Friday, 25 May 2012

Lights, Camera, Action...

It has been my long held view that it is now time for council meetings streamed on the Internet. With the sparse attendance at council meetings, it may open up democracy locally to a new audience. I also believe it will aide accountability of members.

There is a view held by some that all politicians, whatever their political persuasion, will say one thing to get elected and then do another. There is a growing trend from my observations since first becoming councillor that some say and support one thing inside the corridors and committee rooms of the Civic Centre but then tell residents the exact opposite in their communications. A classic example of this is highlighted in a post on Cllr Holdcroft's blog yesterday over Cllr Chalk's actions on the proposal to re-install beach huts at East Beach were they had been previously located in the fifties and sixties.

It is also unfortunate that the issue of beach huts isn't the only issue that Cllr Chalk is less than transparent over. During the budget setting process, Cllr Chalk had the opportunity to propose the withdrawal of the CCTV Vehicle but chose not to and supported the Conservative administration budget warts and all. Just last month, Cllr Chalk showed 'supposed outrage' and claimed that the CCTV Vehicle wasn't confirming to Government guidance and said that she didn't want the CCTV Vehicle anywhere near Shoeburyness.

Yesterday to my great surprise, in my inbox was a request from Cllr Chalk for the CCTV Vehicle to patrol East Beach for noise nuisance, even though she is well aware that the CCTV Vehicle can only enforce traffic and parking offences in areas where enforcement is difficult, sensitive or not practical by traffic wardens! You could not make it. If anybody has any reason to doubt, I am happy to forward a copy on request if they email me at    

Jubilee Celebrations Take Shape

Back in February on the actual anniversary of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the news was dominated by adverse weather stories and I posted that I hoped the public would get behind this once in a lifetime cevent when the Jubilee weekend approached in June.

It appears that the Southend public have not let me down and will be in the party mood, as there will be 65 street parties over the Jubilee weekend in the town with 6 across Shoeburyness and 3 specifically in West Shoebury. This is up from the 20 that were organised in Southend for the Royal Wedding last year.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Working Arrangements

On Thursday night it was the second meeting of the Full Council in a week where the decisions as to who would sit on and chair important committees was decided. Prior to the meeting a working agreement was reached with the Thorpe members of the Independent Party which will be published on the Council website shortly.

A full in-depth analysis of the breakdown of the details of the agreement can be found on Nigel Holdcroft's blog here. I know I have locked horns with Cllr Woodley in the past and have to agree with Nigel that it would have been easy for him to have thrown his toys out of the pram after his failed leadership bid but he was prepared to engage in constructive dialogue, along with his Thorpe colleagues, with the Conservative Group.

There are a couple of aspects of the working arrangement which I want to touch upon. When you enter into any working agreement there has to be some compromise which is to be expected. I was happy to compromise on some areas of policy regarding parking charges in Thorpe Bay as did Ron and his colleagues on the issue of the CCTV Vehicle where they agreed to the continuation of its responsible use. This was particularly big of him especially as he put his name to these posters in Shoeburyness High Street during the elections.

Despite the constructive dialogue with The Thorpe element of the Independent Party this still hasn't stopped Shoeburyness ward Independent Party councillor Anne Chalk taking to the web and have a disgusting rant at me and trying to claim some phantom credit for the agreement on the CCTV Vehicle. I am happy to lock horns with anybody on issues of policy, beliefs, double standards, anything but have never branded any member of Southend Council incompetent or insinuated that they are profiteering from any aspect of council policy. It is just a shame Cllr Chalk couldn't conduct herself in the same manor as the Thorpe Independents.

Whilst I am no supporter of Independent Party politics but as Ron was prepared to enter into a working agreement I thought it was only fair that I support him in his bid to become Chairman of Economical & Environmental scrutiny committee. I did find it a bit odd that last week Labour en mass supported Ron in his leadership bid but voted against him to become chairman of the Economic & Environmental scrutiny committee.  I was also happy to support other opposition members in other roles too and gave my backing to retiring Labour Mayor David Norman as Chairman of the Development & Control Committee and Lib Dem Paul Collins as Chairman of the Audit Committee.  

Weekly West Shoebury Review

In the second of my weekly reviews it has another busy week in West Shoebury. The week started off with some excellent news that Shoebury Common and East Beach retained their Blue Flag status. This follows the news last week that both beaches were awarded the Gold Standard by the Good Beach Guide.

Last week I mentioned that I was looking into a suggestion of a letter being sent to residents in West Road, Ness Road, St Andrews Road and Richmond Avenue to remind them to clear up after their dogs. After making some enquires the good news is that this is possible and these will be delivered to residents shortly.

