This was never a question during my two years serving in the Cabinet of Southend Borough Council. The job was clearly divided up: certain things were the responsibility of the whole council, others the responsibility of the Cabinet and, typically, the implementation of these decisions was left to the council’s able officers.
When you are in the Cabinet, the one thing you should never shy away from is responsibility – when I got things wrong I accepted responsibility for it, when went well I accepted that I was just a small (but sometimes important) cog in the council machine.
However, since the Rainbow Alliance has taken over, if we are to believe what we see, then we have moved to letting officers make all the decisions. Councillor Martin Terry, the Cabinet Member responsible for Public Protection and Waste appears to have no control over his budget. In today’s Echo he is quoted as saying: “The idea (to close public toilets) has been put forward by officers… This is not something we want to do…”
Erm, hold on a second. The budget that has been published and I was at a meeting tonight and two further meetings this week to debate is the Administration’s budget. The Cabinet met, in public, on 20th January, where they endorsed their budget. Martin Terry was at that meeting. He voted for and supported his Administration’s budget.
For him to then publicly blame his officer’s (who aren’t allowed to defend themselves), for coming up with an idea, which he accepted and then endorsed, simply because he wasn’t switched on enough to realise what a dreadful idea it was is distasteful, rude and treats us all like a mug. Cllr Terry signed off the proposal to close the public toilets and publicly supported them on 20th January.
He should now have the balls to stand up and say “Sorry, I got it wrong. Due to all the feedback from residents, activists and opposition (and back bench administration!) councillors, I will no longer close the public toilets as part of the budget proposals.”
Instead we just get “It wasn’t my idea, we haven’t decided yet, I don’t want to do it…” They may be the self-styled listening Administration, but since when did anyone think closing the loos was a good idea?!
Perhaps things are actually simpler than they looks. This Administration’s policy is to take the credit when things go well and blame council officers when things go wrong. Nice.
I’m pleased to announce that the Council is consulting on creating more parking spaces on Bridgwater Drive, by hardening the grass verges (I’m hoping by putting concrete block allowing grass to keep growing between and allowing for drainage).
Go here: http://www.southend.gov.uk/downloads/file/3304/bridgewater_drive_plan to see the plans for Bridgwater Drive.
Local residents have been written to and asked for their views. But what do you think? Let me know by commenting below.
This year will be a busy year politically, with a general election (where Sir David Amess MP will be seeking his eight consecutive election victory – congratulations on the knighthood David, thoroughly deserved for one of the most dedicated constituency MPs in the country) and a local election where I will, for the first time, be seeking re-election.
I never like to judge elections – the public make their minds up on any number of things, just like they should, but it does concern me that European matters might spill over into local elections – whether I’m ‘for’ or ‘against’ Europe, immigration or scrapping the Department for Culture Media and Sport, seems of little relevance given I am standing for local government. I hope to be judged on the contributions and support I have given the residents of Blenheim, the decisions I have made and the wider impact I had across the town, particularly towards education in the two years I was in the Cabinet responsible for Children and Learning (more on that as the election approaches no doubt).
It is wonderful to see the only other declared candidate for Blenheim Park (that I am aware of) is young, keen and may even try to beat me on the geek (but not Gleek) stakes too. Therefore there will be, no doubt, a nice cross section of ages across the ward for residents to speak to. Let’s hope there is at least one woman and the full spectrum of parties as well.
I will no doubt significantly increase my knocking on doors over the next few months – something that I am always uneasy about as I don’t like to disturb people from going about their day to day routine. This does not mean I don’t speak to residents though! Unlike a number of my colleagues, from all sides of the chamber, I run a monthly surgery (indeed it was one of my election pledges) in the ward at the West Area Housing Office on Mendip Crescent on the first Saturday of every month.
My surgery on 3rd January 2015 (10:30 – 12noon) will be the 42nd surgery I have run (out of a possible 43 as I was ill once), I look forward to seeing residents there and on dates too (7th Feb, 7th March, 4th April and hopefully(!) 9th May).
Many people consider surgeries as quite an old fashioned way to be in touch with residents – I agree, but it is sometimes nice to speak face to face about issues – therefore residents can also contact me by phone: 01702 212870 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org which must be where I get 90% of my contact with residents from these days.
Happy New Year to all the residents of Blenheim Park, I look forward to speaking to you in the forthcoming year.
I’m currently on holiday (one of the advantages of not having children – I can go outside of school holidays)… although my house is not empty or I wouldn’t be posting that fact!
Anyway – I break from my hols to post, via Tesco in Plymouth (for the free WiFi – other free WiFi available I’m sure), the news that Southend’s primary schools have (back in June) recorded the best improvement in the country in KS2 Sats (that’s 11 year olds/Year Six pupils). I’m really pleased that the hard work, determination and most of all the partnership working (a phrase overused, but not often truly carried out!) between schools and council officials who have assist them to improve has been fruitful. Our primary schools are now going from strength to strength, setting Southend’s children up for the transition to secondary school – be in comprehensive, selective or faith.
It also goes to show, that I was right, even under the severe criticism (and frankly sometimes abuse) from the other side of the council chamber, to take the difficult decisions and offer my officers the support they needed to make rapid improvements to our results in a short time.
The new(ish) portfolio holder has been left an education system on the up and up – primary and secondary results improving, Ofsted inspections classifying more and more of our schools as good or outstanding and an increasing number of Southend children going to our grammar schools. I hope she continues the good work so Southend can really be a shining beacon on the education map.
Story reported by the Echo here (and no, I did not say “me and my officers”!!): http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11474822.Southend_schoolkids_have__most_improved__test_results_in_whole_country/
Oh dear oh dear….
While I’m delighted that we are getting some improvements to the carriage way in Nelson Road, it seems the timing of this couldn’t have been any worse.
Residents have contacted me this morning to ask whether there was really any need for them to be kept awake all night last night and why three days of resurfacing was to be followed by night time works (tonight as well at the moment). That sounds like a good question to me and one I’ve put to the top council’s Highways department today!
Councillors receive notice of all works that are going to take place in their ward and I had received notice of this. The initial notice informed me of 5 days closure (the council also notifies residents that are going to be affected separately as well as advertising the closure locally). What I did not realise was when a revised notice was sent to me there was a slight amendments which had 3 days worth of closures and 2 nights!
Carrying out scheduled resurfacing overnight in a residential area is not something I want to see happening. Emergency repairs, like those I got the council to undertake back in June 2012 on Elmsleigh Drive, are quite different – when the road is falling apart and urgent action is needed, then overnight work may be needed – but this was not an emergency repair.
I’ve asked why this has taken place and will do all I can to ensure that the Administration now running the council does something to prevent this from happening again!
On Sunday 7th September 2014 I will be doing the Southend Bikeathon. Whilst I’ve done this three times before, my mother has got Leukaemia for the second time, so I’ve said I’ll do it twice.
I’ve now realised that is somewhere in the region of 25 miles…. ouch.
Still, on the upside my mum has promised to do her absolute best to not get it a third time, as her son is not getting any younger!
I’m doing it in a team called Bikermice, with some old work collegues, one of whose mum also had Leukaemia 10 years ago, so we are all keen to raise as much money as possible to help aid research into combatting blood cancers.
Any donations greatfully received here: