Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What the Leader didn't want parents to know...

Text of letter I've sent tonight to County Council Officer Dr Allan Crease and copied to Council Leader Councillor Martin Hill...

Dear Dr Crease,
May I raise a couple of points following this evening’s public meeting regarding the closure of Lincoln Ermine Infants School and merger with Ermine Juniors.

First, I listened carefully to the presentations by the Portfolio Holder, the Director and yourself, who all stressed the importance of giving parents, governors, councillors and others the full facts before any decisions are made.

However, I was concerned at the opening premise that the schools were listed for merger:

'...because it is the policy of the Council to have all-through primary schools'.

This was followed by a presentation on the generic case for all-through primary schools, which I assume you are screening at all the meetings concerning the initial 17 infant and junior schools listed for closure and/or merger.

In my opinion, it is disingenuous not to make clear from the platform that the Council has adopted the ‘all-through’ policy only AFTER publication of the proposed list of closures and mergers. A chronological presentation of events would, I believe, be more informative.

Second, may I seek your advice on the position of elected members at these public meetings, and more specifically, my position as Shadow Portfolio Holder for Education:

I felt it reasonable at tonight’s open forum to make a short contribution from the floor to offer the following facts which were missed out of the platform presentations:

1. Clarification of your observation that ‘the highest number of surplus places are in the infant/junior schools’. I believe the public meetings should be told as part of the platform presentation that there are 8,000 surplus places in Lincolnshire’s primary schools and 2,000 in infant and juniors.

2. The fact that there are far higher proportions of surplus places in some all-through primary schools than at some of the 17 infant and junior schools now listed for closure and merger.

At the briefing meeting at the Labour Group office to discuss the handling of the current process, you kindly asked if I wished to be on the platform at each of the public meetings.

However, at this evening’s meeting, the Council Leader made it clear that he objected to me making a contribution, pointing out to the meeting that ‘...Cllr Dilks works for the Labour Party and is not even a local member of the Council...' (and then ironically suggesting I was raising 'red herrings' by mentioning the situation at schools in his own backyard).

I understand that Council Leader, who is driving the policy of closure/merger of infant and junior schools, may not wish parents at schools under threat to be informed that there are 200+ surplus places in all-through primary schools in the area he represents.

But when the Lincoln schools under threat have 25 per cent and 30 per cent surplus places respectively, is it not relevant to ask why a school with 70 per cent surplus places that happens to be in the Council Leader’s division is NOT listed for closure or merger?

I’d appreciate your advice on the status of myself and colleagues at the rest of the meetings planned in the current process.

Yours, most truly,

Phil Dilks,
Member for Deeping St James
Shadow Portfolio Holder for Education

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fighting for rubbish!

Watch out for an increase in fly-tipping now that we’ve lost our regular Saturday morning skip service in the Deepings.

Sadly, Lincolnshire County Council pulled the plug on the popular service at the end of December.

For years, three giant compactors turned up at the Rainbow Car Park every other Saturday morning. By noon, they were usually packed full with discarded items.

The cost was high – more than £1,000 every time the compactors turned up. I believe it was also inherently unsafe to have compactors operating on a busy supermarket car park.

And despite some people believing they were doing their bit for recycling, shamefully, every ounce collected was dumped straight into landfill.

But despite its shortcomings, the service was extremely popular and I've been working hard to try to get an alternative in place.

In December, I managed to persuade the County’s Portfolio Holder for Waste Services to meet Ian Prentice who runs Deepings Recycling Services.

Ian has offered to provide a rubbish skip at his site at a fraction of the cost of the compactors. As well as being safer, more would be recycled rather than landfilled.

It’s such a blindingly obvious solution, but not apparently, to the powers that be!

Thanks to Stamford Mercury for taking up my campaign in last week's paper – and making it the front page splash on their free paper, the Citizen, last week.

Sorry, can’t get the coverage on the internet, so no link...

As they say, watch this space.

Friday, January 27, 2006

In at the Deep End

Another damning report landed at the door of Lincolnshire County Council this week.

The report, commissioned by Lincolnshire Sports Partnership, highlights a shortage of swimming pools across the county.

I suppose we should be thankful that we have access to a public pool on our doorsteps - but I have to say, the Deepings Leisure Centre, is well past its sell-by date.

The pool and centre is the responsibility of South Kesteven District Council but it's actually run by a private company.

I believe it would be much better in the hands of a local management committee run by local people, accountable to rate-payers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

'Back-of-fag-packet scheme' slammed

This week's Free Press carries a well-informed article under the above headline on the surplus places debacle.

The Free Press reveals the alarming numbers of empty desks in a number of local primary schools.

County Council Leader Martin Hill is clearly annoyed that I've supplied the papers with this information.

My defence guv, is that councillors and ratepayers deserve to be told all the facts when crucial decisions affecting local communities are made. When Martin pushed ahead with plans to close or merge schools - most in Lincoln - to tackle surplus places, he didn't mention the fact that there are more than 200 surplus places in village schools he represents. That's a much bigger problem than in some of the schools proposed for closure.

Can't give you a link for the story. It's page 17 lead, but didn't make the web version of the Free Press...So you'll have to buy one...

Here's a taster to whet your appetite!

Coun Hill added: "This is a mischievous red herring thrown in by Coun Dilks and it is quite irresponsible of him to quote schools with high numbers of surplus places because it is quite unsettling for them."

Wonder if Martin thinks it was 'unsettling' for the parents, children and teachers at 17 schools to discover they were on the hit list for closure when they picked up the Lincolnshire Echo?

A case of double standards?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Marching against school closures

Grassroots anger is growing over the plans to close or merge 17 infant and junior schools with surplus places. (see link to Lincolnshire Echo for latest). We've already had one march on the streets of Lincoln and another is planned for next month. Now I hear parents are on the march in Gainsborough too. And no wonder. The Executive on Lincolnshire County Council are refusing to listen to a partnership of parent governors, church representatives and independents who urged them to go back to the drawing board and come up with a county wide strategy to deal with the real problem. Four members of the Executive, including the Leader and the Deputy Leader have schools in the areas they represent with even bigger problems of surplus places than any of the schools they have targeted for closure.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Good news on the buses

Good news on local bus services to the Deepings. Delaine's are planning to extend their 203 service between Deepings and Stamford from the end of next month.

Details of the new services can be seen at http://www.delainebuses.comm by clicking the news section.

Rev Mark Warrick, chairman of Deeping St James Parish Council, reports on what the changes mean for our community on the excellent Deepings Exchange site he runs. You can join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dsj-exchange
  • There will be five journeys a day Mondays to Fridays between Deeping St James and Stamford including regular off-peak services. Sadly, still no weekend services.
  • All journeys to operate on a new route via Deeping St James. The new route through Deeping St James is the same as the 102 route, via Burchnall Close, Crowson Way and Horsegate, not via The Cross.
Mark, who devised the Deepings bus map, comments:

In my opinion this is still not a wonderful service but it is much better than anything we've had for quite a long time.

Thanks to Mark for the info. And thanks to Delaine's for the extra buses. I hope they will be well used.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Greedy Party?

The Washington newspaper famous for uncovering the Watergate scandal turned to our own local MP for a few words of wisdom today.

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings was quoted in an interesting Washington Post story. The paper was looking at the first month of David Cameron's leadership of the British Conservative Party.

It was only a brief mention, but worthy of sharing:

Another Tory MP, John Hayes, said Conservative positions have often been misinterpreted: "The problem is that people see us as self-interested and greedy and uninterested in their needs.

I'm sure few would argue with this analysis by Mr Hayes (perhaps an admission that little actually changed since Theresa May famously told Conservative Party Conference that they were seen as the "nasty" party?).

The Washington Post continues to quote Mr Hayes:

"People see David Cameron as a regular guy who puts their interests first."

A regular guy? Didn't they say that about John Major, William Hague, IDS, and Michael Howard?

Perhaps I'm an old cynic, but wasn't former PR man Mr Cameron author of the Tory manifesto on which he, Mr Hayes and Michael Howard fought the General Election just a few months ago?

As Tory Leader, Mr Cameron is now desperately trying to persuade the nation that the manifesto he wrote was actually a load of rubbish and should be totally shredded.

Thankfully, most of us knew that!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

surplus places in schools

Lincolnshire County Council is making a complete botch of tackling the problem of surplus places in schools due to falling birth rates, but very little has been published to date on this controversial issue.

I intend to use this new site to share latest developments with those interested or affected by the proposed closure or merger of 17 infant and junior schools.

I’d be happy to receive any comments and will try to answer any questions you may have on this issue which has huge potential impact on local communities right across Lincolnshire.


Welcome to my Blog. I hope it is of interest and helps increase direct and regular contact with those I am elected to represent. Please feel free to post your thoughts. Thank you. Phil.