Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The unecessary Creep of Data Collection

About four years ago I left my employment with RBS due to a disagreement that I had with their policy of using thumb print recognition to log onto company computers.

At one of their flagship sites in Scotland, RBS were also asking staff on a 'voluntary' basis to have their iris recognition taken all in the name of improved site security. Needless to say I refused to enter that building during my employment.

I have never been a supporter of the national ID card or the retention of DNA by police from suspects that have either been released charged or been proven through the courts not guilty and am a passionate supporter of civil liberties.

On Monday evening travelling from work to the Children & Lifelong Learning scrutiny committee meeting there was an alarming item featured on the news where a child from Chase School was denied from joining in the school Christmas meal because his parents refused to let the school take his thumb print.

This item was raised at the scrutiny committee but I do not think that it is enough to have a 'reassurance' that the scheme is 'voluntary' and no child would be discriminated against should it not participate.

I'm pleased that isn't the case as I wouldn't send my daughter to any school which has a policy of show me your finger print or starve.

It appears that four schools in Southend use thumb print technology for the purposes of either obtaining a book from the library or a school meal.

Whilst it is disgusting enough to finger print children in the same cold manner that we do to criminals, it seems that Governing bodies can introduce such intrusive measures as they have overall control of the school and not the local authority.

I have serious profound concerns as to who has access to this data, if the technology is secure, will the data still be retained once the pupil has left school as well as the rights of parents and children. I also question how much information was given to parents who gave consent to this practice.

Let's be absolutely clear, these systems are an intrusive waste of public money where the money could be better spent on books, equipment or teacher salaries

I personally feel that collecting biometrics of Children and dismissing parents concerns by the Governing bodies concerned is nothing short of wierd behaviour.

Schools should be about places of learning not another government body obtaining biometric data retained for the life of the subjects, probably in defiance of EU law, and being passed on to be added to larger and larger databases, without the subjects knowledge or control or freedom to opt out.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Our Friends In The North

There was an interesting article in the evening echo from the leader of Southend Council Nigel Holdcroft claiming that Southend was likely to losse out in Sea Change funding for the regeneration of the Pier as the funding was likely to be channeled into constituencies in the North of England.

Cllr Holdcroft is right to make these assertions but what was interesting is that only Margate has a Conservative MP (Roger Gale who represents Thanet North covers Margate).

This the only recent Government allocation of funding which has gone dispraportionately to Labour constituencies. Recently the Government controlled Network Rail earmarked £50 million to upgrade or redevelop railway stations. The luck winners were as follows:

Manchester Victoria – Tony Lloyd LABOUR
Clapham Junction – Martin Linton LABOUR
Barking – Margaret Hodge LABOUR
Warrington Bank Quay – Helen Southworth LABOUR
Preston – Mark Hendrick LABOUR
Wigan North Western – Neil Turner LABOUR
Luton - Margaret Moran LABOUR
Liverpool Central – Louise Ellman LABOUR
Stockport – Ann Coffey LABOUR
Crewe – Edward Timpson CONSERVATIVE

Again, the token Conservative constituency on this occasion is Crewe. This Government is now so brazen it will resort to using taxpayers money to try and buy votes at the next General Election. Sadly for Gordon, after 13 years the public have become wise to these games.

Time to stop drink flowing on the Four Rivers

Yesterday evening I attended the regular anti-social behaviour meeting of the Four Rivers estate. They are a fantastic bunch on the Four Rivers estate but have persistantly suffered because of the actions of a mindless few.

I have over the past couple of years supported the efforts of local residents in getting a no drinking zone established for the Four Rivers Estate and surrounding areas. Last night a petition was started by local residents and I have also added by backing to this petition and have also re-created the petition online for the residents.

If you would like to add your weight to the cause then please sign the petition here

Update: Over 200 hundred signatures have been collected to date and I will be handing in the petition to the December Full Council

Friday, 13 November 2009

Election 2010

As more and more of the cqandidates for the 2010 local elections start to unveil I couldn't help but notice the biography of the Labour candidate for Milton ward Simon Milton on a recent Labour Rose newsletter.

