The Rayleigh Times Has This Article By Chris Black This Week….

“If you are a Lib Dem councillor, then sooner or later the Conservatives will probably make you an offer to switch sides. Thankfully I’ve never been tempted, because if I had gone against my principles and turned blue I really would be regretting it now.

Because it should be obvious to any Conservative councillor that councils are being drained of resources by central government. The funding that councils receive is being ruthlessly removed. That’s why the District Council is thinking about closing public conveniences. . It’s why streetlights are being switched off at 1 a.m.. It’s why Essex secondary schools are facing an average funding cut of about £477 per year per pupil. It’s why some children’s centres have closed in Essex, and why charges for home care have increased five-fold in the past four years. It’s why there are big cuts to the police budget, and a more stretched police force.

And there’s more to come – unless Central Government is persuaded that they’ve already cut too much. But in Essex, nearly all the councils are Conservative-run, and they aren’t willing to upset their party colleagues in Westminster.

I can remember when the District Council was led by the Lib Dems. We were facing a new government policy on council housing that would have cost us over £100,000 per year. So we organised an all-party council delegation to go to Whitehall, we argued our case , and got an exemption. Doesn’t seem to work like that nowadays.

Of course there are some savings that councils could make. The Lib Dems have pointed out that the County Council has spent £116 million on temporary agency staff in the past five years. That’s something we would change. We could use that money for things like more road repairs, improving youth provision, protecting concessionary fares for pensioners and providing better street lighting. The County Council   and the District Council could  both save money by scrapping  their expensive and undemocratic cabinet systems.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It’s   not only councils. The NHS is an even bigger issue. Overall it’s a huge success story. We spend about 9%  of our national income (GNP) on health care, compared with 17% for the USA. But we live on average two years longer than the Amercians.  We must protect our NHS and avoid going over to the American private system.

But what’s happening locally? There’s a proposal to downgrade Southend’s A & E department so that it becomes just a walk in centre! If you are against this and have web access look for the “Save Southend A&E” page on Facebook                                                                                                                           Ambulances will have to go to Basildon – good luck with that in the rush hour! Or Saturday afternoons. Or any other times when the roads are busy.

Which brings me on to traffic… A Conservative party whip on the District Council, together with a lack of useful input from the County Council, has led to too much development being planned on the borders of Rayleigh, Hullbridge and Rawreth. That’s going to add even more congestion on our roads.(By the way, the only councillors to campaign against this this since 2007 were Lib Dems and Rochford Residents , don’t believe what you may see in other party leaflets! )

So not only do we have more congestion , we have more air pollution. But we don’t know how much air pollution, because the District Council won’t do enough monitoring. Which is why opposition councillors from the Rochford Residents, Lib Dems and the Greens have teamed up to pay for monitoring from our own pockets. That includes myself and my Lib Dem colleague Chris Stanley. This monitoring is quietly going on but because we are doing it properly and scientifically we don’t have a full dataset yet.

And now we are going to have a general election! Presumably because Labour are looking so weak, and because there are possible prosecutions pending for Conservatives breaching the spending limits at the last general election around the UK.

The current cuts are taking place when the Conservatives have a majority of about 10 in the House of Commons. Imagine what they could do to public services if they have a majority of 100. Let’s hope we can avoid what Tim Farron has called “Cruel Brittania.” ”

A Long Night

It’s been a long time since a Rochford District Council went on until after 11:30 pm. It’s been 15 years since the Conservatives were outnumbered by the opposition. It’s been a while since a decision was made on the chairman’s casting vote. It was the first time ever a public petition forced an item on the agenda. Tuesday had all of that.

The evening began on a subdued note, as we heard that Conservative leader had been taken had been taken ill and admitted to hospital – though he left hospital on Tuesday afternoon. We wish him well for a speedy recovery.

It was apparent that due to absences , the Tory majority over the opposition was  slimmer than normal. (The opposition being the Greens, Lib Dems, Rochford Residents,  UKIP and Rayleigh Independent Jamie Burton)

The first  item was “Questions On Notice”  from Chris Black on planning. He asked how many planning enforcement cases were outstanding and the portfolio holder Ian Ward told him 265. Chris then asked whether Ian thought the planning enforcement department had enough resources in terms of staff or money (there are only two people) and got a rather waffly reply….

Next came the debate on Francis Cottee Lodge. The member of the public who spoke presented her case well.  Residents group leader John Mason proposed that the matter be referred to the Review Committee for proper scrutiny. This was opposed by the Conservatives, some of whom who argued that although the whole issue had been handled badly there shouldn’t be any delay – in case Sanctuary decided to use the building to house homeless people from other councils instead.

However all the opposition members felt that there should be a proper examination of the whole issue. Normally that wouldn’t have meant very much, we would just be outvoted by the Tory majority as usual. However some of the Tories had to declare interests because of their involvement in housing and had to leave the meeting. That meant that for the first time since 2002 they weren’t in a majority – and they opposition won the vote by 18 votes to 15.

Imperfect handling of important council projects was probably the theme of the entire evening.

After this we had a quick debate on a motion from John Mason asking for the council to have a presentation and a debate on the proposed changes to the local NHS. This was agreed, and a date will be fixed for this. Interestingly Chris Black and John Mason were the only councillors in the evening to say they were against the downgrading of Southend A&E.

Soon it was time for some private and confidential items – an unusually high number of these. There was one in particular that the opposition  felt shouldn’t be in “Private and Confidential”. We forced a recorded vote on this . Interestingly the soft-spoken Tory councillor for Wheatleys , John Griffin, rebelled from the Tory whip and voted with the opposition on this. However Jamie Burton voted with the Tories , leading to an 18-18 tie. The council chair , Conservative Carole Weston then used her casting vote to enforce going into private and confidential.

So we can’t tell you what the biggest item on the agenda was – because  it was discussed in private and confidential and we would be in huge legal trouble if we even gave a hint what it was about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trampolining, Industry, Education and Gospel

There’s a planning application at unit 8 on the Purdeys Way Industrial Estate. It’s for part of the unit to be for religious use – for the Praise Christian Centre International.

The church will be open between 10am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Sunday. Part of the building will stay for industrial use, and there’s  separate  applications to make another part of the building into a trampoline park, and to use another part for education and training.  Which is a fairly incongruous mix.

The application is the second item on the latest weekly list here. It’s recommended for approval.

 

THE BATTLES IN RAYLEIGH

There are two County Council seats in Rayleigh, and we are fighting hard to win both of them!

Rayleigh North

Christopher Ian Black Liberal Democrats
John Hayter UK Independence Party
Malcolm Maddocks Conservative Party (sitting Councillor)
Roger Anthony Neville Labour Party

Chris Black

 

Can Chris Black win this after coming second 3 times in a row? The first time he lost by 907 votes. The next time he lost by 356 votes.  Last time he only lost by only 295 votes! So he has a good chance this time. Malcolm Maddocks has the disadvantage of not living in Rayleigh – he lives in Hill Lane, Hawkwell.

UKIP seem to be in a national decline and John Hayter lost his seat on the District Council last May, so this doesn’t look like UKIP’s year. Labour came bottom last time, and will surely come bottom this time.

The big local issues are  highways, overdevelopment, and the NHS.

Rayleigh South

 Jamie Clive Burton Rayleigh Independents
Keith Anthony Gibbs UK Independence Party (sitting Councillor)
June Rosemary Lumley Conservative Party
Samantha Reed Labour Party
Christopher Stanley Liberal Democrats
Andrew Charles Warren Strutt Green Party

Chris Stanley

 

Oddly enough, there are three candidates here who’ve switched from different parties. Jamie Burton used to be UKIP,  Keith Gibbs used to be Conservative, and June Lumley used to be Lib Dem. All three have a chance of winning – but so does Chris Stanley standing for us.

Keith Gibbs has been a County Councillor for 4 years here, which would normally give him an advantage, but he doesn’t seem  to have used that time to get much public recognition. He is claiming in his leaflet to have opposed the council’s development strategy since 2007, but the Lib Dems  actually were opposing it since that time, and we don’t remember him ever giving us support….

Meanwhile June Lumley may lose  votes over public concern over all the development to the West of Rayleigh and the lack of air pollution monitoring by the council (something that the Lib Dem councillors are now helping to pay for themselves).