I also had the pleasure in attending the Shoebury Residents Association. There was a huge turnout which I suspect was down to the press coverage on the proposed Flood Defence works at Shoebury Common Beach.Those who are on the statuary consultee list have received a scoping document outlining why improvements to the flood defences are necessary and where they start and finish. At this stage no actual designs are proposed and will be subject to full consultation although it outlines which materials are required.

I was disappointed with some of the comments made in the press this week by the Independent Party councillors in Shoebuyness ward as the materials which would be required for the works would be available from the spoil on the Cliffs Stablisation works which will be undertaken later on this year meaning that the flood defence works could be brought forward seven years.

What I find bizarre is that they have wrongly accused the council of wasting money over the years but find it acceptable to spend £100,000's to dispose of the spoil and then spend £100,000's buying the same material to do the works in the future. In the line of work that I do as an Emergency Planner assisting in the response to major incidents including flooding I have seen first hand the devastation that flooding causes and I am sure there are a number of residents that live in Shoeburyness can still remember the 1953 floods. These works are essential and I have no intention of playing politics with the Shoeburyness Independent Party when it comes to Shoebury residents homes and lives.

After the meeting I was congratulated by some residents on the stance that I took on the flood defence works which is always nice and rewarding. I was also asked by some residents what my views were regarding the "Boris Island" Airport in the Estuary and was happy to reiterate my opposition to any such scheme.

I was also asked if I could assist with some minor traffic and parking issues in Pentland Avenue and Linton Road which I am looking into.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cultural Building Arrives on Pier Head

Within the last hour it has been confirmed that the new cultural building has successfully been placed on the Pier Head following its journey from Tilbury yesterday morning.

Details of how the operation to winch the new building on the Pier Head unfolded this morning can be found here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Leader Announces his Cabinet

It has been well documented over the past few days that Nigel Holdcroft was re-elected as Leader of the Council as the opposition could not muster the strength to form a council despite all the opposition holding the balance on the council.

One of the functions that is the responsibility of the leader is to choose his cabinet. This morning, details of the cabinet have been released. I am delighted that I have been asked for a third consecutive year to serve in the cabinet for a town that I love. I am also delighted that my fellow ward colleague Derek Jarvis retains his position as portfolio holder for Culture & Tourism.

Whilst it is a great honour to be asked to serve in the cabinet, I remain first and foremost committed to the residents of West Shoebury.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Weekly West Shoebury Review

When I was first elected in 2006 I maintained that my first priority would always be to the residents of West Shoebury. This is the first of a weekly feature where each week, I will be giving an update on the work I am doing specifically in West Shoebury.

At the start of the week I was delighted to hear that Shoebury Common Beach had been awarded the Gold Award from the Good Beach Guide for its water quality. On Wednesday, councillors from both West Shoebury and Shoeburyness ward were given the opportunity to have a look at the refurbished Shoebury Leisure Centre and to ensure preparations are in place for the re-opening today.

I also released pictures of the poor state that the listed front facade on the former picture palace was in on Ness Road with a committment that if the developer renegades on a promise to rebuild the front facade back to its original design then I will not support it.

Thursday was a busy day where I attended the first full council of the year where Sally Carr was elected as Mayor and the new leader of the council was elected. Straight after, I attended the Saxon Gardens Community Circle meeting and shortly after attended the inaugural West Road Traders & Community Association. This was a very good meeting and there was much discussion on ways to attract people to West Road and how we engage residents and community groups to make this happen.

There was also a good discussion around getting residents to take Civic Pride in the area. A couple of issues were also raised regarding having lighting in the alleyway which runs behind the shops in West Road and a suggestion that the council should write to residents in West Road, Ness Road, Richmond Avenue and St Andrews Road to remind dog owners to clean up after their dogs to help prevent persistent dog fouling in the area. I am looking into both issues.

I have received some casework from residents week where I assisted a resident in Delaware Crescent with a housing query and a resident in Avon Way who is running a community event in Southchurch Park who needed assistance with rubbish being cleared from the event. I will update readers on the progress on some of the issues raised in future reviews and round ups.  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Falling at the first hurdle

Today was the first serious test for the opposition groups with the council now in No Overal Control following the local election results last Thursday.

What united all the opposition parties during the campaign was their belief that they all could do a better job running the council than the Conservatives. As a result, the leader of the council did the honourable thing and resigned as leader of the counil giving the opposition the chance to unite around a leader and form a new council.

At the beginning of the week it was evidently clear that the Lib Dems, Labour and the Independent Party could not agree to form a coalition. This left the Conservatives with no option but to propose forming a minority administration for the good of the town.

Today the annual Mayor Making ceremony had added significance as a new leader had to be officially elected following the leaders resignation. To his credit, Independent Party councillor Ron Woodley put his head above the parapet and stood for leader against Nigel. It was always going to be forlorn as one Lib Dem didn't want to take part by going on holiday and gave his apologies. As suspected, the remainder of the Lib Dems sat on their hands with the exception of Ric Morgan who backed Ron.

