Lincolnshire County Council party leader promises ahead of elections

Councils across the country and in Lincolnshire have had to deal with dramatic central budget cuts in the past decade, and the Covid crisis in 2020/21 has compounded that issue – yet a few notorious challenges remain a priority for Lincolnshire people ahead of the local elections on May 6.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has spoken to communities across Lincolnshire and three standout issues emerged from our discussions, and were at the hearts of people in the county after a year of being in lockdown, potholes, street lighting and fly-tipping.

Road maintenance comes down to funding from central government, reduced street lighting was another way for councils to save money, and fly-tipping is a complex problem as the tips are run by the county council, but the district councils have to deal with the clean up and general rubbish, garden waste and recycling collections.

The LDRS spoke to the four main political party leaders in Lincolnshire, Coun Martin Hill (Conservatives), Coun Rob Parker (Labour), Coun Marianne Overton (Lincolnshire Independents) and Coun Matthew Boles (Liberal Democrats) about their electoral promises. They represent more than 250 candidates in almost 70 wards standing in the Lincolnshire County Council elections.

The four main political party leaders in Lincolnshire

Coun Matthew Boles will be fighting for his county council division, Gainsborough Hill, in next month’s election. He is the only Liberal Democrat with a county council seat, despite the party having a strong local hold of West Lindsey District Council.

He believes the Conservative county administration has failed Lincolnshire in terms of getting fair funding, despite having “had the mechanisms through controlling the county council”.

In his division, Coun Boles has been campaigning for services to be restored at John Coupland Hospital.

Street lighting is second on the agenda for the Liberal Democrats, with them campaigning to keep them switched on all night. Coun Boles disputes that there is no link to crime due to streetlights turned off.

The delays and maintenance in fixing potholes is another priority for the Liberal Democrats. They believe it’s important to fix jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible to save money in the long term in order to prevent potholes getting worse and harder to fix.

They Liberal Democrats are also calling on the county council to restore waste recycling centres and keep them open fully due to their unavailability during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike, Coun Hill, they believe “if a tip was fully open, this might alleviate some of these issues.”

Current leader of the county council, Conservative Coun Martin Hill will stand for his ward, Folkingham Rural. He promised his party will look to “continue the good work” it has done over the past few years if re-elected. This includes keeping council tax low, improving roads, broadband and other infrastructure.

Coun Hill believes more funding is needed in areas like highways, but savings have been made, such as £2.5 million a year by not having street lights turned on between midnight and 6am. Yet the Conservatives’ main priorities are with road maintenance. The council spends around £50 million a year on highways and a further £35 million on tarmac, with an additional £12 million being put into the highways budget this year.

Labour opposition leader Coun Rob Parker is standing for his ward, Lincoln Carholme. Labour are putting one of the key issues highlighted by people of Lincolnshire at the forefront of their campaign – street lighting.

They have a four point manifesto which includes wanting Lincolnshire to become a green beacon, improving public transport, switching street lights on at night and supporting young people during the pandemic. Labour want to turn street lights back on all night, but replace them with energy efficient LED lighting. If they were in power, they would implement a £7.2 million spending programme over three years to do this.

Lincolnshire Independents are the fourth main party standing in local elections this year, with leader Coun Marianne Overton fighting to keep her seat in Bassingham and Welbourn. The Independents leader said the main concerns her party have are wind turbines spoiling rural landscapes, the centralisation of planning decisions, changes to CCGs and devolution.

Coun Overton is concerned about planning proposals to allow large onshore wind turbines to be approved, spoiling the rural countryside of Lincolnshire. Historically, the Conservatives have opposed onshore wind farms, but supported offshore ones.