Friday 30 November 2018

They just ain’t listening

As is so often the case, the local ruling administration is yet again shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted. They applaud themselves for their lame response to issues affecting Southend’s town centre, yet it is again a story of too little, too late.

The town centre is approaching crisis. (Some will claim it hit crisis some time ago, a point I am not going to dispute.) High streets up and down the land are suffering, yet some buck the trend. Even within the borough there is example of a high street that remains buoyant – look at Leigh-on-Sea.

The Tory administration took a closed shop approach to the idea of a High Street summit; I, and my colleagues, decided this was entirely the wrong approach. If nothing else, how can the people who have overseen its decline be best placed to reverse this?

There are many reasons for the current state of our town centre. It is not all down to the rise of internet shopping, or indeed those current scapegoats – the homeless.

What struck me is that we need fresh ideas and must engage with and listen to our residents. The ‘we-know-best’ attitude of the Tories is not only arrogant, it clearly flies in defiance of reality.

The Tories do not listen. Their great solution is to cajole and bully the homeless to move from the relative safety of shop doors, which solves nothing, merely moving the problem. When will they understand that failure to properly address the failures of austerity and the paucity of social housing has left the fifth richest nation on Earth with increasing numbers sleeping rough.

Fortunately Labour did take a cross-party approach to its people’s summit, and the more than seventy residents have gave up a Wednesday evening to air their views about their community were listened to politely. Labour (and I am sure the Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group) will be looking at their notes from this meeting and will be trying to effect real and positive change.
In the meantime the Tories will be re-arranging the deck-chairs as their ship heads towards an ice-berg. Not listening is a very bad idea.

Thursday 22 November 2018


Cllr Julian Ware-Lane has joined 805 councillors who have signed an open letter opposing government proposals to allow fracking companies to undertake exploratory drilling without local planning applications.
Cllr Julian Ware-Lane
Southend-on-Sea, UK - Councillor Ware-Lane has signed an open letter calling for the withdrawal of proposals that treat exploratory drilling by fracking companies as ‘permitted development’, and to respect the rights of communities to make decisions on shale gas activities through the local planning system.
The government is proposing that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right. This right means fracking companies don’t need to apply for planning permission from the local authority. Permitted development is a category of planning originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds.
Councillor Ware-Lane, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Milton ward, said:
“I believe it is essential that local people should have the final say over exploratory drilling by fracking companies in our community. These proposals by-pass local democracy and risk industrialising large sections of countryside with a hugely unpopular industry that brings noise, pollution and community division. We should not be changing the planning system to facilitate fracking, but instead supporting climate and community friendly energy sources. Local voices should be heard.”    
The government consultation closed on October 25th and has prompted hundreds of Councillors to express concern. The letter - sent to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, James Brokenshire MP and Greg Clark MP - has also been signed by MPs, Parish Councillors, and London Assembly Members.
40 Councils have also formally opposed the government's plans, including the Conservative controlled Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Kent County Councils. More than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals.   

Sebastian Kelly, Fracking Organiser at commented:
“These proposals represent a desperate attempt to force a failing industry onto communities. Local people understand the risks posed by fracking to their community, countryside and the climate, and must be able to influence the planning process to express these concerns. The Government must listen to the growing concerns from locals, Councillors and MPs and immediately drop these undemocratic and reckless proposals.”
Caroline Jones, Friends of the Earth Campaigner added:
“It’s absurd that planning rules originally designed for minor home improvements, like putting up a garden shed, could now be used for major drilling infrastructure. Our countryside and our climate are at serious risk if the government pushes ahead with these plans. We need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not make it easier for companies to dig up more.”
More than 300,000 people have also signed petitions against the proposals [6] and 20 organisations, including the RSPB and CPRE, have warned that opening the door to fracking companies risks negatively impacting on local democracy, the tranquility of the countryside and climate change.    
Text of the open letter available here: Full list of 850 signatories is available here including 805 Councillors, 11 MPs and 34 Other (Parish Councillors and Assembly Members).

Monday 5 November 2018

Corbyn at the Park Inn Palace

Last Thursday (1st) a round table meeting with local businesses and retailers and Jeremy Corbyn was arranged at the Park Inn Palace hotel. Jeremy came to come and talk about the economy and the High Street.
Ian, Stephen, Cheryl, Jeremy, Julian, Anne

The meeting was chaired by Ashley Dalton, and there was about twenty of us present, including four councillors (Gilbert, Jones, Nevin, and myself).

Members of the BID, FSB, and other business people were also present.

I contributed comments about crime, transport infrastructure, and parking. The meeting was a little over an hour in length.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Welcome to the uncomradely world of Southend Momentum

Some time in late 2016 I joined Momentum. I have joined lots of thinktanks and fringe groups over the years, often on the left, and I have always enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate as well challenging myself over what I believe in. I think debate and disagreement healthy and the only way to make real progress.

I went to a couple of Southend Momenum meetings in early 2017. Then the General Election intervened.

Come the AGM of my constituency Labour Party I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the role of treasurer. This resulted in an online spat with the Momentum candidate who called me 'duplicitous'. That he chose to argue with me whilst I was in my hospital bed recovering from a very serious bowel operation says much.

Some time later I was tipped off by another Momentum member that I had been removed from the closed Facebook group, and had been banned from the group (and no longer invited to their meetings). No notice of this was given, no explanation, no chance to appeal. Nice.

I contacted the national Momentum organisation, and although an investigation was promised nothing materialised.

Earlier this year I tried again to be admitted, not because of any burning desire to actually go to their meetings, but I felt that I had been treated shoddily and wanted some measure of natural justice. What follows is the response I received. I am still puzzled by Southend Momentum's uncomradely behaviour, and their response explains nothing.

Thank you for your request  of 22 August 2018 to be invited to Southend & District Momentum Meetings. I am sorry for the delay in responding to your request but I had to ratify the decision for this request with Southend Momentum Officers and Members, and we did not meet until 3 October.

At the last meeting of members, it was confirmed that Officers and Members of Southend & District Momentum do not agree that you fulfil the requirements set out in the constitution of the local Southend Momentum Group, that members have signed up to. This message is also to inform you that Labour Party members may belong to the national Peoplesmomentum  but may not necessarily be accepted into membership of the local organisation.

I attach a copy of the constitution for your information.
Aims for Southend-on-Sea & District Momentum Group

The Southend-on-Sea & District Momentum Group (the Group)
Aims of the group
  • To work towards the success of the Labour Party at all levels.
  • To promote the programme and policies of Momentum nationally.
  • In furtherance of the above: To secure the election of supporters of the programme of our group as officers of the Labour Party, locally, regionally and nationally. the group will agree a slate to avoid duplication of nominations. Additionally the group may consider accepting party nominations for appropriate external roles .
  • To campaign in the community for Socialist principles.
  • To co-operate with the national Momentum organisation and support the campaigning activities.
  • To hold regular meetings, both open/public meetings for supporters and closed ones for members of the group.
  • To develop a programme of socialist political education for group members and supporters, also help to train members to be better at undertaking tasks such as canvassing.
  • To be Eligible to apply to join the group, a candidate must be a member of the Labour Party and the national Momentum. The group Treasurer and Secretary, will then consider any such applications, and their recommendations shall be referred to the next officers meeting for the confirmation (or otherwise). The annual Renewal of membership is contingent upon current membership of both Momentum nationally and The Labour Party.
  • Members of Southend and District Momentum are expected to adhere to all the aims and objectives and policies of Momentum. Any member who is deemed to have acted against Momentum will be liable to be excluded from the local group. Such recommendation shall be made by the officers committee and confirmed (or otherwise) by the next members meeting. The member shall have the right to put their side of this if they so wish.
  • There will be an annual membership fee to be agreed by the AGM the group. The initial years membership fee is £1.00. Such membership shall expire two days after the next AGM.
  • There will be an Officers committee charged with the running of the group.
  • The Officers of the group shall have gender parity and be elected annually by members at the AGM. It will be possible to job share provided all positions are elected. The following positions will comprise the Officers of the group.
Data Manager
Group Promotion Officer/Press Officer
Social Media Managers (2)
key contacts for the local Momentum group for National Momentum (2)
Regional Coordinating Network (2)
Labour Party Engagement Officers (4) for Rochford & Southend East, Southend West, Rayleigh & Wickford & Castle Point

  • All decisions of the Officers committee are to be ratified (or otherwise) by the closed meetings of group members.
  • The group will have an internet presence, both closed (for members only) and open to communicate with others who may wish to discuss with us. Initially this will be on facebook. It shall be maintained by the Social media Managers with all Officers as admins.

St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition