The Cabinet System Should Be Scrapped



If anyone is looking at the District Council website to try to find out who initiated the idea to build houses on Brocksford Green – well it’s not easy!

But the decision seems to have been made by the Council Executive  (the Cabinet) back in December 2012 under “Asset Review”. The officers report was private and confidential , and isn’t shown on the council website. However these are the minutes(click on them to enlarge). We can’t be 100% that this was the decision, without seeking out a copy of the confidential paperwork.


asset minutes

As you can see, it deals with quite a few sites. Also note that this was a meeting of the cabinet, which at that time consisted on 8 councillors, all selected by Cllr Cutmore, none of them from Rayleigh!  Ordinary ward Councillors are NOT permitted to speak at cabinet meetings ! Which meant that no Rayleigh member could have spoken on this.

If the ward Councillors had wanted to challenge this decision – well, at that time any 3 councillors could have got together to refer it to Full Council. But none of them did. And by the way, that right of referral has since been taken away by the Conservatives.

It’s time the Cabinet system was scrapped. It’s undemocratic and expensive. And it’s not even that effective – if there had been an open debate involving all Councillors in 2012, the idea would have been squelched back then, saving council officers much-needed time and money.

The Council Executive Meets Next Wednesday

The ‘cabinet’ of the Distict council meets next Wednesday at 7:30. You can download the agenda from this page.

One of the items on the agenda is to start public consultation on a plan to reduce air pollution from the Rawreth Industrial Estate. The council is particularly thinking about the impact on residents in Victoria Avenue, Rowan Close and Stirling Close in Rayleigh.

Another item is the future of our public toilets. As Councillor Michael Hoy has already written, this is likely to be discussed in private and confidential session. So the public can’t watch and we can’t tell you much afterwards!

What’s perhaps worse though, are the ultra-strict rules that the Conservative Group have chosen, which currently mean that no Rayleigh Councillor is allowed to speak at these meetings. Cllr Joan Mockford and Cllr Toby Mountain are the ward members for Victoria Avenue and Stirling Close, Chris Black and Ron Oatham for Rowan close. It is bizarre that they don’t have a right to speak on the air pollution issue.

Time for the Tories to re-think this.

Lots Of Questions

The following questions have been submitted to next Thursday’s Full Council:

The Proper Officer reports that, pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 12.2, the following questions have been received:-
From Cllr C I Black:-
(a) Of the Portfolio Holder for Young Persons, Adult Services, Community Care and Well Being, Health and Community Safety
In response to a public question at the Full Council Meeting on July 27th last year, your predecessor stated “The Council will continue to be proactive in this period of transformation to ensure that the Rochford District has an appropriate level of health service provision in the new structure”.
What has the District Council actually achieved in the past year on this?
(b) Of the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation
Can you please advise me of the approximate number of ongoing planning enforcement cases today, the number of officers in the planning enforcement team, and whether they are full or part time?
(c) Of the Portfolio Holder for the Environment
In response to a question at Full Council on October 26th 2010 you were asked “Do you believe that the Members of the Executive had adequate oversight of the tendering arrangements for the New Materials Recovery Facility contract?” and you replied “Yes”. Do you still believe that?
(d) Of the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation
Do you agree with me that the current arrangements for District
Councillors to liaise with County Highways are not adequate?
1.3 From Cllr Mrs D Hoy:-
Of the Leader of the Council
Can you confirm the following with regard to Rochford District Matters?
How many copies are printed and paid for in each print run.
How much does each print run cost.

Tomorrow Night’s Cabinet – Some Interesting Stuff.

The District Council cabinet meets tomorrow night, June 22nd.

You can find details about the meeting here.

There’s some interesting stuff to be discussed. What a pity the only 8 councillors allowed to speak (let alone vote!) are 8 Conservatives , none of whom represent the largest community in the district, Rayleigh.

One big item is ” Performance Report on Key Performance Indicators for the period January to March 2011″, but the report is 29 megabytes in size, and doesn’t seem to download properly.

Another item is on the council’s draft “corporate plan” (715kb)

One of the key bits of the document is below – and it all sounds very nice:

As a Council we have been asked what we envisage the District looking like under our
vision. Over the next five years, we see a number of projects coming to fruition or
making considerable progress to being delivered. These projects will contribute to
the Council achieving its vision and its aims.
We want to improve the quality of life for the people in our communities and play a
full role in the sustainable growth and prosperity of our county. In particular, we
wish to utilise our position within Thames Gateway South Essex to promote the
District as the ‘green part’ of the subregion. By the ‘green part’ we mean woodlands;
coast and areas for outdoor recreation and leisure – all the things which fit well with
our overarching vision. To this end, there will be improvements in the provision and
upgrade of green space, resulting in increased usage. Enhancement of heritage
sites and local facilities will improve opportunities for leisure and free time
activities, improving the quality of life for residents, workers and visitors to the
District and providing quality places to visit. Following its expansion and the completion
of the new car park entrance at the eastern end of the site, together with improved
footpath and cycle links, residents will be able to take full advantage of the resource
offered by Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park. In addition, the environmentally
sympathetic Wallasea Wetlands Project, will have commenced. This will become a
popular destination for bird watchers and others, particularly during the winter
We see us developing our services and improving their access to meet the
changing needs and expectations of our communities. Our emphasis will be on
quality and cost effectiveness whilst ensuring that Rochford District will remain
one of the safest places in the country and the fear of crime will be reduced.

Our Planning Core Strategy will provide clarity as to where and how the housing
needs of our communities will be met. The new homes to be provided will offer high
quality design and include water retention and renewable energy features. There will
be growing emphasis on responding to and meeting the needs of a community which is
ageing. At the same time, engagement with and facilities for young people across
the District will have improved. We have been very successful in helping residents
to increase their recycling rate and will aim to make steady progress towards a target
of 70%.
The automotive development on Rochford Business Park will be complete. London
Southend Airport will have been upgraded with modern passenger friendly facilities
and passenger flights to and from the airport will have increased, resulting in new
jobs for the area. Further employment land will also be under construction in the
environs of the airport.

The next item is the likely closely of Great Wakering Sports Centre.
You can download the report here. (73kb) The recommendation is that:

To issue Virgin Active with formal notice that Great Wakering Sports Centre is
to be removed from the Leisure Management contract, as from 1 October
As part of the 2011/12 budget setting process a number of efficiencies had to
be made, one of which was the decision to look for alternative management
arrangements, including transfer of ownership, or if no alternatives, closure of the
As a result of this decision, the management of the sports centre would need
to be removed from the Council’s Leisure Management contract with Virgin
Active, for which there is an appropriate clause within the contract.
This reduction in the contract would realise an annual saving of £71,832
which is the fee for Great Wakering Sports Centre, in addition to the NNDR
[what used to be called business rate] of £9,004 per year.

The next item is about customer feedback and freedom of information requests. You can download this one easily enough(54kb). basically, compliments are up by 11%, complainst are up by 10% , and the number of freedom of information requests has soared from 213 in 2009/10 to 403 in 2010/11 !

After that there’s a report from the Head of Legal, Estates and Member Services on the Materials Recycling Facility Contract. But that’s in private and confidential so we can’t write any more about it.

A Bit of Extra Money For The CAB

District Council Cabinet Member Cllr Jo McPherson has agreed to giving a bit more cash to the Citizens Advice Bureau. She has made the following executive decision:

To approve an ex-gratia payment of £2150 in response to the request made
by the Rochford and Rayleigh Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) towards the
costs incurred while waiting for receipt of their voluntary sector grant award.
To provide additional financial support to the CAB at a time when funding is
The importance of the work undertaken by the CAB to the residents of the
District is recognised as crucial in the current economic climate.
Not to award the ex-gratia payment to the CAB.
Councillor Mrs Jo McPherson

Council Website Predicts Council Decision in Advance? – WITH CORRECTION

The District Council website reports:

Changes to Parking Enforcement

Posted on 22 March 2011 by admin

From 1 April, Rochford District Council will no longer be responsible for enforcing on-street parking regulations (yellow lines, commuter parking etc).

While Essex County Council is still the Highways Authority, the task of enforcing on-street parking controls will be transferred to a new Parking Partnership headed by Chelmsford Borough Council.

The changes won’t affect residents unduly as enforcement will continue as it does now, but the Enforcement Officers on-street will be wearing slightly different uniforms to Rochford’s own staff who will continue to monitor and enforce within the Council’s car parks.

In future, if you have any parking queries or enforcement issues that relate to parking on roads, pavements or grass-verges, contact the Parking Partnership on or email

This is quite correct. The District Council has joined a consortium of councils based in Chelmsford. Let’s hope the new system works out OK.

What’s odd is that the decision on this was only taken by the Council cabinet on March 30th – yet the website story was dated March 22nd!

CORRECTION: (April 13th)

It’s been pointed out to onlineFOCUS that this post may have been misleading.

ECC, who have responsibility for on street parking, decided to remove that responsibility from the Essex Districts and place it with two Partnerships, one operating in north Essex and one operating in south Essex. The new operation came into being earlier this month. That basically was the substance of the article on the coucnil website. To advise residents of this change.

The decision taken by the Cabinet at the end of March was not about this change per se, but whether to become a partner in the South Essex Partnership overseeing the new operation. Rochford DC could have chosen not to join the partnership, who would still have had responsibility from this month of managing on street parking in our District.

Apologies for any misunderstanding.

The Labour Government Is Gone – But Local Conservatives Still Pressing On With All That Housing

The District Council has now produced a statement outlining how much housing development it wants to see in future years. You can download it here. (102kb).

A lot of residents hoped that when the previous Labour government left office, our Conservative council would listen to local voices.
They expected the Conservatives to reduce the amount of green belt that would be swallowed up .
We think they are going to feel very let down.

There is a lot in this statement to read.

But the key point is this – the Conservatives seem to be keeping all the development sites they has previously supported, and just stretching the building process out over a longer period. All of the green belt sites that residents have been trying to protect and the council wants to develop are still likely to be built on.

In fact the council is now proposing a very small INCREASE in the amount of houses to be built in the Green Belt – instead of 2785 units by 2025, there will be 2791 by the year 2031.

Of course , once land is taken out of the Green Belt, it’s very hard to protect it again. Wouldn’t it better to let future councillors – in 2025 – make decisions on what housing is needed then rather than have councillors and council officers try to guess things now 15 or 20 years in advance?

Why is our council so keen to press ahead with all this?


Complaint About Clements Hall

From the Echo:

A DISGUSTED swimmer has slammed “filthy” conditions at a council-owned leisure centre.

The 23-year-old, who asked not to be named, said he was shocked at the state of the changing rooms on recent visits to Clements Hall Leisure Complex in Hawkwell.

The leisure centre, in Clements Hall Way, is managed by Virgin Active on behalf of Rochford District Council.

Bosses at the council are now looking into the problem and say they hope it can be resolved “speedily”.

The district council and Virgin hope to make more thorough refurbishments to the changing rooms in the near future.

The man, who is from Rochford and a regular user of the facilities said: “The swimming pool changing rooms are absolutely filthy – it appears thorough cleaning is not done to a timely manner….

Full story here.

This could be the first big test for Rochford Councillor Keith Gordon, who is the new Cabinet Member for Leisure, Tourism, Heritage, the Arts, Culture and Business.

Council Decides To Keep Sports Pitches Under Direct Control

We’ve been told that the council’s cabinet decided last night to keep the new sports pitches by the Rayleigh Leisure Centre under it’s direct control . The council will NOT be leasing the land to any local club like Rayleigh Boys or Hambro Colts.

We understand that the decision was supported by every member of the Conservative Group.

This is the rough sketch map of a likely layout that we showed here a few months ago:

Sketch map of Proposed Football Pitches

We’ll write some more when we know more….

The Member Champion For Risk

There’s an item for next Thursday’s Cabinet meeting- Item 5.2 . It’s about appointing a ‘Member Champion for Risk”.

Risk Board Game

This sounded quite intriguing. Have the cabinet taken so much power that they are setting up board game tournaments to keep the ordinary councillors happy? Would the next step be a Member Champion for Scrabble”?

Actually, the truth is much less interesting. It’s to do with having a councillor overview the council’s “Risk Management Framework”. Very worthwhile work, we’re sure, but….

Next Wednesday’s Cabinet 4: Dogs!

On Wednesday night the council officers bring their suggestions on dog control to the cabinet. Their key points are:

  • Leaving dog faeces on the ground will continue to be an offence, just as it is now.
  • Letting a dog go into enclosed areas such as childrens play areas will be a new offence.
  • Dogs will still need to be kept on leads along highways and pavements
  • There will be a new legal requirement to put your dog on a lead when requested to by an ‘authorised officer’ . this might apply if your dog is misbehaving in a park….
  • It will now be an offence to have more than dogs under your control at any one time in a public place. (Chris has already had one phone call about this from someone who knows a dogowner with 6 dogs…)