Forty bells at six doors

It is often said by me, and to me, that there are roads in Milton ward where there are many front doors that are characterised by being host to numerous door bells. Milton has the highest proportion of rental properties of any ward within the borough of Southend-on-Sea, and there are some roads where saturation point was reached many years ago.

This was brought home to me recently when out and about in one particular street. I counted six door-bells at one address, then six next door, then another six after that. By the sixth door I thought to go back and count just how many door bells I had just seen at the half a dozen houses I had visited. I counted forty, and that was no over-counting or exaggeration. (I may even have missed one or two).

Forty door bells at six houses – or to put it another way, six houses converted into forty dwellings. I have no idea whether these were flats or bedsits (I think the former), and I am convinced that this total could be beaten elsewhere in the ward, but it is a large number by anyone’s standard.

I have nothing against flats or bedsits – I have lived in both. I do object, though, to some areas being thought as safe to dump on, whereas other areas contain nought but intact houses. This is unfair. I think all areas should contain a mix of housing types, and I am trying my best to stem the tide of conversion, infill building, and overcrowding that is increasingly becoming a feature of Milton ward.

There has been a failure of planning in Milton ward, and whilst I cannot fix the past I am determined to stand up for the ward in a way that has clearly been missing in recent years.

Councillor resources and elections

A couple of times over the last year or so I have sought advice on the use of councillor email addresses on election material – here is what I received recently:

The Electoral Commission has given advice on this issue in the past. They advised that it would not be appropriate to do this – they feel that there should be a level playing field and that candidates who are not existing councillors will not have the benefit of using a Council email address which is funded from the public purse. Hence candidates should use a personal or a party email address.

Election material is anything put out between the opening of nominations and polling day. This year those two dates are April 14th and May 22nd.

Those who read Labour leaflets should have noted that in the majority of cases councillor email addresses are not used any time of year. I have been the Labour Campaign Coordinator in Southend-on-Sea and this has been one of the changes I have brought in. I have made this change for two reasons; one is for consistency, the other to avoid any issues with electoral law.

I think this also applies to websites that contain election content – I am seeking clarification on this.

Jessica Phillips for Eastwood Park

1601120_611664038913337_1732041_n-001Full name Jessica Phillips

Age 28

Occupation Full time Mum. Previously a retail manager.

Where do you live? Bournemouth Park area

Where were you born? Norwich, Norfolk

Have you stood for election before? No.

Why are you Labour?: I’m Labour because I believe that hard-working people should be rewarded but not at the expense of society’s most vulnerable.

Why are you standing? I like living in Southend and really believe that the current Council needs to start looking after the interests of the Boroughs residents. Our High Street is in decline, we have residents having to rely on food banks in order to feed their families, anti-social behaviour in the town centre and a rise in crimes committed by people travelling into the Borough. The Council’s solutions? Palm trees on the sea front…

What are your hobbies? I’m a passionate musician having studied popular music at a music college. I sing mostly but play a few instruments. I love to bake and cook for family and friends. I’m an avid reader, especially Terry Pratchett but I also enjoy the Harry Potter series.

Are you active in the community? I’m involved in the Scout Movement at 10th Southend Scout Group (St Mark’s Own) where I’m helping to run the Beaver Colony.

Anything else you would like people to know about you? My background in retails means that I’m passionate about saving our high streets, especially in Southend. We have too many betting shops, hair dressers and ‘pop up’ shops. The council needs to support local business that can employ local people. We need to make Southend somewhere we can be proud of living.

Email address jesphillips2013@gmail.com

Twitter id @LirealP

Clueless or couldn’t care?

Sharp2Here is the latest leaflet from Mark Sharp, independent candidate for Milton. It may be familiar to you – it is exactly the same as his previous effort except that he has added an imprint of sorts. Unfortunately for Mr Sharp, he is not so sharp on electoral law – the imprint is illegal. And this is the man who likes to bang on about how undemocratic Southend-on-Sea’s council is. If you are going go on at length about democracy and process at least make an attempt to familiarise yourself with election rules first. Still, Mr Sharp is very much a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ type of candidate. He still has yet to provide proof that SKIPP or the Milton residents grouping he pretended to be a representative of go through any sort of democratic process.

Imprint (again)

This blog is hosted by WordPress and any election related statements are promoted by Julian Gabriel St.John Ware-Lane on behalf of Labour candidates in Southend, all of 268 Sutton Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS2 5ET.

Pants on fire

I had previously reported about my asking a question of the Leader of the Council at last week’s Full Council meeting.

I asked: Does the Leader believe that the Scrutiny system is the best way to test the suitability of various schemes, as well as to hold the Administration to account?

This received a fulsome response from Cllr Nigel Holdcroft. My supplementary was to inquire his views about a substantial application being agreed by just three councillors.

Here is a verbatim record of the response to my second question:

Thank you. It would have been nice to have had some notice of a question that has got absolutely nothing to do with his primary question but of course the issue with regard to Seaway Car Park and its redevelopment was adequately scrutinised at the time the decision to re-develop Seaway Car Park was taken.

I disagree that it had nothing to do with my primary question – I am trying to understand why process was allowed to be set aside for the move of the Seaway Coach Park to Warrior Square. Since it was a question about process it was entirely pertinent.

Of course, Cllr Holdcroft’s actual response raises more questions than it answered. It stands in contradistinction to the replies that I had already received about who made the decision. Cllr Holdcroft suggests that it was a decision made at scrutiny, whereas the three responses I had from an officer and two Cabinet members gave an entirely different answer. (See There is something decidedly fishy going on here.)

There is something decidedly fishy going on. It is beginning to look like this decision was rushed through without due process, indecent haste perhaps in anticipation of an imminent change of administration.

At the very least I have to question why on every occasion I have asked about this decision it has brought forth a different response. It is almost as if they are making it up as they are going along.

I want the administration to concede that a grave error has been made here. I also want them to abandon this decision and to use the scrutiny process properly.

Strange goings on in the Independent Group

Whilst the idea of a collection of Independents electing a Group Leader will seem incongruous to some, nonetheless they have a Group Spokesperson, a Leader with the same rights as the other Group Leaders and effectively a party leader in the council chamber.

Up until April 11th Martin Terry was the Independent Group Leader. He resigned on that day, and ceased to be leader as a consequence.

Word has reached me about the process to replace Mr Terry.

I am told that there was a meeting where two people applied for the position, and that the winner triumphed by a single vote.

Then there was a subsequent meeting at which the runner-up was not present. The winner declined to take up the position of leader – they did not want the job after all. This meeting, rather than offering the position to the runner-up instead went for someone else. We now know that this third person was Cllr Brian Ayling.

This somewhat odd process does raise a number of questions. Why would someone put themselves forward as Group Leader, only to decide (after winning the vote) that they did not really want it? And what was so unpalatable about the runner-up (who, after all, almost triumphed in the vote)? Were they deliberately excluded from the second meeting?

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