So, some indiscriminate notes from some recent meetings.
At the Full Council meeting of February 25th I asked two questions. The first was this:
Southend West Conservatives plans are for a reinstatement of a five day a week rubbish collection. Can the Portfolio Holder tell me how much this would cost the Council (and therefore council tax payers) each year?
My supplementary to this - Would the portfolio holder like to consider what we could lose if this Conservative proposal was accepted? Would he agree with me that this could threaten libraries, children centres, and other public services if implemented?
My second question: With the recent sad news of a fourth murder in a little over two years in a small part of Milton ward, public concerns are naturally focussed on community safety. Will the Portfolio Holder confirm that the Council is working with the Police to ensure that Milton ward residents can feel and be safe?
My supplementary: Does the portfolio holder think that Government cuts to policing has stretched resources and made policing a lot more difficult, particularly in a built up area like central Southend?
During the Budget debate I spoke as follows:
This is my fourth budget. Each one has been crafted against an austere backdrop. Each has presented the administration with the challenge of maintaining important public services in spite of dwindling resources. Government cuts, Conservative Government cuts, have meant job losses and a diminution of the services we provide.
Had the Joint Administration not sought the savings it has achieved in the waste management contract, for instance, then our services would have seen more cuts.
Thank goodness we have ignored the wanton profligacy espoused by Southend West Conservatives.
In the round, this is a fair budget. The administration has strove to preserve libraries and a children centres, and I am delighted that Southend is building council houses again. I am pleased that the eyesore that is the empty office blocks in Victoria Avenue is being tackled, at last. I am delighted that we are not building barely utilised kiosks at over £600,000 a throw.
Of course I regret the cuts, savings, efficiencies, that have been forced upon us, but I can support this budget with an easy conscience, especially as the alternatives are less than palatable.
By the way, if there is a tax on dying as claimed by the Conservatives, then I will be happy to avoid that tax as long as possible. However, I see this as another example of Tory mis-description.
I have to say that I am appalled by the Tory leader's description of pregnant teenagers as "a problem" - no child should be seen or describes as such.
The budget was passed by a narrow margin.
I spoke on Minute 521 - Notice of motion - Refugees, and on Minute 523 - Notice of Motion - Sunday Trading. Both of these motions were broadly accepted by the administration.
Minute 619 - Notice of Motion - Southend Borough Patrol - was referred back to Cabinet.
The meeting lasted six and a half hours, and even then the last two items were carried over.
I attended the Clifftown Neighbourhood Watch and Community Group meeting and the Place in-depth scrutiny witness gathering meeting on proposals for a borough-wide 20mph speed limit. This last meeting had seven males and two females present.
I am in favour of more 20mp zones, but am less than certain a borough-wide blanket limit (excepting main routes) is at all desirable.