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Town Council Round-Up: Councillor Expenses, Knickerbockers, And Planning

March 19th 2014

Springside flooding

Flooding in Springside in January 2013

The town council meeting on Tuesday, 18th March saw some councillors express concerns about things that have been said or done on other forums, or about other forums.

Councillor Eileen Ballard spoke about what she called "the smell saga", the cattle farm in Legbourne Road that had been creating an awful stench. She reported that this situation had resulted in a prosecution. Another matter she was proud of was the result on the Southern Gateway development, which ELDC rejected (the matter may still go to appeal, however). "If we work together, everything works," Councillor Ballard said.

Councillor Pauline Watson spoke about the Louth Area Committee, and her concerns about how its focus has changed over the years. "Originally the LAC was a meeting for three tiers of local government," she said.

However, recent missives have described the committee as "your community forum for the area", and Councillor Watson wasn't happy about that.

"It was never a community forum," she said. "It is not in the constitution. I think it's very misleading. It is totally out of order."

"We voted not to have anything to do with this forum. Why are we having this discussion?" Councillor Neil Ward asked.

The aforementioned vote and discussion happened on 4th March, after I had left, so I don't have a detailed breakdown of what happened or why. In summary, the town council won't be sending representatives to area committee meetings in future, but individual councillors can still attend as members of the public.

Move Louth Forward

Councillor George Horton read some posts from a new Facebook group, Move Louth Forward. He wanted to correct some of the things that had been said on their page.

"I'm certainly not here for the money. People .... get the wrong impression about LTC."

Councillor Watson had a slightly different perspective. "I don't think we have to say we're not here for the money. There is no money."

Councillor Ballard said members of the Facebook group were "working through ignorance."

"I am far from happy about adverse comments," Councillor Horton continued. "We give our services voluntarily."

"I think it should be renamed Moan Louth Forward," Councillor Roger Featherstone quipped, noting the site's general negativity.

"What they are doing is completely unfounded, and a pack of lies," Councillor Andrew Leonard said.

The council voted in favour of sending a letter about posts to the admin of Move Louth Forward.

Now, this is all a bit vague. At the time of writing the group can be viewed by non-members, but it seems that they have pulled several posts so there's no public record of who said what about whom. However, Councillor Horton's response makes it obvious that claims about councillor expenses were at least one of the bones of contention. These expenses are negligible. The town clerk sent me information about councillors' expenses during the last financial year, which is reproduced in the table below. Although figures only go up to December, there haven't been any further claims between December and now.

Analysis of 101 / 4024 Councillors Expenses M01 M09 (April to December) inclusive 2013/14

EventEvent CostAccommodation TravelSubsistence (Food)
Action for Market Towns Annual Meeting at Congleton 2 Day Event attended by Cllrs Mrs Makinson-Sanders and Cllr Wing350.00 95154.8010.48
Wolds Countryside Event at Market Rasen 1 Day Event attended by Cllrs Stephenson and Mrs Makinson-Sanders10 013.500
LALC (Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils) Lincoln 1 Day Event attended by Councillor Mrs Ottaway5 00 (travelled with other party)0
Action for Market Towns Town Team Workshop at Stamford 1 Day Event attended by Cllrs Mrs Makinson-Sanders and Mrs Ballard55 073.800
Totals420.0095.00 242.1010.48


Grand Total


767.58
767 is less than I spent going to one writer's conference in 2013 (it was a nice one, though, and I got to meet Neil Gaiman). The narrative that councillors are living it large at our expense doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.

And talking of scrutiny, Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders reported that ELDC's scrutiny work on the cattle market is still unfinished. She also protested that reports on the Move Louth Forward page that the ELDC public consultation stall had run out of forms for the public on Louth market on Friday 14th were "totally inaccurate".

The stall "was only meant to run from 10 to 12 noon," Councillor Makinson-Sanders said.

This information was followed by yet more discussion about the MLF page. "We can't control Facebook," Councillor Neil Ward said.

"The younger generation don't take anything on Facebook seriously," Councillor Laura Stephenson commented.

A high steward

The council considered a request to approach the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire to ask him to appoint a new High Steward of Louth, a historical post that has been vacant for over 30 years.

"If we do have a High Steward, who is going to run their diary?" Councillor Watson asked. ""We haven't missed him. We have a mayor. We're going to have somebody walking around in knickerbockers or whatever."

Councillor Sue Locking was in favour of the idea, however. "I am a great traditionalist. There are few High Stewards," she said. "It makes us a bit more unique and special."

The council voted in favour of making this request.

Count me as one of the knickerbocker brigade: I think small measures of pomp and ceremony make Louth appealing to tourists, particularly when similar market towns tend to be cutting back on expenses such as full mayoral robes.

Community radio

Plans for a community radio station took an apparent step back when Councillor Ballard reported the findings of the Radio Working Group. There were various obstacles to allowing the community radio group the use of Sessions House, including the potential loss of amenity for remaining buildings, and the fact that the council couldn't predict how much use of the building would increase. So the working group recommended that the community radio should not be granted a five year lease of the Sessions House.

The council voted by nine votes to four to accept the working group's recommendations, so the hunt is now on for an alternative venue.

Planning

Councillor Featherstone noted that people had sent the town council several letters of objection concerning plans for 240 houses on Grimsby Road. However, that application was not due to be decided at Tuesday's meeting.

The council granted permission for extensions to 21 Kenwick Road, including extensions to the shop to provide a larger store.

Plans for six dwellings on land behind Queen Street Place didn't find favour, however. Councillor Featherstone called the proposed design "very uninspiring", and also cited problems of flooding.

The area flooded in the winter of 2012-13, as you can see from the photograph, when St Helen's spring was unable to drain fully after a period of heavy rain.

"In the middle of town you would never have thought there was a problem with flooding," Councillor Andrew Leonard said.

"Let's get them built and let's get people in them," Councillor Gus Robertson said.

However, the council as a whole did not agree and they objected to these plans.

Adult gaming

One of the most contentious plans was a change of use request for the former cafe at the Cornmarket. Mr S. Nicholson sought permission to turn it into an "adult gaming centre", which is to say to use it for gambling. Predictably this was unpopular.

"Should we be encouraging gaming centres?" Councillor Horton asked, citing his concerns about the current economic climate.

"We have had low vacancy rates," Councillor Brian Burnett said. "It alters the balance of shops in town."

The council voted to object on the grounds of a change of use, which was probably the only grounds available as a valid planning reason.



 


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