“A Tale of Two Meetings”

Michael Hoy’s account of last night can be read here One of his points is about the behaviour of the public there:

…I must emphasise that the protest was peaceful and friendly (although a couple of people did have raised voices) throughout and posed no threat, they would have moved if asked but no Officer did so for around an hour and a half, when I understand the public peacefully left the building…

  • Thanks to the Councillors that refused to be ordered from the Council Chamber and stood shoulder to shoulder with the public. The way this council conducts its’ business is open to serious question. How can it be right that ‘officers’ paid out of our council tax can be engaged with developers whose plans was roundly rejected by a large majority of the whole council and our MP, before the Appeal against that determination is decided? What was the meeting with the developer, allegedly being held today, designed to achieve? Are RDC Planners trying to circumnavigate the will of the residents and their elected representatives after their grand scheme was blown out of the water in January? Why are the residents opposed to these schemes regarded as the enemy by Tory Councillors and Officers when all we want to do is protect this neighbourhood in which we live. Those opposed to these ‘schemes’ will not be silenced and will continue to press for a full enquiry into RDC. Just who are they working for?

    • Well said Linda, the residents of Rayleigh will fight on regarding this development. As for RDC I really feel that they do not allow democracy within the council meetings, it is about time that the cabinet system was abolished it certainly does not work for the people of Rayleigh and surrounding areas.

  • Chris, perhaps you could explain something. Councillors are elected to represent the people in their ward, and in an ideal world should always act in their best interests, and the best interests of the district as a whole. Officials are employees, public servants, unelected, so why do they seem to exercise more power than Councillors, and why do they so often go against the clearly expressed wishes of the public who pay them. It seems that they called the shots over the secret meeting, not Councillors, who had to do as the officials said. We don’t elect Councillors to have things run by unelected officials, so how come they have so much authority. They should advise certainly, but not order.

    • Christine, think of the council’s Local Development Framework as being like a river.

      A river starts off as a little stream, it is fairly easy to divert its course at this stage. As it heads towards the sea, it gets deeper and wider, and by the time it gets to the sea it is a broad estuary, it is a formidable task to alter its course, all you can do is put in some levees and earthworks on then riverbanks to improve things slightly.

      With the LDF, in the beginning it was easy to alter things. We were able to make a fairly drastic alteration and got the allocation for “West of Rayleigh” to be cut from about 1800 (if I remember correctly) to the present level.

      As the plan became more developed, councillors became hemmed in by previous decisions that they had made, plus they were constrained by government policy. Though it’s fair to say that most councillors were content with the way things were. anyway.

      By about 2013, the plan was like an estuary, it was very difficult to change things and officers had a duty to remind Councillors of that.

      Problem is, the plan is mediocre, will deliver mostly mediocre developments and not give us the infrastructure we need. The bad news is that councillors had a training session this week, the new government is going to greatly weaken councils’ and local residents influence over planning and give more opportunity for developers. Even Tory councillors were rolling their eyes at some of this. I think this is just one way in which this could be the worst government in my lifetime, people will start to realise just how much they miss the Lib Dems being in government and reining the Tories in on some of their worst policies!

      • I think the analogy of a river of gravy is nearer to the reality, with the developers enjoying the gravy the most. It must also be remembered that it has kept plenty of local politicians, “public” servants, consultants, planning inspectors etc in gravy for a good number of years also. Unfortunately now it appears its time to settle the bill, and local residents get to pay it. These meetings are driven by self preservation, and the interests of big business, as opposed to the needs and wishes of the local community. Same as it ever was.

  • Agree with Christine ( I made the same point on the other thread ) – is there not some form of independent standards committee that we
    can report our concerns to ( un-elected officers dictating Council policy , aided and abetted by the self important portfolio holders ) , or
    should it go to our MP?.

    • Jim, it isn’t particularly a matter for an MP. I suppose someone could take a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman alleging maladministration. But my instincts tell me that what we have here is poor administration, not maladministration.

      • Unfortunately it seems perfectly acceptable to be an incompetent politician, or public servant these days, no matter what the scale of the resulting disaster. However, if you live in a council property with an extra bedroom, you are only one shade lighter than Satan himself.

  • Admin – I had to smile at your reference to ” weaken residents influence” , we do not have a say as it stands , and your term of
    Maladministration is your polite nature – it is the incompetence of the Officers that has got us into this mess, choosing sites
    that not only intrude on Green Belt but have insufficient infrastructure as it is . Hence , as you say , with your river analogy – we
    are now up the creek without a paddle – literally if this site causes more flooding downstream.

  • I think some, if not several, Councillors and Officers have forgotten that they are employees of the public not the masters of the public. The LDF is flawed because the people who originally came up with the concept allowed it to be so, and completely ignored input from Town and Parish councils who identified brown field sites that could have absorbed the necessary development piecemeal with less impact on infrastructure, flooding etc. Developers want virgin fields, more profit that way, no cleaning up to do, economies of scale, and those arguments were put above the public interest. (When in doubt follow the money). There should be an independent way of looking into the motives, competency and roles of officers of the council and Councillors themselves when what they are doing goes against the clear wishes of the public who employ them.

  • Unfortunately we ( the electorate ) have to comply with the rules and our only chance of changing things is vote ( in large numbers ) and
    create a more balanced mix of different parties in the Council elections next year , the current 30 – 9 seats is why the Cabinet ( junta ) is
    doing what it likes.
    The recent General Election overwhelmed the local elections but next time it could be different , especially if the Appeal costs £0.5 million or more or ( as I suspect that will be circumnavigated ) they get the go ahead and it starts to impact people ( ie: Construction Traffic ).
    Somehow the shortcomings of this regime need to be constantly illustrated in order to motivate a generally apathetic electorate to do
    something about it – the opposition parties are key to this and need to learn to fight fire with fire ( ie: fight dirty like the enemy ).

  • This got good coverage in Monday’s ECHO , with an article / photos plus my letter in the Letters page.
    Cllr Ward ( Planning Portfolio holder ) is quoted and endeavours to justify Council secret meetings by comparing
    with the fact that the Government do not hold there “security meetings in public”.
    Can we assume from this that RDC see us ( the electorate ) as a threat !!!!- it begs the question a threat to what ?.

    • Their domination Jim, that’s what. We might expect them to actually take notice of the people who pay them instead of bowing down and accepting what they say is good for us like nice little plebs.