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Live web chat: Ric Metcalfe, City of Lincoln Council Leader

City of Lincoln Council Leader Ric Metcalfe joins The Lincolnite for a lunch time live web chat answering your questions.

He’s taking questions from social media between 11.30am and 12.30pm.

This liveblog has finished. Updates are displayed chronologically.

Ric Metcalfe is now at our offices, ready to kick-start the live web chat.

So, let’s start the live chat with a quick recap of yesterday’s growth plan. Can you explain to us what it entails in a nutshell?

The plan we have launched is the culmination of months of work by a wide range of public and private sector partners. It sets out an exciting vision for the city and seeks to seize the opportunity being presented by the many good things already happening in Lincoln. It sets out the challenges and details some deliverable plans to address these. It was extremely well received by all of those present.

We have a question coming from Twitter:

Building on that, can you tell us a bit more about the transport hub plans you highlight in the growth plan?

The position on Lindongate is that the developers are still keen to develop that area but see the need to get better connectivity with the High St. The new bus station / passenger transport interchange will help unlock the Lindongate development by providing a new bus station in a new location.

Claudia Oliver commented on Facebook on the growth strategy too: “I see lots of inspiring big words here and engineering factory style opportunities outside the centre, but how is this going to affect Lincoln in general, the High Street and the high proportion of university students who take their skills and leave after three years?”

We are looking to grow a wide range of job opportunities across all sectors of the economy. We need more better paid employment in the city and higher rates of graduate retention. I would like to at least double our graduate retention rate of 15 per cent.

We have another question from Twitter from Marcus Fox:

It is well established that the Swanpool area is one of a small number of locations for growing Lincoln sustainably as it is so well connected to the city centre. We are currently working on the land contamination issues and finalising the flood protection measure.

Very large parts of the area will remain as attractive, green open space and we will be careful to address all of the infrastructure needs resulting from this development.

Regarding income from council tax, whilst any population growth improves the city’s tax base it is not the primary consideration of the council, which is much more about providing the homes and jobs that people need.

You are currently proposing to close another set of city centre public toilets, following up from more closures earlier this year. Are you looking at relying more on cafes and shops offering such facilities in the city centre instead?

No, not as a matter of policy.

We want our public toilet provision to be of good quality and safe and easy to use. Those we are proposing to close are not fit for purpose and in one case are completely inaccessible.

We still have an aspiration for a high quality, central facility which we hope will be possible as part of the new development in the Lindongate area.

Is Lincoln becoming a city of education and engineering? Or are we looking at developing in other areas too?

Engineering remains hugely important, as we have a long and proud history of manufacturing in the city.

We still have world leaders in the city, Siemens, Dynex and Bifrangi to name just three.

Other sectors remain hugely important, we have a strong service sector for example. Retail and the visitor economy, related to our heritage, are also important.

As a city, we are certainly not a one trick pony!

In a few months’ time, ahead of the general election, you’ll be expecting another round of budget cuts. How far can the salami be sliced at the City of Lincoln Council?

We can no longer rely on ‘salami slicing’ because of the scale of reduction in our budget.

We have, instead, been re-engineering how the council works in order to be more efficient, making better use of technology and concentrating on doing fewer things but doing them well.

For example, we have achieved some economies of scale by establishing shared service arrangements with our close neighbours in North Kesteven for our Revenues and Benefits service and we will continue to look for such opportunities for smarter working.

We have another question from Twitter from Phil Harvey:

Yes, but as a democratically elected body which is publicly accountable for all of its decisions, we have to follow certain procedures and be open and transparent.

Inevitably this sometimes takes a little longer!

Do you think that switching to a mayor model would speed up the bureaucratic process? Would there be other benefits?

I believe our current system works well.

The thinking behind directly elected mayors is about visible leadership and decision making.

However, there is also a belief that too much power in one person’s hands is not good for local democracy, which is why I think our current system serves us well.

There was another incident in the Portland Street area this week, and residents are now voicing concerns of the area “going down”, with some blaming Eastern European immigrants living in the area. Is there anything that the City Council can do to address the problems there?

We are already active with our neighbourhood and partnership work with many other agencies in that community.

We are obviously aware that events such as these encourage a very negative perception of the area, which is unrepresentative of the vast majority of very good, law abiding people who live there.

We will be redoubling our efforts to offer support and to maintain a strong sense of community.

The Christmas Market will be smaller this year, as the Lawn will be out of the circuit. Are we looking at a long-term smaller Christmas Market, or you are hoping to reincorporate the Lawn at some point after the sale is completed?

We continue to review the footprint of the market and demand for stalls continues to be high.

There is always a balance to be struck between the size and scale of the market and maintaining its character and intimacy.

That’s it for the live chat with Ric Metcalfe today. Thank you for joining us Ric, and thanks to our readers for following and submitting questions.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted a question today and thanks go to yourselves for hosting this web chat. I look forward to doing it again soon.