Saturday, 23 February 2013

More Activities - Bigger Attendances

During the local election campaign last year, one issue which constantly came up on the doorstep was the lack of activities at the state of the art Shoeburyness Youth Centre. My fellow ward colleagues and I were determined to resolve this and ensure that there were more activities for our young people in the ward.

I have been involved in an action group to help increase the number of activities at the centre. I was delighted to see an article in yesterday's Echo which has seen attendance at the centre double and more youth activities provided. It was also nice to see the work of your three councillors recognised.

Latest West Shoebury Newsletter

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Do As I Say Not As I Do

Following my post and Cllr Holdcroft's last weekend on cruising it would appear that that Labour Milton councillor Julian Ware-Lane has got a little hot under the collar this week after being exposed for wanting the unauthorised cruise to go ahead on Marine Parade.

After Cllr Holdcroft and I were accused of being unprincipled and dishonest it was nothing short of remarkable in the discussion that followed that when pressed to clarify, in the unlikely event that I was wrong, Cllr Ware-Lane refused to answer the question if he wanted the unauthorised cruise event, which had threatened public safety to his residents, to go ahead and repeatedly refused to give a straight answer. The silence, for me, spoke volumes.

In a further post, Cllr Ware-Lane accused us both of misinterpreting his views. So when someone takes the moral high ground you expect then to practise what they preach. Right? Well it appears that this rule should apply to everyone except the holier than thou Cllr Ware-Lane.

Suspecting that Cllr Ware-Lane is out for revenge, in a post that Cllr Holdcroft made on the extension of the Prittlebrook Green Way through Belfairs he made the unbelievable link between a cycle path and Cllr Aylen having a mental condition, falling into the very trap he accuses Cllr Holdcroft of.

Having read Cllr Holdcroft's post, any reasonable person would know that he was making the link between Cllr Aylen's imaginary route taking out hundreds of trees and the actual route which takes out none. In trying to make a play on words Cllr Ware-Lane trivialises the serious issue of mental illness.

This is all the more shocking considering the well publicised and public mental health issues of one of his own group members which got them into a spot of bother with the police. Throughout this period all 51 councillors showed remarkable dignity and I was delighted to see that particular member make a recovery and a return to public life.

To accuse Cllr Holdcroft of insinuating to another members mental health in a baseless accusation is just conducting politics from the gutter.  

Friday, 15 February 2013

Former Southend Labour Candidate Back in the News

Former Labour Thorpe and Belfairs candidate Matt Zarb-Cousin made an return to the news this week. Followers of this blog will recall that this time last year that the former Southend Labour candidate made national news for likening the Queen to benefits scrounger on the day that she marked 60 years on the throne.

Political blogger Guido Fawkes this week broke the news that Matt, now working as a lobbyist for the anti-betting Campaign for Fairer Gambling, still holds a House of Commons pass for Pamela Nash MP despite last working for her in 2011.

When contacted by Guido, Matt confirmed that he has used the pass to gain access to Parliament in his capacity at Fairer Gambling. Now over to Labour to see how they deal with this misconduct. Then again, did I just see a pig fly?  

Reminder: Street Surgery Tomorrow

The Sums Do Not Add Up

It seemed Red Ed Miliband tried to woo the nation yesterday with a Valentine's Day treat - a policy. Until now Ed Miliband has offered nothing but a blank page. As soon as he started to utter his first words, at last we began to see why.

Red Ed announced that Labour will reintroduce the 10p tax rate scrapped by Gordon Brown in the fag end of the last Labour Government. It was announced that this would funded by the Lib Dem policy of a mansion tax on houses over £2 Million. Funny that.

Ed may think that he has pulled the wool over the public's eyes, but his announcement was nothing more than a masterclass in hypocrisy and shameless spin.

First: the hypocrisy. Back in 2008, when he was in government and had to actually account for the pledges Labour dreamt up, Ed was a leading supporter of the 10p tax abolition claiming that scrapping the 10p rate “makes the tax system fairer”.

Shameless. Worst of all, however: the spin. Balls and Miliband have announced that they will fund their new flagship policy with a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million. Just the two problems.

One: Labour have already committed to spending the money raised through a mansion tax on reversing the Coalition’s cuts to tax credits.

Two: Even if the cash had not already been set aside for something else, the mansion tax would only raise £2 billion. That figure is a considerable distance short of the £7 billion required to pay for reversing the abolition of the 10p rate.

So the Labour leader has pledged to reverse a policy that he himself implemented and has offered no credible explanation about how it would be funded. This is magic money politics, disingenuous in the extreme. Then we wonder why the country is in the economic mess it is in.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

All About the Seafront This Week

Most of my time this week has been dominated by two key issues on he seafront. Last weekend I was made aware of the terrible incident on City Beach involving a cyclist and a pedestrian on the footpath outside Chinnery's.

I sincerely hope that the young girl makes a swift and full recovery but spent most of Monday answering media requests around the safety of City Beach. Although the incident is still subject to a police investigation, early indications would suggest that the incident was a case of a cyclist cycling on a pavement hitting a pedestrian.

Whilst that area of Marine Parade is shared space, the footpath outside the amusements and Chinnery's  has always been designated for pedestrians where the seafront side is dual purpose for both cyclists and pedestrians. Once full details have been released by the police, officers will naturally look to see if there are any highway implications as a result.

On Thursday, officers were successful in obtaining an injunction to prevent an unofficial and unauthorised cruise event. The cruise had been switched by the organisers from Colchester and if allowed to go ahead would have cause mayhem for residents, visitors and traders.

When organisers were talking about a 'takeover' of Southend conjuring up images of loud music, wheel spinning, racing of vehicles and anti-social behaviour. There is no way that residents in Kursaal and Milton wards have done anything to deserve that.

Whilst I was doing a tour of the airwaves Friday and appearing on BBC Look East yesterday to explain to residents the reasons why we have taken this action, I was staggered that a Labour Milton councillor and two Independent Party councillors were actually critical of officers and the administration for obtaining the injunction.

Along with my fellow ward and cabinet colleague Cllr Jarvis, we joined officers and the police yesterday evening in monitoring the situation. Fortunately, everything passed off peacefully. It was also pleasing that visitors were not put off from coming and it was very much business as usual with Southend open for business.

Youth Mayor and Deputy Mayor Announced

This week Megan Sylvester, from Shoeburyness High School and Chris Copley from Westcliff High School for Boys were named as Youth Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

I always like to keep an eye out on the work that Southend Youth Council do. Being closely involved as the borough's Youth Champion in my early years of being a councillor ensured this.

During the election process for the Youth Mayor, I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to hear at last week's Shoebury Debate that Shoeburyness High School had the highest turnout. I think it is fantastic that young people in Shoebury are engaged in the political process and wish Megan and Chris every success in their roles.

Food Recycling Made Easier

I have mentioned previously that liners for the blue food waste bins were soon to be made available free of charge for local residents.

I was delighted to be able to announce this week that the free liners will be available from March and April and from then on be delivered to homes every six months.

I believe that by having the liners immediately available, residents can instantly use them for their food waste recycling, rather than them having to undergo the extra effort of wrapping items of waste food in newspaper.

This town has a very good record on recycling but we can do more. Residents have become well accustomed to recycling opportunities such as using their pink recycling sacks, and many are already keen food waste recyclers. 

To keep up the momentum and encourage everyone in the borough to recycle their food waste, to help us at least reach our recycling target of 60 per cent by 2015. Residents who would like to use the food waste recycling service now but do not have a blue food waste bin are urged to contact 01702 215 006.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Floods of 1953 Remembered

This week marked the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods which wreaked havoc in this part of the of the country. Canvey Island was very badly hit. Southend and Shoebury were not immune either, although no lives were lost.

There have been official events to commentate the occasion but I have particularly enjoyed reading the numerous features in the Echo over the course of the week. With the devastation that was caused I believe that the floods of 1953 are one of those events that we should never be allowed to forget.

In the lead up to the anniversary, I knew it was inevitable that the issue of the proposed flood defences for Shoebury Common would be back in the spotlight. In some ways I am pleased that this happened, as the events in 1953 and the tragic loss of life should act as a timely reminder that improvements are required to our sea defences to protect livelihoods, lives and homes for today's and future generations.

Whilst I appreciate there are some who are opposed to the idea of an embankment at Shoebury Common, I do believe that all are united in welcoming the fact that money has been set aside for improved flood defences and that the issue of improved flood defence are high up on Southend Councils agenda.

It was interesting that whilst listening to the rest of the BBC Essex radio debate on the Shoebury Common flood defences that I was asked to participate in early on Friday morning, there has certainly been a shift in opinion by those opposed in that originally the basis of their opposition was that the experts and the Environment Agency have got it wrong and that Shoebury Common was not at risk of flooding, to an acknowledgement that there is a flood risk at Shoebury Common and
improvements to defences are required although disagreements remain at what those improvements should be.

To obtain funding from the Environment Agency for improvements to flood defences there needs to be a preferred scheme identified which can demonstrate value for money. I was somewhat puzzled by the readers letter from Shoeburyness Independent Party councillor Mike Assenheim in Thursday's Echo which seems to indicate that he is wobbling in his support. I know this wouldn't be the first time as it is still fresh in the memories of some of the four different positions that he held on the East Beach enhancements a few years back

I can only assume that Cllr Assenheim may still have some of the amber nectar in the blood stream from his recent visit down under, if he feels that supplying every home with one roll of black refuse sacks every six months is more important than allocating money for improved flood defences which will protect people's homes, lives and livelihoods.

It will be interesting as we go through the budget setting process to see if Cllr Assenheim proposes removing the capital funding for flood defences from the budget. Somehow I suspect not.

I did find it mildly amusing to be criticised for saying that residents are welcome to talk to me about the proposed flood defences at our Street Surgery on the 16 February especially when he continues to refuse holding a surgery so residents can meet him face to face and discuss issues of concern with him.

For those residents who attended the Shoebury Residents Association meeting last Spring will recall that I secured the promise from officers of a Public Meeting to be held at a venue in Shoebury as part of a wide ranging consultation on the matter. I will continue to hold officers to this promise and have been assured that a date for this meeting will be announced in the very near future.

I am happy to be criticised for securing the promise of a public meeting and can only assume that as
Cllr Assenheim remained quiet throughout the meeting was happy to proceed without the need of a public meeting.

To suggest that the embankment at Shoebury Common is also a done deal was also a foolish comment to make by Cllr Assenheim, especially as the funding for the scheme from the Environment Agency has not yet been finalised and would still require planning permission from the Development & Control Committee - a body on which Cllr Assenheim sits and would only be too well aware.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Cllr Assenheim in the Echo next week photographed next to the soil stored on Gunners Park for the proposed embankment voicing his objections. If he does, it is well worth remembering that he offered no objections to this when planning permission was granted by the Development & Control Committee.

Still, I suppose it makes a change from Cllr Chalk jumping on the bandwagon depending on which way the wind is blowing along Shoebury High Street.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Debate Shoebury VI

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the annual Debate Shoebury at Shoeburyness High School which invites pupils from Shoeburyness High School and local primary schools to debate issues of concern to them with local councillors, council officers, local police and representatives from c2c.

It never ceases to amaze me that the issues that the issues raised are broadly similar to issues that are raised with me by their parents. It is understandable to presume that the issues would be centred around youth services but they are not.

It was amusing at last years event when the Shoeburyness High School pupils were discussing which areas they would like to see the council make savings and ironically chose Education a service that was protected.

The reoccurring theme was concerns raised about dog fouling particularly in parks. A suggestion was put forward by one of the young people that a letter should be given to all parents warning them of our dog control orders and that allowing dogs to foul in parks and pavements is an offence.

So good was the suggestion that following discussions with officers after the event they are preparing a template letter which could be issued to all schools in the borough for inclusion in school newsletters and will be debated at next Waste Working Party. Young or old, if suggestions are raised and put forward that could improve the town I will always act.

Primary Care in Shoebury

This week, the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) held a board meeting to discuss Primary Care in Shoebury amongst other things including the proposal to send Blood Testing over 80 miles away in Bedford.

The CCG board announced that the proposal to build a new health centre on Gunners Park has been shelved for now which I'm sure will please many residents as when this option was first proposed some three years ago now had very little public support. I had my own objections to this particular scheme and even made a commitment never to support the proposal during my 2010 election campaign.

Due to concerns with the deterioration of Shoebury House the board also made the decision to stop providing services there with the current services undertaken moved to a number of different locations including the Thorpedene complex.

Some may have seen the article in yesterday's Echo confirming the closure of Shoebury House along with a picture of the Library at Thorpedene possibly giving the impression that Thorpedene Library was about to close as well. I will give the benefit of the doubt as the Echo may have intended to photograph the clinic,located in the same complex, to highlight that some services are about to be moved into Thorpedene.

Never the less, with how quickly the rumour mill can start, it is worth reassuring that there are no plans in the current budget to close any Libraries in the town. Whilst the majority of health provision does not fall under the council's responsibility, I will constantly challenge to ensure that the residents that my fellow ward colleagues and I represent have access to the best possible local healthcare provision.

No details have been given as to what the CCG will do with Shoebury House and is something that I will remain vigilant on. Details of the relocation of services from Shoebury House can be found in the briefing paper below which I was sent a copy of.