What Local Issues Should We Be Investigating?




When we are out canvassing we are picking up lots of issues and questions from residents.

Some of these are national issues – such as MPs’ expenses – and we don’t want to debate them here unless there is a local angle.

But there are plenty of local issues that we are currently looking into. We will be reporting back to individual residents when we have answers from either Essex County Council or Rochford District Council, and before election day we will put some details on onlinefocus as well.

If you think there’s a particular topic that we should be investigating and writing about here, please email Chris on cllrchrisblack@googlemail.com. with your suggestion.

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  • Chris, there IS a local angle here which seems to have been convieniently ignored by the Torygraph newspaper sofar…You can not and should not ignore it either even if it does make you feel uncomfortable.

    Our Right Honourable member for Rayleigh claims (excuse the unintended pun)in The Echo that he only rents a flat in London… very commendable some may think?


    Westminster is less than 40 miles from his home address in Rayleigh so why would one need a 2nd home? Many of his constituents travel to work in London on a daily basis and do not have 2nd homes AND have to pay their own “expenses”…

    Which leads me nicely to his annual travelling expenses for 2007/2008 as stated on:-


    * Regular journeys between home/constituency/Westminster: Mileage £640 (548th). Rail £5,319 (173rd).

    Please somebody remind me how much a rail season ticket is between Rayleigh and Westminster tube station? I can’t afford the standard return fare and find it actually cheaper to drive in 40 miles each way and pay the Congestion Charge!

    I’d be interested to learn how he spends in one year:-

    Additional Costs Allowance £20,689 (368th) – Presumably the aformentioned flat rental, utilities, furnishing etc…?

    Incidental Expenses Provision £11,739 (550th) – Presumably food?

    Staffing Allowance £88,842 (282nd) – Who does he employ?

    Centrally Provided Computer Equipment £1,490 (joint 19th) – interesting to note that this expense is a regular annual feature!

    As a Public Servant who formaly worked in London on “Detached Duty” from my job in the North of England I was formally entitled to “expenses” from the public purse HOWEVER these consisted and were tightly restricted to:-
    1) Rent for a basic 1 bedroomed furnished flat capped at a local market rate.
    2) Utility bills and Council tax (reduced by 50% as this was judged to be my second home) – despite the fact that I only actually got “home” to my house in the North of England for about 36 hours per month (late Friday night to Sunday lunch time)
    3) £5 Incidentals allowance per day.
    4) Standard class rail fare to/from my main home once a month.
    These “allowances” were all TAXABLE and only payable on the understanding that I had a “double commitment” i.e. that I had a mortgage and bills to pay at my “home” address in the North.

    It beggars believe that MP’s working for the same public that I worked for have such grossly extravagant expenses which are also TAX FREE! I am extremely angry about this.

    In the end sheer fatigue eventually caught up with me and I elected to move to Essex – at my own expense… For exactly the same salary and tripled my mortgage. I now commute into London on a daily basis again at my own expense obviously. Please tell me why on earth the rules that I had to abide by and were strictly regulated by HMRC are not also used by MP’s? Why are they above the law? Why are their bloated allownaces tax free?

    Politicians thus far still don’t appear to appreciate the seriousness of this crisis despite their mealy mouthed apologies. Ordianary people are jailed for less. Theft from the public purse should be treated seriously as the fraud that it is. I agree Chris that we shouldn’t (just) be debating it we should be ensuring that legal action is taken…

  • Rayleigh Boys Youth Football Club have over 400 youth players from Rayleigh and Rawreth yet no council members will support us in any way.We support the community in many ways and the wonderful drainage schemes at king georges would not have been approved but for our support and backing of which an area we do not even play matchesourselves.
    we clog the few parks we are alowed to play in up,we work with the council on the leisure centre area only to be kicked in the teeth by them and as is evidant on this website nobody wants us there anyway.
    so with this in mind we rent a piece of land in London road Rawreth to manage ourselves yet we are now chucked off of there because of one complaint from a neighbour bringing the full force of the planning department and Rawreth parish council on us.
    We are now nowhere so you ask what we want I have 400 children who want a home to play football in a safe enviroment, not build a house or romany campsite just white lines on the floor two posts and a crossbar.no clubhouse or even changing facilities just the bear minimum
    One day these kids will be voters and if nothing else I hope they remember what parties did nothing and went out of there way to stop them having a piece of field.
    Please remember you reap what you sow.
    You asked the question so there is the answer from 400 residents.

