Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Lost Memory

One of my favourite pages in the Southend Echo has always been the letters pages. It is here where we see many councillors and party activists pen their musings to a wider audience. Unfortunately, on many occasions what they tell us differs greatly to their own or their local party's actions in the Civic Centre.

This week, for example, there was a letter from former Shoeburyness councillor Anne Chalk criticising the new library in Delaware Road and claiming the Administration has made Shoeburyness  the forgotten part of Southend.

What Anne Forgot to mention in her letter was that up until May this year, she was a member of the current Administration and had voted for the new library proposals which she now criticises. Some people will just never learn!

Monday, 14 September 2015

RIP Cllr Jill Lucas-Gill

Whilst this blog predominantly looks at the local political scene in Shoeburyness and Southend, I was made aware last week of the very sad news that Rochford District councillor Cllr Jill Lucas-Gill, a councillor in my own constituency of Rochford & Southend East suddly passed away. My thoughts are with Jill's husband Mike during this very difficult time.

Shoeburyness High School Planning Application

Shoeburyness High School is one of those rare examples in Southend where the schools exam results rival that of the town's Grammar school. This is no mean feat considering the areas of deprovation which form the school's catchment area.

The head teacher and all the school staff rightly should be commended and all the awards and congratulations are richly deserved.

There is, however, an issue which since my return on the Council has been gathering momentum and is causing a major headache to residents who live in nighbouring and surrounding roads to the school which is that of inconsiderate parking.

There is a tendancy for some who live close to schools to complain about absolutely everything, I except that, but during term time I receive numerous calls from residents about inconsiderate parking ranging from blocking drives, parking on pavements and yellow lives and parents droping their children off in the mornings and afternoons.

During the six weeks school holidays, I did not receive one single query. One Council meeting which still meets over the summer is that of Development & Control which judges the merits of planning applications.

I and my fellow colleagues were concerned with a recent planning application from Shoeburyness High School. I have no problem with good schools wanting to expand. In fact they schould be encouraged to do so as long as school recreation and playing fields are dispensed with in the process.

The concerns I had was with the loss of four parking spaces which was being proposed in the planning application. I was also furious that the School, as part of the planning application, had included all the car parking spaces in the public car park behind the school which serves the leisure centre, Shoebury Youth Centre and the new Library as current car park spaces within the school grounds.

Considering the issues with parking in the neighboring and surrounding roads I was pleased on this occasion that planning permission was refused. At present there are no current time restrictions on parking in this car park which invites school staff to park there all day.

This picture was taken on day two of the new school year and the new Library had not as yet opened its doors. There were only four available spaces. With the new library opening today, I expect my phone will be red hot today.

To help resolve this problem, I am please that the Conservatives suggestion of placing a time limit on this car park is on the agenda of this weeks meeting of the Traffic & Parking Working Party. It is a measure which will receive my full support.

New Shoebury Library

As a councillor, I always get copied into all the official press releases that the Council issues. As you would expect, press releases are usually bland with the Council press office unwilling to engage as spin doctors for the relative political parties.

The press release issued on the opening of the new Shoeburyness Library today was an exception and I have made my feelings to the Town Clerk and the Corporate Director known.

To be clear from the outset, I am delighted that Shoeburyness has got a new library and it is welcomed that the current Administration came to this conclusion following their review of the previous Conservative Administration's proposals.

It is here that the congratulations have to stop. The press release issued late last month implies that under the Conservatives, the new Library would have been staffed by volunteers. This simply wasn't the case.

Under the Conservatives, the new Library would have been run by fully paid staff, under this Administration, the new Shoeburyness Library will only have one fully paid member of staff with the remainder being volunteers. I will leave it for residents and readers of this blog to decide whether the existing arrangements at the new Library under this Administration was better than was proposed by the last Conservative Administration.

Conservative Southend Borough Council candidates

A task this summer for my local Conservative Association was to select candidates to fight the local elections in May 2016. I am pleased to announce that the candidates selected in the East of the town are as follows:

Kursaal - Simon Gittus
Milton - Deborah Lennen-Wood
Thorpe - Jon Bacon
Shoeburyness - Sue Abrahams
Southchurch - Alex Bright
St Lukes - Del Thomas
West Shoebury - Cllr Derek Jarvis
Victoria - Denis Garne

One noticeable name omitted for the list of names is that of current sitting Southchurch councillor David Garston. On the contary to what has been published on the local blogssphere, David has moved to Leigh and decided to fight a seat in the West of the town.

I was delighted to hear that David has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Prittlewell and look forward to seeing David return to the Council albiet in a different ward. I wish David all the very best during his campaign.

New Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate

Over the weekend, I was part of the Essex wide selection panel to choose a new Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidate following the current PCC Nick Alston's decision to step down when his term of office finishes in May.

Following a long an exhausting day, Essex councillor and Deputy Leader of Brentwood Council Cllr Roger Hurst was selected. I look forward to working with Roger over the coming months.

Back After The Break

I have had a few emails recently asking if I am continuining with my blog. Fear not, all the latest news, views and comment will continuite to feature, it just took a short break over the political silly season.

Although this blog took a break, my work didn't. Normally, over the school holiday period the workload eases somewhat as there are no formal scheduled Council meetings but the queries and dealing with residents concerns were particularly high this year. Here are some of the things which I had been involved with:
  • Dumped rubbish and missed waste collections
  • Highways and pavement defects
  • Overgrown weeds
  • Parking issues around Shoeburyness High School
  • The new Shoeburyness Library car park
  • The Tennis courts in the Garrison
  • Travellers at the Shoeburyness war memorial
  • Street Surgery in West Road
The two main stories over the summer locally were the shambles that the Independent Party have become on Southend Council and the Labour leadership election. I will explore these subjects in separate posts.