There is nothing of any significance to note about Simon, although he was trounced as the Labour candidate in Blenheim in 2008, but it was his job as a Management Consultant boasting that he works on projects within Southend which took my eye.

Over the past few years the Labour Group has relentlessly criticised the council for employing consultants although it is a requirement that certain Goverment funded projects were reliant upon the use of consultants.

Does this now mean that Labour has changed policy on the use of consultants.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The honourable member for?

This week has seen the latest batch of members training. An excellent presentation on Treasury Management was given to us on Tuesday and left all members that attended under no illusions of the financial mess that the country is in.

Yesterday though, members were given an update on the preparations for the 2011 census. This again is a very important subject as it was estimated that Southend's poulation was miss councted by some 16,000 during the last census in 2001 costing the council £85 million!

At the end of the update a short presentation was given on the Southend Together Partnership. The facilitator was giving members some useful information on how the data is collected and used.

One of the members that attended last night was Cllr Mike Stafford, Independent Party member for Thorpe ward.

Since Mike's election nearly two years ago, Mike has said little and hardly contributed much to important debates. Whilst I have a lot of time for Mike in the sense that he is the only 'Independent' who has never stood or belonged to a political party.

I have wondered if Mike's heart is really in it or he did not expect the role of a councillor to be what it is but an intresting episode happened last night to make me think again.

The facilitator was giving some stats on Thorpe ward when this happened:

Facilitator: Are there any members here from Thorpe Ward as I want to reassure them that I am not picking on them.

(Long pause)

Conservative Councillor: Mike you represent Thorpe ward don't you?

Cllr Mike Stafford: Er um well yes do I?

After being a councillor for nearly two years, yes, Cllr Mike Stafford didn't know what ward he represented! As a quick reminder for Mike on census day in 2011:

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lib Dem Councillor demands truth about Hampshire UFO base

In the weird and wonderful world of local government an amusing piece appeared in the Hampshire Chronicle claiming that Lib Dem councillor Adrian Hicks demands to know the truth about Hampshires UFO base.

It appears that Cllr Hicks also met a alien in his local shopping centre - she was apparently wearing a tutu!
The bizzare announcements were also made in a series of You Tube videos which can be found here. If you still haven't finished the ridicule and laughter Cllr Hicks also has his own website.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Shoebury Remembers

This Sunday saw me on wreath laying duties at the Shoebury Cenotaph. Ever since being a councillor, I have always chosen to attend this event rather than the main council gathering in Southend.

Shoebury is a proud historic Garrison town and the history that Shoeburyness has in the armed forces will always be remembered. For as long as I am an elected councillor in Shoebury I will always fulfill my public duties at the Shoebury Cenotaph

The service was wonderfully conducted by Rev Frank Smith and fantastically organised by The Royal british Legion. I was also pleased by the large crowd and especially youngsters attended the event.

Soon, it will be left to these generations to keep the tradition of Rememberance Sunday alive as the number of ex servicemen from WW2 attending get smaller and smaller each year.

Up The Abbey

Last week, Mrs C and I decided that we would watch my brother in law play football on Saturday. My brother in law is a budding young (21) goalkeeper who has broken into the Waltham Abbey first team this season.

Waltham Abbey play in the Ryman Premier which is three divisions below Coca Cola League 2 in the football pyramid.
This week Waltham Abbey were away to Canvey Island a short journey for us. Occupying one of the four relegation spots before the start of play Abbey earn't an excellent 3-2 win after being 2-0 down to move them out of the bottom four in front of a crowd of 286.

Joe, my brother in law, had a fine game making several fine saves one a point blank save from just three yards. It was the first time I had seen Joe play and I don't think his family know just how good a keeper he is.

I wouldn't question if he actually went and played league football as I believe he is that good. Looking forward though to the trip to Horsham next week.

Foul Mouthed Full Council

Having needed the weekend to finally digest the marathon full council last Thursday night I am still in shock at the behaviour of some members.

