Politics - Chaos at West Lindsey DC

There are a number of serious problems in the way that West Lindsey District Council has been run since 2011, for example:

a) The concentration by the Conservatives on being an ‘entrepreneurial council’ has led to a number of ‘initiatives’ which are not proper for a local authority.

In April 2014 I asked WLDC for a list of the tangible benefits of this entrepreneurial approach but they could not give me a single example.

Now the Rasen Mail (25 Feb 15) tells us that the Conservative run West Lindsey District Council intends to loan £350,000 to Gainsborough Hospital.

Why should this matter to you as a resident and a taxpayer?

In simple terms, councils like WLDC provide services using public money – either gathered directly from local council taxpayers, or received from central government – and so ultimately also from taxpayers.

Councils have a duty of care to invest reserves with as little risk to capital as possible - just look at the Icelandic banks fiasco to see what can happen when local councils starting taking risks. (WLDC are still recovering money from the Icelandic banks in 2015.)

If loaning money to a hospital makes good financial sense – then venture capitalists will be queuing up to make such loans.

These commercial companies have the expertise to assess risk and make money accordingly (and the financial reserves to lose money).

Small councils like WLDC have no place dipping a toe into the world of venture capitalism.

What makes this loan even more absurd is that according to their latest financial plan WLDC need to borrow money.

b) The Conservatives are in a complete muddle over the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan (CLLP). Implementation of the plan – a blue print for our communities over the next 20 years - is itself several years behind schedule. The local MP, Sir Edward Leigh, has argued that West Lindsey should come up with its own plan and leave the CLLP. Sir Edward’s agent Cllr Giles McNeill takes the opposite view that it is best to continue with the CLLP.

When asked by Lib Dem Councillor David Dobbie how the plan’s development was to be scrutinised, Cllr McNeill admitted that in 2010 West Lindsey “decided to pool its authority” on the plan, so they “ also abrogated that scrutiny function.” (WLDC Governance and Audit

Committee consideration of Audit Lincolnshire report : Rasen Mail 15 Jan 2015)

I understand that the Conservatives at West Lindsey are now planning for the contingency of having to leave the CLLP if it fails to deliver by the end of 2016.

The CLLP covers the areas of West Lindsey, Lincoln City and North Kesteven. The previous version of the plan was withdrawn in Dec 2013 after being savaged by a government inspector.

Lincoln on its own does not have a development ‘land bank’ large enough to meet the anticipated need over the next 20 years. Lincoln therefore has to be combined with West Lindsey (making use of the ‘land bank’ in West Lindsey) in order to produce a plan that can cope with planned development.

Audit Lincolnshire has also recently reported that “The risk of not having a five-year housing land supply should be added to the strategic risk register to ensure that there is regular formal and transparent monitoring and reporting on this risk and the progress made in reducing the risk,”

The way forward: What residents expect – and deserve – is that their local council will fulfil its core responsibilities, safely, sensibly and efficiently, without gimmicks

The District Council elections on 7th they require from councillors individually and from the new council as an administration.

Which candidates will be best able to deliver on the key points – working hard for their communities, acting together to form sensible policies,scrutinising the details of all council matters - and sorting out the mess at WLDC?

Guy Grainger

King Street, Market Rasen