Click here for the Conservatives’ budget amendment proposal to the Rainbow Coalition’s proposed 2016-17 budget.
Tonight was the LCM where the community from Blenheim Park, Chalkwell, Prittlewell and Westborough wards get to meet with the police and discuss serious and ‘less serious’ crime that has been happening in the area, since the last meeting.
We had an update from the police, for the four wards, there have been (7th October to 30th November):
58 fewer burglaries than the same period last year. However they are carrying on Operation Insight (which concentrates on burglary) as this is the major priority for the neighbourhood police and residents alike.
184 instances of Anti-Social Behaviour (220 in same period 2014), which isn’t too bad given this includes Halloween and Bonfire Night.
Residents raised issues of: the theft of white sacks (textile recycling), cars driving on pavements (at the Shell petrol station) to cut through the traffic lights on the A127, youths smoking cannabis (I won’t disclose the location!), bogus callers (particularly after antiques) and hoax emails being circulated and speeding in various locations.
The police took away the information and will be looking into most of these issues where they can.
We also received a short talk on crime prevention, focusing on car locks being jammed.
I haven’t had any criminal activity or major antisocial behaviour reported to me over the last 2-3 months (this is the first time I haven’t had anything to raise at a LCM or their precursor Neighbourhood Action Panel). I’d like to say it is because Blenheim Park is crime and antisocial behaviour free, but I’m sure that’s not the case – so please come along to my surgery (first Saturday of the month 10:30am to 12noon at the Old West Area Housing Office, 2 Mendip Road, SS0 0HD or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to discuss any issues you have and see how I can take them forward for you.
Today Southend Council’s Cabinet met and rejected Cllr Longley’s attempt to railroad through the Blenheim Park Pavilion proposal and deferred taking a decision on this until such time as a proper consultation takes place and ward councillors (or at least the majority of ward councillors) agree with the proposal.
I would be delighted to support a Pavilion in the park – if that’s what residents want. Without giving the residents the information to take an informed decision, how can they know?
This Administration couldn’t organise a drink up in a brewery – the Deputy Leader of the Council, Graham Longley, puts a paper to Cabinet to force this through, he takes the day off (I assume to attend the exciting, but sparse, Lib Dem conference), only to find out that in his absence his Leader does his legs in. For once I agree with Cllr Woodley. Just a shame I’ve had to push so hard for this Listening Administration to actually listen!!
At the meeting of the full council last night, the debate continued.
http://www.southend.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/185976/185976/webcast/start_time/5267000 – here you can see the debate. The full debate lasts for about 25 minutes.
I asked for a response to my request for a public meeting, only to be told that I couldn’t have one – well maybe I would be able to have one, but not until the weak consultation that has been started (due to yours truly forcing Cllr Longley to undertake one) has finished!! Well that will be helpful, won’t it!
This is lining up to be Cllr Longley’s little project that he will push through regardless of my or residents views. Very disappointing.
Unlike many Southend political bloggers I tend only to blog when I have something interesting to say (that hasn’t already been said!). However I have been a little remiss in not publicly thanking the residents of Blenheim Park ward for re-electing me as their local councillor until 2019.
I’d like to think the fact my majority increased from 56 to 787 had more to do with my hard work and determination over the past four years than the fact there was a general election with the Conservatives having a decent result nationally. But sadly I can’t think that, as general elections do tend to sway things rather more than the local picture.
However, I do think working hard locally can pay off – yes the Lib Dem collapse and resilient Conservative vote certainly helped in Leigh, but I’m not sure that without a hardworking candidate, who had stood before so built up a little bit of name recognition for his hard work we would have crossed the finishing line first.
In Blenheim I was delighted to speak to 100s of residents personally over the campaign, with a fair number recognising who I was before I introduced myself – something that usually only Sir David Amess gets on a frequent basis.
My lack of public thanks to the residents of Blenheim can perhaps be compensated by the actions I have been taking, with housing issues, progressing the concerns of 100s of parents of Blenheim Primary School with traffic safety in School Way and trying to find a balancing act between the residents around Darlinghurst Primary School and the parents of those who attend there (PLEASE PARK LEGALLY AND WITH CONSIDERATION!). This, coupled with council activities and having to go back to my day job after a two week ‘holiday’ for the election campaign, has kept me busy.
I am delighted with my responsibilities on the council for the forthcoming year, some new ones and some that remain the same:
London Southend Airport Monitoring Working Party – I’m pleased to have been on this since its creation and I have no plans to leave it, so I can ensure that residents get the best out of the airport for the least amount of hassle (enough about that controversial subject).
Traffic and Parking Working Party – This means I will be able to deal with some of the most hotly contested issues across the town and in Blenheim in particular.
Audit Committee – Being someone who doesn’t actually find numbers dull, I quite like this committee (but that’s enough confessions for tonight!)
Place Scrutiny Committee
Planning and Development Forum
Waste Management Working Party
Southend Local Development Framework Working Party
These are all new to me – having carried on with my Children and Learning brief in opposition after two years as the portfolio holder. However my brief has changed this year to shadow Martin Terry, the Executive Councillor for Public Protection, Waste and Transport. Therefore my responsibility with these four meetings are all about ensuring Martin and the Administration are kept on their toes when delivering things such as the new Kent Elms junction crossing, the delivery of a new 15 and a half year recycling and waste contract, along with other issues such as liaison with the police service and flood defences (with important decisions coming up in Shoebury). These will be a challenge, but one I will relish, whilst still keeping a fond eye on the education standards of the town, something I have spent the past three years engrossed in.
I will be continuing my monthly in-ward surgery, something many of colleagues on the council abandoned a long time ago, only months after their election. I pledged to do it for four years and I did. I pledge to do it for another four years and I will. It is a great way for people who might not be as into technology as me to communicate, to meet residents face-to-face and to spend some quality time talking about issues that matter, rather than the fleeting conversations that happen on the doorstep.
This is a real cheat, but why reinvent the wheel? Thanks to my political opponent in Blenheim Park for having put together this blog post and for a decent clean fight in Blenheim.
More from me soon on the elections.
PS – please note the maths is wrong in the table! The Independent Party lost two seats, so should be -2, as Ric Morgan was an Independent Party member when he stood down.
Four years ago, almost to the day, the people of Blenheim Park elected me as their representative on Southend Council.
Today they get the chance to kick me out or renew my mandate.
There is also that other election today, don’t forget to vote for Amess and Duddridge too!
Here starts the longest day of the year!
Further to my previous blog post Administration in crisis the ‘debate’ and vote was taken again at Thursday’s (23rd April) meeting of the full council, on the Corporate Performance Management – 2015/6 (basically the targets that the council sets itself for the forthcoming year).
Southend Council, like many other local authorities aspires to have 100% of its children going to schools that Ofsted deem to be Good or Outstanding (indeed that is the stated ambition of the ‘Southend Challenge’). However, we have to be practical. Therefore we set targets for the forthcoming year.
The council, under the previous Administration, set three targets – one each for primary, secondary and special schools for 2014/15 they were as follows:
|% Children in good or outstanding primary schools||75.5|
|% Children in good or outstanding secondary schools||82.7|
|% Children in good or outstanding special schools||94.7|
This Administration decided that they wanted to set one target – amalgamated for all schools. I have no problem with this, although it can mask problems in one sector of our schools much more easily than if you have separate targets. The important thing is that the targets are amalgamated correctly.
Now, fortunately for the residents of Southend, I have the ability to add up and divide, an ability that appears to have escaped both the current portfolio holder for education and the Leader of the Council (we all know about ‘Woodley Maths’ and how it costs us money).
Looking at the table above, and appropriately weighting the figures (by taking into account the number of children at each type of school), to set the new target for 2015/16 at the same level as the three targets for 2014/5, it should be set at 79%. The most recent Monthly Performance Report shows that our schools are currently achieving 77%.
So what does this Administration decide to set their target at for 2015/6? Ah, well this is where it gets interesting. An extract from their report shows:
|2014/15 target||2015/16 target|
|% Children in good or outstanding schools||N/a||75|
So they have set it at 75%. What is rather more sinister is they have compared it to ‘n/a’ for last year. Whilst, strictly speaking, there wasn’t a target for all schools last year (there were three, as above), in the spirit of showing whether targets were going up, down or staying the same, this is rather naughty (as I could do the maths on the back of the preverbal fag packet).
Here is a different way of looking at it:
|2014/15 target||2015/16 target|
|% Children in good or outstanding primary schools||75.5||75|
|% Children in good or outstanding secondary schools||82.7||75|
|% Children in good or outstanding special schools||94.7||75|
Gives rather a different perspective, don’t you think?
The difference between 79% and 75% might not sound like much, but in fact it is setting a target that says we, as your elected representatives are prepared to accept 1,154 less children going to a Good or Outstanding school, whilst still giving the current Administration a pat on the back.
Put another way, when we walked into the council chamber the council was not hitting its target. When we left it was exceeding its target. All the town’s teachers and kids were at home… so I’m not sure much could have changed other than reducing the target!
I challenged the current Administration on these targets, both at the People’s Scrutiny Committee (a couple of weeks ago) and at the council meeting on Thursday. Instead of accepting that they had made a mistake (something better Administrations than them were prepared to do when it happened), we all do occasionally, I was berated by the deputy portfolio holder who decided to tell me that because he’d got his MBE for education he knew what he was talking about.
I was content for him to answer on behalf of the Administration purely because the Leader had appointed him as the deputy portfolio holder and Cllr Anne Jones was absent again – I have not had a chance to put these matters to her at either scrutiny or full council, something I find most unsatisfactory, informed that my language was too emotive (this new target is pathetic – you don’t set yourself a target BELOW what you are already achieving- if you want to improve education for the children of this town).
Here is why it is a pathetic target:
|2015/16 target||Latest figures (Feb-15)|
|% Children in good or outstanding primary schools||75||76.9|
|% Children in good or outstanding secondary schools||75||77|
|% Children in good or outstanding special schools||75||91.7|
I was also informed by the one Labour member who didn’t have a clue what she was talking about that if we rejected the paper these targets were set in, we’d have more crime and less affordable homes – what a load of rubbish, I don’t think criminals start working and builders down tools because the council hasn’t set its targets for another six weeks.
Politics was being played here. The watering down of this target was buried in the council’s overall Corporate Performance Management paper for 2015/16. I was accused of slagging off the town’s teachers (errum, I think not, I was just saying the council was setting itself too low a target!) and that targets didn’t matter, and I was putting too much stress on schools (this is a council target not a school one).
If you set a target too low, you make it easy for those working for the council to claim that the job is done. How can the councillors and Chief Executive crack the whip on the education department, when those officers can (quite rightly) turn round and say ‘well we are exceeding the targets you set us’… The simple answer is they can’t.
What was most galling of all was seeing members such as
Julian Ware-Lane (who bangs on and on about how education in this town is not good enough);
Ron Woodley (at least when a ‘child’ was in charge of education he did a better job than he is!); and
James Moyies (who seems to forget he is an opposition member and should be more worried about holding this Administration to account, than trying to keep on the good side of Ron Woodley to ensure he gets a Cabinet post in May – bye bye Martin/Mike!)
and others who had so viciously attacked me, time and time again, for education standards in Southend (at a time when they were improving rapidly) vote in favour of reducing the target.
Fortunately I demanded a named vote so we have it recorded in the annals of history which councillors voted for a pathetically low target, that we are already exceeding and failed our children, just to keep a bit of face for the current Administration.
Talking to several members after the meeting, it was disappointing that they all said they agreed with me and that the target was too low, but they couldn’t let the Administration lose the vote. It was noteworthy that at no time did the Leader of the Council accept or propose a minor amendment to the paper to increase the target, which would then have allowed it to go through unopposed. I even hear that, privately, council officers admit they set the target too low – well that’s alright then is it?!
If you think the Nigel Holdcroft and the Conservative Cabinet used to have a tight grip on what was happening in the council, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Ron Woodley and his band of merry men are prepared to do anything to not lose face.
I have never been more angry and disappointed in my political life and I was embarrassed to be a member of your council that night as, collectively, we failed you.
At tonight’s People’s Scrutiny Committee we debated the Corporate Priorities and targets for 2015/16.
For background, once a year the Administration has to set it’s priorities and targets for the forthcoming year. They basically say what they are prioritising and what they deem to be acceptable targets for the council to achieve in a number of areas.
This year, some of the targets are so weak, that a paper that usually goes through without challenge, just had to be questioned. And question it I did!
The portfolio holder for Children and Learning being unavoidably absent (get well soon Anne!), I was unable to ask some of the questions I wanted to, but nevertheless the responses I got regarding our targets being so weak for our young people in Southend were not good enough.
Therefore I decided that Cabinet needed to think again. Fortunately two members of the Independent Party, forming the lion’s share of the Administration, decided to vote with me and my fellow Conservatives and asked the Administration to think again.
It is also noteworthy that no Lib Dem voted in support of their Administration. I’m not sure what the two Labour members did, I think they were too busy being directed by their quick thinking Group Leader from the other side of the room, to ensure that the Administration did not lose the vote on something that can only be considered one step in importance down from getting their budget passed.
He failed, and lose the vote they did, badly, but he managed to ensure his two members (completely independently minded and not whipped at all – honest guv!) referred the matter up to the full council to try and save the day.
I’m sure before next Thursday Ron Woodley will bully his dissenting Party members into voting for his Administration.
Perhaps if, instead of moaning about the previous Administration and setting weak, easy to achieve targets, they set themselves robust challenging targets, like the Conservatives always used to, Ron Woodley and his gang of misfits wouldn’t find themselves in this position and be able to carry themselves and their backbench members through a pretty important vote!
There are five candidates in the forthcoming local election in Blenheim Park. Three of us (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem) have already been active and delivered election literature. I have also been out knocking on doors speaking to residents and carrying on my efforts of the last four and a bit years to help residents achieve the changes they want in the community.
I suspect the other two candidates activities will remain as active as they have been already. Sadly I suspect one of these two will finish in the top two, without delivering any literature whatsoever. I just hope it is in number two spot, behind me. Only time will tell!