Friday, 15 November 2013
It was interesting to see Ken Livingstone's recent comments to a campaigning group. He accused the Labour party of “cowardice” for building up billions in debts rather than taking difficult decisions on tax cuts and spending and accused Gordon Brown of borrowing too much in the boom years. Mr Livingstone said: “Gordon Brown was borrowing £20 billion a year at the height of the boom in the first decade of this century in order to avoid having to increase taxes, because he wanted to increase public spending.” Whilst non of this is exactly cutting edge it is surprising how many Labour councillors in Southend remain in denial of the financial incompetance of the last Labour government and it's hand in contributing to the financial challenge which the current government is facing.If you think you have eliminated the cycle of boom and bust is it surprising that in times of boom you do not take steps to prepare for the inevitable times of bust. Our Labour members refuse to accept my criticisms of their last government but perhaps they will listen to Red Ken!
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Bearing in mind my well established political views some friends regularly express their surprise that my wife and I are daily readers of the Independent Newspaper and indeed have been regular purchasers since the original launch of the paper many years ago. Admittedly it has gone through some ups and downs so far as quality is concerned, and this week had the latest of it's regular make overs, but we have stuck to it and I like a paper that challenges some of my natural inclinations and gives reason for thought not only when reading but also subsequently. The nearest I got to cancelling our order was at the last general election when for the first time the editorial encouraged us to vote for a particular party. I would have thought that the editorial staff realised that by choosing their publication we had sufficient interest to evaluate the merits of the parties ourselves and that if we wanted such direction we would have bought the Mail or the Sun. However a couple of items this week demonstrate the papers ability to stimulate thought and debate. In one a renown correspondent was critical of the apparent expectation of the BBC and others for their staff to wear poppies. Infact the article went further than being critical of the policy but also argued against the whole principle of wearing a poppy. I have to say I would never expect or instruct a colleague to wear a poppy - it is a matter of personal choice - but I will continue to wear a poppy with pride in that not only does it represent an outward sign of support for all those who have risked or lost their lives for our common sake but also because I am sure that the money raised from poppy sales is important. In fact I have always thought that this is a good argument against the permanent and reusable poppy badges etc which have recently become popular and make sure that I buy a new poppy each year. In a very different article mention was made of a newly issued cd of glam rock greats which has erased Gary Glitter and his music from this otherwise complete record. The question is whether this is right or wrong and like me the author of the piece was in two minds. As a matter of historical accuracy this music was important to the development of the genre but does including it somehow excuse his subsequent behaviour. The decision not to show past editions of Top of the Pops hosted by Savile seems more obvious as it is almost like showing the scene of a crime. The article also posed the question of whether other artists and authors whose behaviour has been unacceptable should also be air brushed from the history of their art. By way of example the article by David Lister made reference to the serial rapist and novelist Arthur Koestler. On balance I think I favour including artistic work in these circumstances although not without significant doubts.
The weather conditions for the Town's Remembrance Service were just about perfect this morning. Whilst It was a little fresh it was sunny and dry with a beautiful blue sky. The turnout was fantastic with more on parade than I can recall for many years. As usual the service was supported by large members of the general public. Not only is it a thought provoking occasion which makes it a must do in the council diary, but I also believe that as local representatives it is important that we attend in large numbers to show our support. I am always surprised at the odd elected member who fails to ever attend and would hope that they would rethink for the future. In the meantime congratulations to all those involved in organising the day.
Friday, 8 November 2013
Many years ago in my last year at Chalkwell Hall Junior School I had a pal who had an imaginary friend. It was quite funny at the time as he would regularly stand in the playground having a heated discussion with himself and acting for all the world as though there were two separate people. The advantage from his point of view was that he could always ensure that he had a friend and it also meant that he could ensure he won every argument. My mind went back to him following the performance of Independent Party Councillor Ron Woodley at a recent scrutiny meeting when with a straight face he stood up in his capacity of Cllr Ron Woodley to defend an alternative flood defence scheme submitted by Mr Ron Woodley the Chairman of local residents group BERA. I have previously blogged on this bizarre situation which in my view raises an interesting question as to whether Cllr Woodley could speak as a scrutinising councillor without raising a perception as to conflict. I thought that would be an end to it but I have now been referred to the BERA website and on the “Flood Defence” page there is a message to residents from Mr Woodley and a copy of a letter Mr Woodley has sent to the Council’s Chief Executive. If I had the IT skills of Cllrs Cox or Ware Lane I would provide a link but his letter includes the following gems: “Dear Mr Tinlin Following last weeks Place Scrutiny meeting I have to register my displeasure at the proceedings that took place. Apart from the fact that my elected representative on the committee was excluded from asking pertinent questions of all options on the sea defence proposals..... The following are just a few questions that I am asking as Chair of the Burges Estate Residents Association, which are very different from the questions that I know our elected member of the council was refused/not permitted to ask at the committee. Ron Woodley Chair Burges Estate Residents Association” This is greatly shortened but the full letter is available as indicated. The more perceptive amongst you will realise that Mr Ron Woodley’s reference to “my elected representative” is a reference to Cllr Ron Woodley and it is interesting that Mr Ron Woodley feels it appropriate to ask different questions from his councillor Cllr Ron Woodley. Perhaps the 2 of them should meet to discuss the issue – my old pal would be proud!
Thursday, 24 October 2013
The campaign to save Deanes school continues and I wish it well. I remain of the view that the decision is misguided in that it fails to acknowledge the demand on school places which we will see in coming years or the importance of the network of inter connecting schools with different strengths that exist across south east Essex. However the whole process does have an interesting twist in connection with my ongoing view that local government could be delivered more efficiently, cost effectively and democratically by forming a single unitary authority covering Southend, Castle Point & Rochford. At present Southend is a unitary authority with control over all areas to include education whereas Castle Point and Rochford are part of 2 tier Essex with responsibility for eductaion resting with the County Council rather than the local district councils. The main reason that Southend (and Thurrock) successfully campaigned to obtain unitary status and to break away from 2 tier Essex was the view that the County Council was dominated by representatives from mid and north Essex and that south Essex didn't get it's fair share of the services or funding. We believed that whilst south Essex was the engine room of the county the money on new roads etc tended to be spent elsewhere. Following the split the remainder of south Essex is potentially even more isolated than before. With the sad departure of Stephen Castle from the County Council in May, who was always a friend and supporter of South Essex, the situation appears to be even worse with the power round the cabinet table being based well away from south Essex. It is interesting to ponder whether if we had a south east Essex unitary council, or indeed even a south Essex unitary council, the decision on the future of Deanes would be centered round the views of south Essex councillors and dare I suggest that the current situation and decision might be different. Unitary authorities are all about giving local councillors real power over what happens in their own area and not artificially seperating local government services between 2 different types of authority.
Friday, 18 October 2013
A strange letter in the Echo from SKIPP suggesting that it is disgraceful that the Council is pushing ahead with a flood defence scheme on Shoebury common notwithstanding that fact that everybody is against it. This seems to be aimed at supporting Cllr Ann Chalk's suggestion that any discussion about immediate flooding amounts to scare mongering. The reality is that the facts confirm that there is a real and immediate risk of flooding in areas of Shoebury which necessitate improvements to our flood defences in the area of Shoebury common. The way that risk is calculated is to make clear that flooding will happen within a certain timeframe. Cllr Chalk suggests that it is safe to assume that it will not happen until the end of the time frame which is wrong and frankly reckless. The risk stats reveal that the flooding could happen this winter, or next year or the year after that. The only certainty is that it will happen at some point and when it does there will be considerable damage and disruption caused to significant numbers of homes and businesses. It is for this reason that external funding is available. This work needs to be done and if there is unnecessary delay and the flooding happens will Cllr Chalk be standing at the front justifying the delay to residents - no more likely standing at the back blaiming the Administration. Congratulations to my Shoebury colleagues who are making sure that the affected residents are in no doubt as to the risk and are pressing for early action. The issue as to which scheme is best is a discussion for another day but are SKIPP seriously suggesting that the Council should ignore the inevitable flooding and resulting damage and not carry out improvements to the flood defences in this area because there is a group of residents who are opposed? If so they are talking even more rubbish than usual and I wonder how many of the residents they refer to own houses and businesses in the flood danger area. This work has to be done.
Sometime sitting and listening to my council colleagues I have the feeling that I have entered a parallel universe. On Wednesday night I attended a special meeting of the Place Scrutiny committee which was arranged to consider the proposals for flood defences on Shoebury Common. This comprised 3 alternative proposals worked up by council officers, 1 by the Friends of Shoebury Common, and one by Mr Ron Woodley on behalf of the Burgess Estate Residents Association (BERA). I was attending as sub for my cabinet colleague John Lamb who had been on council business in London and accordingly I have not had any detailed involvement to date in what is quite a technical issue. The first slightly bizarre twist was that Cllr Ron Woodley, Member for Thorpe, was an Indie sub at the meeting and there were at least 2 other BERA members to include Indie Leader Martin Terry. As the meeting progressed Cllr Woodley raised a number of questions and made comments which were clearly intended to curry support for the scheme proposed by Mr Woodley and his colleagues over the other schemes.Now call me old fashioned but isn't that a little odd. Whilst I am sure that Cllr Woodley and indeed Mr Woodley (for they are one and the same) was breaking no rule it hardly fosters the impression that the committee was approaching the appraisal of the schemes in an open and even handed manner. Also one of the problems is that we were advised that additional funding would not be made available if we chose a more expensive scheme where there was an alternative cheaper scheme which would do the job.In other words if we go for a more expensive scheme we will have to fund the difference and this was likely to require the funds to be borrowed by the council. This would include Mr Woodley's scheme. On Thursday night at full council we then listened to Cllr Terry castigating the Administration for the level of borrowing which seemed to have no connect with the comments made the previous night. The Indies have followed this running theme for some time suggesting that borrowing is too high even though the Council's experts say that it is at a level which is prudent and affordable. Howevert not only do they continue to fail to identify the borrowing which they would not have undertaken (because it would mean talking against a potentially popular scheme) but also are more than happy to press for their own pet schemes to be funded with borrowing.