• A Ghoulish Meeting

    There was a ghoulish meeting last night at Rayleigh Town Council. It would appear that no less than 5 of the (non-political) Conservative members had complained about this article in the Echo Newspaper, prompting a discussion to review standing orders on speaking to the press. For those unfamiliar the policy, which it seems some Councillors are, here’s what the standing orders guide us on how we are ‘allowed’ to interact with the media.

     

    I have made it clear to members of the Policy & Finance committee that I won’t be gagged from giving my opinion and letting residents know what is going on. I am informed that the next meeting of the Standing Orders Sub Committee is early next year.

  • Rayleigh café wins best for family dining

    Rayleigh café wins best for family dining

    Café celebrates

    Staff at Lower Barn Café in Rayleigh are celebrating after being crowned Best Family Dining at a prestigious food and drink awards earlier this month.

    The Essex Life Food and Drink Awards praise the very best from the local food and drink industry, with 13 categories to celebrate the best of the region.

    Head Chef at Lower Barn Café, David Scanlon, says: “We were excited and surprised to win the award, we have always tried to create an environment and menu that opens up good quality food and a warm welcome to everyone.”

    The panel of judges crowned Lower Barn Café the winner of Best Family Dining, at the awards ceremony on October 5 at Braxted Park, on the outskirts of Chelmsford.

    Lower Barn Café, which is situated on Lower Barn Farm, which houses home and garden products, prides itself in producing quality meals for all the family and keeping the little ones entertained with a menu full of delicious kid’s options and pages of fun activities.

    The Cafe is also home to an outdoor play area.

    As well as the day-to-day running of the café, they also hold private events for children – most recently the Princess Parties, that took place during the Summer Holidays, and the popular Halloween party, which is taking place
    on October 31.

  • Traders launch anti-crime scheme to protect businesses from day time crime in Rayleigh

    Traders launch anti-crime scheme to protect businesses from day time crime in Rayleigh

    A TRADERS’ association has launched a daytime anti-crime scheme to protect businesses in the High Street.

    Rayleigh & District Chamber of Trade has set up a social media chat group, “Traders Link”, on WhatsApp where members can inform each other instantly of any criminal activity or suspicious behaviour.

    Martin Hodson, president of the Rayleigh and District Chamber of Trade, said the initiative provides a valuable service to traders.

    He added: “Since its introduction in August, the uptake has been phenomenal. We have around 40 members so far. The aim is to share information with an immediate response to issues concerning suspected shoplifters.

    “We’ve had people coming into shops stealing laptops from offices. And people causing disturbances for our traders.

    “This is a fast and effective way for the shops in the town centre to communicate with each other.

    “Rayleigh town is sending out a clear message for unsavoury characters to stay away as the businesses are united against crime.”

    This scheme follows the success of the Rayleigh Pubwatch scheme launched in 2013. That initiative was set up by Russell Best, owner of the Spread Eagle pub, and enables members to share information and prevent disorder and violence.

    Mr Hodson said: “Not only is Traders Link sharing information between members, but we will send information and pictures of criminal activity to the police as well.

    “Since funding to the police has been cut there’s been fewer officers around the area so we have to look after ourselves. We’ve also introduced the scheme to traders in Hockley and Rochford.”

    Claire Broadie, 26, manager of New Look in Rayleigh High Street, said: “I think it’s a good idea. We’ve had recurring thefts in the area before so I think this will be a good way for us business owners and traders to stick together, and look after each other.”

  • Speeding clampdown launched in Rayleigh

    Speeding clampdown launched in Rayleigh

    A NEW community speed watch campaign to educate drivers about the risks of speeding has been launched in Rayleigh.

    The town council is gathering volunteers to create a team which will work closely with Essex Police to help catch more speeding motorists.

    James Newport, councillor for Victoria ward, said: “The community speed watch is really about education, to let people know they have been speeding.

    “If you are caught speeding, a note is taken of your vehicle, registration and the date you were caught and sent to the police.

    “They then send a letter to the driver to notify them of their behaviour.”

    “They then send a letter to the driver to notify them of their behaviour.”

    Mr Newport said that the campaign is motivated by raising awareness of areas in the town that motorists regularly speed in.

    He said: “It is all about making people aware.

    “It is all run by Rayleigh Town Council and the volunteers who work on the scheme.

    “We have had a number of volunteers join us. It is not the most pleasant of jobs because previously some people have been on the receiving end of abuse from motorists.

    “That is more because there is a misunderstanding over what this is actually about.”

    Chris Stanley, councillor for Downhall and Rawreth, has also become involved with the speed watch for the past year.

    He says that the group are concentrating on areas of high concern during peak times to ensure the safety of motorists, pedestrians and especially children who are leaving school in the afternoon.

    He said: “I think it is extremely important due to the fact we have four schools in close proximity in Rayleigh and it is important we keep speeds down in those areas.

    “It seems to be that the working day has changed from 7am to 3pm for when children get out of school and they are the times we should be focusing on.”

    Mr Stanley was positive about the scheme which he hopes can educate adults and their children on road safety.

    He added: “You will not believe how many people are still using their phones while driving.

