Saturday, February 25, 2006

Deepings Road Death

Sad news.

Following the carnage of five deaths on the A52 near Grantham last week and another on Friday morning, I understand a Deeping St James man was killed in the early hours of Saturday morning in a crash near Towngate Inn.

It seems a car turned over after it went off the road.

add: just seen further news on the beeb website

Read about the Whistleblower and the Leader?

Plenty of coverage in the national papers on London Mayor Ken Livingston's removal from office for a month after a Standards Board of England hearing.

Of more interest locally is another Standards Board hearing which has been taking place this week.

I'm talking about the case against Bourne county councillor Ian Croft.

Much of the hearing so far has focused on Cllr Croft's role in the removal of the council's Chief Executive David Bowles, the whistle-blower who went to the police over the conduct of former Council Leader Jim Speechley.

His evidence eventually helped send Mr Speechley to prison for abuse of power.

I scanned the local papers but couldn't find a word - perhaps they're saving the story for next week's editions.

Fortunately, the freelance journalist Richard Orange has been following the case.

His website report gives a fascinating insight behind the scenes of the Conservative leadership at the time.

Worth a look at

Friday, February 24, 2006

No closures in my backyard, says Martin

Who's behind the schools closure and mergers policy which is in total tatters tonight?

Step foward Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council.

Farmer Martin is councillor for the Billingborough area in the south of the county.

Would you be surprised to know that there are more than 200 empty places in the primary schools he represents?

At Rippingale Primary for example, which is in his electoral division, over 70 per cent of the places are unused. That's SEVENTY per cent.

That a much higher proportion of surplus places than at ANY of the schools listed for closure because of, er, ....surplus places.

So what does Martin say about that?

Last month, The Local newspaper asked him.

Here's what he said:

"With careful thought, imaginative thinking and co-operation between local schools, they will all be able to stay open."

Today, Martin was telling local radio why schools in other parts of Lincolnshire had to close.

Doesn't that take Not in My Back Yard to new depths?

...And those left in limbo

Cllr Mrs Bradwell has decided to "have another look" at proposals for merging schools in Gainsborough and on the St Giles Estate, Lincoln.

In Gainsborough, it was accepted that it might be possible to come up with a better option than merger.

Which begs the question: why have we not been allowed to consider all possible options for other schools on the closure list?

The daftest of all the mergers in the original proposals was to close down the wonderful St Giles Infants School and merge with the outdated former secondary school at Myle Cross.

I believe Cllr Bradwell will come back with new proposals to close Myle Cross and create an all through primary school on the St Giles Infants site.

Anyone who had bothered visiting these two schools never would have come up with the incredibly stupid idea of closing St Giles and forcing more than 400 kids into Myle Cross.

And months of uncertainty for a lot of people could have been avoided.

Wonder if Mrs Bradwell will be apologising?

Don't hold your breath!

And the bad news...

Councillor Mrs Bradwell over-ruled yesterday's 9-0 vote by councillors to reject the mergers at Louth.

She also over-ruled and 8-1 vote to reject mergers at Holton-le-Clay on Lincolnshire's northern border.

She said the votes were "only advisory".

She has also decided to go ahead with closing three Lincoln infants schools and merging them with nearby Juniors. These are at Lowfields (Brant Road), Ermine, and St Botolphs/Sir Francis Hill.

Schools good news...

The good news is that three Lincoln schools - Manor Leas Infants, Manor Leas Juniors and Bracebridge Infants will not merge after all.

When asked what influenced her decision, Councillor Patricia Bradwell, the Portfolio Holder told BBC Radio Lincolnshire today that she had listened to parents from Bracebridge who told her they and their toddlers would face a long walk over a mile down a dangerous road.

She could have spared three schools, and hundreds of parents and teachers months of uncertainty if she had bothered to look at a map before coming up with her daft ideas.

Another fine mess...

One of the reasons given yesterday for pressing ahead with controversial schools closures was "to end the uncertainty".

Er, just a minute.

Who caused the uncertainty in the first place by publishing daft fag packet proposals?

Yep, the very same!

Schools decision is total madness

Yesterday, I was one of nine county councillors from all parties who spent the whole day considering the Tory Executive's plan to tackle surplus places in infant and junior schools.

One of the proposals was to close down Eastfield Infants School in Louth and merge it with the neighbouring Lacey Gardens Junior School.

It would have created one massive all-through primary school with 630 places - the biggest in Lincolnshire.

The nine unanimously rejected the Tory Executive's plan after looking carefully into the figures.

The all-party panel yesterday discovered that when the new school opens next year, officials expect it is likely to have 146 empty desks. The year after next there would be will be 165 empty desks.

Of the nine votes, there was not one in favour of the crazy plan. There was one abstention and eight votes against (4 Tory, 3 Labour, 1 LibDem)

But today, the Tory Leadership of the Council decided to go ahead regardless with their daft merger idea.

Last month they refused to listen to a partnership of church representatives, parent governors, teachers and parents who asked them to go back to the drawing board.

Today, they refused to listen even to their own Conservative councillors!

When the score is 8-0 against you, it's usually best to admit defeat.

Specially when half of those against you are on your own team!!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stop digging Trisha!

Today's meeting considered feedback from the 'consultation' process on plans to close or merge 17 schools.

As Shadow Education Spokesperson, I went to a couple of the public meetings and also visited some of the schools and met head teachers and staff. I was impressed by the excellent way schools constructed their case for survival - and the overwhelming level of parental protest.

It became clear today that the case for closure and merger - in at least 11 of the 17 - simply could not be made.

I always thought the plans were so ill-thought out that they seemed to have been drawn up on the back of a fag packet.

Some of the schools on the hit-list only have a handful of surplus places.

Today, the plan was shown up for the nonsense it always was.

On several of today's votes, when the chairman asked for those in favour of recommending closure and merger, there were none.

Nil points.

Not one backbench Conservative councillor put their hand up to support the plan their Executive had forced through with such indecent haste.

Now we must wait until tomorrow lunchtime to see if the Portfolio Holder listens.

If Councillor Mrs Bradwell has any sense, she'll listen, stop digging and put the entire process on hold until we have a proper, sensible, and sustainable policy that deals with the bulk of the 10,000 surplus places in our primary schools right across the county.

Cutting parental choice by closing infant and junior schools was foisted on us as the urgent measures we must take to deal with surplus places.

The truth was we have many all-through primary schools with far more empty places than some of the schools on the council's hitlist.

That's why I fought for a county-wide debate to help formulate a proper strategy.

It just goes to show that if you try to put the cart before the horse, they'll always be trouble ahead!!

How each school fared today...

The proposals for closure of infants schools and merger with infants which were rejected by today's meeting are:

St Giles/Myle Cross, Manor Leas/Bracebridge Infants, Louth Lacey Gardens, Holton-le-Clay. Proposals for Gainsborough schools on the hit list recommended to be deferred to consider further options.

The meeting voted to accept closure of three infants schools in Lincoln and merger with neighbouring Juniors.

These are at Ermine, Lowfields (Brant Road) and St Botolphs Infants and Sir Francis Hill Juniors.

more later.

School closure plans rejected

Plans to close or merge 17 infant and junior schools across Lincolnshire are in tatters tonight after an all-day meeting at the County Council today.

Councillors rejected plans for closure and merger at 11 of the 17 schools on the "hit list".

The final decision will be made tomorrow (Friday) at 1pm by Childrens Services Portfolio Holder Patricia Bradwell.

Last month a partnership of councillors, parent governors and representatives from the churches and asked the Executive to go back the the drawing board.

But they pressed on regardless.

The difference today is that back bench Conservatives - also voted against some of the closures.

Surely, Cllr Bradwell will listen this time!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is John a true Cameroon?

It's no secret that David Cameron wasn't the first choice of our local MP in the Tory Party Leadership race when Michael Howard stepped down.

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, took a job on David Cameron's front-bench. So far, Mr Hayes appears to be supporting his new Leader's daily flip-flops on every policy from conversion to support for 'top-up fees' to promising 'no more grammar schools'.

But Daily Mirror political editor Kevin Macquire, writing in the current New Statesman, this week reveals an interesting behind the scenes development.

Sorry, couldn't get the link to work, but here it is in full...

Under the headline: 'The Tory Taliban flash the cash', Kevin writes:

First evidence of organised Tory resistance to Citizen Dave's coup is found on the floor of a Commons corridor. A £500 donation and epistle from a wealthy benefactor urges right-wing headbangers in the faith, flag and family Cornerstone Group to fight the forces of redefinition. Absent-minded secretary John Hayes dropped the cheque, and I helpfully reacquainted the MP with it. Sheepish Hayes denies Tombstone is a party within a party, though Dave may not see it that way when the Tory Taliban launch a website funded by another right-on sponsor.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Exchange of views...

Interesting debate on yesterday's A52 crash and migrant workers ongoing on the excellent Deeping St James Exchange site (webmaster Rev. Mark Warrick, chair of DSJ Parish Council)

You can view or comment at

Will our MP put people before politics?

With MPs voting today on new laws to tackle terrorism, I'll be looking to see if local MP John Hayes puts our country first rather than the Conservative Party as he did last time.

In November, Mr Hayes helped defeat Government proposals for 90-day detention for terror suspects.

Despite the London bombings, Mr Hayes told the Lincolnshire Free Press (15 November)he voted against the plans because that was the decision of his party.

He said: “I am a front bench Conservative and as such I have a collective responsibility to support my party.

“The people who elected me did so because they wanted me to represent themselves and the Conservative Party."

Mr Hayes went on to say that he had made his personal position known to his colleagues in the Party but there was a risk of the Conservatives descending into chaos if he and other Tories didn't support the party line.

OK John, but what about chaos in the country if we give the signal to the terrorists that Britain is a soft touch.