You may recall that I received half a page coverage in the Echo for having the 'cheek' to suggest that Katie Price might be telling porkies about the alledged celebrity rape on my twitter page. One resident has a hissy fit and it becomes a scandle.

Having been on the lookout early on this morning for the coverage of Full Council I was surprised that no mention was made of some appaling comments.

First up was Cllr Terry, not content to referring to a fellow member as a dictator (disgusting considering that Rememberance Sunday was just upon us) and stupid he even had the nerve to question the integrity of the Chief Executive as to why he closed York Road market claiming that no report was comissioned.

Maybe as Health & Safety Champion of the borough Cllr Assenheim should slap down his leader, sorry, 'spokesman' over this. Cllr Assenheim has been very quiet on this issue.

Cllr Terry wasn't alone and Lib Dem leader Cllr Longley also got in on the act as some questioned whether he was making homophobic gestures.

I always make it a rule that you never question the handling of Full Council by the Mayor or the Town Clerk but on this occasion it stepped way over that mark and hopefully tempers may have calmed a little in time for next full council.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The great re-write of history

A rather bizzare letter appeared in yesterdays Southend Echo from Independent Party Shoeburyness ward councillor Mike Assenheim. Either Mike has bouts of amnesia or history wasn't wasn't one of his strong points at school.

For Cllr Assenheim's benefit, in 2005 Cllr's Terry and Velmurugan formed the political party Alliance Southend along with two fellow sitting Conservative councillors at the time. It was a legitimate political party as it was registered with the electoral commission, had Cllr Terry as leader and had its own logo.

In the 2006 local elections Mike Asssenheim, Ron Woodley and Tania Painton all stood as candidates for Alliance Southend. All three have subsequently been elected as councillors. Following mounting criticism they decided to drop being a formal political party and now call themselves the Independent Group.

This group now consists of seven councillors. Had Cllr Assenheim read my blog post carefully I said that six of whom who have eith stood or belonged to a political party. This Independent group incidently still has Cllr Terry as its leader and is one of four councillors who receive a leaders salary.

I defy anybody to tell me what the difference is between Alliance Southend the political party and the relics of what remain of the 'Independent Group.

Cllr Assenheim made the dubious claim that Cllr Terry is a spokesman not a leader and all councillors get a spokesmans salary. No, that isn't true is it Mike. All councillors receive a basic allowance but the leaders of the four groups (Conservative, Lib Dem Independent and Labour) receive an extra allowance.

Squirming, Cllr Assenheim also claimed that he welcomes scrutiny on him. Maybe then he can explain why he had four different positions on the East Beach Improvements and has wasted nearly £4,000 of taxpayers money refering six Conservative councillors to the Standards Board for hurting his feelings.

Maybe Cllr Assenheim could have developed some feelings when over a £1,000 of that total was spent on reporting a Shoeburyness councillor to the Standards Board when he had terminal cancer and then appealed the decision when he only had days to live despite being asked to drop the claim when told of the news by a fellow Shoeburyness Ward councillor.

Its also worth noting that Cllr Assenheim still believes that old chesnut of party politicians follow a party line. Maybe he can explain why it was only the Independents who followed their leader like sheep and voted the same way on the issue of dog control orders.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

key Question Anne Has to Answer

Having previously been a Labour party member and Labour Shoeburyness Ward candidate, Comrade Anne I'm sure thought that joining the Independent Party/Group (delete as appropriate) would pose few problems in her quest for power.

The politico that I am sees me keep a copy of all literature from opposition parties across the two Shoeburyness wards. Following pressure by Mrs C to clean the old toot from the loft I came across a few Anne Chalk leaflets.

Apart from the cheesy smiles with the Rochford & Southend East parlaimentry candidate there was very little of interest except for one small item in Comrade Anne's Labour Summer 2007 leaflet for Shoeburyness.

In a small piece Anne claims that Shoeburyness has been let down by the Independents. As Comrade Anne prepares to stand for the Indies in May I wonder if she now believes this statement was wrong.

But I suppose like all those who just want a sniff of power I'm sure Anne will always put power before principles.