'We need a group batting for Spalding'
Community leaders say the town needs a group ‘batting for Spalding’ – and it’s now up to citizens to show an appetite for having their own voice.
Vicar John Bennett and Coun Roger Gambba-Jones both believe a new town council should be considered to boost Spalding – although district leader Gary Porter says residents would pay more and it isn’t needed.
The debate comes after a special report on the ideas needed to improve Spalding – and after Coun Gambba-Jones said the town’s critics should stop complaining about the district council and take control of their own affairs.
Rev John Bennett, of St Mary & St Nicolas Parish Church, said: “I would love to see a town council really batting for Spalding.”
Coun Gambba-Jones is chairman of Spalding Town Forum – the body that fills some of the void from the town’s lack of its own council but lacks its own powers or authority.
He says he is ‘passionate’ about the topic and believes if the idea caught on there could be momentum around the town being ‘masters of their own future’ and a new council could be a ‘meaningful seat of democracy’.
He added: “It would be a very effective process if it’s done properly. There are some excellent town councils and parish councils. Crowland is a good example.
“They are operating under the radar incredible effectively and doing an excellent job.”
Coun Gambba-Jones also believes residents would benefit from having a non-political body and easy-to-follow meetings where their views can be aired.
He said: “That’s what we have lost in Spalding – we have lost engagement. Apathy has taken root – they just feel like they are having it done to them. It’s such a shame.”
He says he has no ambitions to lead this himself – and says new faces could ‘fire people up’ and ‘give it some oomph’.
A town council could be formed if 7.5% of local electors sign a petition to call for one – meaning more than 2,500 people in Spalding would need to show their support for it to go ahead.
Last week, South Kesteven councillors agreed to formally look into whether the people of Grantham want their own council.
South Holland District Council leader Gary Porter thinks there’s no public appetite for a new council – and feels it would not ‘add any value’.
He said council tax bills are cheaper in Spalding than areas such as Holbeach or Crowland that have a parish council, but added: “I wouldn’t rule it out and clearly if public support for one is there, we would do it. I wouldn’t stand in the way of it. The people of Spalding have to come to us and say they want it.”
He said Spalding is well represented among members of the district’s cabinet but said he would back the idea if the council was ever forced to become a unitary authority – with power wielded in Lincoln or somewhere else further afield.
The idea of a town council was raised a couple of years ago – but not enough people took part in a consultation to take it on to the next stage. The idea was also rejected about 20 years ago.