It was an immense relief to see Lincolnshire County Council vote down the proposal to create a mayor for Greater Lincolnshire. This plan is poorly thought out and would add another expensive and complex layer of local government that is totally unnecessary and, I would argue, counterproductive. Our district councillors and county councillors work hard to represent their neighbours and during a time when the budget belts have been tightened they have been forced to make very difficult decisions about services.
I am a firm believer in localism and subsidiarity. This means that decisions should be made closest to the people who will be most affected by them. In our part of the world, that means the district councils. But the creation of a mayor for Greater Lincolnshire would set an obvious trajectory which I fear would lead to the abolition of our district councils and the transfer of their powers elsewhere. I would oppose that development strenuously just as I oppose this proposal.
Even the title of mayor is totally inappropriate. Mayors are for towns and cities, whereas Lincolnshire is a largely rural county which is one of the great agricultural powerhouses of Great Britain. But it is headline grabbing as plans for the consolidation of local government in various cities in the north of England is considered and progresses. We simply can’t take a model that works for Manchester and arbitrarily apply it to Greater Lincolnshire.
The creation of another layer of local government is meant to be sweetened by the promise of extra funding to be distributed through the mayor’s office. But this will be partly negated by the fact that local authorities will be expected to make a contribution from their already straitened budgets towards the budget of the mayor’s office. This is far from a model of sleek efficiency in delivering services.
As central government’s funding of local authorities has understandably declined, any further funds for our communities are of course welcome. If the civil service mandarins in Whitehall would like to distribute this on a Greater Lincolnshire basis, rather than divvying it up amongst the various councils of the area, there are far better ways of going about it.
My proposal was that we set up a board composed of delegated members of each local authority who meet under the chairmanship of an independent non-politician, perhaps a local businessman or some such figure. They can then determine amongst themselves how this extra funding should be divided up amongst the local authorities, based on the priorities of Greater Lincolnshire as a whole.
As the County Council has rejected the mayor idea, I was hoping this proposal would be dead in the water. But it doesn’t want to die a natural death, and some are still trying to see it is enacted in the hope that those local authorities who are against it now can be brought along to support it later on. On this, as on so many issues, the fight is not yet over.
Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide faster broadband speeds across the country.
The Prime Minister has outlined plans to ensure that everyone can access broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps by the end of this Parliament in 2020. People will have a legal right to request an affordable, fast connection, regardless of where they live. The Government will also work to bring in a broadband Universal Service Obligation, putting it on a similar footing to other essential services like electricity and water.
The announcement follows cross-party calls by Members of Parliament for the Government to invest in broadband and Sir Edward has consistently called for improved broadband for rural communities like those of the Gainsborough Constituency. Prime Minister, David Cameron said:
“Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”
Sir Edward Leigh commented:
“There isn’t a single aspect of government or everyday life that isn’t being transformed by digital technology, but slow broadband in rural and even some of our more urban areas leaves many people and businesses behind. This problem is urgent and we must act to ensure that there is no digital divide between cities like London and areas like Lincolnshire.
“The Government’s response shows that they understand the need for mobile and broadband providers to do more. A 10Mbps minimum service obligation will bring the all to many not-spots up to the standard our economy needs for the future.
“This announcement is particularly welcome for my area of Lincolnshire where, despite good progress in the overall roll-out of faster broadband, we still have areas which suffer very slow connections. Faster speeds will ensure that local families, communities and businesses can stay online and reap the benefits provided by a good quality, reliable broadband connection.”
Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Minister for Local Government’s announcement that the Caistor wind turbine appeal has been called in for the Secretary of State’s determination.
The Conservative Member of Parliament, whose Gainsborough constituency covers Caistor, had personally requested that Secretary of State Greg Clark MP decide on EDP Renewables’ appeal against the district council’s rejection of a 102-metre-high wind turbine proposed for a site on Moor Lane next to the Caistor Equestrian Centre.
The planning committee of West Lindsey District Council had determined that the turbine would result in ‘unacceptable’ harm to the setting of Caistor Conservation Area and that it would have a detrimental visual impact upon the views and setting of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sir Edward said:
“I’m pleased the ministerial team at the Department for Communities and Local Government have accepted my request that this be decided by the Secretary of State and not the Planning Inspectorate”
“We are firm believers in local decision-making, and I remain very hopeful that Greg Clark will back the decisions wisely made by West Lindsey District Council. Local residents are very much opposed to this development, and it’s our responsibility to back up their voices.”
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, today welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of new incentives for communities that allow shale gas extraction in their area. David Cameron’s speech in Beckingham came as French energy firm Total made it known they intend to invest £12 million into shale gas extraction in Lincolnshire.
“So long as local planning committees have the final authority on whether to allow them or not, I am in favour of shale gas extraction,” Edward Leigh said. “Luckily most of the kinks of fracking have been worked out abroad, where the procedure has been used for over sixty years. The incentives the Prime Minister announced here in Lincolnshire this week will allow local authorities to keep all business rates incurred through fracking, which should provide a welcome boost to local coffers.
“We have an opportunity to release a massive new energy resource for Britain, to reduce people’s monthly costs and help balance the books a little,” the MP continued. “We’d be foolish not to explore it further, but ultimately it’s local residents who must have the final word on whether they go through.”
Readers know that the preservation of our beautiful countryside here in Lincolnshire is one of my absolute priorities. I’ve written in this newspaper about a wide variety of issues we need to be concerned about in Lincolnshire. This has ranged from the unsightly and unsustainable wind farms to more subtle issues like planning for future development and the potential dangers involved therein. We need to be on guard to protect our way of life, our natural environment, and to ensure that we continue to provide a liveable setting for ordinary working families and individuals.
