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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 the United States Congress gets ready to impeach the President for the second time in his first and only term in public office, the liberal media is, all of a sudden full of silly debates about the decision of Facebook, Amazon and Google to prohibit Donald Trump from broadcasting his hate-filled pronouncements that last Wednesday resulted in an incursion into the very seat of the United States government.

Now all of a sudden the danger is an attack on free expression. The hypocrisy is breath-taking! They themselves have been calling, almost since the day of Trump’s inauguration for his tweets and online conspiracy filled rants to be controlled.

It is also astonishing that those who have finally blocked this rabble rousing incitement, albeit rather late and now Trump is a lame duck, are now the target for criticism for doing so.

On a third note it should not have been necessary for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter to have made these decisions, the US government and its law enforcement officers should have done this a long time ago.

Under the imminent lawless action test determined in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) speech is not protected by the 1st Amendment if the speaker intends to incite a violation of the law that is both imminent and likely creates a clear and present danger of such incitement.

Trump egged on his supporters to invade the Capitol building with tragic consequences, knowing that such consequences were likely. It was not the first time his inflammatory language had led to circumstances where people were killed and seriously injured, and following the outrage, not the first time he had expressed sympathy for the actions and justification for what had happened.

So now the press is complaining that the likes of Dorsey and Zuckerberg have too much power to censor, as if they themselves have not controlled the information we get to read for literally centuries.

They talk of the dangers of too much power in the hands of private companies and a few billionaires, as if the world’s leading press platforms were publicly owned civic services of some form of democratic co-operative accessible to and accountable to all.

Could it be with the imminent departure of Trump, with undoubtedly more drama and tragedy to come, that the media needs a new set of bogeymen to replace him. For over four years now the press and media have told us that Trump is a threat to democracy. Once he has gone they will need a new one and Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google fit the frame nicely.

Nature we are told abhors a vacuum. So it appears does the press. Donald Trump abused the right to free expression and made the Constitution of the United States itself a laughing stock.

The government and its law enforcement arms made no effort to curtail the caustic and dangerous rhetoric coming from Trump and his allies, and it is very true that the social media platforms themselves used the Trump MAGA cult as a very profitable source of revenue.

It is hardly surprising, even if it is hypocritical, that the tech giants and the social media now take the opportunity to do so. So did the regular press and media, and now they want to protect free speech against the tech giants and social media censorship.

The new Democrat administration with its control of the House, Senate and White House now need to really define and determine free expression for what it is and what it is for.

The legendary American judge Oliver Wendell Holmes did this in 1919 when he declared in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) that no one has the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre if that is meant simply to cause panic.

Donald Trump abused free expression to do just that, and he is rightly prevented from doing so as a result of Wednesday’s riot. It remains disappointing that private for profit companies were the final arbiter of that decision and it may very well be disturbing that they hold so much sway.

If however that is a problem for the government and the judiciary, they can easily fix it. Not by censorship, licencing and regulation, but by acting within the already well established law and constitutional system that is already there.

Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic consuming our lives with disruption and stress since March, developers and councils have still been looking to build in our area.

There have been plenty of big developments this year, reinforcing how the county is ever expanding and modernising.

Here are the key developments that have been completed this year and ones which have been given the go-ahead for 2021.


Lincoln Eastern bypass

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Opened officially on December 19, the Lincoln Eastern Bypass cost Lincolnshire County Council £120 million to build, with part of the funding coming from central government.

The single carriageway bypass starts at a new roundabout on the A15 Sleaford Road and finishes at the A158 Wragby Road.

This connects the existing northern relief road and is the next step towards creating a complete ring road around the city.

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, perhaps in jest, said it should be named after him for all the effort he’s put into enabling the project.


The Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham

The proposed statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Grantham.

Probably the most controversial development of 2020, where South Kesteven District councillors approved a £100,000 spend on an event to unveil the new Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham.

However, plans will be reconsidered, after an opposition member requested the call in for the scrutiny committee, which could reverse the decision by the Conservative leadership.

The £300,000 bronze statue of the Iron Lady, which would sit on a 10ft plinth (making it 20ft tall overall), on St Peter’s Hill Green, was brought to the town by Grantham Museum, SKDC and a Public Memorials Appeal.

Over 14,000 people on Facebook registered their interest in attending an egg-throwing contest at the statue next year.


