2011 was certainly like no other year that I can remember, with the world certainly a very different place at the end of the year than when it first began. There have been some excellent programmes over the past few days reviewing the year none more so than Alex Crawford's on Sky News on Friday and her OBE in the New Year Honour's List was richly deserved for her broadcasts on the Arab Spring and for being the first journalist to broadcast the fall of Tripoli.
After much searching, there does not appear to be any reviews looking back at 2011 from a local perspective so, after over 60 posts on this blog in 2011, I will attempt to round up the year based on events in Shoebury, Southend and in my portfolio.
In January, Southend Council was shortlisted for 'council of the year award' although the council were ultimately unsuccessful in their quest for the top honour. The Independent Party deceitful campaigning for the local elections started in the middle of January by claiming Westcliff, Friars and Thorpedene libraries were at risk of closure - all three libraries are still open.
In April, an application by Laura Millard to the High Court to force a judicial review of Southend Council's decision to grant planning permission for an extension to the runway at Southend Airport failed. The 'battle for the Civic Centre' was hotting up as campaigning for the local elections and the AV referendum intensified. Lib Dem councillor Ric Morgan told the local press that the Lib Dems in Southend had no policies and UKIP announced an electoral pact with the Independent Party further compromising their so called 'Independence' of political parties.
The AV referendum was resoundly defeated in May with Southend voting 'No' by 34, 365 to 13,488 and Cllr Derek Jarvis was re-elected in West Shoebury with a healthy majority of 825 and the Conservatives retained control of Southend Council. It was also reported that newly elected St Lukes Independent Party councillor Paul Van Looy would be spending very little time at the council representing his residents costing taxpayers approximately £840 per appearance. I was also asked to serve in the cabinet as the portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste & Transport.
There was good news in June for Southend Airport as it was announced that that a 10 year deal had been announced with EasyJet with flights to commence from April this year. I helped bring a bit more resident engagement to local politics by moving the start time for the Traffic & Parking Working Party from 14:00 to 18:00.
Students across the town received record breaking A'Level and GCSE results in August. The Council's mobile CCTV car was involved in a collision with a young lad on City Beach promting further debate on the use of shared space and the Progress Road scheme won a Local Government News Award.
Shoebury hit the news in September and October as it was announced that the former Drill Shed in the Garrison would become the home for new Shoebury Heritage Centre. A debate was also started about the future of the Shoebury touring site, closed for a number of years, following Tingdene's proposal to put an additional 32 mobile homes on the site.
After falling subscriptions, the Burges Estate Residents Association (BERA) - the political play thing for the Independent Party in Thorpe Bay announced that they were going to expand into Southchurch and West Shoebury wards.
Condolences and tributes were paid to Joseph Ball who was tragicly killed whilst crossing London Road with his Mum. A petition with 10,000 signatures has been received asking for a crossing on London Road, close to Milton Hall Primary School which will be debated at the next full council.
It was announced in November that the Olympic Torch Relay would be coming to Southend on the 6th July. Shoebury wasn't far from the news as it was announced that fishing would return to Friars Park after an abesence of 20 years, nursery provision would be available at the new HInguar School and local listing status was given to the ticket station at Shoeburyness Train Station, The Cage and the Victorian front facia of Hinguar School.
The use of local shopping areas and the future of the West Road Shopping Area were also in the news and continued into December when the Labour candidate for West Shoebury suggested that boarded up shops in West Road should have artwork displayed on them when no shop fronts are currently boarded up.
The Independent Party in Shoeburyness hit the headlines in December when councillors Mike Assenheim and Anne Chalk decided to attend a party meeting rather than listen to local policing concerns. An advert placed by BERA in the December issue of the Thorpe Bay Oracle had to be referred to the Advertising Standards Agency following a flurry of complaints that I received over the Christmas period.
2011 was certainly a busy and intresting year. Finally, this leaves me to wish a Happy New Year to you all.