Marianne Overton

Marianne Overton

marianneoverton

Marianne Overton is the leader of the Lincolnshire Independents. She is a councillor for Branston and Navenby on Lincolnshire County Council and for the Cliff Villages on North Kesteven District Council. She is also vice-chairman of the Local Government Association.


Whether unitaries are a good thing or not, the worrying part was the apparent unilateral take-over bid of solvent district and city councils by a cash-strapped county council that has spent most of its reserves and is so broke it cannot see how to make ends meet the multi-million pound shortfall next year.

One (or a few) big authorities would be even less accountable and less answerable to the public. Without the cost of bureaucratic change, any savings could and mainly should be made by sharing services.

For example, having a standard bin service is suggested, but South Holland for one, sees their weekly bin collection system cost effective and popular and are thus in no mood to change it.

Going unitary would force decisions against the will of people in some areas. It would be fairly easy to imagine that damaging closures of local services could similarly be made, further alienating rural populations.

Centralising services makes people in councils less answerable and more distant. Reducing their councillors reduces their voice. The fewer councillors you have, the less you can see them.

There is a limit. Councillors are meant to be part-time and well engaged, in touch with our communities. There comes a point where even the most ardent, hard working councillor is going to struggle.

We do already share benefits across district and county councils; legal services, waste, strategic planning. Indeed nationally sharing services has saved £508m million. So how about our councils sharing a single IT service, human resources, democratic services, housing, giving planning permissions, and chief executive?

Would it prevent buck-passing of responsibility from one council to another? I suspect it would simply become one department blaming another instead. There is anyway no excuse for “buck passing”.

Councils have the power of wellbeing that gives us a duty to consider all aspects that affect our residents. There would still be partners as services have been passed from councils to the private sector, such as buses, academies, home care to name a few.

We may sometimes need a larger authority to hold big global companies to account, and to manage some bigger contracts. For example, the county council built the energy from waste plant, are building the Eastern Bypass and East West Link in Lincoln.

Sometimes we need a smaller more locally-focussed organisation, which listens to residents and works through complex local information, such as the district council deciding planning applications for a new garage or new housing development. There is a certain logic in having more than one size council, who are each good at what they do.

The parish councils are local and at the front line, with powers of their own, and are good at finding ways to support all the other needs a community may have.

I believe the savings of £150 million are unrealistic, unless there is a substantial further reduction in service to the public.

Savings from working more closely together can and should be made, without any bureaucratic change. Is this a back door way of getting the mayor that we voted against?

The real sticking point for closer working seems to be the lack of public trust in the county council leader to manage Lincolnshire in an even-handed way for the good of all, without political bias.

The party system puts control into too few hands. We need people who, like the Lincolnshire Independents, will think, speak and vote independently for people in Lincolnshire, and without taking the national party whip.

Marianne Overton is the leader of the Lincolnshire Independents. She is a councillor for Branston and Navenby on Lincolnshire County Council and for the Cliff Villages on North Kesteven District Council. She is also vice-chairman of the Local Government Association.

Views are being sought on the finishing touches of the Local Plan for Central Lincolnshire with replies due by March 6. This is the set of rules against which every planning application will be compared to pass or fail from now until 2036.

This week the government has finally published its long-awaited Housing White Paper, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’.

Large tracts of greenfield agricultural land are given over to concrete to house a proposed 68,000 more people in Central Lincolnshire.

That is 38,475 new dwellings to be given permission between 2012 and 2036 in Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey. Land is also allocated for possible industry, more traveller sites and some green space.

The numbers remain way too high, based in part on the pre-Brexit hope of wanting to revisit the boom years before the economic crisis.

So does it matter?

It matters if we get to many more dwellings without the matching infrastructure, facilities or services.

Local council and health services are already under pressure with increasing demands and less resources.

Hence we see worsening roads, council grass not cut, lights off at night, fewer bus services and less access to ambulances, A&E or hospital beds when we need them.

Everyone needs a decent home they can afford. We need to build communities, not housing estates. We need places where jobs, facilities and services match what people need.

That means focusing first on doing what we can to assist a range of local businesses to thrive, providing the engine of finance for everything else.

Having got a plan designed for considerable development, we may now find our councils under pressure and held responsible for getting the houses built.

Ministers Gavin Barlow and Sajid Javid have released their plan which includes holding councils responsible to get these sites built faster.

That could mean using public money to build houses in places where we do not have the matching jobs, services nor facilities for the new residents.

The white paper is out for consultation now. We have allocated vast tracts of land for development, so it is certainly not councils holding up development!

I attended several of the hearings of the Local Plan for Central Lincolnshire and contributed to shaping the amendments now out for consultation. You may be interested in my comments and response below.

Marianne Overton is the leader of the Lincolnshire Independents. She is a councillor for Branston and Navenby on Lincolnshire County Council and for the Cliff Villages on North Kesteven District Council. She is also vice-chairman of the Local Government Association.

English Local Government Association leaders met last Thursday in Edinburgh with counterparts from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to discuss how to jointly tackle some of the outcomes from the recent vote on Brexit. It was day two AD, Anno Donald Trump.

As resources tighten, is there a pattern in a separatist approach where we focus on looking after our own?

From the vote for Scottish sovereignty, to UK sovereignty in the Brexit vote, and now an American vote which includes building a wall to keep others out.

The plain-speaking tycoon who spouts outrageous prejudices, became President of America in The Simpsons 16 years ago.

Now the man who was regularly in the homes of millions of people through the American TV version of The Apprentice, will now occupy the White House.

Is this a new era of elected office?

The man who is accused of asset-stripping businesses to leave thousands unemployed, misogyny, racism, anti-semitism and a dislike of other cultures, except Putin’s, will now have his finger on the red button.

Will the bureaucrats be able to corral his ambitions into sensible policies?

Will a worldwide Pandora’s box be opened or can we do better and have communities that are cohesive and respectful of each other?

During his campaign, Donald Trump proposed an increase in infrastructure building, which would increase America’s already burgeoning deficit if his promised upturn in the economy is slow in coming.

He has said he will back out of the Paris global emissions deal and cancel payments to the UN climate change schemes. I guess he did not take many votes from the Green candidate, Jill Stein, who got over a million votes! In fact, I only saw coverage of two candidates from a long line-up. It seems the media were not independent nor even-handed.

The first-past-the-post system in each state meant that Trump won, even though Hillary Clinton had more individual votes. Our LGA independent group regularly calls for more proportional representation, as it is not only the way people vote that matters, it is the way they are counted.

What does this mean for political parties with a party whip? We are told that Donald Trump has funded both Republican and Democrat parties in the past, so is he a Republican following the manifesto built up by members? Or does the party have to change its manifesto to suit the man at the top? If so, to whom is he listening?

If we move towards more presidential-style elections for our mayors, we must be prepared to expect some interesting results.

How you and I can help to bring a unifying leadership in our local communities is up to us. Good luck all.

Marianne Overton is the leader of the Lincolnshire Independents. She is a councillor for Branston and Navenby on Lincolnshire County Council and for the Cliff Villages on North Kesteven District Council. She is also vice-chairman of the Local Government Association.

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