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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?

Monday, 11 August 2014

One Rule For The Rulers

A couple of weeks ago, a judge drew to conclusion a case that I have been keeping a close eye on.

For the past 18 months, the media have been pursuing the naming of two councillors who sit on Bolton Council who had failed to pay their Council Tax two years in a row.

Judge Robin Callender-Smith and two tribunal members ruled that the naming of the Labour and Conservative member would have violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to the private life right to individuals.

In his judgement, Judge Callender-Smith said that releasing the information could potentially cause unnecessary and unjustified damage and distress to the individuals.

I understand and accept the need for privacy of individuals but on this occasion I believe that this is the wrong decision. Every councillor has a duty and responsibility to set a balanced budget which also includes the Council Tax precept level for the authority that they represent.

Is it wrong to expect local law makers to face the same level of public scrutiny as an average member of the public? I mean, many council tax dodgers have been outed in the courts or by councils themselves to show that Council Tax evasion will not be accepted.

I also think that this case has also left a burning question unanswered. Do the public have the right to know about the behaviour of those who hold public office and represent them?

Councillor For Riyadh

It's been a while since my last post, but the enforced break has been due to a family holiday to Cornwall and a dose of the flu at the back end of last week.

Whilst away, I noticed this little gem of an article where a Lib Dem councillor on Fareham Borough Council believes he can effectively represent his residents whilst having a full time job in Saudi Arabia.

This did give me a wry smile as I recall the local blogsphere here in Southend on occasions getting their knickers in a twist when a councillor represents a ward which they do not live in.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Shoebury Common Review

Over the past couple of months, one of the most trumpeted policies of the new rainbow coalition is the decision to review the preferred option for flood defences at Shoebury Common. This despite two thirds of the current administration supporting the preferred option when in opposition.

The responsibility for flood defences now falls to Cllr Terry. During the scrutiny debate, Cllr Terry claimed that the review was to look at all options with a fresh pair of eyes but then announced that it would be highly unlikely that the current preferred option would be recommended from the review.

With such predetermination of the outcome, one has to ask why bother with a costly review when you have seemingly already made up your mind.

Scrutiny Projects

Every year, each of the three scrutiny committees chose an area or topic which they would like to closely scrutinise. These projects lead to recommendations which I have rarely seen them being ignored by cabinet. The Place scrutiny committee chose to look at the issue of Foreshore erosion. An admirable topic chosen despite the warnings given the Corporate Director that specialist technical personnel would need to be brought in at vast expense and the council has no budget for it.

Whilst the funding of the project is an important issue in its own right, it was the seemingly odd behaviour of the West Shoebury UKIP councillor James Moyies. Despite his loathing of anything EU or European, he suggested, to howls of laughter, that the Council should approach the EU to fund the project. Despite seeming to be a strong advocate for the project he then bizarrely voted against the project when it came to a vote.

There is a saying that when in a hole you should stop digging. Cllr Moyies then suggested that we should approach the UKIP MEP's, the largest MEP contingent in the UK, to put pressure on Brussels for funding. This again was greeted with roars of laughter when it was pointed out that UKIP were officially the laziest group of MEP's with the worst attendance record of any party from any member state.

Many a UKIP councillor has sadly been derided for their incompetence once elected. If this is the calibre   that residents of West Shoebury can expect over the next four years then god help us!

For The Love Of CCTV

During a debate on one item, members digressed and the issue of the council's CCTV Vehicles was being spoke about.

We heard the starting admission that the Independent Party leader and new portfolio holder for Transport Cllr Terry that he a big fan of the CCTV Vehicles.

Surely this is a hint of double standards when he and his party famously used this poster during an election campaign.

Campfield Road Taxi Rank - The Scrutiny Debate

This week saw the first scrutiny committee under the rainbow administration, the first real test of the new portfolio holders under interrogation. I will blog further on the Place scrutiny committee in a later post.

An item which will not receive much attention from the cabinet papers will be the taxi rank outside the doctors surgery in Campfield Road. I have to give credit where credit is due and was pleased that Cllr Terry held his nerve and agreed to maintain the status quo despite the plausible nonsense from Cllr Chalk.

I was also interested to hear the contribution from newly elected UKIP West Shoebury councillor James Moyies on this item. James agreed that the rank should be retained but bizarrely chose to vote along with Cllr Chalk to refer the item back to cabinet. This proposal was defeated.

Part of James Moyies contribution was to propose that any unnecessary yellow lines and the disused bus stop in Towerfield Road be converted into formal parking, citing the potential parking stress in the area when the new Morrisons store opens on the corner of Campfield Road and Ness Road.

You may be thinking that you had heard this proposal before? You had, from me, two weeks ago. Under other circumstances I would have put it down as great minds think alike, but sadly, I can not. Avid followers will recall that I exposed a leaked email from James Moyies to UKIP party members where he boasted that he followed my blog to save him time and effort. It would seam that a leopard never changes its spots!

Residents in West Shoebury must be wondering why they have a sheep in wools clothing in UKIP, when they can have the real thing in Conservatives.