Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Lack Of Joined Up Thinking

Today Labour launched their latest policy. I am not referring to their owls for everyone announcement, but the hapless Ed Miliband's announcement that a Labour Government would remove benefits for the jobless youth who refuse to take training courses to gain key skills.

Back in March however, Labour made their first General Election manifesto commitment, the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, for the young unemployed for the whole of the next Parliament. This poses the question as to why the need for today's policy announcement when you have already pledged to give every young person a job.

It makes you wonder if this was a media stunt to sound tough on Welfare or a lack of joined up thinking with policy made up on the hoof.

The Enforcers

It has taken less than a couple of weeks before we saw the Echo headlines of splits in the rainbow coalition, surpassing the time allocated by even the greatest of sceptics. I thought it may take a couple of months.

What will come as no surprise is that the issue which caused the rift was the flood defences at Shoebury Common. The quality that I like in politicians, whatever the colour of their rosette. is standing true to their beliefs and principles.

Cllr Julian Ware-Lane is one of those breed. It would appear that the Thorpe Independent Party playground bullies, messers Woodley and Terry, have rounded upon Julian because he had the audacity to criticise their blatant disregard for local democracy before the ink has had a chance to dry on the rainbow coalition agreement.

What really did tickle my sides was Cllr Terry claiming that Julian needs to decide whether he is inside or outside the tent. This from the man who claims that the Independent Party were always free to speak out on any issue they liked. Yet the moment a party politician dares criticise him and speak their mind on an issue he goes ballistic in the local press.

It has been noticeable since the elections how quiet the backbench Independent Party members have been. Nicely, whipped into line you could say.

East Beach To Re-open

There was some fantastic news for local residents, traders and visitors to East Beach as the Council have announced that Shoebury East Beach is set to re-open. Here is the joint statement by the Council and the MoD:

Joint statement from the MOD and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

“During the recent two-day explosive ordnance reconnaissance undertaken by the Royal Navy Southern Diving Group, 130 metallic items were excavated and classified, none were found to be ordnance or ordnance-related items. Two items of ordnance were found on the surface during a separate visual search. These were made safe through a controlled explosion and disposed of by the EOD team.

“Following this work, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provided the council with an assessment of the work and information to enable it to complete a risk assessment for the area of Shoebury East Beach licensed from MOD. 

“The council will now carry out its risk assessment and produce a programme of mitigation measures that will allow the beach to be re-opened as soon as practicable. Mitigation measures recommended by MOD and agreed by the council will include installation of permanent warning signs, marker buoys to identify the licensed area and additional awareness training of relevant resort and other council staff and contractors.

“To enable the beach to be re-opened quickly, the council will be producing temporary signage ahead of the permanent measures being put in place.  As soon as this signage is ready, the fences will be removed and the beach re-opened.  The council anticipates this work will take place by the end of the week.

“There remains potential for ordnance to be found at East Beach in the future. However, we are content that, following the reconnaissance operation and with the mitigation measures that will be put in place, the risk will be appropriately managed. The public are reminded that surrounding MOD beaches remain out of bounds.”

Cllr Graham Longley, Deputy Leader of the Council said:

“I am delighted that following the meeting yesterday with the MOD, we expect the beach to be re-opened by the end of the week.

“I fully supported the decision that was taken to temporarily close the beach, given the situation at the time, and given that more work needed to be carried out to understand the risk to public safety. It was quite right that a safety first approach was adopted ahead of more information being made available.
“The reconnaissance found no ordnance in the 130 sample areas, and a number of mitigation measures to manage the risk have been identified that we have agreed to that has satisfied us that we can take the decision to re-open the beach.”

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Hat-Trick

In little over a week, we have seen the new rainbow coalition spearheaded by the 'beacon of democracy' Ron Woodley ride roughshod over the local democratic process on three occasions. Congratulations they get to keep the match ball!

This time, the portfolio holder drunk on his own self importance is Cllr Martin Terry. The new supremo for Sea Defences has announced that the sea defences proposal for Shoebury Common have been scraped. It is ironic that Cllr Terry, one of the cheerleaders in claiming that the previous Conservative administration was undemocratic, has single handedly just scrapped a decision. As fellow blogger and member of the new rainbow coalition Cllr Julian Ware-Lane points out, a decision taken by one is even less democratic!

When you read the small print of the article however, the sea defences proposals indeed have not been scrapped, they are merely being reviewed. Those who follow this blog know my views on the sea defences defences. The views of the Independent Party on this issue are muddled to say the least.

When ward councillors were first appraised by officers on the current proposals following the shambolic initial consultation, the new leader of the Council Cllr Ron Woodley, claimed in the meeting that we should stuff the Beach Hut owners and just get on and build it. He then proposed his own flood defences scheme and finally joined a protest against any flood defences at Shoebury Common back in December. It would appear that Cllr Terry now wants to build on the existing sea wall. Does he want Shoebury Common to look like Canvey Island?

It does remain to be seen whether the current proposals will be scrapped. I say this as when both Cllr Woodley and Cllr Terry had the chance to ask Cabinet to re-look at the proposals during the scrutiny debate on this item, they chose not to. Also, their Labour and Lib Dem coalition colleagues supported the current proposals.

It would also be mildly amusing to see the Battle Royal between the vested parties if after the review the original proposals were endorsed. From the whispers I am hearing from corridors of the Civic Centre, lead me to believe that this is the most likely outcome as any new scheme will require additional borrowing which both UKIP and Uncle Ron allegedly disapprove of.

As the article says, there is a very real possibility that the Environment Agency could withdraw funding for improved defences. There is also a widely accepted risk of a 1 in 5 years at certain parts of Shoebury Common and I would not want to be in Cllr Terry's shoes if, god forbid, it floods due to his imposed delay, as the new councillor for Public Protection will have failed in his duty - to protect the public.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Cllr Longley - The Saviour

It would seem from the announcement in today's Echo that the new rainbow administration ploughs on in its undemocratic mannor. Last week, we saw the public announcement of the new administration before Full Council had voted in a leader riding roughshod over the local democratic process.

This week it is the announcement from Cllr Longley that he has instructed officers to 'stop work on the Library proposals'. Now, I may old fashioned, but I believe in adhering to protocols. For a Council decision to be reversed, only Council would have the ability to do so by putting a proposal paper reversing the decision through Cabinet and then being subject to scrutiny. So it would seem on the whim of any portfolio holder in this new administration a decision can be reversed.

Photographed with Cllr Longley was the new Council leader Ron Woodley, the man who supported the Library proposals by voting for them in the past two Conservative budgets. Why the sudden U-Turn?

Any delay in implementing an agreed budget decision will result in cost implications for the authority. Less than a week in, are the new administration preparing to raid the rainy day reserves already? It does however remain to be seen whether the original decision will be reversed.

What this does mean is that the announcement delays, or, puts a nail in the coffin for the new hub library which was planned to be located in West Shoebury for the benefit of all Shoebury residents. Is this what residents voted for on the 22nd May?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


The Newark by-election win last Thursday for the Conservatives was an important win. It was the first time in 25 years that the Conservatives retained a parliamentary seat in a by-election whilst in power.

This isn't the reason why the by-election victory was important. It was important as it was the first time in a long while that the party showed that it is returning to to the effective campaigning machine that the opposition once feared.

It was also important for momentum. It gives the party momentum leading into the General Election as just a week before, UKIP topped the European poll in Newark.

The win has also given momentum in the opinion polls as a YouGov poll released this evening shows the Labour lead now down to just two percentage points with the Conservatives up 4 and UKIP down three, demonstrating that UKIP support is coming back to the Conservatives.

The YouGov/Sun poll tonight:

CON 35% (+4%)
LAB 37% (=)
LD 8% (+1%)
UKIP 12% (-3%)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Southend Half Marathon

Earlier today, on route to a duck feeding session with Miss Cox at Shoeburyness Park we had a detour to the end of our road to give encouragement to the runners in the Southend Half Marathon.

This cast my mind back some 10 years ago when I tackled the Southend Half Marathon. All the runners will have had their own reasons for tackling the 13.1 mile course and the gruelling heat with vast sums raised for good causes in the process. They were an inspiration, each and every one of  them.

