A dog for Christopher’s Cottage

Julian Ware-Lane, Marilyn Budgen, Debbie Lefever, and Robert Norton - with the red toy dog

Julian Ware-Lane, Marilyn Budgen, Debbie Lefever, and Robert Norton – with the red toy dog

I was invited by Robert Norton to be present when he gave a toy dog to Christopher’s Cottage. Mr Norton is a former pupil at St Christopher’s School, and the Christopher’s Cottage is located in their school grounds.

Christopher Cottage is a respite unit for people with special educational needs. It’s ethos is ‘working towards independence’. Up to six children, aged anywhere between 5 and 19, can stay at the bedded unit. It provides parents and carers a chance to recharge their batteries. Stays are for one night upwards, and are allocated by social services. Christopher’s Cottage is a self-funded registered charity.

Mr Norton is a 28-year old Leigh-on-Sea resident and was accompanied by his friend, Marilyn Budgen. He has donated the dog to the soft play area. Robert wanted me to be present as he supports my campaigning and we are friends on Facebook.

The toy dog was presented to the Residential Manager, Debbie Lefever, who was delighted to receive it. After the presentation Mr Norton, Ms Budgen and I were shown around the facilities at Christopher’s Cottage by the Residential Manager.

Milton Rose summer 2014 edition



I went to bed just as the counting was started, I got up this morning to find that Scotland and voted ‘no’, much to my relief.

In the end it was not as close as I was beginning to think it would be. A 10.6% gap is pretty respectable, and I think decisive. Whilst the prospect of a neverendum has been postulated in anticipation of this result, I would hope that this result will be respected.

All the spoils should not go to the winner in any democracy, and so it is right (especially when so many wanted a different result) to take into account the wishes of those who voted for independence. This has been acknowledge in recent days with many concessions effectively giving devo-max to Scotland in the fullness of time.

In many ways this is still a victory for the nationalists, they having wrought so many concessions regarding a greater say for the Scottish Parliament in creating its own laws. It is also a victory for England, Northern Ireland and Wales because we really are better together.

Most of all, it is a victory for all Scots, for democracy, and for those of us (like me) who believe sixteen-year olds should be heard in a democracy.


I went to the penultimate Milton Neighbourhood Meeting (also known as the NAP) tonight. The very last will be on November 20th.

Owing to financial pressures (i.e. the cuts) these six-weekly ward meetings will be replaced from December by Local Community Meetings. These will meet every eight weeks, and there will be six of them across the borough.

Southend Central LCM will cover three wards: Kursaal, Milton and Victoria.

I am disappointed to see the end of the Milton NMs in sight, but I will work to ensure that the LCMs are a success. I have sought (and received) assurances that the new process will be reviewed after a period of time (a year or so).

CAST One World Film Festival


Milton Community First Panel

017Last night I was part of the Milton Community First Panel that awarded £11000 to local good causes. Fifteen groups applied, and the total wanted was double the amount that could be awarded. This meant that some tough decisions had to be made, and with fifteen very worthy causes it was tough choosing who gets what.

In the end three causes got nothing, three got the total amounts they were after, leaving nine receiving part of what they were after.

All three Milton ward councillors were present, as well as representatives from various community groups. It seems that this will be the last of these annual events unless the Government has a change of heart.

Just another greedy bastard

I was called yesterday evening by a reporter seeking my views on yet another story about a Member of Parliament and their expenses. I spoke for a few minutes, but mindful that I am never quoted in full I have decided to elaborate a little here.

I can recall canvassing session right through the expenses scandal in the long run-in to the last General Election. I recall one conversation with a Benfleet resident where I was accused of being a liar and a cheat immediately after I had announced who I was. Liars, cheats, greedy bastards – I have been lumped in with them all. I am also told that I am only in politics for what I can get for myself, that I will promise one thing and do another.

Now, I am far from perfect but am invariably taken aback when called a liar and a cheat by someone whose familiarity with me can be counted in seconds.

Sometimes the conversation moves onto friendlier climes, sometimes no matter how much I protest I cannot convince that my motives are honourable. Somehow the idea of a political class mostly populated by scoundrels has become fixed in some people’s minds. And this is why I get upset with another tale of ill-advised expenses claims.

Politicians must be able to claim expenses, and these expenses should be provable as being incurred whilst doing the job, and be backed up by receipts. I cannot imagine anyone arguing with that. The problem is, no system is fool-proof, and anyone determined enough will be able to benefit when benefit should not be sought.

I live closer to London (and therefore Parliament) than does the MP for Rochford and Southend East, and if I am lucky enough to succeed next May I will almost certainly have some overnight stays in London. However, I will be using cheap hotels, and not using the MP expenses system to acquire a property portfolio. As Matt Dent has pointed out, James Duddridge takes delight in punishing those on benefits, helping to introduce the odious concept of under-occupancy (a per pro the bedroom tax), and yet cannot help but use the expenses rules to enrich himself (expenses which, like housing benefit etc., are ultimately paid for by the tax-payer). I profoundly disagree with Duddridge over the bedroom tax, but would at least respect his position if he was consistent in his objections to taxes being used to provide properties larger than what is really required. If one of my terminally ill residents has one bedroom too many, then owning three homes and still claiming for rent on another is surely wrong.

I do not doubt that this will be mentioned when I next venture onto doorsteps – how can it not be? I care little for Mr Duddridge’s personal reputation, but I care a lot about the reputation of politicians in general. I have even defended Conservative politicians on the doorstep, because despite Duddridge (and Hanningfield) I still believe that most are in this game for the right reasons (even if they are misguided). I want Ian Gilbert to beat Duddridge because he will be a better MP for Rochford and Southend East, because he wants to look after the vulnerable, build more social housing, and do something about the cost of living crisis. He should not be chosen just because he is less greedy. Politics should be about the battle of ideas, not an arena for self-enrichment.

Tony Blair put it thus: “Some may belittle politics but we know, who are engaged in it that it is where people stand tall. And although I know it has its many harsh contentions it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. And if it is on occasions the place of low skulduggery it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes”. At least, this is how it should be.

“Crisis, what crisis” I can imagine the hapless Duddridge saying, because he is clearly not in it with the rest of us. I hope, though, that he realises that he has made the job for the rest of us a little bit harder.

As for the greedy bastard in the title of this post, well it must be me because I am a politician.


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