If John listened to those who voted for him rather than his political masters, my bet would be that the vast majority would expect him to vote for the 90-days.

Today John has a chance to put the safety of the nation before the future of the Conservative Party.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Massacre on our roads

The tragic deaths of six people on Lincolnshire’s roads today begs the question: what can we do to reduce the carnage?

As an elected county councillor and Police Authority member, today's tradegy makes me even more determined to achieve proper and effective scrutiny of the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership.

I’m sure the Partnership has done some excellent work in the years since it was formed - a few years ago Deeping St James Parish Council worked with them on a road safety campaign in our village.

But when I see national news reports today naming Lincolnshire as having one of the worst accident records in the country, we have to ask serious questions.

A few months ago, myself and others from the Police Authority arrived in Lincoln to launch a joint scrutiny of the Road Safety Partnership with Lincolnshire County Council.

It makes perfect sense to me that the major funders of the Partnership should come together to jointly scrutinise the work and see what we might do differently to improve road safety in the county.

Bizarrely, the County Council managed to send the wrong committee, the meeting had to be aborted so the 90 mile round trip up the A15 was wasted.

Ever since, I’ve been pushing - at meetings of the County Council and the Police Authority - for joint scrutiny to take place.

After all, one of the major criticisms in last year’s damning Corporate Governance Inspection report was Lincolnshire County Council's failure to work effectively in partnership with other agencies.

Here was a chance to show we could work effectively with others.

Or could we!

Just when it seemed we were making progress, I received a letter last week from the Police Authority suggesting it was proving impossible to arrange a meeting with the right people at the County Council.

I blew my top and appealed directly to the Chief Executive of the County Council to intervene.

He replied saying he agrees with me and will try to get it sorted.

Watch this space!

Meantime, the A52 Grantham to Nottingham road is likely to be closed just east of the A1 all day, and well into tonight, causing mass disruption to thousands of people.

Tragically, six people died on their way to work today.

We simply have to do better.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Helping Police with their Enquiries

Fancy joining a local panel to help improve policing in the Deepings?

Local police are looking for volunteers in the Deepings to meet regularly to highlight issues and problems which you may think are not currently receiving enough attention.

I'm local member of Lincolnshire Police Authority responsible for delivering efficient policing across the county. I welcome the rollout of Neighbourhood Policing in our area and more community involvement.

At the heart of Neighbourhood Policing are dedicated local teams of police officers, community support officers and special constables. The idea is for police to be more visible, accessible and responsive to local needs.

Volunteers are needed to identify local issues and report back to a bi-monthly meeting where possible actions can be determined.

Lincolnshire Police are aware they sometimes fail to deal with important local issues because they don't necessarily fall directly within the police remit.

However, this new regular partnership meeting aims to ensure that police work closer with the other agencies to try and find solutions to problems.

Members of the panels will not be expected to be informers or vigilantes, but simply to help direct the police and other public agencies in a more joined up way.

If you have the time and commitment to attend a bi-monthly meeting please ring Lincolnshire Police on 01522 558798. You will be asked to enter the collar number of PC Jim Capp of Market Deeping Police - it's 0678, and leave your contact number.

Alternatively, let me have your details, and I'd be happy to pass them on.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A hamper for your views?

A couple of years ago I responded to a survey to help inform central government about what people want from their parish council.

Results are at

Two years on and are working with The Commission for
Rural Communities (part of the Countryside Agency) and the National Association of Local Councils to find out if views have changed.

Anyone who responds to their latest survey gets the chance of winning a £200 hamper of British goodies.

You can enter at

In my view, vibrant parish councils can provide the lifeblood of any local an example look no further than our very own Deeping St James Parish Council which has been strengthened beyond recognition in the past decade through improving accountability, openness and delivering better value-for-money services needed in the village.

Let me know if you win the hamper!

Tributes to Phillip

Can't claim to be a regular subscriber to the National Farmers Union's magazine, 'British Farmer and Grower'. But just seen their latest edition which carries a warm tribute to one of our local Euro-MPs, Phillip Whitehead who died suddenly on New Year's Eve.

NFU Regional Director Jack Ward says 'Phillip was a good friend to farming and the NFU and took a close interest in the industry...'

Mr Ward goes on to say Phillip was equally comfortable talking about issues affecting hill farmers as the problems of the sugar beet industry.

He was due to host a visit to Brussels by a group of East Midlands farmers when he died suddenly.

Mr Ward talks warmly of a polite, caring man, sympathetic to farming.

Phillip was one time chair of the group of Labour MEPs and former Derby MP.

I had the privilege of knowing Phillip over the past ten years. He was a regular visitor to Lincolnshire. He was also an amazing man in many ways who gave up a career as an award winning TV producer for politics.

Jeremy Isaacs described Phillip as "the most talented TV producer of his generation".

In 100 years time, when they want to teach children about World War Two, I believe they will show them Phillip's series "The World at War".