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Holbeach leaders having 'a little bit of conflict', member concedes

The chairman of Holbeach Parish Council has vowed to sort out the infighting between members and staff that saw an online meeting turn into a "bonfire".

Coun Graham Rudkin admitted the council "hasn't had a very good reputation over the years", a fact made worse by the shocking turn of events during a virtual meeting on Monday.

But Coun Rudkin also signalled that he would be considering his own future as a council member "in a few weeks' time".

Holbeach Parish Council's virtual meeting in October turned into a 'bonfire' of accusations.
Holbeach Parish Council's virtual meeting in October turned into a 'bonfire' of accusations.

During an impassioned and, at times, angry speech, vice chairman Coun John Spencer accused some members of "undermining" the council's office staff and dividing themselves into "splinter groups".

Coun Spencer said: "At the moment, this council is in bad shape because there's a 'them and us' situation.

"People who have Holbeach Parish Council at heart are shocked and appalled at how we're performing.

"We must, for the sake of this council and the parishioners we represent, stand up, be counted, face the music and get on with each other."

The spilling over of divisions among council members and staff, live online, led Holbeach county councillor Nick Worth to post a message online stating that "a bonfire was truly lit under Holbeach Parish Council" on Monday night.

Coun Worth went on to warn parish councillors that "airing your dirty linen in public" will hurt them even more, in terms of their reputation among people living in the Holbeach area.

Speaking on Tuesday, Coun Rudkin said: "Over the years, the parish council hasn't had a very good reputation and what went on during Monday's meeting didn't help.

"John had made notes about a little bit of conflict that we've been having at the parish council and he decided to get it off his chest,

"We've got one or two issues at the moment but I'll sort it out, even though the councillors have put quite a lot of responsibility on me as chairman."

Among the issues facing Coun Rudkin, who only took over as chairman in June, is CCTV coverage for Carter's Park after a camera was stolen in June.

Talks are taking place with South Holland District Council to try and extend the coverage of existing CCTV cameras in Holbeach.

Coun Rudkin said: "I'm working with the clerk to try and give the town a better service and I want to assure the public that money will be spent diligently.

"I do an awful lot of work for the town, all the councillors do, but I'm going to have to evaluate my position on the council in a few weeks' time."

. Traffic easing ideas to be put to public vote

Ideas to tackle traffic congestion in Holbeach town centre are to be shared with the public for their views.

Parish councillors have come up with two options, either traffic restrictions or traffic calming, to deal with queues of vehicles in High Street.

The options, drawn up by the parish council's planning committee, are in addition to plans put forward by the Holbeach Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) team to limit access for drivers at the five-way Market Hill Junction.

An artist's impression of plans to restrict traffic in High Street, Holbeach.Image supplied by Coun Sophie Hutchinson/Holbeach Parish Council.
An artist's impression of plans to restrict traffic in High Street, Holbeach.Image supplied by Coun Sophie Hutchinson/Holbeach Parish Council.

A bid for up to £7million of government cash to regenerate Holbeach town centre was made in July by a team led by county councillor Nick Worth and based at South Holland District Council.

As part of the bid, parish councillors were invited to come up with their own ideas of how the cash could be spent, if the bid is successful.

Coun Sophie Hutchinson, planning committee vice chairman, said: "We're asking for agreement to go out to the public with these two ideas so we can prioritise funding for the future.

An artist's impression of what traffic calming measures could look like in High Street, Holbeach.Image supplied by Coun Sophie Hutchinson/Holbeach Parish Council.
An artist's impression of what traffic calming measures could look like in High Street, Holbeach.Image supplied by Coun Sophie Hutchinson/Holbeach Parish Council.

"We're not aiming to change the FHSF bid, but we do want to consult with the public on what their priorities for High Street are.

"Then we can contact Coun Nick Worth and liaise with Lincolnshire County Council on how we might be able to achieve these priorities going forward."

The traffic restrictions option could see High Street made a no-go area for all vehicles, except buses and delivery transport, at certain times of the day.

Alternatively, changes like lane narrowing and wider pavements could be brought in as traffic calming measures.

Meanwhile, a number of town roads have been put on a wishlist for speed reductions by parish councillors.

They include Albert Street and Spalding Road, which councillors want to see made 20mph areas.

. Remembrance services to have limited numbers around Holbeach War Memorial

Holbeach families have been assured that Remembrance services will be taking place to remember the town's fallen.

But Coun John Spencer, parish council vice chairman, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic means numbers will be limited around the war memorial outside All Saints Church in High Street.

The Government's "rule of six" and social distancing guidelines mean that the traditional Remembrance parades will not take place this year.

But services will be held at the war memorial on Sunday, November 8, at 2.30pm and Wednesday, November 11, at 11am, with no more than 30 people allowed at both events.

Coun Spencer said: "We can't stand by and do nothing just because we can't have Remembrance parades.

"We're sorting the services out but we can't afford to have that many people around the war memorial.

"It's going to be a difficult task to keep people away, but we have to sort out social distancing and signs will go up around the town.

"We''ll also put notices in and around the shops, asking drivers to watch their speed when they enter High Street."

. Call for urgent tree surgery at nature reserve

Urgent tree surgery at Fishpond Lane Nature Reserve is to take place after a recent inspection uncovered a number of issues.

Quotes for the work are to be sought as soon as possible after a report by Coun Michelle Manley revealed that two trees, including a weeping willow, "looked quite dangerous" and needed attention "quite urgently".

Coun Manley said: "We've had a meeting with the tree man but we're still waiting for him to give us quotes.

"We need these quotes in because the trees look quite dangerous and they need to be done urgently."

In response, parish council chairman Coun Graham Rudkin said: "Tree work is a major priority at the moment and we should get cracking before we have any damage."

. Fence work at playing field paused as question raised over ownership

Plans to replace a fence at Holbeach Bank Playing Field have been put on hold so an investigation can de done on who owns the land.

The parish council had previously received an estimate for the work on land off Roman Bank before learning that responsibility for replacing the fence lay with a household living nearby.

But a claim that the parish council itself paid for the fence to be put up in 2008 led to agreement that legal deeds for the land should be requested.

Coun Eddie McNally said: "We've got to be very, very careful because we don't want to spend public money if we don't need to."

. Steps to be taken to mark passing of Royal Family members

Parish council staff are planning ahead in the event of a member of the Royal Family passing away.

An "action plan", including a book of condolence where residents can pay their respects, is to be agreed with councillors.

There was also a suggestion to involve members of the Royal British Legion branch in Holbeach when planning how people in the town can observe the occasion.

. New car park signs for town

Visitors to Holbeach could soon have help in finding the town car parks after agreement was reached to put new signs up.

Coun Eddie McNally said: "There really isn't anything to say that we have car parks in the town when we do have them."

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