That is why I have cautioned a prudent approach to development, lest we overload our already stressed infrastructure and overstretch our local resources. There is another issue which I suspect we will be confronted with more and more often in the coming year or so: hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process of using hydraulic drills to dig deep within the earth to gain access to (usually) petroleum or natural gas. Read the rest of this entry »
Sir Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has condemned Lincolnshire County Council’s plans for the county’s network of libraries.
“The proposed plan for Lincolnshire’s libraries is completely unacceptable,” Sir Edward said in a statement. “We all understand that in these trying times councils have to make difficult decisions about the services they provide, but our libraries are an absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable part of our way of life here in Lincolnshire. People young and old and from all walks of life find in our libraries a second home and a gateway to an entire world of information and learning.”
“Yes, changes should be made to make our libraries more affordable and more sustainable in the long term, but these proposals put our entire library culture at risk. Lincolnshire County Council must reconsider this immediately and keep our libraries open.”
Following the investigation of eleven NHS hospital trusts, Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has backed the government’s move to send special experts in to Lincoln Hospital.
“The revelations concerning United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust have frankly been appalling,” Mr Leigh said. “The public have a right to a decent standard of care and it is clear that has not been delivered. This is intolerable and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is right to bring in swift and tough measures to alleviate this state of affairs.”
“I have always been pleased and impressed by the great care I have received from the NHS, but it’s clear we still need to maintain a high level of scrutiny, doubly so as lives are on the line.”
Local parliamentarian, Edward Leigh has attended a service at Lincoln Cathedral with current and former pupils from De Aston school to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the school.
Around 900 students joined past and present teachers and guests at the event, to celebrate the long history of De Aston School in Market Rasen.
Edward Leigh MP said he felt honoured to have been invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of De Aston school. He added that it’s important to mark the occasion as not many schools have existed for so long.
“Along with the pub and local shop, Post Offices form part of the nucleus of rural village life. I have consistently called for the DVLA to award this contract the Post Office, and I am glad that they have done so. It will come as no surprise to sub-postmasters around Lincolnshire that they have been judged the best people to do the job, but I am sorry that the future viability of these post offices was put jeopardy by the doubt surrounding the contract.
“This is fantastic news for everyone who buys their car tax disc in person, and fantastic news for the future of rural Post Offices in Lincolnshire”
You can see Edward’s original post on the subject here: http://www.edwardleigh.org.uk/2012/09/post-office/
Edward Leigh MP is calling on Stagecoach Lincolnshire to explain to local people the company’s decision to cut services along the number 3 route from Lincoln to Grimsby. The MP, who represents the Gainsborough constituency including Market Rasen and Caistor, was responding the significant changed to the Number 3 service from Monday 2 April 2012. This will include the loss of an hourly connecting bus service between the south east and north east of the Gainsborough Constituency during the daytime.
The Number 3 currently serves local residents in Nettleham, Welton, Dunholme, Faldingworth, Market Rasen, Holton-Le-Moor, Nettleton, Caistor and Cabourne. Through journeys will now end during the middle part of the day with the last through departures from Lincoln and Grimby at 8:40am and not resuming until 1:40pm.
Stagecoach have admitted that they are eliminating less economical services because of the Department of Transport’s twenty percent reduction in the Bus Service Operators Grant, equivalent to an additional 39p to the cost of a gallon of diesel. But talk of local authority intervention might be overly optimistic, given the £1.3m savings to the county transport budget and the need to find £125m in savings to put the County Council budget on an even keel.
“I am relieved that the cut to the Number 3 service won’t be as deep as originally proposed,” Edward Leigh said, “but it is still regretful that those who will need to travel outside the peak period will have their options severely curtailed.
“In rural parts of the country such as ours,” the MP continued, “providing connections by regular public transport is challenging, but important. I’m not convinced Stagecoach have made a proper case for curtailing the Number 3 service. This follows from their cuts to Sunday and Bank Holiday services from last year.”
“This situation is the responsibility of the bus company, and I hope they find more imaginative ways of responding to public demand. They can’t solve their problems simply by demanding subsidies from taxpayers who are hard-pressed to make end’s meet already. All this underlines the overriding importance of cutting the vast deficit we have inherited from the previous government.”
Edward Leigh today pressed the government to do more to help protect Market Rasen Racecourse. Racing in Britain has suffered from the flight of betting companies. They move offshore in order to avoid the taxes and regulations imposed in Britain whilst still accepting online bets from consumers here, and on races held at Market Rasen Racecourse. This scandal has really hit racing which is partly funded by a levy on racing betting.
Edward Leigh, who is proud to be able to count Market Rasen Racecourse as part of his constituency, argued for a reduction in the overall level of tax on the betting industry. ‘We don’t want betting to go the same way as shipping – chased offshore by excessive taxation and regulation’ he argued in a debate on the future of Racing, in Parliament today.
Edward Leigh has always been firm in his belief that reducing taxation and regulation is the key to getting the economy going again, particularly when it comes to small and medium businesses like Market Rasen Racecourse.
The case for retaining the RAF base at Scampton received a boost this week when Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for the Gainsborough constituency (in which the base is located) wrote again to the MOD ministerial team seeking a firm commitment on the base’s future. The MP has pressed hard in recent weeks, meeting with relevant ministers and corresponding with them on the retention of RAF Scampton. Read the rest of this entry »