• A Criminal Misuse of Public Money?

    Disclaimer – All views are my own, as this is written on my own website, paid for with my own money – These are NOT the views of any Council that I am a member of or a view of the Liberal Democrat Party. They are simply written as a personal view of a Rayleigh Resident. Hope I’ve got the point across….

    There is an idea by the Police & Fire Crime Commissioner, that town and parish councils could now ‘buy’ their own Special Police Constables, to police their local area. Each ‘Special’ would cost the council (or taxpayer) £1000. This is an idea that has been put to Rayleigh Town Council. The role of the ‘special’ is something like this

    Call me cynical, but isn’t this just another way to extract additional money out of the taxpayer? We already have community policing teams, that are paid for from our council tax and the PFCC is now asking if we are willing to pay more in our council tax to increase policing. So it’s a double ask. The town and parish councils have to find the money from somewhere, right?

    If we are so hell-bent on having additional policing, I think someone has missed a trick here. With some crude calculations, I worked out that the £135,000 that has been spent by the district on new public toilets and the £20,000 estimated from the town council to maintain them, then this could have funded 155 special constables for 1 year. Or over the 10 year lease of the toilets, around 15 specials for 10 years. Each special averages 40 hours per month, so on this basis it would have provided funding for around 4 FULL TIME specials for Rayleigh for the next 10 years.

    Did we have a choice? No, because we weren’t asked. Could, therefore, new toilets be a criminal misuse of public money?

    Specials play an important role in the police service, and if you are interested in becoming a special you can find full details on the Essex police website here

     

     

  • Infrastructure, Housing and the ‘Outsiders’

    As landowners eye the potential rewards for putting forward their land for development, we are still faced with a lack of infrastructure to accommodate further housing needs.

    Have we been blind to the ‘unlocking’ of land in here in the Rochford District with ‘bigger’ infrastructure investments taking place right beneath our noses? Crossrail is due to commence in December 2018 and there are the second Dartford Crossing plans.

    These major infrastructure projects have the potential to unlock our District to people who can’t afford to live in London but want to be able to get from ‘A to B’ in reasonable times. Will this put further strain on the supply of ‘affordable housing’ and is this a challenge our ‘local’ residents will now face as they try to compete for the same properties?

    Some might argue that this competition already exists and I would agree to a lesser degree, but we could see a further deluge of ‘outsiders’ coming into our areas. Our housing policies must be robust to ensure that those who already live in our district are not priced out.

    Will our district be able to cope with this housing crisis in the years to come? This is something that we need to work hard on to ensure that the District prospers for all.

     

  • Pavement Promotion Problems

    Tonight’s review committee meeting brought up the issue of the pavement promotions problems. The reference to ‘pavement promotion problems’ is really to A boards.

    A boards clogging up pavements

    The blight of A boards through the High St (Rayleigh) seems to get increasingly worse – however, this may only be a ‘perception‘. Taking in to account the number of reports the council receives about this specific problem, it could be that we actually think this is a bigger problem than it is and it would be interesting to hear what residents think about this problem.

    A person displaying an advertisement in contravention of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Act and Regulation 30 of the Control of Advertisement Regulations 2007 shall be liable, on summary conviction of an offence under section 224(3) of the Act, and be liable to a fine and criminal record.

    Other unauthorised advertising in our district was also raised as a concern, from banners to illuminated signage located in inappropriate places, if its not approved by the council, at some point the owner (land owner, business owner etc) could be prosecuted and the council could even apply to recover some of money made through the illegal advertising through the proceeds of crime act. A criminal record is not something I’m sure a business would want to advertise!

    If the matter proceeds through the Court, as well as leaving the offender with a criminal record, a successful prosecution allows the Council to apply for a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Confiscation Order.

  • 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.

     

     

     

  • 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

  • Dedication

    One for our friends in the Tory party!

  • Join Us

    When I joined the Lib Dems back in 2015 I wasn’t too sure if they’d be the ‘right fit’ for me. Now 18 months later, I’m a Lib Dem District & Town Councillor representing residents in Rochford & Rayleigh.

    As a ‘younger’ member of society, they were the only party for me that was dynamic and actually seemed to have their own voice and gave their Councillors the freedom to express themselves in their own way.

    Nationally their policies seemed to make sense and in fact were the common sense policies that I’d been seeking.

    If you fancy becoming a member of the Lib Dems and share the same common values click here to find out more. As a Lib Dem member, you can get involved as much or as little as you want.

     

  • A Few Words from the Managing Director

    A number of us local councillors run blogs in our spare time, as an aim to keep the wider public informed of our actions, intentions and views. So it is interesting to see that the MD of Rochford District Council has now decided to write a blog.

    One of his first blog posts is about homelessness. A worthy topic of a blog post, however, I’m sceptical of how this will pan out and there may have been second thoughts since there have been no updates to the blog since August. As many blog writers know readership falls heavily if there are large gaps in new content.

    I have mused if the move is an unusual one and how, as Managing Director, if he will be able to maintain an apolitical view on the workings & decisions of the council.

    If the blog continues it will be an interesting read, and one that will be heavily scrutinised by ALL parties I’m sure.

    Watch this space

  • Participation Not Required (By Some)

    Politics can be cruel, it can be kind, but it can be disappointing too. I often have a wry smile when I attend District Council meetings. For they are the meetings when participation is not required by some it seems. The administration appear to have some voices that are not to be heard. Some faces look expressionless into the room waiting only for the crucial moment to raise an arm to make sure the votes add up. It could be that even local government is suffering the lack of participation that House of Lords is suffering

    I believe I am not alone in my thinking of who votes for these Councillors that take their seat ignoring the very reason they are in the room? Perhaps Rochford District has bred a "something for nothing" culture that has gone unnoticed for too long?

    Let's hope next May brings us some fresh voices and a wider debate on the future for Rochford's residents.

  • Holy Hustings!

    If tonight’s hustings audience was representative of Rayleigh & Wickford then I don’t think Mark Francois would retain his seat….

    however, I fear this will not be the case. It would appear the audience was not on side and Mr Francois was only being supported by his over protective, front row, con club members. Like proud parents at the Christmas production, the Tory sheep lined the front rows of the Holy Trinty church for the hustings. However this had little impact of the mood of the evening which showed strong support for our Lib Dem candidate, Ron Tindall & the Labour candidate. The Green Party candidate although at times showed some inexperience held his own too.

    It has to be said that some Tory party members (district councillors) felt that they held some authority on the evening with outbursts from the audience on how the debate should be run. This were quite unwelcomed.

    The evening started with a question about defence. Policing and Nuclear deterrent were thrown into the mix, some may have thought that this was Labours Achilles heel, but Mark Daniels (Lab) handled it well. Ron Tindall (Lib Dem) handled the question better with a good take on Theresa Mays inability to make a decision in a timely manner!

    The next question tackled the issue of social care. A hot topic to be discussed. Mark Francois, regurgitated the party line with Ron Tindall (Lib Dem) quickly pulling the Tory policy apart due to the fact that there is no cap on what the Tories will steal from you.

    more to follow…….

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