Thursday 30 June 2016

In denial, or just plain dumbstruck

Audit is not everyone's cup of tea. Strange, but true. Some, so I am led to believe, find it rather dry. Yeah, people, huh?

Anyways, I had the pleasure of an Audit Committee meeting last night. almost two whole hours of boundless fun.

It really is important that rigorous oversight. Everything that Southend-on-Sea Borough Council does is paid for by tax-payers. These tax payers are entitled to know that their money is not being wasted, is being spent with all proper controls in place and being adhered to.

Anyways, anyways, anyways. As with all parts of the council, audit is attempting to do its job with shrinking resources. It is managing to cover the council, but whether that will still be true with more cuts to come, I guess only time will tell.

For the first time in my four years as a councillor I asked a question that was unable to be answered.

Under the agenda item Corporate Risk Register 2016/17 it became clear that the council is expecting to maintain services despite some pretty severe medicine in the form of reduced fiscal resources.

So, I asked : One question springs to mind when I look at these numbers. If the council can provide its services after making all these 'savings' (cuts) then one wonders why it was so wasteful in years gone by?

This was met by a wall of silence.

The reality is that cuts in money will mean cuts in services.  There is a mindset of denial of the reality of the situation facing all of us. Public services are being rolled back.

Fighting the threat to the Westborough Health Centre

Tuesday, St.Andrew's church. A gathering of more than thirty patients from the Westborough Health Centre. Three Labour councillors also attended (Jones, Ware-Lane, Wilis), two because they are also patients registered at this surgery.

There is a sense that there is an agenda to close WHC down, that all one-doctor surgeries are being squeezed out in favour of the new large health centres. This, it seems , is the agenda at large when the NHS is in the hands of Conservatives.

This has been my surgery for more years than I care to count, since I was a child in fact. But my desire to keep it open has nothing to do with dewy-eyed nostalgia, and everything to do with the fact that Dr Bhattacharjee is a good doctor, a popular doctor. He has always provided a first class service for me.

This surgery has been damned by the Care Quality Commission. This is at odds with my experience. I have recently had good cause to celebrate the excellent care given here, and my diagnosis to cure period of under two months for a very serious condition is testament to the diligence and care given me. I may well have suffered considerably had I been registered elsewhere.

My new lease of life is not entirely due to Dr Bhattacharjee, but he can claim significant credit. I hope he has many years of practise in front of him, and I hope that this is delivered at the Westborough Health Centre.

Monday 27 June 2016

Roots that make uneven pavements

Nature fights back, abetted by sloppy weed control

I am an unabashed nature lover. I particularly enjoy seeing it thrive it challenging circumstances. I enjoy our native flora and fauna, and see exoticness is what others would class as mundane. Therefore, nature being allowed to encroach into urban life should fill me with joy.

To be honest, in some places, such as waste grounds or derelict sites, I do get real joy from seeing nature beautify what would otherwise remain ugly. However, I am not sure whether our streetscene benefits from the intrusion of large weeds.

See some greenery in these place reminds me that we could make the borough greener. Sometimes, though, the size and spread of weeds only makes the place look shoddy and unlooked after.

Friday 24 June 2016

Shock and awe

I left the count shortly after midnight reasonably confident that whilst Southend-on-Sea might favour Leave, the country as a whole would give Remain a narrow victim. My radio alarm this morning quickly disabused me of that notion. I was shocked into a fully awake state. The enormity of what has happened has still to sink in.

The Leave vote got a decisive 58.1% in Southend-on-Sea. There was no result by ward but the counting looked pretty even in Milton ward.

We must respect the result, even if it strikes some of us as lunacy. I think it somewhat highlights the dangers of government by referenda, and David Cameron decision to buy off the Euro-sceptic arm of his Conservative Party by promising this vote will hang over and damage his legacy.

I hope predictions of economic disaster do not come to pass, although day one has not gone well for the UK economy. We certainly have some challenges ahead. The young may well wonder as time goes by just what their parents and grandparents have bequeathed them.

As to what Southend Labour does, well it carries on. This vote does not really affect our day-to-day job of trying to make our borough a better place to live in, although we (the collective voice of voters here) have clearly signalled to those who have come here from abroad that not all of us welcome them. I do not expect an exodus of migrants from this corner of Essex, and so we must ensure that they are assured that they are welcome. I fear that we may see divided communities, I hope I am wrong.

Essex is certainly very sceptical of the EU. Whilst Southend-on-Sea the is 133rd most sceptic local authority (judged by the percentage that Leave got), Castle is 3rd (72.7% vote Leave) and Thurrock is 4th (72.3%).

I am proud to be an Essex man, if somewhat abashed by the attitudes of my neighbours. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Just nice things

Just nice things, some of them at least. Junk shop, second-hand emporium, keeper of the past, treasure trove, charity shop. Bargains galore! Recycled; one person's rubbish is another's riches.

Begone is me, an alien to Southend West

Last night, my last Southend West Constituency Labour Party meeting. For a while anyway. Who knows what the impending boundary review will bring (I hope for a Southend Central seat, but that argument is for another day).

I have only been a member of one CLP up to my recent house move. I now can proudly talk of belonging to Rochford and Southend East CLP. I held my positions in Southend West up to the annual general meeting, and this was last night.

I lose my twin roles of Treasurer and Trade Union Liaison Officer. I now hold no Labour positions outside of those acquired as a councillor. I feel almost naked as a result, like an outsider. I will look to having a role in my new ward and constituency, but that is for later.

So, begone is me from Southend West. They, the eighteen others assembled last night,  elected the following officers:

Chair - Charles Willis
Vice chair campaigns - Margaret Borton
Vice chair membership - Cheryl Nevin
Treasurer - Hilary Scarnell
Secretary - Kevin Robinson
Women - Maxine Sadza
Trade union liaison - Alex Nicholas
Youth - Israel Genius
Political education - Tony Borton
Information technology - Mick Ekers

St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition