• Police Crime Commissioner is put in the dock by Councillors

    Last nigh Essex Police Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst, gave a briefing to District and Parish Councillors in the Rochford District. The council chamber was fairly full (rather like Southend Police Cells! More on that later) and attended by 13 opposition members and just 9 Conservative members. 

    The presentation started with a brief slide show from Roger Hirst on the revenues received by selling off the police estates and the investment that the police have made in modern technology. I wonder what they will sell off when everything has been sold, but I'm sure someone has already thought of that.

    Members were invited to ask questions to Mr Hirst once his presentation had finished and there was plenty of those!  A usually vocal (ahemmm), Cllr Newport remained quiet throughout, as I had the insight to present my questions to the PCC prior to the meeting and which I had already had responses from Chief Inspector Westley.

    There were some interesting questions presented to the PCC and he was challenged on accusations (as the Echo reported) of the police being too busy to collect CCTV evidence from a recent crime scene. A slightly embarrassed Mr Hirst, could only accept that the police were 'guilty as charged'

    A recurring theme of Councillors went on to report to Mr Hirst that the spiraling drugs problem across the district is not being addressed. (one of the questions I had already put prior to the meeting) Concerned Parish Councillors reported how the lack of police presence in Hullbridge has seemily led to open drug dealing outside the primary school and the persistant Parish Councillor repeatedly told Mr Hirst that the lack of police presence in Hullbridge was acutely noteable. 

    CCTV evidence was another topic of conversation, as members informed Mr Hirst that there seemed to be a reluctance by police to process footage. Mr Hirst explained that the current technology that the police have means that it is cumbersome for the police to process this evidence. 

    Other challenges made to Mr Hirst were made on the 101 service and the severe delays on getting through to report crime (some references to 1hr plus), one example given the caller was asked if they could be called back and to wait until at least the next day! Again the evidence put to Mr Hirst was damning and there was little defence from Mr Hirst only that they need to do better.

    I think it was an uncomfortable evening for Mr Hirst and his defence was weak. He is clearly a 'hands up' guy and he can only be commended for admitting where there are failures - I think he has his work cut out. Will he be able to get the confidence in the police service restored any time soon? I'd be hesitant to think so. 

    If your interested to know more on how the evening went Cllr Chris Black will be reporting here

  • Meeting the needs of our residents with affordable housing

    There must be more that we can do to meet the needs of residents with affordable housing right? Well today on my journey home from London, I read this article.

    If you want to skip to the interesting part - the article discusses Community Land Trusts. Is this the way forward for to help people get their foot on to the property ladder at realistic prices?

    More information on Community Land Trusts here - http://www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk/

  • Toilet Petition Now Live!

    Not being one to give up so easily, there is a petition now live on the council's website. You can find the petition by clicking the button below.

    With over 300 signatures already added we need a further 1200 to get a debate in full council, where Councillors will be forced to explain the logic (if there is any!) and the costs of £330k that the taxpayer will foot.

    Do you know a friend, relative or neighbour who doesn't have internet access? No bother! Some of our local businesses are holding paper petitions for people to sign. Full details below.

    Hicke​y's DIY, 9 London Rd ,Rayleigh SS6 9AX


    Ashley Knotts Barbershop, 221 London Rd, Rayleigh SS6 9DN, UK

  • Is this a clear case of wealth before health?

    Something I rapidly learnt over the course of 1 year – nothing moves quickly in local government. I have to say though I find the following appalling.

    So I’ve decided, not to celebrate but to commiserate on this Echo News Reportthis Echo News report & this Echo News Report which goes as far back as 1999 that air pollution around Rayleigh was at unsafe limits

    The environmental pressure group (Friends of the Earth) claims the official figures show that despite improvements made by car manufacturers to cut down exhaust emissions, the level of air pollution on the stretch of road will still be above safe limits in 2005. reported the “plan to act over poor air”,

    In 2007 the council responded to the problem with

    Rayleigh councillor Mavis Webster said she would also raise the issue with Essex County Council’s cabinet member for transport, Norman Hume.

    and in 2015 another response from the Tory council

    The annual average level of nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant associated with exhaust emissions – is just over the Government guidelines.

    Mr Gordon said: “Without powers or funding I don’t know what we are expected to do about it. The levels are not dangerous.

    It is not something for people to worry about.”

    Cheryl Roe, district councillor and chairman of the town council’s environment committee, hopes the Rayleigh Area Action Plan, which was submitted to the Government in December, will go some way to alleviating the problem which she says people do worry about.

    She said: “The pollution needs to be looked at. We need to ease the flow of traffic through the town centre and stop people getting stuck for so long.

     

    Still waiting for something to be done? Here we are 18, yes 18 years later – no credible plan in place and still no action from the Tory led council. This should send a clear message to our residents that the health and well being of our residents simply does not matter!

  • A Clean Air Zone for Rayleigh?

    Rayleigh has a cloudy history when it comes to Air Pollution and now the Government has been forced to up the ante to solve the increasing problem with Air Pollution across the UK. Whilst we all probably realise, London suffers with poor air quality, we are in fact (and have been for a long time) facing an illegal limit of NO2 right in our own town. 

    You may have read my previous posts on air pollution or seen our campaign to increase the air quality monitoring across the district. Now, however the UK Government has launched another consultation on how to reduce the pollution in our towns and cities.

    The highlights of the document are the ways in which this could be acheived

    • ​Exploring innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels;
    • Buying ULEVs and encouraging local transport operators to do the same
    • Encouraging private uptake of ULEVs via ensuring adequate chargepoints
    • Encouraging use of public transport, cycling, walking, park and ride schemes, and car sharing
    • Improving road layouts and junctions to optimise traffic flow, for example by considering removal of road humps
    • Working with local businesses and neighbouring authorities to ensure a consistent approach
    • Charging certain types of vehicles to enter or move within the zone

    Now I don't have any prior knowledge of what our local council could be doing about our particular problem (as that would be a Tory decision), other than the already published AQAP - but in the Government's consultation it's suggested that charging vehicles to enter a clean air zone (i.e Rayleigh Town Centre) would be the quickest way to get the problem under control.

    On the basis of the failure to act and armed with the knowledge that even OUTSIDE of the AQMA, there are indications from our own sampling that there is more illegal pollution in our town, there is a possibility that we could see a clean air zone set up in Rayleigh with some of the dirtiest polluting vehicles being charged to pass through our town centre.

    Watch this space for future developments or sign up below for future updates!

  • Not Such A Sanctuary for Some

    On Tuesday night I attended RDC Review Committee. One of the items (which I will post more on shortly), involved Sanctuary. Emma Keegan, MD came under fire from Tory Cllr Shaw for it’s poor performance for maintenance of its property portfolio. Silently, I could not avoid agreeing with Cllr Shaw about Sanctuary’s lack of responsiveness. Yes I too have had to make multiple attempts at getting problems resolved with SH. Are we in a unique situation here in Rochford District? I asked my ‘friend’ Google – oh it seems we are are not alone! This post, tells a tale of woe and even takes us in the direction of a dedicated Facebook group.

    Well, if SH are deliver us the promised 500 affordable houses lets hope they do a better job of building them, than it appears they have done of maintaining them.

  • comms tree

    The Process and Cost of Consultation

    Consultation with the residents is often said to be incredibly difficult. However, it’s no different to marketing a business. You want to tell the potential customers (audience) about what you are doing or selling. You want them to be interested (engaged) and ultimately you want them to buy (respond).

    So just why do councils struggle with this process? Could it be the lack of trust in the first instance, or could it be the message they send out (telling not asking) and when they decide to buy they are sold the wrong thing!

    Despite the fears of some councils, the easiest way to ‘engage’ and get the message out to the residents is often via social media. There are several community groups across the district which have good memberships. They rely purely on ‘shares’ to the groups to get important messages from the council. I don’t know why the council don’t or/and won’t engage with these community sites and post directly to them. Here’s a list of some sites they could consider.

    I’m not suggesting that social media replaces the need for proper consultation but compliments the efforts to communications that are already in place. The council’s own social media page has a lowly 1k likes. The ‘tell me more’ is a step in the right direction but I think memberships such as the RAG group prove that the residents are interested. It might have cost Linda Kendall £55k, but she has built (with a little help from her supporters) an engaged and often responsive audience.

    Some may think it’s money well spent with a new wave of Councillors elected and a reduced Tory majority, the Pandora’s box has well and truly been opened.

     

     

  • Money, Money, Money

    Budgeting for the following financial year is undoubtedly an important year. I assume most households run some sort of budget, trying to live within their means.

    I’ve recently been invited to attend the Rochford District Council ‘budget away day’. As a new councillor I was invited to the same ‘away day’ last year. After attending I wondered if it held much value for us as councillors and indeed whether it was entirely necessary to hold such a day.

    On weighing up the pro’s and con’s this year I’ve decided to decline the invitation. I feel in times of austerity, with threatened closures of public toilets, cuts to children’s playgrounds and the huge costs involved in dealing with homelessness, the money could be well spent elsewhere. Now is not the time to be frivolous with the publics money. In my reasoning for not attending I have citied the former to the council and I have also stated that the council has adequate facilities to hold this ‘away day’ on its own premises that is already being paid for.

    I’m pleased to report, I am not alone in my thinking and other members of the Lib Dems have declined the invitation as well.

    Let’s hope the council see that their number is up on this one!

     

  • The Definition of Affordable?

    It’s something I’ve had many conversations about and I’m sure other Councillors have also had thoughts about but I’ve never really got a clear answer. What is the definition of ‘affordable’ when it comes down to new housing developments. I found this definition on the Government’s website

    Affordable housing is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. From April 2012 affordable housing is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (prior to this the definitions in Planning Policy Statement 3 apply). Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.

    So that clears that up.

    The short answer is if you want to know how affordable housing is defined, don’t ask me! I’m going to admit I’m beat on this one, but I will ask about and see if someone can give me a clear explanation on it. Watch this space!

  • Dispatches reports: The Great Housing Scandal

    As high house prices and many properties with 'out of reach' rental costs, does this mean more Rochford residents will be forced on to the housing register and is this a ticking time bomb for Rochford District Council?

    Many areas of public land in the UK was earmarked to fulfil the land shortage needed for new homes. However Dispatches investigates public land being sold for below it's 'real' value and how it's been badly managed.

    If you do wish to apply for social housing in the district you can do here. 

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