    “It is just an accident waiting to happen and we need to address that.”

    A meeting is taking place between the members of the speed watch this week to begin setting out the roads which they request approval from police to carry out their watches.

    Mr Newport said: “Speed kills and the police crime statistics show that on Essex roads. We are not here to cause problems, we are here to work with police and make the town’s roads safer.”

    Mr Newport continues to encourage more residents to step forward and join the speed watch.

    He said: “More volunteers are required because the more there are of us, the more we can do.”

  • New calls for more CCTV to stop criminals

    New calls for more CCTV to stop criminals

    Rayleigh residents have called for more CCTV cameras in the town to thwart petty “scumbag” criminals instead of relying on police officers.

    Campaigner Linda Kendall posted in the Rayleigh Action Group saying crime and antisocial behaviour wasn’t being dealt with sufficiently by hard-pressed police and people should overcome their fears of being spied on by cameras in order to tackle the problem.

    She said: “I know some people will scream that they are frightened of a ‘big brother’ society but isn’t it time we considered high definition cameras on the entrances to our towns and villages?

    “Most criminals that are responsible for burglaries and thefts use vehicles to carry their loot.”

    Ms Kendall added: “Gone are the days of the swag bag with a few possessions these are serious invaders of peoples homes stealing cars etc.

    “Perhaps then the victims could be given access to the cameras, to try identify their cars to check, if the police claim they haven’t the time.

    “Those scumbags need punishing. If convicted they should have their names and photographs plastered all round town.

    “Sod worrying their families.”

    Lesley Butcher, chairman of Rochford District Council said she wasn’t convinced more cameras were the answer.

    She said: “As a resident,I’d like to see more police rather than CCTV.

    “Crime is quite low in our district, one of the lowest in the country.”

    Ms Butcher added: “People like to have CCTV and it can be quite useful but having CCTV on its own is not sufficient as it has to be monitored.”

    Other members of the Rayleigh Action Group agreed with having more cameras installed in different places.

    Sean Barlow said: “Not just burglaries, but antisocial behaviour as well.

    “Also, add railway and bus stations to that, as not all the criminals that are committing the crimes are old enough to drive.”

    Patricia Cox said she agreed with Ms KendalI “101 per cent”.

    Paul J Goodey said: “There is Automatic Number Plate Recognition equipment on most principal routes around Rayleigh.

    “The authorities can’t or won’t pursue every crime.

    “Be careful what you wish for.”

  • The Wrong Type of Medicine

    Bureaucrats at the NHS are seemingly coming up with further radical ways of attempting to save money. This time the target is on how to free up beds in hospitals by effectively ‘outsourcing’ the care required.

    It’s been reported from various news outlets, such as this BBC report, that Southend Hospital was to pilot “plans for patients to recuperate in people’s homes as part of an Airbnb-style trial”

    This immediately sparked huge concerns and has been swiftly retracted by Southend Hospital who have effectively tried to distance themselves from ‘the angry mob’

    The NHS is overstretched – I don’t think we can argue with that, but what we must not compromise on is the safety of patients. This not so clever idea, is clearly not what the doctor ordered and I’m glad Southend Hospital will rethink its strategy, once again!

     

  • Update on the Mid and South Essex Success Regime

    One item on the agenda at last nights full council meeting was

    To receive a presentation from Dr Celia Skinner, Chief Medical Officer for the three NHS Hospital Trusts, Southend, Basildon and Broomfield, providing an update on the latest plans to reconfigure and redesign hospital services across the three sites to meet growing demands and pressures, prior to the end of the public consultation period in December 2017.

    The last time the success regime came to council, as reported by the late Cllr Chris Black, we were extremely doubtful of the proposals that were being presented to us. This time it really didn’t get any better, as these dodgy double glazing salesman in white coats tried to persuade us of their new master plan.

    It didn’t start well for the success regime as the motion at the last meeting included inviting Dr. Caroline Howard back to the Council along with the Success Regime team. It was not to be, as they had decided to uninvite Dr. Howard and proceed with their brief presentation. After some debate, the Chairman decided that the presentation should proceed.

    I don’t think that I was the only one that was perplexed as to why Dr. Howard was absent from the meeting. Was it that she was simply unavailable? was she ill? had she disappeared? Should someone file a missing person report for her? No, panic over,  there she was sitting at the back of the room, prepared to listen to the new sales pitch. Dr. Celia Skinner quickly explained that she was best placed to give us an update on the changes that had been made to the plan and Dr. Howard had contributed towards some of these changes. Regrettably by this time, my confidence in the new plan had been lost due. I couldn’t help feeling that by not allowing Dr. Howard to speak they had something to hide.

    It seemed to me that we could read the glossy brochure but not have the small print explained to us by someone knowledgeable.

    Isn’t there usually more than one side to a debate anyway? The presentation concluded and Cllr Webb eagerly jumped in with a motion which was seconded by Cllr Gooding. (I didn’t catch the full motion as it was quite long…). At this point, we were unable to ask any questions of the regime and it swiftly brought the ‘debate’ to an end.

    The success regime duly ended their time in the council chamber assuring us that next time they would bring along clinical leads – ahhh so we may get some clinical evidence to support that these changes are in the best interests of patients. We will wait and see. For now, I will reserve judgment.

     

     

     

  • 547 Days Later……. (Tesco’s)

    There may be a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel for Vernon Avenue residents. Last week I spoke to a surveyor for Tesco’s who was there for the long-awaited reconfiguration of the car park.

    Since being elected in May 2016, I have relentlessly chased Rochford District Council to get this issue resolved. However, it came to light that the issue lay with Essex County Council & Tesco, due to an issue with the lease and has been tied up with solicitors ever since.

    The proposed works will see the area of grass (which I previously request bollards to be installed around due to the damage caused by illegal parking) leased to Tesco to create additional parking spaces. The current dropped kerb on Vernon Avenue will be reinstated to a raised pavement and that entrance closed. The car park will be configured to allow delivery vehicles to turn around in the space.

    I will be contacting Rochford District Council to see if they can get up an update on when the work should be commencing.

    Hopefully, this will be near the end of a very long journey for residents in the local area.

     

  • Public Toilets – Pt II

    The public toilets issue continues with the Echo Newspaper picking up the story today.

    Thanks to Echo reporter, Hsin-yi who did a wonderful job of pulling the article together from our information. As you can see from the Echo News website, the piece has gained a lot of attention from readers, who are equally as disgusted by the actions of the councils. As we remain in times of austerity and the daunting mishandled Brexit process, now is not the right time to be spending huge sums of money without proper financial justification.

    This is my opinion of course, but alternatives were put forward and simply dismissed out of hand.

  • The Final Flush – Crown Hill Toilets

    Monday night's Rayleigh Town Council Full Council meeting was a discussion amongst other matters about Crown Hill Public Toilets. (Item 19)

    We had spent the afternoon discussing with the Town Clerk that this item SHOULD NOT be in private & confidential as it was in the public interest, however it was feared by the Clerk that some Councillors just wouldn't be capable of avoiding naming the contractor who may be awarded the tender for the building of the new toilets.

    So at the start of the meeting the Town Clerk duly asked the members as to whether they would like to discuss this in P&C (Private & Confidential) - you won't be surprised at the response (was I hearing sighs of relief by members?) For what was to follow was something of a car crash way of dealing with public finances.

    The floor was swiftly handed over to the RDC officer to run through the pre lease agreement and lease - this was worse than sitting through an omnibus of Eastenders on Sunday afternoon.

    No one in the room having legal expertise (to my knowledge), we were assured by the RDC officer that the lease was all good. The town council had taken advice from their solicitor but clearly the lease was NOT complete as the conclusion to the discussion was for delegated powers be granted by the members of the council to the Town Clerk and Cllr R Dray. At this point I remained certain that the signing of the lease would be dependant on the consideration of the cleaning and maintenance costs.

    At this point I remained certain that signing the lease would be dependant on the consideration of the cleaning and maintenance costs

    As we moved on through the agenda the next to be discussed was Item 19 (d) ..... the costs of cleaning & maintenance of the proposed shiny new toilets. Due to the period of time between the last Policy & Finance meeting and the Full Council meeting, there was not enough time to obtain quotes for the cleaning. So there were no costs to be scrutinised at this meeting. This demonstrated a decision that was being made in a certain degree of haste although other Councillors had commented this outside of meetings previously, it appeared that no one wanted to be vocal about this fact!

    Cllr Chris Stanley quickly informed the Council he would be withdrawing his support and I quickly followed by informing the Council that I would be voting against the decision due to no costs being available for the cleaning and maintenance.

    ....a decision that was being made in a certain degree of haste

    The overall majorities decision to vote for the signing of the lease, effectively gave the green light for Rochford District Council to spend in excess of £150,000*** on a new toilets for Crown Hill. Rayleigh Town Councillors Chris Stanley & Cllr James Newport being the only ones that voted against signing the 10 year lease that will burden the Town Councils budget for the next 10 years for cleaning and maintenance. The majority of the other present Councillors were all too willing to condemn the historical Crown Hill Toilets building to the history books, with only a couple of Councillors willing to ask any probing questions about the lease.

    *Rayleigh Town Council

    **Rochford DIstrict Council

    ***Figures taken from RDC report here

    I'm voting against due to no costs being available for the cleaning and maintenance"

    Cllr James Newport (Victoria Ward)

    What conclusion can we draw from this? In my opinion the taxpayer could now be saddled with a hefty bill for cleaning and maintenance for the next 10 years and it could be said that this could cost the Town Council in provision of areas of it's work in the future. Maybe the provision of public toilets will be at the expense of pretty flowers and Trinity Fairs in the future.

    HOW THE COSTS STACK UP

    • £130,000 for refurbishment (RDC Cost)
    • £15,600 for fees (RDC Cost)
    • £13,000 for contingency (RDC Cost)
    • £20,000 (provisional) budgeted p/a for cleaning & maintenance (RTC Cost)

    What is the future for the existing toilet building? No one yet know - will the building be viable for a commercial use? If not will it be cited as a problem for the town, followed swiftly by a wrecking ball?

    More questions? Feel free to comment below

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