  • Martin, you know I was personally against the council keeping the sports pitches down Prory Chase ‘inhouse’ and wanted them leased out to a local football club such as Rayleigh Boys.

    Regarding the Old London Road sports pitches I believe you have an application about to be submitted to the council?

    If an application comes in, when it gets to the committee I will certainly have my say on the night after studying very carefully what (in no partiucular order) residents, council officers and your good self tell me.

    Until then I can’t say anything either for it or against it. But can you clarify for me and our readers who is in effective control of managing those sports pitches at the moment? And what are you intending to do down there?

  • Chris
    As you I cannot go in depth on a planning application but RBYFC were on the verge of getting an enforcement notice because we put 3 pitches on the land our hopes were for 8. we are not a load of property developers just a group of volunteers trying to make a difference in the community. We will be gone by Monday all our time and money wasted with an extra 5 teams for the coming year clogging up every park you will find.Completely unmanaged
    We have not asked the tax payers to fund us and football is no different to any other sport played by the children of the district.But I believe these kids have a right to play there chosen sport yet when I see us forced to leave by heavy handed planning officers and Rawreth Parish Council(read there minutes we sound like Millwall)on a complaint from 1 neighbour I despair.
    Obviously 400 kids an easy target.

  • Temple Way Resident, I agree completely with what you say. These elected MP’s must obey the same rules and be answerable to the same laws as us the public who vote them in and pay the tax that pays their salaries.

    Martin- as a local resident and also a parent of a child who plays for Rayleigh boys I obviously support the need for pitches that these children can play on. I would love the local council to find a site that could be rented that didn’t cause any hassle for local residents. In fact why don’t they use the land ear marked for 850 new homes in Rawreth?!? Local residents would be delighted and so too would the 400 footballers!

  • Martin
    I think you will find that Rawreth Parish Council Initially were in favour after some safeguards to the origional planning application for three junior football pitches at london road made by another boys club . They withdrew and a new regime took over on a pay and play scheme thereby trying to maximise their income at the expense of our residents right to some occasional weekend peace !! I think you will also find that there are many more residents fed up with the disruption than just the one who speaks eloquently for them all. The proposal for a one off mini football tournament in August which rumour has it could involve 96 teams is not going to endear our residents to any future proposals for the site.The countryside has also a right to some respect not just a convenient place to cause traffic chaos conflict with equestrian interests and urination in full exposure to residents !!I know it is not the youth teams to blame as much as the adult games which take place illegally but unfortunately they have queered the pitch for all and sundry .If we all went back to the origional planning permission and the conditions and under the control of RBYFC then I am sure a satisfactory outcome could result .We represent all our residents interests as fairly and responsibly as we can and that is our prime function .

  • DH We’ve alteady had a site along for Rawreth Lane for new sports pitcehs – at Park school. It’s worth looking back to see jiust in how many ways things have gone wrong. When Park School closed the original idea was that the land would be used for ‘education and recreation’ only. Sylvia Lemon and myself actually got the district council to make that official policy. However the council was later ‘seduced’ into allowing the land to be mostly built on, in return for half a million pounds towards a new sports centre and also the land near Southend for Cherry Orchard Country Park.

    So when you hear how good the park is – and it is going to be a great place- remember it was obtained by sacrificing sporst pitches in our patch.

    Even though the County Council and District Council were now in favour of building on these sports pitches, Sport England were still objecting – and their objections are very effective on issues like this. So they objected for a about a year, until an oficer from Rochford District Council went to see them (in St Albans I think) and got them to change their mind 36 hours before the meeting.

    Sport England did however insist that some sport pitches be provided. That’s why the pitches are finally coming. Don’t let anyone from the County Council tell you how wonderful they are in helping with these pitches, they were a requirement of planning permission for the homes.

    (also, Rochford DC also adopted a policy that the number of sports pitches in Rayleigh per thousand people be set lower than Sport England’s recommended standard in order to justify building on the land.

    It;s a good question as to why the pitches aren’t already up and running. First of all, a council officer – without any discussions with any councillors – agreed for Wimpey to use the land as a compound.

    Secondly, the council then led local football clubs a dance by inviting them to apply for a lease on the sports pitches so that one club could use it as a home base. And then when the clubs had spent a lot of time preparing presentations, the council said ‘no’ and decided to let the pitches be leased out as usual.

    So volunteers from local clubs wasted a lot of effort on this – when they could have planned to do something else. It’s been incredibly frustrating for them.

    So now Rayleigh Boys have been getting involved with the pitches in Rawreth by London Road. That already has permission for three sports pitches, with a condition that they can only be played on one day a week. The situation has become very complicated because there are various people letting out the pitches. I think Alistir’s post above explains soem of the problems that are occuring at the moment.

    I have been anticipating a planning application coming from Rayleigh Boys to amend the original permission ; that’s why I’ve been quiet on the issue of sports pitches in the Rayleigh area. If it came in, we could then deal with the matter properly at the devlopment control committee.

    As for your suggestion, DH ,for pitches instead of new housing , I suspect that the family who own the land have other ideas – unless we can convince the council to change their preffered options However my understanding is that one member of that family is a Conservative Councillor on Rochford District Council , he will be reading this!

  • Do we have any information on how the average speed cameras are performing. Number of motorists caught in the trap, reduction in accidents etc?

  • I’d like to know if the average speed cameras are actually legal.

    UK law requires that there must be the suspicion of an offence being committed before evidence can be gathered. This is to prevent law abiding citizens being troubled by law enforcement.

    Hand held speed detection devices require a trained police officer to make a decision whether a vehicle is speeding or not, and only if he suspects the vehicle to be speeding can he then use the speed gun to record speed. A GATSO camera uses radar to detect if a vehicle is speeding, then takes photos as evidence. In both cases, drivers that are not speeding have no evidence gathered.

    With average speed cameras, I cannot see any way that they can assess vehicle speed before they start gathering evidence, so will record your number plate every time you pass a camera, whether you are committing an offence or not. Was a change in the law required to allow the use of average speed cameras?

  • ST1,
    The average speed cameras are part of the road pricing scheme using satellite technology, Essex county council have admitted as much. the cash cow motorists will be hit yet again … still as i say to people you keep voting em in!


  • On the note of average speed cameras I would like to question if the average speed of a motorbike can and is calculated on these new cameras. My understanding is that the average speed of a vehicle is calculated and assessed having read the front number plate for vehicle recognition, motorbikes don’t display these, so how will they be prosecuted? Also the cameras now continue past the Mayflower Retail Park on the A127 but the National Speed Limit sign is displayed, I have seen many drivers break thinking their average speed is still being calculated, is it? or does the average speed check stop/Start just before Alton Garden Centre as I was led to believe

  • DPW Resident, Your have just repeated exactly what I posted on this site some two months ago and so far no one has responded with an explanation.
    Re the change in speed limits over the two sections I did comment with, tongue in cheek, that maybe we should consider 60 MPH to be the average speed over the whole section.

  • As an occassional user of the A127 I find the speed limits very very confusing. There is a lack of repeater signs confirming what the speed limit is supposed to be hence the confusion…

    My partner and I have often seen Motorcycles driving at excesssive speeds through the average speed trap areas – presumably none of these motorcyclists have been prosecuted – a real shame considering the frequency of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists in South Essex. I would have thought that Motorcyclists should be specifically targeted…

    ST1 – As for the gathering of evidence by these cameras. ANPR (Automated Number Plate Readers) are already in use all over the UK and ALL the data from these cameras is kept for 2 years – each and every journey that we make on major routes can be tracked retrospectively. A recent news item covered this very point and the Information Commissioner is not happy with this fact BUT the Home Secretary says that the keeping of the data is legal…

  • Chris, is there any way we can get meaningful stats regarding the average speed camaeras yet or do we have to wait 2 years before seeing any?

