Thursday 29 December 2016

Recent events unrecorded

A choir sings, Civic Centre

I used to attempt to record much of my community activity, somehow I struggle to find the time nowadays to be as prolific a blogger as I once was. To be fair, though, I never intending my blog go be a diary, nor pretended it was ever complete.

East Uropean Cultural Festival
Westborough Christnas fair: Cllrs Robinson, Jones and Ware-Lane
Sometimes I miss writing stuff about interesting or important issues. The trouble is, there is much to enervate the mind, and too few hours to really do much. At times I have the choice of action or writing, and writing has to take the back seat.

Poetry at the 24WA charity art auction
However, I do as much as I can, and I hope that after a year that has seen ill health that I will be back to full speed in my activism.

Here are some recent photos; I hope you like them. Here's to a successful 2017.


Menorah lighting, five councillors and a rabbi

Thursday 22 December 2016

Webcasting costs

When the webcasting of our council meetings at Southend-on-Sea was first floated (in 2012) as an idea I was almost alone in making my objections known. Whilst not opposed in principle to the idea of broadcasting of our meetings, I thought this exercise in vanity was ill-timed when set against the backdrop of serious and deep cuts.

At the last Full Council a UKIP councillor asked about the cost of broadcasting our meetings, and here is the response that has been sent to all councillors :-

Live Views
After Event Views
Average viewing time
Unique View total
25 Feb 2016
1 hour 10 mins
21 Apr 2016
13 mins
21 Apr 2016
1 hour 24 mins
12 May 2016
18 mins
19 May 2016
24 mins
21 July 2016
46 minutes
20 Oct 2016
1 hour
15 Dec 2016
1 hour 11 mins


*Note; Live views and after event views are not always unique, if someone watches a recording 3 times this will register as 3 after event views.

The cost of Public-I is £10,102.00 plus VAT per year.

The above cost does not include set-up, but since this has already been spent then I guess we can ignore that now. Whether the ongoing costs are worth it is, I guess, a matter of opinion. Set against other cuts it will still seem extravagant to some.

Leaves and weeds

 Seven months have elapsed since the Conservative-UKIP coalition took control of the Council chamber in Southend-on-Sea. On their watch one has seen a distinctly indifferent performance across a variety of sectors. Perhaps it has been worse in the area of waste collection. 

When the leaves began to fall, and then stay for some time clogging pavements and gutters, it began to look like another failing. However, whilst the council contractor was slow in clearing them, clear they eventually did. Well, mostly. There are still some patches where piles of leaves can be found.

The slowness did make for dangerous pavements and roads (I skidded on a large pile of leaves made slippery by heavy rain); they also obscured parking bays. The leaves hid also sorts of hazards whilst they awaited clearing.

This was not just my experience, but of the many residents who reported their concerns to me.

I accept that instantly cleared streets everywhere is not possible, but I struggle to understand why many roads lay buried under autumn leaves for several weeks.

What has been noticeable over a far longer period is the foliage that adorns our pavements. A few will doubtless welcome nature's brief triumph. Many will wonder why the borough has allowed to become so scruffy.

A short-term period of growth is sometimes difficult to manage, but sustained neglect over many months takes some explaining.

Scruffy Southend now appears to be home to a plague of litter-bugs - or perhaps litter clearance is another example of a slow and inefficient service overseen by the Tory-led administration.

Monday 19 December 2016

A bar chart to savour

I am not always a fan of bar charts. Sometimes they can be quite misleading. The Liberal Democrats are notorious for their use of them. However, in a year that saw me re-elected as Councillor for Milton ward, with a significant bump on both my majority and vote share I thought I would share a bar chart with you.

Vote share % May 2016
 Here is Milton's recent electoral record, Labour-wise:

2010  2nd  22.8%
2011  2nd  32.5%
2012  1st  35.8%
2014 1st  36.4%
2015  2nd  37.8%
2016  1st 45.3%

In six years the Labour vote share has nearly doubled, and in spite of increasing numbers of candidates. Milton now boasts the largest number of Labour votes in Southend-on-Sea. Not bad for this once Tory-stronghold.

My thanks to all who have helped make this happen.

Friday 16 December 2016

Irresponsible Southend Tories signal a return to profligacy

Last night's Full Council was characterised by several underwhelming performances by portfolio holders. This included an unconvincing effort at defending the extravagance that is "Celebrating 125 years of the Borough of Southend-on-Sea & the Centenary of Priory Park being gifted to the Town".

The Conservative Deputy Leader certainly could not persuade me that spending £580,000 on an arbitrary anniversary when austerity has seen enormous cuts over the last six years, with the promise of more, is a good idea.

Whilst I am happy to celebrate, I think we should be concerned that profligacy has once again returned to Southend-on-Sea's Borough Council. The next round of Council meetings will see the Budget, and any large-scale cuts will stand in stark contrast to this proposed expenditure. 

We have to find savings in so many areas, why cannot we find savings here too?

Money is being found from the Business Transformation Reserve. And here is a list of what it is being spent on :-

Poppies exhibition
Flower festival in Priory Park
Planting 125 trees
Priory Park Gates
Concert / musical event during the Village Green weekend
Project Manager
Grants to local organisations
Silk River Project
Royal visit
Planting of floral displays with the logo
Series of sporting events
Series of Bandstand concerts
Picnics in the parks across the borough
Civic Service

The portfolio holder, Wakering resident Cllr Ann Holland (Conservative, Southchurch ward), believes the expenditure will transform business - I wonder how? I see nothing in this list that even gets close to a sensible definition of business transformation.

This item followed my questioning about the selling off two council properties (homes that could have housed families) which raised £525,000. Aside from the fact that some would consider this a slap in the face to those who sit on the Council's housing list, selling off Council property to fund these extravagant celebrations is unwarranted.

The current Conservative administration has wasted little time in returning to their spend now, pay later ways. Clearly it is austerity for some, extravagance for others.

Friday 9 December 2016

Independents show their true mettle at EFA (ha ha ha)

The Essex Fire Authority was significant for the discussion on the Draft Initial Local Business Case for Joint Governance of Police and Fire & Rescue in Essex.

I tries, unsuccessfully, to get this item deferred as this paper was distributed very late (less than five days before the meeting). My motion was defeated with only six supporting (all of the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups).

There was a Liberal Democrat motion that said "... we see no benefit to the rent of essex, either financially or democratically, the takeover of running Essex Fire service by the Police and Crime Commissioner  ..."

This motion was defeated by seven votes to fourteen (Labour and the Liberal Democrats were joined by one UKIP on this occasion).

We are at the mercy of the Tories in this kind of debate, so heavily outnumbered are we. The others (no-Conservative members) either abstained, were absent, or voted with the Tories (other UKIP councillors) - which was disappointing. Their meek compliance to Conservative wishes was shocking to behold.

The taking over of the Essex Fire Authority by the PCC may be a done deal, but surely we cannot cave in without some attempt at making the majority Conservative caucus work a bit.

St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition