How the Council Changed Forever Last Week

The new “Cabinet” of the District Council met for the first time last Thursday evening at 7:30 . It’s official title is the “Executive Board” but we think most people will call it a cabinet.

Basically, most of the power of the council has been passed to 9 Tory councillors, and they will decide most of the big policy decisions. They are restricted in some ways – some decisions will have to be made by the full council, for example, but these 9 will really be in control. (One major exception is planning applications – all 39 councillors will still deal with those)

So the first meeting kicked off last week. Four ‘ordinary’ members of the council came along to watch – Chris Black, Ron Oatham, Heather Glynn and Jim Grey. The first difference was that we ordinary members of the council were treated as though we didn’t exist – we weren’t allowed to sit next to the cabinet, or to speak or ask questions.

This was a bit of a shock, but perhaps a healthy reminder to us of what it’s like to watch from the public gallery. Chris thought “Do I sound as self-satisfied as that lot when I’m speaking?”. Heather Glynn couldn’t hear what everyone was saying and she wasn’t allowed to ask anyone to speak louder.

Most of the meeting was extremely dull. The cabinet had 224 pages to get through, and it included stuff with juicy titles like “The Transition From Comprehensive Performance Assessment to Comprehensive Area Assessment

Tory leader Cllr Terry Cutmore was his usual affable self, but maybe a bit stricter than normal. For example Cllr Mavis Webster wanted to talk about Cherry Orchard Country Park, and Cllr Derek Stansby wanted to talk about tourism, but he cut both of them short. Terry Cutmore generally spoke the most – by comparison, Cllr John Pullen only spoke twice in the whole evening.

The meeting only came to life over one issue – what time to have future meetings. The Tory deputy leader Cllr Keith Hudson proposed moving the time to 3:30 on Thursday afternoons. He said that we could have more officers present in the afternoon and added ” Non-members of the board are not in a position to contribute – we are best served by the time that suits us ” He also said ” If the majority prefer an afternoon , then that is what it should be – it should be at the whim of the people doing the business, I find it strange that it should be any other way”.

This was politely opposed by Cllr Colin Seagers, who is one of the minority of cabinet members who works. He said he would try to alter his working week to fit around this, but “This is not a good idea, it makes it much more difficult to attract people from all walks of life, or for the public to come. It’s not what was originally envisaged

Terry Cutmore said that he would be happy with either arrangement.

Then Cllr Hudson came out with the surprising news that he had trouble getting to Thursday evening meetings – if the cabinet perpetually met on Thursday nights, he couldn’t stay on it.

The end result was that they decided to try meeting on Wednesday evenings.

  • I am completely dismayed by the report of the recent local council meeting. These people will want to be re-elected in a few years time but they obviously have not taken on board the defeats they have had in the recent elections. It is not that it was a low turnout, it was all about people getting fed up with the tories complete disregard for the people they are supposed to represent. The meetings and decisions taken are supposed to be transparent or am I missing something in a democratic country. They are, for want of a better term playing ‘tinpot dictators’. If it is at all possible I will be at the next meeting just to witness this tea party!

  • “What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also. ”

    No, not the words of any council leaders but of Julius Caesar. Still, you get the point.

    My perception is that it is the Lib Dem councillors who actually bother to find out what the residents in their wards care about.

  • I think that the gang of nine who rule need to learn a bit of humility. How dare Cllr Keith Hudson talk about making decisions on a ‘whim’ Who does he think he is. We all know what he is when he takes this tone. He is certainly not thinking about what he can do for the residents of this town.

    The meetings should be at a time and place that members of the public could attend or is he hiding something, maybe to make it easier to make unpopular decisions when the public are unable to attend.

    The tories are not doing themselves any favours at the moment, maybe the leader of the council could teach his band some humility.

    Alison I think you are right on the button when you state that the Lib Dems are the only party willing to listen and take on board what we the public actually want.

    Thank you Chris, Jackie and co. for some sanity.

  • Has the council changed forever? There are quite a lot of Tori councillors here in Rayleigh that are very unhappy with this situation and are trying to band a group to bring back the old council as we used to know it. And im not talking any of the portfolio holders whoos slip of the ______ Its time this council was reverted back to it previous state were councillors felt they were taking part not left like ZOMMBIES.

  • Chris, I was very interested to read in the Echo your letter regarding Mavis Webster. I think you Jackie and Co. have really got the Tory’s rattled. they are now coming out with statements that are not factually correct. I think we should re-name Mrs Webster as Mavis Christian Andersen and I’m sure we could find suitable names for the rest of the conservatives on the local council.

    All jokes apart I think the good people of Rayleigh are owed an apology from Mavis Webster so why not request that Mrs Webster says SORRY for misleading us all, after all they ARE accountable to us more so than their party.

    So what about us all requesting an apology?

  • Mike – if you take a look at my web site you will see that I run a programme in my Ward which is directly based on a survey undertaken with residents which sets out what they want. I may be a lone councillor as the Lib Dems often say on this web site but that does not mean that I am not a very good ward councillor – I have been given an continuous electoral mandate of 10 years and that must mean that electors value what I have been doing. Whilst I mainly concentrate on Hawkwell I do work for all the residents of Rochford through my party, Rochford District Residents.

  • If you are more than dismayed with the RDC Executive Board then you will not look forward to your Area Committee either. The Central Area Committee for Hawkwell, Hockley and Hullbridge met on 12 June. It was dreadful. Take a look at this link for a full report. Its is on my web site where you can read some of my other reports on the way RDC does not serve its residents any more.

    http://www.girltalk.pcs-net.com/rol/rochford-district-council-central-area-committee-12-june-2007/

  • John, Thanks for the information. I have just registered on your website. I’m sure you are a very capable councillor however reading through some of the reports and comments there are many councillors and hangers on who should not have any involvement in local government. I have been working in Jersey and Guernsey for the last 4 years, running anti-money laundering projects and only returned home in 2006, so I am just getting up to date on what is going on here.
    My concern is that there appears to be a complete lack of oversight once councillors are elected. This website and yours have invaluable information and you, Chris, Jackie etc. are doing sterling work. If this information could get more exposure it might make the councillors who are giving local council a bad name take note. I do have views on why we are so apathetic when elections are called and with the lack of public attendance at meetings, however that is for another day.
    If the election of public office posts are such a carve, as appears to be the case, then this is just a reflection of their personality in ‘real life’. The regeneration of Southend etc. leaves the door open for the less than honest to fill their boots. I wonder if we ran a check of companies and their directors against all the councillors, would we identify any interesting details or has this been done already?

    I would be happy to discuss any way we can make councillors more accountable, not a witch hunt, but a proper plan to try and eradicate the bad elements that we obviously have in our local council. I go back to the point of exposing any bad practices to the widest possible audience, including their peers in the national party.

  • John , I’m sorry if you feel describing you as a ‘lone councillor’ is derogatory – that certainly wasn’t the intention, it seemed a succinct description of your position as someone who isn’t in a group but belongs to a registered political party. Being called ‘lone’ didn’t do the Lone Ranger any harm! But seriously, should we use the description “Residents Party Councillor”?

    And you should know that I don’t judge the quality or effectiveness of another councillor by the size of the group they belong to….. 🙂

  • Mike,

    Thanks for all your recent comments. As you can see, we are pressing the Tories about as hard as we can on the question of development.

    Their response seems to be to a) blame everything on the East of England Reginal Assembly and b) say that they want better infrastructure before more housing (which suggests they ultimately will accept the housing figures) From our side we think we need more amenities to catch up with thje development we ALREADY have.

    So there’s a Conservative leaflet out in Wheatley Ward from Cllrs Mavis Webster and John Pullen that screams “Rayleigh Way of Life threatened”. It doesn’t mention that these two councillors have already been involved in an early vote on the 1800 houses – Mavis abstained and John Pullen voted for the figures! As John is the chairman of the new West Area Committee , he has a key role on setting the housing figures and as he is a decent guy we hope he is open to persuasion.

  • Chris, I think there is some great work going on at the moment, especially Jackie winning at the local’s however in all walks of life in whatever you do there are always regulators that ensure good practise. In my job, working in compliance, we have the FSA who would not only take away our ability to trade but could take inividuals to court for not following rules. Reading, as I do, many websites, bloggs, papers etc. It does appear to me that there is a certain lack of oversight. The councillors who represent their wards with care, and there are many such people, have nothing to fear from having oversight. The people that will challenge this are the people who have most to lose. I feel very passionate about this topic. If national government have independant ethics committee’s etc. why not in local councils. If this were to happen we would have well run meetings, that all councillors could partake in and we would not have the carve ups that obviously do happen. I am prepared to take this on myself. With the job I have I do work long hours and would not be able to get to many meetings, however the internet is a very powerful tool and I am prepared to ensure any bad practises, such as the running of recent meetings, will get exposure, as long as I get the information. I am not a councillor and have nothing to do with the council so therefore I would be completely impartial. The residents of this district must come first as far as I am concerned.
    Your views would be much appreciated.

  • Chris, Sorry I got off my original beef, about overdevelopment of Rayleigh. As you know I am not a NIMBY but do believe that the amount of development will have enormous repercussions for not only our town but the south East of England in general. I believe that the new builds are not about houses for our children but dwellings for people settling into our towns from other countries. If the Labour government are so intent on mass immigration then let them do what they promised, build houses in the Midlands and the North of this country. Labour have backtracked on their promise and we can not trust them again and the Tories have not been able to come up with a viable alternative, given that there is only one other choice. It is about time that the people in this town and this country thought hard and long about what is really going on. We do have an alternative, lets take it and determine our own future.

  • Hi Chris

    Chris, No offence taken and no apologies needed. Whenever I have participated in an election in Hawkwell all of the political parties have said that there is no point in electing a lone councillor. To have been elected three times I think that I have proven that this is wrong. I suppose the phrase still makes me edgy!! Yes, I am proud of my Party and I still hope that one day it might be a rallying point for other residents who wish to represent their areas in this way. Yes, I like your suggestion of “Residents Party Councillor”.

  • Although us Rayleigh folk don’t think the Tories know what local people think (or care), things are different over in the east of the district. Many councillors there are present, or ex, parish councillors and have started their careers in local politics because they do care. They attend local events and certainly have their ‘ears to the ground’. Unfortunately, moving up to district, they get constrained by the local Tory bigwigs. They’re not political animals and do want to do good for their residents. Hopefully, this change in structure will encourage them and a few like minded members in Rayleigh to rebel.

    I would add that according to my friends in the east, the council leader can’t be included in the above. Most of his residents in the villages – Paglesham, Stambridge and Canewdon, haven’t seen or heard from him for months unlike his co-ward councillor who seems to pop up everywhere. No doubt this will change next year when he’s up for re-election!!!!

    Any thoughts???

  • Anonone, My last comment was a little flippant, however there are always elections and that is the one place and time that we all can make our feelings known and make a difference. The biggest problem is we always forget or get taken in by these councillors around election time who have no right to represent us. When I read what goes on it almost reminds me of DIBLEY. Sorry for the flippancy again.