The overheated Indie spin machine

It looks like the excitement of toppling the Conservatives from power in Southend-on-Sea has gone to some people’s heads; one or two are giving the appearance of being drunk on success.

In the local print media I am seeing all sorts of pronouncements regarding policy U-turns and new initiatives, pronouncements dressed up as facts when in reality they are, at present, a wish-list.

For example, headlines quoting Cllr Terry announcing that the plans for the Shoebury sea defences have been scrapped are wrong. The previous administrations plans are being reviewed, and whilst they could be scrapped equally they could get another endorsement.

These sorts of decisions will be taken by the fifty-one councillors who represent all within Southend-on-Sea, not by one excitable portfolio holder. I am minded to mention that those in the Independent Group who consider the Cabinet system imperfect should remember that a decision taken by one is even less democratic.

I am compelled to issue an arithmetic lesson too. A two thousand signature petition does not mean “the people of the town rejected the proposals” – this is less than a fifth of one ward, and under 1.2% of the population of the borough.

Any new proposal is likely to mean additional borrowing, and I have no problem with sensible borrowing, yet the noises from the Independent Group on this subject have been somewhat shrill. They will have to re-think their attitude in this respect.

I am in the administration too, and I am pleased with the reviews. However, I am concerned that review outcomes are being pre-judged.


A couple of things strike me from reading a recent post by Independent councillor Anne Chalk (Heisenberg Rules Unfortunately). She complains: It is now time to let them vote and it is normal practice to visit the ward polling stations just to let those residents who have never met you in person know that you really exist before they finally cast their vote. The fact that there is no Labour or Lib-Dem presence anywhere doesn’t surprise the Independent or Conservative candidates who have now become accustomed to their quantum mechanical behavior.

She continues: these virtual Lib-Dem and Labour Candidates managed to appear on the ballot paper but disappeared before anyone had a chance to see them or ask them what they were going to do for Shoebury.

Firstly, I rarely visit polling stations – on polling day I have far too many other jobs. This year I managed to get to two out of the six that are in Milton. I do not understand Cllr Chalk’s criticism here. I usually do a short stint first thing on polling day, but I never seek to persuade people when doing in so – I think the polling station is not the place to do this.

Secondly, it was she, Cllr Chalk herself that stopped a Labour voice being heard at the badly organised Shoebury hustings.

Thirdly, Cllr Chalk appears to want to limit the choices available to Shoebury’s residents. I do not think democracy is at all served well if there is no socialist alternative on the ballot paper.

One thing Anne ought to be raging against is the virtual party – her Independent Group being a prime example. There is plenty of uncertainty, and very little principle, in that organisation.

Whilst mentioning the Shoebury hustings; I note that Cllr Nick Ward is a now a member of the Independent Group – despite stating that he would do no such thing.

At the hustings he was asked the direct question about whether he would join any group. He said he would not. The chair asked him to clarify: “So, you are saying that you will not join any group?” “That’s right” was Nick Ward’s reply.

This matters. It matters because if Cllr Ward cannot manage to keep to this relatively simple promise, how is anything else he says to be trusted? It also matters because of the proportionality arrangements that affect committee representation – and this is based on group numbers.

Derek loves Ron


SOUTHCHURCH 2I find it somewhat unedifying to see a former Council employee now rubbishing much of his former work. I cannot but wonder why he did not find it within himself to object or attempt to correct at the time. So much for his can do’ attitude – clearly he could not do.

Derek Kenyon writes: Once again I will state and I know, there is a need for a complete review of the CCTV vehicle to ensure it is working for residents and visitors alike and not for just raising revenue.

Mr Kenyon, you should know, worked for parking enforcement at the council until recently. He had a position of responsibility – why, if he believes the CCTV vehicle’s operating rules are in sore need of revisiting, did he not do something when he worked for the council? The Nuremburg Defence will not wash in this regard.

Derek goes on: Before Independent Councillors were elected there was little robust challenge to the administration’s policies.

Aside from the fact that much of the Independent Group’s campaigning is mere bandwagon jumping, claiming credit for the work put in by the Labour Group of councillors, I feel obliged to remind Mr Kenyon of the Memorandum of Understanding between Ron Woodley and his Thorpe colleagues and the Conservative Administration. As Derek puckers-up this thought ought to cast some doubt over this inaccurate assertion.

There clearly is some sort of love-in going on between Derek Kenyon and Ron Woodley. Somewhere in Southchurch there must be tree with DK heart RW 2014 carved into it; Cllr Woodley gets three mentions (not including the imprint) and a photo.

The problem with saying you “will work with all Councillors” is that when you also state you “will work with Ron” and berate the largest group of councillors one cannot but be doubtful. For someone who claims to not like party politics in local government he is more than ready to employ political tactics.

There is much wrong with this leaflet, not least the apparent Cult Of Ron that Derek appears in thrall to. Derek’s turncoat-like Damascene conversion also casts a long shadow over his credibility.

Another gem from the Ridiculous Party

This is a masterpiece, a supreme example of the idiocy that lies behind the Independent Group in Southend-on-Sea and the pretence that it is not a party. This matters – they predicate their existence on being the true home of anti-politics. Yet, they are the most political group in the Council chamber. Don’t believe me – watch them online.

They have no policies beyond ranting about the undemocratic nature of the Cabinet system, which is a bit rich when considering their bleating at the first sign of opposition to their deceitful and flatulent brand of politics, and claiming to be opposed to party politics. If you think actions speak louder than words you will soon be mindful of the hypocrisy of both of these stances.

This is what appears on this leaflet: You should be aware that there is another candidate standing as an Independent, I must explain that I am the Independent Group’s official candidate.

Now, if we were to remove the sensible parties from local politics you will either have to accept the concept of Independent versus Independent, or see no contests at all. The latter option, evidently preferred by the Independent Group, is not democracy.

On another note, when is Southend-on-Sea Borough Council going to do something about the abuse of its resources in these local elections? This is another example of an election leaflet bearing councillor email addresses. Is it only the Labour Party that plays by the rules?

(By the way, have you noticed that the St Luke’s un-dynamic duo always use the same image of Ms Endersby? I have yet to see a picture of her out and about in the ward.)

Contradictory Caroline

EndersbyStLukes2Your concerns are my concerns.” What, even those who are worried about the prospect of another under-performing Independent councillor in St Luke’s?

She claims to be non-political and also says that she is campaigning against “Tory controlled Cabinet decisions”. Is it me or is there a contradiction here – after all, the genuinely non-political would take each decision on its individual merit, not take a default oppositional stance to a particular party.

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?

St Luke’s Independent Newsletter Winter 2013

StLukesIndieIt seems that the St Luke’s Independent councillors cannot see the irony in claiming to be both independent and non-political, and yet boast of belonging to the “largest opposition Group”. Aside from the fact that they are joint largest (the Liberal Democrat group also has nine members), there is a contradiction in being both independent and in a group. However, I guess that having been blind to this illogical stance thus far they are not about to concede the point.

This leaflet introduces Caroline Endersby, who hopes to complete a hat-trick for the Independents in this ward. She will have to defeat Cllr Sally Carr, a Conservative who is surely staring at third place (if not worse), and Gray Sergeant. Gray is Labour’s youthful aspirant who is working hardest to achieve victory here (and see this once safe Labour seat have socialist representation again).

The St Luke’s Independents cannot help themselves when it comes to counting their chickens whilst still they remain eggs. They speak of running the town after the May elections, which may come to pass, but it is a long way from being a sure thing. There is, in my experience, much disappointment with the performance of many in the Independent Group amongst voters. Reality may not match Independent expectations. However, Conservative losses seem almost inevitable, and this correspondent hopes that Labour will be the biggest winner.

I note that (again) Independents are piggy-backing off my campaigning – this time on the issue of empty homes in the borough. I welcome them following my lead, and at some point I may even be given credit for highlighting this issue.

The back of the leaflet is entitled ‘local community businesses’ – I am not sure what a community business is, as compared to any other type of business. It is not clear, either, whether this is paid-for advertisement or if these have been specially selected (and if so, why these and not others). The problem with this sort of advertising is that whilst it doubtless pleases those included, I cannot imagine those ignored are especially delighted.

The leaflet begins with a boast about their “efficient scrutiny of Cabinet decisions”. Since scrutiny committees meetings are open to the public I heartily recommend St Luke’s residents to come and see just how efficient Cllrs Ayling and Van Looy are at scrutinising.

Solicitation in Thorpe

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3I have objected and opposed quite a number of planning applications. I have never solicited support; I have left it to others to make up their minds about each one. I do advertise significant planning applications on this blog – to inform, and allow those so inclined to pass their comments onto the relevant council officers.

I am always happy to offer advice, and this usually begins with “use your own words”. Mass produced and identical objections lose something, in my opinion. That being said, I would write words for those genuinely unable to frame them for themselves – but this would happen after being approached.

I am not entirely sure whether the approach adopted by Ron Woodley (on behalf of BERA), and shown here, is entirely within the rules – although I admit that this is not my area of expertise. There is an interesting choice of words too. “The Council” includes Ron; although I confess to doing similar I am always keen to stress that my ire is always directed at the Conservative administration, and not the officers who serve them.

I think it fine to advertise upcoming planning applications, and to set out how to pass comment. I have no real issue with stating your objections either. Somehow, though, this does not feel right. I guess the fine line comes somewhere between pointing out that an application has been made and putting words into the mouths of residents.

Meanwhile, over in Shoeburyness

Cllr Tony Cox makes a couple of assumptions in his post Trouble On Sea? Whilst what he writes may be true, equally it could be speculative and wide of the mark.

At the moment the two big guns in the Independent Group are indeed BERA members. Whether this equates to BERA running the Group I am unconvinced. I rather liken running that group to herding cats. However, I cannot dispute that the Group’s centre of gravity is in BERA, and if Martin Terry succeeds in Thorpe ward in May this becomes even truer.

Tony claims that the letter, in the name of her husband, is actually penned by Anne Chalk. I know Bernard quite well, and I know he is capable of independent thought. Unless Tony has a spy camera in the Chalk household this is at best a guess. As to civil war in the Independent Group – a clash of egos is bound to happen in a group that has ego as its principle raison d’etre.

Tony mentions Cllr Velmurugan, who may be a true Independent but he is also listed in the council’s internal email directory as a Conservative member!

I cannot help but be curious as to the mention of SKIPP and the infamous ‘Conservative At Sea’ leaflets. Does this confirm their candidate in Milton as being part of the party-that-is-not-a-party?

Coming home to roost

So there we have it, Chicken-run Terry thinks that his best chances of remaining a councillor lie in an escape from Westborough to the comfort of Thorpe ward. This somewhat underlines a few points that I have made over the years.

Martin obviously cares more about his status than the residents of Westborough. He may think that his work there has been somewhat undermined by Cllr Velmurugan, but he must admit to being at least partly at fault. It is also on his watch that the warring amongst the residents’ groups has occurred.

Martin, a Thorpe resident who in reality had little affinity with Westborough, has exposed his shallow pretensions. He is moving to avoid an almost inevitable 2015 defeat, and thus has shown that the accoutrements of office subsume any real desire to fight for Westborough. Moving after defeat is one thing, moving to avoid defeat is political cowardice.

His move to Thorpe further undermines claims that his merry band is not a party. The Thorpe trio pictured in today’s local newspaper is a giveaway – you are either independent or part of a team. What irks is that Cllr Terry wants to have it both ways.

What is really quite interesting is that we are seeing a picture developing where the Independents are gradually replacing the Tories in the east of the borough, whilst becoming shrinking band in the West. I think Cllr Velmurugan (if he stands again) will lose his Westborough seat in 2016, leaving Cllr Aylen somewhat isolated over in Belfairs.

What will Thorpe voters make of all this? I expect Martin will secure a comfortable victory in May, and this once super-safe Conservative ward continues to show what complacency leads to.

It does make you wonder whether a decent UKIP campaign here in 2015 will see the under-performing James Duddridge removed from the green benches, especially if the Tories fail to hold a single ward this year in his constituency. A local election wipe-out was once unthinkable, whereas now it is a distinct possibility.


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