John Marriott

Columnist

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.


It looks as if the local elections are going ahead in May after all. But, apparently, if we decided to risk a trip to the polling station, we are being told to bring our own writing implements and, of course, our masks.

Much as I am against the idea except if circumstances preclude a visit, on this particular occasion I would have thought that voting by post for all might have been a better idea; but I’ve been reliably informed that Royal Mail can’t deliver on that (no pun intended).

I am a big fan of local government, even in its current emasculated form. I want to see it given more powers. I want local government structure and finance to be reformed. After all, the council tax, which was cobbled together to replace the dreaded poll tax, is still based in England on 1993 property values. Then there’s the confusion in three tier areas like Lincolnshire about which council does what.

However, we live in unusual times. If we behave ourselves, we could be back to something like normal, whatever you think normal is, by the end of the year. So, why add to our problems and therefore why not park the local elections until next year?

As the government intends to plough ahead, there will apparently be voting for candidates for the Lincolnshire County Council, for the Police and Crime Commissioner and a few district council by elections. As far as the county is concerned, with the possible exception of Lincoln City, there will only be one winner, and that is the Conservative Party. There might be a few Tories masquerading as Independents, who slip under the wire.

Indeed, back in 2013, the last time I was elected, (thanks largely to a UKIP candidate, living in a care home, who never emerged not even at the count; but whose votes probably denied my Tory opponent victory) the surge of UKIP managed for only the second time in the County Council’s history dating back to 1973 to prevent the Tories from getting an overall majority. By 2017, those Ukippers had disappeared and those that survived had donned the blue rosette.

In the past four years since I retired from the County Council, I have heard nothing at all from my Conservative county councillor, who, I believe, lives in Skellingthorpe. In fact I haven’t heard from any other party or individual either. I wonder if he will be standing again. Mind you, his party will certainly have the funds to mail me a few leaflets, whose hand delivery, I believe, may be outlawed because of COVID.

And as for canvassing, that was becoming a dying art even before the virus struck. In any case, who is going to open their door to a stranger, especially with a clip board and possibly sporting a rosette, at the moment? There’s always social media, you may say. And who do you think has got that tied up? Given the ‘vaccine bounce’, as most people get their information from the media, either local or national, there is surely only one show in town.

Then there’s the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), another bright idea from across the pond, shoehorned into this country and worked out seemingly on the back of a fag packet, at the expense of democratically accountable Police Authorities and whose support via the ballot box barely makes double figures.

Surely the saga of the suspension and reinstatement of our former Chief Constable some years ago, at no small cost to the tax payer, I might add, and the recent musical chairs appointment of our latest one should make you ask why the judgement of a single person should carry so much weight.

I believe that, once elected, the PCC appoints their Deputy, who, as far as I know, has no electoral mandate and yet could take over if anything happened to their boss until a replacement could be voted in. Is that really democracy?

So, what do I do? Yes, I will hopefully have had my two jabs by then, but I could still be carrying the virus. I’ve been pretty careful for nearly a year now so, why risk anything? What if I just happen to forget to bring my pen or pencil? I suppose I could apply for a postal vote; but, under normal circumstances, I’m not in favour of them.

If I did decide to go to the polling station, judging by recent history, I would probably spoil both ballots anyway, given what I’ve already written. I know that some people disapprove of this action, so I hope that they exercise their democratic right. You know, I think I might just stay at home on polling day, and I reckon many people might do the same. Why break the habit of a lifetime as far as local elections are concerned?

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.

As someone who spent most of his rather modest political career supporting and actively campaigning for a bypass for North Hykeham, the news that over £100 million of the £155 million cost for the road will come from the government is welcome news.

Mind you, we have been here before. Back in the 1990s I was part of the North Hykeham Town Council’s campaign, which culminated in a 4,000 plus signature petition being presented to the County Council, with copies delivered to opposition party spokespersons in Westminster.

Unfortunately, our local Tory MP at the time refused his support, so we never got to meet the Transport Minister of the time.

How times have changed. Over twenty years ago we were still relying on plans for a so called ‘Eastern Bypass’ that first saw the light of day in 1951.

I still remember the packed public meeting NHTC called in 1995 that voted for a road from Pennell’s roundabout, bisecting North and South Hykeham, heading up Waddington Cliff by the old Barbot’s gym, heading south of Canwick and Bracebridge Heath and over the Witham before joining the A158 Wragby Road at what we now call Bunkers Hill.

I am assuming that, given the cost, this road is likely to be single carriage way, which clearly won’t go down well in some quarters.

Quite frankly, with money tight and expected to go a long way to help to pay for other equally desperately needed road improvement schemes around the country, I personally could live with that.

Any road is better than no road at all, but given my now rather advanced age, will I live long enough to see it completed?

Of course, for those motorists who value speed above all else and can’t possibly wait a minute longer to get from A to B, a dual carriageway is clearly preferable.

As for the comment that it’s all about the Newark Road crossroads traffic lights, believe me, that junction has been over capacity for years.

No wonder the estate where I live gets something like a couple of hundred traffic movements through it at peak periods every workday to avoid it!

No amount of tweaking will make matters better and, as for replacing the traffic lights with a roundabout, not only would you have to demolish most of the buildings nearby, just look at that roundabout few hundred yards down the road to see how that alone copes with traffic.

As for all the houses in Waddington, that argument could have been advanced when the dedicated line of the original route up the cliff had had to be abandoned over twenty years ago and the new route put forward that ran around South Hykeham and via a flyover at Station Road, Waddington, on towards Bracebridge Heath.

That’s why the County Council bought up several houses in the area at the time, including a recently self built home of a former teaching colleague of mine, that would suffer from planning blight.

I see that the flyover idea appears to have been abandoned and that Station Road, Waddington, looks, according to the plans, eventually to be turned into two cul de sacs, allowing the new road to proceed at ground level.

In some ways that’s a shame, given the prospect of driving from Bracebridge Heath with the impressive vista of the Trent Valley appearing in front of your eyes as you descended on the flyover.

Mind you, if, and it’s still a big ‘if’, the new road is ever built, the view will still be mighty impressive.

The reason for Transport England’s original insistence that the Eastern relief road would be single carriageway some fifteen years ago was because it was not considered a strategic road.

Even if the North Hykeham Relief Road ever does join up with the Eastern Relief Road, that combined road will still not, in my opinion, be classed as ‘strategic’.

Now, when it comes to the A46 Western Bypass, that’s a different matter.

This road is of clear strategic importance in taking away traffic from Lincoln, which moves between the A1 East Midlands corridor, the East Coast Mainline and the east coast ports.

If extra money is to be found for dualling, as I have said many times before, it should be spent on those stretches of the Western Bypass that are still single carriageway.

Whatever happens will not greatly relieve traffic that flows in and out of Lincoln via Newark, Doddington and Skellingthorpe Roads.

As far as the last two are concerned, the chief culprits are those level crossings. Now a really imaginative solution might be to put the railway line BELOW these roads.

I reckon there is sufficient distance between the crossing at Hykeham Station and Doddington Road for a gradual gradient.

However, there would be a cost in addition to finance, that would inevitably require train services between Newark and Lincoln to be terminated at North Hykeham while work took place.

The problem here lies clearly with Network Rail, whose ability to deliver on projects, even when it is prepared to spend money, is questionable. Just look at those two pedestrian rail bridges in Lincoln.

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.

I see that the first reactions to Barry Turner’s latest offering are pretty negative. Mind you, as I have never done Twitter or Facebook or any of the social media platforms for that matter, I guess that what the editor allows to be published are generally a relatively mild tip of what might be a rather one sided iceberg.

Since I started writing this, I’m pleased to see that there are a few brave souls on social media also prepared to come to his defence.

Now, I hold no brief for Mr Turner who, judging by the photo he has submitted, appears to be far from a long haired, bearded ‘leftie’ and, judging by the selection of books behind him, a well read individual as well.

In fact, he’s a dead ringer for Greg Wallace, who hardly strikes me from his TV performances as coming ‘from the left’.  In his latest article, he could be accused by some of us to be stating the bleedin’ obvious; but that doesn’t mean that he is necessarily wrong in his analysis!

My immediate reaction to some of his ‘critics’, who dismiss his opinions as automatically coming from the left, would be to encourage them to expand a little, even on the kind of limited platforms they use to tell us WHY they think the way they do.

I would go further and say I find it quite disappointing how the ‘Columns’ on The Lincolnite appear to have dwindled over the past couple of years. What has happened to free speech and the exchange of views, sincerely expressed, that used to be a part of our daily lives?

I suppose that most people just want a quiet life and find politics rather distasteful, which actually probably suits many politicians at all levels down to the ground.

Besides Mr Turner, the other ‘bête noire’ of some Lincolnite commentators would appear to be Cllr Martin Hill, whose every utterance, however reasonable – and, believe me, he can be reasonable at times – is immediately met with excoriating comments from certain quarters.

As for myself, well, I used to be a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (although I never supported the abolition of tuition fees) but no more, I supported Remain not out of any great enthusiasm for the European project, and now accept the reality of our leaving the EU, with all the pitfalls we could encounter.

I haven’t voted in any election recently as there was nobody I could bring myself to vote for, although I did go to the polling station each time and spoiled my ballot! So, where does that put me on the political spectrum? I’ve spent most of my adult life in the minority so I’m pretty used to criticism.

What I would like to see is more of a willingness from both sides of the political argument just to pause a little and see whether there really was some sense in what the other side had to say instead of immediately shutting down debate by the odd well rehearsed slogan.

So, come on, give Barry and Martin a bit of slack. Perhaps most of us are too set in our ways to budge. And yet, as the late John Lennon told us in ‘Imagine’; “You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one”.

A few more ‘Columns’ might be a good start.


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John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.

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