Friday, 26 July 2013

Southend Council In Numbers

45 parks and open spaces including 4 Green Flag award winning parks, nature reserves and woodlands.
- 1 eighteen hole golf course and 1 nine hole pitch and put
- 11 cricket squares, 11 bowling greens, 35 football pitches, 8 rugby pitches and 20 tennis courts
- 27 children's play areas
- 837 allotment plots
- 20,000 street trees
- 9.8 hectares of road side shrubs
- 90 bridges
- 110 traffic signal control junctions
- 450km of roads
- 900km of footways
- 20,000 pot holes repaired last year
- 7km of cycle tracks refurbished
- 2,327 footway/carriageway defects investigated last year
- 75,000 tonnes of waste collected each year with 38,000 tonnes recycled
- 16,000 garden waste customers
- 4,000 bulky waste collections each year
- 200,000 visits by residents each year to the Household Waste Recycling Centres
- 8,300 square metres of graffiti removed
- 26 public toilets
- 300 litter bins along our seafront

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Local Government Finance

The issue of Local Government was again debated at full council on Thursday night. Although this issues has been explored over the years on this blog it is worth revisiting. We heard from the opposition parties the usual cries that 'borrowing is out of control' and 'our borrowing costs represent 33% of council tax'.

Whilst I accept that Local Government finance isn't the most sexy of subjects in the world, I would clearly expect members to understand as it impacts decision that they make. All councils from John O'Groats to Lands End have their annual revenue budgets made up of three parts:

1. Central Government Grant
2. Fees and Charges
3. Council Tax Receipts

Whilst all councils have a revenue budget, sitting side by side this budget is what is known as a capital budget. This budget pays for one off projects like the building of a new road for example. This budget is comprised in two parts:

1. An amount of money taken away from the revenue budget at the start of the financial year
2. Money that has been borrowed from the banks

Most projects can be what is known as an invest to save, for example, a new building can be much more energy efficient and will save vast amounts on electricity costs as well as maintenance costs as it is a new building.

What the opposition do, especially the Independent Party, is take the borrowing repayments and only offset these against Council Tax receipts and not the entire revenue budget. What the Independent Party also fail to tell residents is that whilst they publicly disapprove of borrowing they have also supported the vast amount of new projects in this town, which, guess what, have been done by borrowing money. Where the Independent Party have no responsibilities of power and just snipe from the sidelines they can say one thing and then do another and think that residents will not notice.

Setting a budget for a council is really no different than setting a family household budget. Like a council budget, a family budget can be comprised by many different parts, for example, one full time wage, one part time wage and child tax credits.

Taking this make believe family and their budget, this family decide that they need to invest in a new car that is more economical on petrol to save on petrol. The family decide that they do not have the money outright but decide that they will get a bank loan to buy a new car as they can afford the repayments.

One of the Independent Party knock on their door and try and convince the family that they supported them in getting a new car but claim their borrowing was wrong as it represented 33% of the Child Tax Credits that they receive. This is the fallacy of their argument. Don't be fooled.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Development of Lower Thames Rowing Club Boat House

At Full Council on Thursday evening, the development of a Boat House for the Lower Thames Rowing Club on Two Tree Island was approved by 30 votes to 17. I was delighted to be one of the 30.

The proposal involves the council making a £200,000 one off capital investment and £150,000 match funding for the project obtained by Sport England. The project had by full support as it is another example of our Olympic Legacy and in addition will be the catalyst for some much needed TLC for Two Tree Island which is a well used and loved by many.

When the paper was first presented I did have some concerns but was happy to give my support as Cabinet agreed with the proposal on the basis that:

(a) Match funding being obtained from Sport England (If the match funding cannot be secured, then Cabinet would reconsider whether to progress with the project)

(b) The preparation of a sports development plan demonstrating how community involvement will be increased with the development of the facility 
(c) The provision of improved facilities for the Pier and Foreshore services.
(d) A reasonable level of rent being achieved in the context of the revenue cost of borrowing.

There was some opposition to the scheme which seemed to be centred around the issues that Rowing is an 'elitist' sport. True, in years gone by Rowing may have been seen as an elitist sport but with one of the conditions of approval being a sports development plan demonstrating how community involvement will be increased, this ensures that schools and communities across the social spectrum in the town will be able to access the sport of Rowing for the first time.

This whole elitist thing quite frankly annoys me. Tennis is classed as an elitist sport but would anyone object to Tennis Courts being provided by the council in our parks? No they wouldn't. The sport of Sailing is also perceived as being elitist. For those in the Independent Party who voted against the proposal but represent Thorpe ward, would they want to see the demise of Thorpe Bay Yacht Club as Sailing is perceived as elitist? Of course they wouldn't.

When this item was debated at scrutiny recently, one member, Cllr McMahon, asked for postcodes of the existing members of the Lower Thames Rowing Club which, quite rightly, angered the member whose ward Two Tree Island is in. Following the same logic, could you imagine the outcry from Cllr McMahon if a list of postcodes were asked for of residents in her ward who were in receipt of money from any state body.

Despite the issues the proposal has been given the go ahead but will be subject to planning permission being granted.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

13,000 Unnecessary Deaths

A report today by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director, exposed how up to 13,000 patients died needlessly at 14 trusts across England since 2005.

Shockingly, it was revealed in a parliamentary answer to Essex Conservative MP Priti Patel that Labour ministers were warned 1,547 times about conditions at the 14 hospital trusts. The findings undoubtedly pile pressure on shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who was in charge of the NHS from June 2009 to May 2010. The review finds that these hospitals failed on Labour's watch, Labour ministers then ignored the warnings and then the wall of silence.

It’s not really surprising that Labour spin doctors are pulling out all the stops on this issue. Labour have already lost the public’s confidence on running the Economy. They have lost the argument on benefits and are in the process of a screeching policy u-turn to align themselves with public opinion.

High youth unemployment suggests Labour’s education policies bred a whole generation of unemployable teenagers and voters are waking up to the strain that Labour’s open door immigration policies put on Schools, Housing, Hospitals and Jobs.

So if Labour lose public confidence on running the NHS as well, they really are going to be stuffed - especially with a poll putting Labour and Conservatives neck and neck in the opinion polls. Meanwhile, the Labour group in Southend celebrated a couple of weeks ago the NHS with cake. Talk about sticking the knife in! For how much longer do we have to keep on hearing that Labour are the party for the NHS.

A Safe Night Out

I was delighted to hear that Southend has retained it's Purple Flag status for the second year running.

Since receiving the award last year crime has decreased by 22% with over 60% of residents surveyed said they feel safer.

Congratulations are in order to all those involved for this tremendous achievement in winning purple flag status for the second time. Its a tribute to their hard work that Southend continues to be officially recognised as a safe place for a night out.

The Royal Pavillion

I was delighted to join the Duke of Kent and guests at the end of the Pier for the formal opening of the Cultural Centre and the new RNLI lifeboat station.

In what was a closely guarded secret, the Cultural Centre was formally re-named as the The Royal Pavillion. I am happy with the name change and think it is a darn sight better that the Cultural Centre.

I think the Duke of Kent was the perfect choice of guest to formally open The Royal Pavillion as it was his father who opened the extension of the Pier where The Royal Pavillion now sits in 1929.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Village Green

It was estimated that 33,000 wristbands were issued for the Village Green event in Chalkwell Park yesterday, with many experiencing long queues to gain entry.

After launching the Love Southend, Hate Litter campaign I spent all morning and early afternoon experiencing the atmosphere and sampling the many different varieties of music on offer.

Whilst there, I also paid a visit to the Cycle Southend tent, where like my colleague Cllr Holdcroft I had a cycle to help contribute power the LED screen. The hamster was just too temping but can assure you it wasn't as easy as it looked!

Love Southend, Hate Litter

Last weekend it was estimated that ten tonnes of litter was removed from our beaches as thousands flocked to Southend to bask in the hot weather in the busiet weekend of the year.

Despite the best efforts of our contractors to consistently empty the 300 plus bins along our seafront there were many visitors who still left rubbish on our beaches. This weekend, along with my colleague Cllr Jarvis, I was delighted to launch the Love Southend, Hate Litter campaign in conjunction with the Southend Echo.

The campaign, which will feature in tomorrow's Echo is designed to encourage visitors to the town to show embrace civic pride in the town. I am the first to recognise that we are fortunate to have a wonderful seafront which many want to come and enjoy. I want to encourage as many as possible to see and visit our wonderful beaches and attractions but also want to encourage people to deposit their rubbish responsibility.

My message is simple, come and enjoy Southend and feel free to deposit your rubbish in one of our 300 plus bins along our seafront or take your rubbish home with you but please consider residents and other visitors who want to see southend a clean, safe and pleasant place.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Have Your Say On Policing Issues

The next Police and Crime Commissioner public meeting discussing crime and policing issues, will take place in Southend-on-Sea on Monday July 15, 2013. 

Time: 17:30 to 19:30, Monday July 15
Location: Lecture Theatre, Central Library, Victoria Avenue, Southend, SS2 6EX
Further details on the Police and Crime Commissioner event in Southend can be found here,

Shoebury Fair

After the launch of the Shop Local Month in West Road it was over to the Shoebury Fair.

Following its absence last year to the appalling weather, the Shoebury Fair returned this year at its new home of the old Hinguar School field blessed this time with one of the hottest days of the year so far.

Containing fun for all the family, there were local groups and clubs promoting the clubs and rasing money for this years chosen charity SHARE.

I know that the committee spend a considerable amount of time organising the event and congratulations are in order for Shoeburyness ward councillors Cllr Roger Hadley and Cllr Mike Assenheim, Marion Livermore from the Shoebury Residents Association and Karen Stock OBE and her team from the extended schools consortium for making the event possible and a huge success.

Shop Local Launch

Yesterday, I was joined by by ward colleague Cllr Derek Jarvis, James Duddridge MP and members of the West Road Community & Traders Association for the launch of the West Road Shop Local Month.

To encourage residents to support our local shops and businesses in West Road, traders displaying the shop local sign will give residents a 5% discount on purchases when they present a voucher from the 6th July - 6th August

Over the past few week, I have delivered 4,000 leaflets to all homes in West Shoebury promoting Shop Local in West Road giving all households two vouchers. If residents have misplaced their voucher, you can download one here.

Friday, 5 July 2013

EU Referendum Moves A Step Closer

Today, MPs in Parliament debated and voted 304 to zero on take the Conservative EU Referendum Bill to the second stage to legislate for an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017.

No institution can survive without the people’s support and the EU that will emerge from the Eurozone crisis may look very different from the EU before that crisis. Every country in the EU will have to make potentially fundamental choices about their place in Europe as a result and the future shape of Europe for decades will be determined by those choices.

That is why it is Conservative policy to seek reform so that the EU can become more competitive and flexible for the modern age. We want powers to come back to the countries of the EU and so that national parliaments, the indispensable vessels of democracy, can have a more powerful role and then, as our Bill would do, put the decision in the hands of the British people.

That is why every MP who is a true democrat can and should unite behind the EU Referendum Bill as it progresses through Parliament. It is about letting the people decide.

Shoebury Park Consultation

On Monday the 8th July, a consultation will be launched on future refurbishment of Shoeburyness Park. An online questionnaire will be available to be completed here. The questionnaire will only take a few minutes to complete and give residents the opportunity to have their say and comment on areas like feeling safe which have already been raised by local Shoebury councillors.

Len McCluskey’s Unite union is taking over the Labour Party

A storm is brewing after Labour have referred the selection of its 2015 General Election candidate in Falkirk to the Police. According to an internal Labour report, Unite members were being signed up to the local party without their knowledge in a bid to rig the contest. This row threatens to engulf the party into all out Civil War.

Unite have dominated Labour’s candidate selections.  28 Labour candidates selected so far are linked to Unite. This means over 40 per cent of Labour’s target seats are in the hands of Unite. The Union have also bankrolled Labour to the tune of £8.4 million since Ed Miliband became leader – the biggest single donor to the Party.

A leaked internal Unite report this week also shows that Unite have been ‘supporting’ Unite candidates in 41 Labour PPC selections across the country, including Falkirk.

Not content with trying to takeover the Labour Party from the bottom up, Unite are also trying to take it over from the top. It is worth remembering that Unite contributed £115,000 to his leadership campaign fund and urged all its members to vote for Ed Milliband in the leadership election.

Ever since, Ed Milliband has danced to Unite's tune. In Februay this year, Unite Leader Len McClusky attacked free schools, so did Ed Milliband at Prime Ministers Question Time this week. Len McClusky opposed the Welfare Reform Bill, so did Labour. In 2010 Len McClusky attacked the government's plans to get spending under control, Labour, since 2010, have opposed every measure to get public spending under control. You get the picture.

Ed Milliband knows that to stand a chance in the General Election he can not be seen as a puppet to the unions, yet knows that they are bankrolling the party and has to dance to their tune. What is clear, is that Ed Miliband is a weak leader who could not take the tough decisions needed to cut the deficit, fix the welfare system and turn Britain around.

If he cannot stand up to Len McCluskey, he cannot stand up for hardworking people. If he can not lead his Party, then he certainly can not lead the country.