One of those to sit on their hands was Lib Dem leader Graham Longley who received a personal endorsement from Ron during his election campaign. I would suspect Ron must be hopping mad that Graham didn't repay the compliment.

The Labour group had already said that they were trying to form a coalition and voted en masse for Ron. This was a curious move for newly elected Cllr Ware-Lane as only last month he criticised Ron for having a large ego but today voted for him to become Leader of the Council.

So fractured are the opposition that Ron's bid didn't even have all the support of his own party as Cllr Dr Vel abstained, although the rest did tow the party line. The simple fact is despite all the opposition claiming that they could do a better job they didn't collectively want to. Maybe they prefer sniping from the sidelines in opposition rather than taking the responsibility of power.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Shoeburyness Leisure Centre set to re-open this weekend

This weekend, Shoeburyness Leisure is set to re-open following extensive refurbishment works. To mark the re-opening, there is free swimming this weekend and discounted taster sessions available to residents. More information can be found here.

This afternoon, all West Shoebury and Shoeburyness councillors were given the opportunity to have a preview of the refurbished pool and I have managed to get a photo to show residents what they can expect this weekend. 

Picture Palace Cinema - Update

I posted yesterday that there were a number of mis-truths peddled by some of the candidates in West Shoebury which resonated with some residents and promised to unpick these over the coming days and weeks.

Back in March, I posted that despite getting the front facade of the Picture Palace Cinema locally listed, when work started on the development,  a small tree and plant life were found to be growing in the brickwork making the front facade structurally unsafe resulting in the structure having to be demolished. 

Sadly, this didn't stop one of the candidates from telling residents in his election literature that the front facade was allowed to be demolished by local Conservatives and failing to fulfil our promise. To put the record straight, I am able to publish some photos taken when construction began which shows the true state of the locally listed front facade.

Whilst I was naturally disappointed that the front facade could not be retained, I also have a responsibility to local residents and unlike some, I am not prepared to play 'Russian Roulette' with peoples lives.

As planning permission was originally granted with the requirement to keep the front facade, planning permission has to be sought for a new frontage to the development. The developer has pledged to rebuild the front facade to its original design. I want to be absolutely unequivocally clear. If the developer renegades on this promise I will not support it. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Election Results

I know my views on the election results are somewhat delayed, but straight after the count I was whisked away by Mrs Cox for a weekend away as a birthday treat and have just returned home. Unfortunately, the internet reception was poor on my smartphone which prevented me posting my thoughts over the weekend.

Firstly, I want to thank the 860 residents of West Shoebury who voted Conservative last Thursday. Yes, the majority was disappointing but am comforted that we polled 39% share of the vote in West Shoebury compared to the 31% nationally and the 30% across the East of the town.

It was also disappointing to loose control of the council but considering the results which happened across the country, a net loss of 3 councillors was a considerably better performance than in many other councils but no consolation.

In the East of the town, most observers would recognise that St Lukes and Kursaal wards are not fertile Conservative territory and both Labour and Conservatives have been used to over the years seeing seats lost in the face of the national backdrop.

With the gain in Milton (My congratulations to Julian Ware-Lane) it made it Labour's night. What was interesting was the poor performance of the Lib Dems who only received 3% of the vote in the East of the town finishing 6th out of the 8 parties which contested seats. It was also a poor night for the Independent Party who lost their seat in Southchurch and came within a whisker of loosing their seat in their Westborough heartland.

In West Shoebury, the UKIP candidate polled very well. It was interesting that his whole campaign was based around him distancing himself from UKIP to make him look like an Independent Party candidate and was endorsed by Cllr Terry and Cllr Woodley. He even pledged to sit with the Independent Party in the Council chamber.

In all of his election literature, there was only one picture of the UKIP logo and only a handful of references to UKIP. He even went as far as declining to have the UKIP logo on the ballot paper - a similar stunt was also pulled last year. It was almost like he was embarrassed to be associated to be associated with UKIP.

There were a number myths and mis-truths peddled. Fortunately these were defeated in the end but concede that these clearly resonated with certain sections of the electorate in West Shoebury. Over the days and weeks I will set about unpicking these myths to offer reassurance to residents and proving that residents faith in me and the Conservative Party is not unfounded.         

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Thorpe Bay Oracle - May Edition

For those of you who do not get the Thorpe Bay Oracle, you can view my article on page 9 here. I am grateful to the publisher Emma Wynne-Morgan for the opportunity to have the local issues slot in this edition.

I decided to use this opportunity to correct the mis-information that has been peddled by the Independent Party for far to long on council borrowing and Southend Council's finances.