I was shocked to learn this evening that one of the runners died at the finish line after completing the course. My sincere condolences and thoughts this evening are with the friends and family of the inspirational runner.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

99 Ness Road

Appearing at the Development & Control Committee is the planning application for a Morrisons local store at 99-101 Ness Road.

This planning application was deferred from the last planning committee due to concerns regarding parking and the busy junction at Campfield Road. I have no particular issue with Morrisons coming to this location. In fact I think most residents will welcome the competition.

Having read the report on this planning application for the committee next week, I can not believe that the planning department believe 11 car parking spaces will resolve all these issues. Whilst the 11 spaces are welcome, I wonder in the longer term if they will be enough.

I say this as during the election campaign, I was talking to the manager of the Sainsburys local in the Garrison who mentioned that they were considering submitting a planning application to increase the number of parking spaces.

The 11 car parking spaces I would accept and agree to but not for the planning department to suggest that no further modifications to an already busy will be needed. I hope the Development & Control Committee take this into consideration when deciding the Morrisons application next week.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Deed Has Been Done

Unlike the new rainbow coalition, I have decided to wait until the end of Full Council to offer my comments on the new administration.

I know my former colleague Nigel Holdcroft and Labour Milton councillor Julian Ware-Lane have made their feelings known about jumping the gun, but I do find it truly astonishing that Ron Woodley and the rest of the Independent Party had the audacity to continuously claim that the past Conservative administration was 'undemocratic' yet in the Echo yesterday, Ron was paraded as the new leader before Full Council had even elected him.

With the parade in yesterday's Echo, clearly breaking the Bell Principles that he and the Independent Party supposedly sign up to, Ron can no longer claim to be independent of party politics as he will lead a cabinet which includes two. Gone also is the claim to be a 'Conservative at heart' as the two political parties he has jumped into bed with are left wing. These actions now confirm what some have thought for a while that he is nothing more than a phoney with an ego the size of Southend Pier to match.

Whilst the electorate made clear on the 22nd May that they did not wish to see a Conservative administration, with the battering the Lib Dems took, the residents of Southend did not want them in an administration either.

Of the new portfolio holders, the one inspired choice for me is Cllr Anne Jones who will hold the Education portfolio. From my time on the council I always felt that Anne, party politics aside, had the best interests of Southend children at heart.

Will the rainbow coalition last? I have my doubts. It is going to be very different for the Independent, Labour and Lib Dem parties fighting the next local elections in 2015 defending their record as an administration rather than criticising from opposition. I think we are going to be in for some very interesting times.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Meet The Commissioner

This afternoon I managed to catch up with the Channel 4 documentary Meet The Commissioner, which was a fly on the wall documentary focusing on the Independent Kent Police & Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes.

It was truly the most cringe worthy documentary I have ever seen. At times poor Ann reminded me of the Ricky Gervais character David Brent from the Office as Ann Barnes travelled in a van she dubbed 'Ann Force 1', had difficulty explaining an approach to policing priorities called 'the onion' and brought her dogs into the office.

She also failed to write her title correctly on a whiteboard, was filmed painting her 'flaky' nails, compared the force to a tin of paint that she wanted to 'prise' open and rolled up in a Mercedes after saying 'I could have chosen a top of the range Mercedes, but that's not my style.

It was a disaster from start to finish. I think, sadly, it has turned Kent Police by association into something of a laughing stock. Ann Barnes became the most high-profile of the country’s 41 crime tsars a year ago when The Mail on Sunday revealed her £15,000 youth commissioner, Paris Brown, 17, had posted a series of highly offensive comments online.

Paris Brown wrote the messages during the last six months before she was given the role of helping the force ‘stay in touch with young people’. She called homosexuals ‘fags’, immigrants ‘illegals’ and travellers ‘pikeys’, and said she had ‘a thing for older men’, an apparent reference to a teacher at her former school. Mrs Barnes tried to save the teenager's job, but Brown was forced to quit.

This programme was a timely reminder of what residents face when they elect Independents which are elevated into positions of power. Whilst the party political system may not be perfect, candidates are vetted to ensure competence and suitability for the roles.