City of Lincoln Council leader Ric Metcalfe faced readers’ questions on subjects including ambitious city growth plans, the fate of the county’s only walk-in-centre and stagnant Brexit negotiations.
The council leader joined The Lincolnite for a one-on-one interview on Tuesday, July 11.
On Transport Hub and Western Growth Corridor
Councillor Metcalfe was asked by a reader if the development of a 1,000-space car park in the city centre would increase traffic and take focus away from public transport and schemes such as park & rides; he explained the Transport Hub was a balance of the two.
He added that the council hopes the new state-of-the art bus station will entice more people to take accessible public transport and that the car park is in response to demand from a growing city.
The council leader described outline Western Growth Corridor plans, including over 3,000 new homes, leisure facilities and a new Lincoln City FC football stadium as “the biggest development opportunity we have in Lincoln”.
He also responded to concerns about traffic infrastructure stating “you can’t have it both ways. If you want some relief from the congestion on Skellingthorpe Road, the new road will provide a safety valve to the new development.”
Reserved over Lincoln Walk-in-Centre closure plans
The city council has been in discussions with Lincolnshire West CCG on their proposals to close the Lincoln Walk-in-Centre.
Unlike the Labour Group and political colleagues on Lincolnshire County Council, who this week announced their official opposition to the plans, he refused to put his personal standpoint on the record.
He told us: “We understand where the CCG is coming from, like many other bodies under the austerity regime of the current government.
“But clearly, if you are going to close a frontline service like that you’ve got to ask some pretty searching questions about the alternatives. What are the alternatives?”
He added that he acknowledged concerns about the possible impact on the A&E service which he described as “completely under siege” and that he is looking for assurances that pressure won’t be put on other parts of the system.
When questioned over this, he said the council was assured “up to a point”, but “remains skeptical”.
‘Not everyone on the street is homeless’
Readers put concerns over an apparent increase on the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Lincoln.
Councillor Metcalfe said the issue was “not primarily a problem of homelessness” adding that “most people are there for other reasons such as begging, for obtaining drugs and for socialising.”
“These things have seen the issue gain a greater degree of momentum than is normal even for this time of the year.”
When questioned on the council’s role in finding a solution to the issue, he said “if enforcement is the only tool in your toolbox, that’s not going to solve anything.”
He stated many people on the street are suffering from mental health, drug and alcohol problems and that a multi-agency group, funded by central government, is currently recruiting members to engage with people on the street in order to get them into mainstream services for drug and alcohol dependence.
‘No deal’ would be a “disaster”
After losing her majority, Theresa May this week called for input from other parties on Brexit. Ric Metcalfe said, in his view, there are “fundamental differences in parties”, questioning Conservative strategies on restricting the movements of EU workers.
“I’m sure people didn’t vote to come out of the EU wanting an adverse impact on job opportunities,” he added.
“It would be a complete disaster if there’s no sensible deal. It would be really serious for the country.”
On Lincoln’s new MP Karen Lee
With the month milestone passing by for Lincoln’s new MP Karen Lee, the city council is expected soon to be organising a by-election for her Carholme ward city council seat.
Councillor Metcalfe said he expects she will resign soon and an election would be triggered around August time.
While he acknowledges UK residents may be feeling ‘voting fatigue’ we was confident of Labour’s chances in a second general election.