A word from Wier

This blog is in retirement.

I am now blogging here – a word from wier

Kill the Housing Bill

KtHB1

KtHB2

Stop the trade union bill

ImageGen.ashxTrades unions helped workers win health and safety law, fair wages, maternity and paternity pay and a better deal at work.

Without trade unions we would not have the rights today that we take for granted; without trade unions, we would have no paid holidays, for instance.

Days lost to industrial action (strikes) are at an all-time low. Unions these days are settling concerns at work before they become disputes. Negotiation is the order of the day in 2016.

Over six million working people and their families are supported by their unions. They are the drivers, carers, paramedics, oil workers, cabin crew, scientists – you name it, they are in a union.

So why does this Conservative government want to crush their trade unions? Their anti trade union bill is making its way through Parliament. It not fit for purpose and is dangerously ideological.

When this bill becomes law British workers will be the poorest protected, and easiest to mistreat, in the Europe. Quite an achievement for a government that pledged to be the party of working people.

In May when the local elections come I urge everyone who can vote to do so. When you go to the polls remember this – the Tory government is no friend of working people.

Place

Place scrutiny this week. There were no Questions from Members of the Public – I struggle to recall when we last saw that.

Highlights included a discussion on the parking charges under the item Draft Fees and Charges 2016/17. Fees for green waste bins also generated a debate, particularly around the scrapping of the 39 week permit; only 52 week permits will be issued in future.

Under the item Draft General Fund Revenue Budget Cllr Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) asserted that the administration were “fleecing seafront users” because of the increase in car parking charges. As part of his response, the portfolio holder Cllr Martin Terry (Independent Group, Thorpe) stated that “yes, we are targeting visitors”. I hope this is not seen as a disincentive to tourism.

The Member’s Requests List (Ref No 15/11) was referred back to Cabinet. This was proposed by Cllr Assenheim (Independent Group, Shoeburyness) and carried by 10 -1; I was the sole councillor to vote against.

There was, shall we say, an interesting intervention from the Leader under the Introduction of a Policy in respect of the Installation of Bollards. Cllr Woodley (Independent Group, Thorpe) gave a lengthy account of a spat he had had with a neighbour over broken paving slabs.

The meeting lasted for two hours and eighteen minutes.

SACRE

My presence on the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education is an indication that modern RE teaching goes beyond Christianity, and that secularism is also addressed.

As a life-long atheist I never attended RE lessons as a school pupil; I also avoided school assemblies that had any hint of religion in them. I would file in for the notices at the end of the assembly. My parents were keen that I avoid all religion.

I am more relaxed about exposure to faith than my parents. I think children should be taught about religion, all religions. I also think they should be made aware of the various types of secularism, and this chimes in with modern attitudes to curriculum.

The SACRE meeting began with a debate on lapsing membership, and it was proposed that anyone missing three consecutive meetings would be taken off the council. If apologies for absence were tendered then this would count as attendance for the purposes of deciding whether to terminate someone’s membership. This, of course, does depend on everyone being properly informed about meetings times and venues; and if someone could prove that they had not received a meeting notice then this would also be taken into account.

The meeting start times were also discussed, with a suggestion that it be moved to 4pm.

Later on the Schools Survey 2016 was discussed. This will be going up on the Borough Council’s website soon. this survey is just about the religious education on offer in the borough’s schools.

The meeting was chaired by a man (Kevin Ryan), and the assembled were nineteen in total: eight females and eleven males.

Still working for the residents of Southend-on-Sea, in spite of the cuts

As the Conservative Government’s austerity agenda continues to bite we, in local government, are faced we another round of tough decisions. Another year, another unpleasant budget.

Yet, there are choices, and Southend-on-Sea’s Joint Administration is choosing to preserve what it can of the vital public services it provides. Prudent management of the borough’s finances has enabled us to soften the blow, and the savings from the new waste management contract has seen over £1 million in savings.

Local Conservatives have expressed opposition to the new waste management contract – and had they managed to get their way then one can only imagine the consequences for the borough. We know that their plans threatened our libraries, libraries whose future is more secure now that Labour has significant input into the running of the town. Children centres are also safer under the Joint Administration tenure in charge.

Of course there will be pain; job losses and increase council tax bills are never a pleasant thing. This is a consequence of Government plans that are seeing austerity continue. Whatever one thinks of the Government’s plans, the attack on local government finances cannot be denied. As a local councillor I am regularly asked to provide things that come with a cost. Of course I, and my colleagues, do what we can. But I cannot magic resources out of nowhere, and with shrinking resources one is faced with the reality of being part of a Council that will be forced to raise charges, and to trim wherever possible. This is true this year, and yet no service is under threat – at the moment. One cannot only imagine that many more years of this and we will see services cut beyond reasonable usability.

EFA – it’s Hedley democracy

I guess there are two main things that emerged from yesterday’s Essex Fire Authority meeting. The first is that there are some very disrespectful Conservative members. Notable is Cllr Guglielmi who chose to laugh aloud when a Labour member was expressing concern about the process of choosing the options to be presented in the consultation regarding cuts. Tories may find mirth in the prospect of job cuts and a degraded service, this socialist does not.

The work workshop suggested two proposals be put forward in the public consultation exercise. Cllr Hedley chose to arbitrarily add a third. Evidently he sees the EFA as his fiefdom; unfortunately for him I do not. However clunky he may think the process, it must be adhered to. Doubtless he is used to the nodding dogs in his party just agreeing with everything he says. I suspect he finds the prospect of a Labour group actually scrutinising what he does quite unsettling.

The consultation exercise is akin to offering a perfectly healthy patient a choice of limbs to be amputated. Whilst I am not blind to the state of the economy (and one wonders just how much mismanagement Osborne can get away with) I do not see my role as being compliant to job cuts, degraded services, and residents being made to endure greater risk.

Doubtless a Labour-run EFA would be forced to make difficult choices. But I have no doubt that these would be made with a heavy heart, not glee. We would also engage with the workforce more, and explore every alternative to the cuts with utmost vigour.