LETTER: Balancing the books at West Lindsey District Council

Further to several articles in your paper from Councillor Keimach, I feel I must respond.

Starting with the last first, West Lindsey District Council most certainly does face tough times ahead. Finding £1 million pounds from an operating budget of £12.5m in each of the next three years will be difficult but not impossible.

Nobody is in any doubt the last government and opportunistic bankers are to blame but as Coun Keimach pointed out in your paper, the situation is getting worse. Further borrowings and Quantitative Easing do not help. All that is being achieved is a delay in the day of reckoning.

History students only have to look at France, Russia or Germany to see what happens when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, or, non history students only have to look at round the world to day to see the damage done by an unfair distribution of wealth and power. The present government is gambling on luck.

The Government is hoping things will get better sooner rather than later.

I voted against Coun Keimach’s proposed 1.5 per cent increase not because I disagree with the need but because I had already voted for a motion put forward by the leader of the Liberals.

This motion also included the 1.5 per cent rise, which had been well argued for by the financial team but the motion also included a suggestion that we explore how the council operates in future.

Sharing management resources with other districts and even looking at possibly reducing the number of councillors on the team were possibilities.

The 1.5 per cent rise might raise £80,000. Reducing top management costs could save a further £150,000 and charging for green bin collections might add a further £250,000.

These are my guesses but even with other savings we could still be £500,000 short of the £1 million if our target is to keep front line services at a “fit for purpose” standard.

Trimming future spending plans will also help, as will using some of The West Lindsey Bank Balance.

With a daily balance averaging over £20m we could use some of the money to smooth out cash flow for four or five years to come and still have adequate reserves in the bank.

It seems to me in West Lindsey the Liberals understand money better than the Conservatives.

My other issue is one of Democracy. A couple of 
weeks ago Coun Keimach criticised Market Rasen Council for being un-democratic in failing to co-opt a member of the public onto the council.

I do not know the details and the matter is now resolved but one town councillor did tell me there were technical details for the decision.

Yet in Gainsborough both the people and town council are having decisions imposed on them by WLDC with neither discussion or consultation.

There is a small, unique, open space on the river front known as Whitton Gardens. It was given to the town by the Whitton family and was subject to a covenant prohibiting the sale of alcohol or for use as a hotel. It is the only public open space on the riverside in the town.

WLDC intends that a “bed-only” hotel is built on the site.

No one is suggesting that Gainsborough does not need a hotel, it does but there are plenty of other sites, some owned by the council and including that of the Old Guild Hall which is currently being demolished that could be used.

There is to be no consultation with the public till the proposal goes to planning and the land sold. That is to late.

The residents, businesses and Town Council need time to contribute their ideas, requirements and concerns regarding the proposal.

Last September, further to a question from myself to the full council, 
Coun Keimach, Leader of the Council, assured the chamber there would be full and proper discussion with both the town council and the people of Gainsborough. What has happened? Perhaps he has just forgotten.

As a southerner, I have seen how south coast towns, from Bristol to Portsmouth, have rebuilt their economies.

By using an exciting water front development and imaginative design, as at Marshall’s Yard, the Guild Hall site could do the same for Gainsborough. It could act as a magnet in attracting new visitors and their money to the town.

You do not even have to travel south, the Brayford 
Pool in Lincoln gets more attractive every year and there are plenty of ideas that could be copied.

If you are interested in following local government more closely, the full council meeting held on Monday March 4 should be on the WLDC web site soon!

Christopher Darcel,

WLDC District Councillor for Fiskerton and Langworth