Cleethorpes 72ft palm tree sculpture

A white palm tree, created by artist Wolfgang Weileder, looks set to tower over Cleethorpes as part of regeneration plans.

You will not miss this approved development when driving to the beach, that’s for sure.

The 72ft tall white palm tree designed by artist Wolfgang Weileder is taller than the Angel of the North and illuminated by spotlights, serving as a “warning for the future” on climate change.

The project attracted mixed reactions from residents, with some describing the sculpture as a “laughing stock”.

This was all part of reinvention project of a Grimsby building into a multi-million-pound Youth Zone set to be completed as part of the town’s new Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).


The University of Lincoln Medical School

Lincoln Medical School on December 21. | Photo: James Mayer for The Lincolnite

The new £21 million Lincoln Medical School is taking shape as work continues ahead of the facility’s opening in spring 2021.

The new five-storey medical school welcomed its first cohort of undergraduate medical students to Lincoln in September 2019 and a purpose-built facility to house the school is currently being developed.

Also, lots of new student accommodation has been built in Lincoln for the new intake of students, one even comes with a private cinema.


Cornhill Quarter takes shape

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Cornhill Quarter’s Everyman cinema opened in Lincoln on August 21 after COVID delays. It joined new restaurants like The Botanist which opened earlier in the summer as the whole area has been revamped.

Sadly, they only briefly got the chance to open properly before the November lockdown and tier 3 measures that don’t allow cinemas and restaurants to open.


Lower Lincoln high street revamp

Photo: CoLC

A £3.5 million injection into “heritage-led” regeneration in Lincoln was approved in July this year.

The City of Lincoln Council plans to create a “High Street Heritage Action Zone” which would allow it to issue grants for the area around High Street, St Mary’s Road and Wigford Way, extending to Sincil Street and Sibthorpe Street.

The grants would allow for historic shop front and heritage renovations, conversions of upper floor residential areas, developing “gap sites” and work to the public realm areas.


Norton Disney Rendering Plant resubmission

The new plan includes a picnic area, nature trail and a viewing platform for the Lancaster Bomber sculpture. Photo: Adobe

Developers behind a refused £28 million animal rendering plant in Norton Disney have announced plans to resubmit the proposals with a new heritage site.

The controversial plan was lodged by Lincoln Proteins Ltd for a site at Villa Farm and would have seen the firm move from its Skellingthorpe factory.

However, Lincolnshire County Council’s planning committee unanimously refused the plan in February following concerns over heritage and location.

There were fears the facility would “overshadow” the Lancaster Bomber gateway sculpture being built off the A46.

When the plans were originally submitted, there was objection from both local residents and North Kesteven District Council over odour and location.

The county council received 1,105 letters of objection.


New Public Sector Hub in Horncastle

The plans for ELDC’s new shared base with Boston College.

East Lindsey District Council approved plans to build new £8.25 million shared base with Boston College.

The “public sector hub” is planned to be built at the former Horncastle Residential College off the town’s Mareham Road.

The development has previously been described as being a “smaller, fit-for-purpose” hub and could also house partners such as health and police services in the future.

The first courses are hoped to start in September 2021.


Lincoln Western Growth Corridor

The latest masterplan for the Western Growth Corridor showing the bus-only routes.

Lincolnshire County Council submitted an objection to plans for the Western Growth Corridor housing development in Lincoln due to concerns that it could make “already difficult congestion far worse”.

Amended plans were submitted by the city council earlier this year to its own planning committee, for 3,200 new homes built on land west of Tritton Road. Among the latest revisions, large parts of the development’s proposed spine route have been designated for buses, pedestrians and cyclists only.

There have been several other large housing development stories this year:


Chicken farm refusal

Inside an intensive chicken farm. Photo: PETA UK

A vegan hamper was gifted to the council as a thanks for rejecting proposals to build a chicken farm with 270,000 birds by grateful animal activists.

A solicitor’s letter sent to councillors prior to them rejecting the “chicken prison” near Grantham could have been seen as “threatening” and “intimidating” a planning chairman said.

However, this wasn’t an easy decision, with councillors being “between a rock and a hard place.”

Previously, the head teacher of a school close to the proposed farm said its existence was “under threat” after parents threatened to remove their children if the plans went ahead.


 

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