Saturday, 13 September 2014

Do As I Say Not As I Do

This week, the local Rotherham Star newspaper ran a story that a local Labour councillor will face internal party disciplinary action after he was caught checking the cricket score of the war of the roses county match between Lancashire and Yorkshire during a debate on the Rotherham sex scandal.

The story was picked up by the website bloggers4UKIP outraged at the actions of Cllr David Barker. We can only therefore assume that UKIP councillors are above this sort of behaviour. Well, not quite. At the last full council meeting before the summer recess, local Labour blogger and my fellow opponent in West Shoebury, Matthew Dent, broke the story that newly elected UKIP councillor for Kursaal Lawrence Davies, was organising a game of Monopoly whilst the council was discussing the closure of care homes - a sensitive local issue.

Unlike Labour who are taking action over Cllr Barker's actions, local UKIP leader James Moyies has done exactly nothing. A bit like what he has done for the residents of West Shoebury since being elected really.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Hate Mail

From time to time councillors are in receipt of some nasty communications from residents. I was not immune from this and in March last year received a pretty vile email suggesting that I should line my family up against a roundabout and let cars skid into them following some bad weather.

This is nothing compared to the unpleasant letter that my colleague Cllr Derek Jarvis received upon his return from holiday. The matter is now in the hands of the Police.

The Somewhat Bizarre

I was recently given a copy of the most bizarre leaflet recently produced by Labour Cllr Judith McMahon in Kursaal.

It was bizarre in the fact that there is no mention of Labour or her fellow ward colleague Anne Jones. When leaflets are published like these from time to time it normally suggests that all is not well and a defection from the party is on the cards.

We have already seen a spat between Shoeburyness Independent Party councillors Anne Chalk and Mike Assenheim, Cllr Terry getting his knickers in a twist because fellow local blogger Julian Ware-Lane tried to hold him to account, UKIP effectively announcing that Labour and the Lib Dems are keeping the seats warm before they jump into bed with their Independent Party bedfellows and now this.

As I suspected, the coalition is somewhat fragile and will require a Herculean effort to hold it together. If this is the appetiser, I can not wait for the main course when more testing decisions have to be made.

Keeping The Seats Warm

Whilst the summer months can be a quiet time on the local political scene, there are sometimes the odd little nugget that pops up.

I always suspected that the Independent Party leadership team of Ron Woodley and Martin Terry were power hungary and would sell their soles to the devil in a bid to get their hands on power in Southend.

Following the electoral maths after the local elections in May, they both dumped UKIP, their coalition partners in Southend, to form an administration with Labour and the Lib Dems in sheer desperation to get power.

Not wishing to upset their plaything in James Moyies, last month they made 'encouraging noises' to ensure UKIP's support for the remainder of the Civic Year. Local Labour leader Ian Gilbert and local Lib Dem leader must be furious knowing they are being used and can do very little about it.

Leadership Material?

Just before the schools broke up for the annual six week summer break, Ofsted, the schools watchdog, published its report on the current state of education at Thorpe Greenways Junior School. The report was not great requiring that the school improves.

An area highlighted by Ofstead was the failure of the governing body to hold the leadership of the school to account. A member of the governing body at Thorpe Greenways is the Independent Party's new leader of the Council Cllr Ron Woodley.

At the last meeting of the Full Council and in a recent press article we have been assured by Cllr Woodley that no expense or resources will be spared on Thorpe Greenways. One has to wonder if these announcements have been made to spare the blushes of Cllr Woodley. Never in my memory have I seen a school given such treatment when given by Ofsted a notice to improve.

Shoebury: The Forgotten Part of Southend

It would seem that under the new administration Shoebury is once again out of sight out and out of mind. When I was first elected in 2006, during that campaign many residents thought that Shoebury was the forgotten part of Southend - the end of the line.

During my time as a councillor I fought hard for Shoebury roads in most need to be resurfaced, pavements to be repaired, verges to be maintained and parking to be safer in our streets.

At the first cabinet of the new rainbow coalition, the annual list of money to be spent on the towns roads and footpaths was published.

Gone is the pledge to resurface Maplin Way and Maplin Way North. Gone is the pledge to make Delaware Crescent a one way street. Gone is the pledge to put a yellow box junction by the bus stop in Caulfield Road near Ness Road and gone is the pledge to harden the verges on Blyth Avenue to allow more room for vehicles to pass. It is worth reminding that this administration is rabidly supported by UKIP in Southend and Shoeburyness.

One item in the capital programme listed below which has gone un-noticed is the commitment to spend £250,000 on the Council's preferred option for flood defences at Shoebury Common in this current financial year. As the new administration has announced that the preferred option is to undergo a review, could this mean that the new administration are planning to still go ahead with the current preferred option?

Or is the quarter of a million pounds earmarked for what would be a costly review when two thirds of the new administration support the current preferred option.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Nine Weeks On, A Decision Is Finally Made

On Monday, the Echo broke the story that after 20 years Cory's will no longer be managing the Council's waste contract after being eliminated in the first round of procurement for the new waste contract to start in 2015. As the former portfolio holder for waste services it is an area which I still take a keen interest.

Since the elections in May I had noticed that around where I live in Shoebury had started to look a little shabby. Whilst standing in the queue to get my morning paper on Sunday, a woman unknown to me, remarked to the cashier that they could tell that Tony Cox is no longer their councillor as West Road was a mess. It was one of those rare occasions where I just kept quiet as I didn't need to say anything.

Before I digress further, under the stewardship of Cory during my time as the portfolio holder a plethora of awards were won for our waste services ranging from the cleanliness of our streets and beaches to our public loos. Recycling rates at 52% were an all time high. The winter gritting service ensured that Southend's roads were passable during the cold months.

I noted that the new portfolio holder Cllr Terry from the Echo article was now a convert to the need for eliminating as much waste from landfill as possible to reduce the £3 Million annual landfill costs despite opposing every measure that I took to do so including removing black sack provision and re-issuing food waste bins to every household.

I noticed that the local blogsphere has questioned the timing of the procurement of the new waste contract after Cllr Mark Flewitt has been a vocal critic at the manner of the announcement and the lack of member involvement in the decision.

To clear up the matter, when I was the portfolio holder the process was instigated as far members and the public were consulted as to what they would like to see in the new waste contract. The public consultation ended on the 10th March.

From that period until the 22nd May, I had not been told or made aware that an advertisment had gone out to companies to bid for the new waste contract or seen the final bid specification document. Therefore, I can only naturally assume that this had commenced under the new administration.

After involving members in the initial process, I had given the commitment that members would be informed of the start of the procurement and would see sight of the bid document before commencing.

I also gave the commitment that I would bring to the Waste Management Working Party the 'scoring' of the bids received before releasing the information to the press. Members would know my commitment to member involvement in waste management from the numerous sessions conducted before the joint waste agreement was signed with Essex.

Do I believe that the decision to not include Cory in the final four bidders of the procurement is the sole work of Cllr Terry? The honest answer is that I am not sure. I say this as the Waste Team headed up by Steve Crowther is one of the if not the best sets of Council Officers that I have come into contact with.

The Echo article also strongly hinted from Cllr Terry's quote that Cory did not progress due to the need to recycle more waste. I still recall Cllr Terry's stunt last year when he brought his pink sack into the Council Chamber to invite me to look at why his pink sack was rejected on collection day, although the offending items of pizza had been carefully removed. Could this run in have ultimately cost Cory the contract?