  • I read in the latest Tory leaflet that Essex are recognised for their ‘pot hole repairs being recognised as amongst the best in Britain’ It was only a matter of months since we were one of the worst. Glad they are now getting it right but what about the cost to the taxpayer of all our money going on compensation claims. There are still stretches where we have dangerous roads due to pot holes.

  • Mike: Regarding the stats, I don’t know. As for the potholes, I’ve found many residents who think the roads are still in a very poor state and find this claim of ‘amongst the best in Britain’ to be laughable. Have a look around Deepdene Avenue or Leslie Road, for example.

  • Mike, By the way if you are still interested in councillors expenses , the most recent information online is for 2006-2007.

    The figures for Essex County Council are here.

    You can see that most County Councillors (such as Roy Pearson) received about £11,000. Stephen Castle , as a cabinet member, received £39,816.95. In addition he was shown as having paid employment from three other bodies.. According to the East of England Development Agency report (page 33) he received £8,269 remuneration from them. As chair of the Eastern Regional Sports Board he could also apparently claim remuneration of £10,000. Whether he did claim for all of these, I don’t know,

    The figures for Rochford District Council are here.

    Ron Oatham received £4,037.80.
    I received £5,049.43 (a higher figure for being Lib Dem Group leader.)
    The highest figure that year for a Rochford District Councillor was £ 9,499.36 to the Conservative Group leader. Terry Cutmore.

  • If terry Cutmore received nearly £1,300 from RDC, in travel and subsistence in 2006/2007, I wonder what the figure is for this financial year?

  • Chris

    You actually published the 2008 figures on here https://www.onlinefocus.org/?p=1277 and the 2009 figures are due now.

    I have just published an article entitled Spin, Dirty Tricks and Expenses http://www.girltalk.pcs-net.com/rol/spin-dirty-tricks-and-expenses/ on my own web site because I am happy to publicly explain the reason for my travel and child care expenses.

    I have also diclosed the other issues that I am exposed to.



  • I’m a bit concerned about the “improvements” that have been kicked off for the A127/A1245 Fairglen junction.

    For the last few weeks the construction workers have been digging out some of the banking next to certain slip roads. I checked the county council website –

    and have to say that the proposal for the London Westbound sliproad (Item 3 in the proposal) look downright dangerous. You need to check out the pdf files on the right hand side of the web page, Boards 9 and 10 refer to this junction.

    They are not widening most of the slip road, just the area where it leaves the roundabout. They are creating a dedicated left turn feeder lane from the northbound A130/A1245 onto the westbound A127, so cars approaching from the south do not have to stop and give way at the roundabout. This is great for traffic flow at the junction, but means fast moving cars are joining a very narrow slip road, which then will have to merge onto the nose-to-tail A127 (thanks to the new 50mph limit).

    Furthermore, the current roundabout markings allow traffic in the middle lane of the roundabout to drive around the outside of traffic in the right hand lane of the roundabout, so you end up with cars travelling side-by-side as you enter the westbound A127 slip road. The new feeder lane off of the A130/A1245 has reduced the width of the slip road for vehicles coming off the roundabout, so cars travelling side by side off the roundabout no longer have two lanes on the slip road available to them. This sudden bottleneck could cause accidents and/or congestion on the roundabout.

    The rest of the proposed improvements for the junction do not appear to provide any benefit what-so-ever.

    Item 1 is a proposed widening of the entry/exit of the roundabout as you leave the eastbound A127 to go north on the A1245. Personally I don’t see any issue with the width of the road at this point, and fail to see what improvement we get from widening it.

    Item 2 alters the road marking on the roundabout in the area covered in item 1 above, supposedly so you will then get 2 lanes being able to go round the roundabout onto the eastbound A127. However, you can already get 2 lanes going round this point to join the eastbound A127 anyway, so again can see no improvement.

    Finally, Item 4 covers reshaped embankments to improve visibility. The only visibility problems that I see at this junction are when the council fail to cut the grass on the central reservations.

  • As far as I can see you’ll have about 12 months overlap between the planned A127 works finishing and the Sadlers Farm work. That should be fun!

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