LETTER: My 32 months on Horncastle Town Council

I would like to encourage as many people as possible to seriously consider standing for the Town Council, in 2015,to bring a new and necessary focus and commitment to improving the Town and working with the residents and businesses, to make Horncastle a Town to be proud of.

My reasoning is to try and ensure that the majority of the present council are properly challenged through the ballot box.

In my 32 months on the Council I have endured 4 complaints, including a 7 month investigation, which cleared me of ALL allegations. The other 3 complaints were dismissed as spurious and ill founded.

There are many examples over the last 10 years of newly elected council members being marginalised and side lined. This attitude does not help progress and positive actions being created for the benefit of Horncastle.

When I joined the council the standing deputy Mayor, with over 30 years experience, was cast aside in favour of an alternative candidate, who had not held the deputy mayors office. It was the start of a decline into a two tiered Council, and flew in the face of all that is democratic, open and inclusive.

The “new” Xmas lights in 2011 were the hard work of the three new councillors until they were removed from control and the Estates committee took over. Ignoring the recommendations of the now defunct working group, Estates appointed a contractor who wasn’t part of the evaluation process but was allowed to supply second hand equipment which the now defunct working group’s proposals did not sanction.

To compound this flawed decision nobody from the Estates committee even bothered to turn up to check the quality of the delivered lights until I personally inspected them and alerted a member of the Estates committee to the problems. If I had not taken this action the result could have been detrimental to the Town’s image and a further waste of public money.

Currently the following matters remain unresolved although the Council has had more than ample time to progress them to a conclusion.

The repair of the Church Yard wall still remains outstanding after nearly 2 years. The Council’s Estates Committee took over the administration of the process and failed to use the expertise of the Church Building committee with their contacts and experience in such matters.

I personally raised the state of the Market Square paving’s some 12 months ago. The condition of the paving’s are dangerous and unsightly, but the Council do nothing to address the issues and pressure for a solution. The statement by the Council that,” matters are with ELDC and LCC” is fine, but not after waiting over 6 months for a response. Where is the urgency to address matters that directly affect the Town’s image and individual’s safety.

The decline of the Markets is well recorded but the Council seem incapable of challenging ELDC to get much needed improvements. The discussion at the October Council meeting was inconclusive and typical of ELDC adopting a “smoke and mirrors approach,” with no substance or positive solutions offered. A failing market will herald a failing Town. You only have to ask the businesses, something this Council seems incapable of doing or is not prepared to engage.

The Town Council does nothing to promote the Town and challenge the District and County Councils over flawed and economically damaging decisions.

Car Parking Charges are well documented, but the portfolio holder has once again shown a conflict of interest supporting ELDC’s flawed policy and not representing the Town’s concerns and particularly the Business community who voted for him to represent their concerns. This conflict of interest raises the question as to why District Councillors are allowed to stand for Town Council when they do not represent the electorate’s views who voted them in.

The Green Waste Charge is a perfect example of the 3 Horncastle District councillors ignoring the consultation findings of 88% of the public being against the Green charges, yet they voted for the charges to be brought in.

I currently have been accused of breaching the media policy. I have formally responded to the alleged breach in writing and still await a response.

The Wharf Road railings have been painted but the section, to the right of the bridge, remains incomplete. Was the work inspected and did the Estates committee sign off compliance of the specification and quality of the work? Was any retention kept back for a 6 months maintenance period?

On a positive note, whilst the Town faces serious issues from a series of large edge of Town, Planning Applications, the Town can rest assured that I, along with the rest of the elected Planning committee will use all of our skills and professional expertise to try and guide ELDC to making the right decisions. 
We are a Committee who have the Town’s long term interests at heart and we will not be diverted from carrying out our roles for the benefit of the Town and the majority wishes of the residents. We will consult with the public and be open and transparent and anyone who has concerns will be listened to.

Richard Barker RIBA,

Elected Independent Horncastle Town Councillor, Business owner and Council Tax payer.