Thursday, 23 March 2017

Ric's unfinished matters

Last month Ric Morgan, former Liberal Democrat and Independent councillor, passed away.

I have just re-discovered this missive from him, sent just as he was departing the chamber in May 2015.

I do not necessarily agree with every sentiment, but I thought it worth sharing.





Ric Morgan.  
Colleagues,
                     In leaving SBC there are some matters I think it my duty to bring to your attention.
SAFE JOURNEYS TO SCHOOL
                                                Since the little lad was run over and killed on the London Road and safe journeys to school were discussed in the chamber, no road safety measures have been introduced.
                In Prittlewell the entrances to Earls Hall School are all on rat-runs and Officer Backhouse’s scheme for speed tables has been shelved. Crossing build-outs have been installed for Southend High for Boys but there is nothing on the same road, Prittlewell Chase, for the Chase School.
                Other ward members will have concerns of the same kind. You must not wait for the next child to be killed.
PRIMARY SCHOOL STANDARDS
                                                After six months of asking Leftley finally admitted that the head of Westleigh has been paid an extra £135,000 as executive head of failing primaries. Officer Theadom’s ‘School Improvement’ Team, whose only recourse is to bring in executive head teachers, costs £650,000pa.
                The executive heads are coaching schools to get them through Ofsted inspections but this is not giving help to the children who need it most.
                [The above matters comprise the principal reason why I can no longer be associated with Southend Borough Council.]
DEVELOPMENT CONTROL
                                                Monstrosities like the City Beach block of flats are being pushed through DC by officers who have prepared overlong reports and warned committee members of the dire consequences of opposing such developments [and officers’ wishes]. The committee needs to make it clear that members decide what will or will not be added to the landscape of our town and that officers must look to policy and regulations in order to implement those decisions, rather than putting difficulties in their way.
OFFICER SALARIES
                                Ron Woodley has not yet acted on his promise to review salaries in the Civic Centre and change the balance so that we have the number of social workers and other front-line workers our residents need, instead of more highly-paid managers than any town needs.
                [SBC pays £695,000pa to the firm running Garons – so what does Officer Harris do?]
                This is one matter for which calling in an outside consultant could be justified.
COMMUNICATIONS
                                With ‘Outlook’ being cut to one issue per annum, residents will be obliged to depend on the council website. When Tower Hamlets did a survey on how effective this might be it was found that only 22% of residents were able to use the website and a mere 9% of over-60s. When I asked Officer Corrigan to survey figures for Southend I was met with the usual obstructive insolence.
                I estimate that in Prittlewell 90% of older residents will be cut off from council communications, which suits senior officers but any member expecting residents to have their say on multi-million pound projects – or anything – must be seriously concerned.
OFFICER RESPONSES
                                After repeated complaints to the group leaders and the chief executive it is clear that nothing is done about officers who give unsatisfactory, slow responses to members’ questions. Back-bench members need to collect their findings with regard to officers’ responses and present them, naming names, to the cabinet.
You, the elected councillors, are the ones who make the decisions, take the responsibility and run our town.
Don’t be intimidated by deliberately confusing documents and threats of chaos.
Show ‘em who’s boss.
Goodbye and very, very, very good luck,
Ric


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