Monday, July 31, 2006

Grantham: centre of our Universe?

A couple of years ago, South Kesteven District Council changed its priorities on what they'd spend our council tax on.

Instead of investing in concessionary fares for our elderly and disabled people, for example, they decided to focus instead on making Grantham a sub-regional centre.

That's fine if you live in or near Grantham I suppose.

But most of us in the Deepings don't have much or any interest in Grantham. I'm sure it's a pleasant enough place but I wonder how many of us have even visited the town!

Besides, we don't need a sub-regional centre. We already have our own fully fledged regional centre on our doorsteps.

Grantham-based SKDC seems never to have quite accepted that those in the south of the district will always use Peterborough hospitals and Queensgate shopping centre -even if Grantham is promoted to the exalted heights of "sub-regional centre".

I picked up a Grantham Journal the other day which contained a quote on the subject from Duncan Kerr, Chief Executive of SKDC.

He told a "Question Time" style public meeting:

"Our aspirations should be to have a high quality development of the town centre so Grantham can punch its weight as a sub-regional centre."

Deepings Rugby Club find new home?

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Things seem to have gone quiet on the drive to find a much-needed new home for Deepings Rugby Club.

For a long time, the driving force behind the potential move has been Chris Witcomb, who was club President until he stepped down recently.

The portacabin club house on Deepings School playing field is well past its sell by date, but Lincolnshire County Council don't want a new contract because there is a chance that a new comprehensive school could be provided under the Government's Building Schools for the Future scheme.

The favourite site for the new school has to be the current playing field.

It won't happen for at least a decade, but meantime, the club needs a permanent home.

The rugby club continues to grow from strength to strength - with more than a dozen teams of all ages turning out on a regular fixture list.

Deepings Showground - owned by the county council - was the obvious site. But the idea was quickly kicked into touch by county council leader Martin Hill who made it clear he considers the showground far more valuable as a site for a housing site.

(My personal view is that local councils have a responsibility to build infrastructure and strong communities, and should not just sell land off at maximimum profit for housing).

The county council offered to flog the rugby club a piece of land on the other side of the by-pass - hardly suitable to encourage youngsters on foot or bikes crossing the by-pass.

I was hopeful that we could negotiate letting the rugby club have the top corner of the school playing field - behind the skateboard park. Our MP John Hayes joined the campaign to support the rugby club.

But all seems to have gone quiet on the idea.

However, at the parish council meeting this week, a colleague said he'd heard there was a fresh prospect of a solution.

A parcel of land near Deeping St James railway crossing has recently been sold off and the word is that the new landowner has offered ther rugby club a plot which may be suitable for a new clubhouse along with a couple of pitches.

I don't know if this is a runner.

Whatever happens, it's bound to take a few years for a new clubhouse to be built.

And while the club is in a state of limbo, I see they have decided to tart up the old clubhouse with a lick of paint and new flooring.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Telegraph reports on Stamford Endowed scheme

The decision by Lincolnshire County Council to stop paying the private school fees for a few Stamford children was featured in today's Sunday Telegraph.

For those who may not subscribe to the Telegraph, here is the full unedited article:

The last remnant of the assisted places scheme, under which public money funded places at private schools, is to be scrapped because of complaints that it is elitist.
Lincolnshire County Council pays £1.9 million a year for 350 pupils to attend the boys' and girls' schools that make up the independent Stamford Endowed Schools, because there is no grammar school in the market town.

However, the Conservative-led council has finally bowed to pressure from state schools and some parents and will abandon the scheme from 2008.

The decision to stop funding 50 places a year for high-ability pupils comes days after it emerged that Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, offered help to a very able child in his constituency to attend an independent school because there were "no suitable state schools".

The Lincolnshire scholarships, running since 1975, are thought to be unique since the national assisted places scheme was abolished in 1997.

Quentin Davies, Stamford's Conservative MP, said the end of the scholarships "threatened disaster for future generations of the town's bright children".

Saturday, July 29, 2006

War declared over Deepings news

Sorry to see that Roy Dennis has pulled his Deepings electronic news service following a public falling out with Roy Carson.

It's all seems to be getting very nasty with threats of legal action over photographs Roy Carson has provided for the site which Roy Dennis has built up over a number of years.

I'm not really interested in the blow by blow account which is all that remains at

I just hope they resolve their differences soon so that normal service can be resumed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why can't we attract Head Teachers?

One in eight of all primary schools in Lincolnshire have no permanent head teacher, according to East Midlands Today on BBC TV.

I wonder why we have more head teacher vacancies than any other county in the region...

Could one reason be Lincolnshire County Council's shattered reputation reaching other parts of the country?

With one former Tory Leader of the Council - Jim Speechley - sent to jail for abuse of power and a second - Ian Croft - barred from office for unacceptable conduct, we have a lot to do to restore trust in Lincolnshire.

Some years ago, when Jim Speechley was chair of education in the county, he hit the headlines after objecting to a plan to increase spending on special needs children.

He shamefully told a council meeting that special needs children had little to offer society, so it wasn't worth spending extra cash on their needs.

This was the man the Tories later chose to lead the Council.

And when Speechley was eventually officially shamed as a "bully" who ran the council in "a climate of fear" (Public Interest Report finding), the Tory ruling group rewarded him with a vote of confidence.

Even with Speechley and Croft removed, more recent events have done little to restore public confidence - such as the shambolic handling of plans to close down infant and junior schools with surplus places.

Who could blame talented potential head teachers from giving Lincolnshire a wide berth?

Lincs LibDems take the biscuit

I had to laugh when I read in the Mercury that Stamford LibDems have condemned the county council's decision to scrap the scholarship scheme.

At the county council, LibDem education spokesman - John Marriott - and his colleagues have long supported the campaign to scrap the scheme which he recognises as grossly unfair.

But now Liberal Democrats representing Stamford on South Kesteven District Council have criticised the decision to scrap the scheme.

You can always rely on the LibDems to say one thing in one place and something else in another.

Endowed decision a disaster says MP

Has Stamford's Tory MP Quentin Davies gone completely OTT over the county council's decision to stop private school fees on the rates?

According to the Mercury he believes that stopping the £2 million a year scheme "threatens disaster for future generations of the town's bright children."

His argument for carrying on the injustice seems to be that its something we've always had in Stamford, so it must be right.

Sorry Quentin.

The scheme was outdated and not fit for the 20th Century, never mind the 21st.

Tory turmoil over schools scandal

Tory splits over the scandal of public school fees on the rates have spilled into the local press.

This week's Stamford Mercury reports that the three Tory county councillors for the town all wanted the grossly unfair scheme to continue - but were unable to carry the support of their colleagues in the Tory controlling group.

All three apparently lobbied their colleagues for the status quo and are now upset at the decision taken by the all-Tory Executive to scrap the scheme.

The fact that Colin Helstrip is in the exalted position of Chairman of the Council and Martin Trollope-Bellew is Chief Whip counted for nothing.

None of the three Stamford councillors are members of the Executive - in fact 67 of the 77 elected county councillors have no vote on the all-ToryExecutive which took the decision.

Still, I'm not complaining.

I've relentlessly raised objections to the scholarship scandal at every opportunity over the past five years.

And I'm glad my voice has been heard and the Executive have finally realised they can no longer justify £2 million a year on a scheme which milks the budget of every other school in Lincolnshire!

Brian Sumner and Martin Trollope-Bellew - who owns the Barholm Estate - told the Mercury they and fellow councillor Colin Helstrip are unhappy with the decision taken by their colleagues.

Martin says ending the scheme was against the interests of Stamford children.

I disagree.

Does he really believe it's in the interests of Stamford children who pass their 11-plus but fail to get one of the 50 places a year on the rates at Stamford Endowed to carry on with the £2 million a year scandal.

Tory Brian Sumner says "...there is no better education than a grammar school education."

Well thanks Brian. So we get second best from the Deepings Comp do we?

Rubbish Brian. If you cream off those deemed to be the brightest at the age of 11, it's no surprise that Grammar Schools get some of the best results.

But when you look at what places like Deepings Comp and others achieve will all-comers, the picture looks very different.

In my view, we should be providing the best education for ALL our children, not just a few at the expense of the rest.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Saturday Night Live

Good music wafting out of the Vicarage garden on Saturday night.

It was the latest bring your own picnic and wine evening on the Vicarage lawns, (all welcomed) with a concert by the Springfield Jazz and the Cranmore Singers.

Sorry I had to give it a miss due to a different kind of concert in another garden not too far away...

Excellent home-grown rock band 'The Goat Herders' were playing at The Goat in Frognall. And they seemed to get more excellent as the evening progressed.

I'm sure it was nothing to do with the fact that they were playing the third outdoor Beer Festival to be staged at The Goat!

I managed to sample my share of wierd and wonderful brews including a pint of draught cider as cloudy as orange juice with a rather worrying sediment and a kick like a mule.

Glad I walked!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Police alert

Seems to be some sort of incident at or near to the Deeping Police Station...blimey, I've only been away a week!

update: see comment from anonymous suggesting it may have been a bomb scare.

Deepings: road closed?

Anyone know why Deepings seems to be closed tonight?

Just had a call from a resident of Bridge Street trying to drive home.

He says he's tried three separate ways in and each time has been turned back by police.

I know the Carnival is on tomorrow, but wonder if there's something bigger going on.

All suggestions gratefully received.

Back on blog

Sorry no blog for last week due to short break on Bulgarian Black Sea coast when decided to get right away from mobile phones, news, computers, and even blogs. But now back and catching up with sleep, news local, national and world, and grappling with backlog of over 200 emails - first job to delete the garbage emails offering rather dubious products! Will then crack on with part about going away is coming home to Deeping St James.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Scholarship scandal on Breakfast Radio

I've done a pre-record radio interview this evening with Lincs FM and Rutland FM (same stable) on the Stamford Endowed issue.

It is scheduled for broadcast on their Wednesday morning breakfast news bulletins.

They've also interviewed the Portfolio Holder for Education Councillor Christine Talbot - so you can hear both sides of the issue.

Lincs FM is on 102.2 fm and Rutland is 107.2 or 97.4

Tories vote to end Scholarship Scandal, but not yet!!


The all-Tory Executive on Lincolnshire County Council have finally bowed to pressure and taken steps to end the Scholarship Scandal.

But even at the eleventh hour, this morning the Tories were unable to make a clean break.

The Tories this morning rejected a recommendation from their own all-party policy group and instead came up with a quickly cobbled together amendment to keep the scheme in place for another decade.

The scandal currently costs more than £2 million a year.

No reasons were given at today's meeting for failing to accept the recommendation from the council's all-party policy group to scrap the scheme earlier, despite support from senior Tory Graham Wheat of Grantham.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Question of Democracy

Now that the Tories have banned written questions from Council meetings, oral questions have taken on more significance.

The advantage of asking written questions was to tease out information from members of the Tory Executive not previously known.

Answers from Executive members were also in writing - and a matter of public record, published in full with the minutes of meetings.

There is no such record of oral questions - or the answers given.

Until now!

Thanks to freelance journalist Richard Orange who runs Orchard News Bureau, there is to be a verbatim record.

Frankly, this is a service to democracy that the Council itself should be providing.

Hopefully, the Council will eventually be embarrassed into modernising its communications with voters.

It will take a few days for Richard to get the exchanges transcribed.

Meantime, there's lots to read on his site, including the full story on the demise of two former Tory Leaders of the Council - Jim Speechley of Crowland who went to prison and Ian Croft of Bourne who has been banned from being a councillor for misconduct.

Just published on the Orchard News website is the full debate on the Tory motion to ban written questions.

You can see it at:

Dropped from Tory manifesto

The Conservative manifesto for last year's county council elections had no mention of their flagship scholarship scheme - unlike previous manifestos which boldly made firm commitments.

At Friday's meeting of the full Council, the Tories refused to state what their current policy is on the controversial scholarships.

Will be fascinating to see tomorrow's decision of the Executive.

Turmoil over Scholarships

Last week's decision by the all-party policy development group to scrap the scholarship scheme has set the cat amongst the pigeons in the Tory Group.

The Tories on the committee split - with chairman of the group Graham Wheat - a former Chairman of the County Council - voting with Labour to scrap the scheme.

I'll be at the meeting tomorrow of the ruling Executive who will consider the recommendation to scrap the scheme from Cllr Wheat's group.

Watch this space!!