. No matter which way this trial shakes out, these expensive legal fees will be paid by the people of Louth or East Lindsey, and at the end of it, because this trial is about the process of decision-making rather than the result, I'm not convinced that it will make a material difference to the status of the cattle market.



 


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