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.

Pick it up

009I think my years as a campaigner on animal welfare issues mark me out as an obvious animal lover. I number dogs amongst these, and whilst never a dog owner myself, on many occasions I have borrowed friends’ dogs to take them for walks.

I want to express my thanks to the legions of dog owners who lavish love on man’s (and woman’s) best friend. I particular pick out those who understand that dog ownership comes with responsibilities. These include looking after your pet’s welfare, ensuring a healthy pooch is a well-exercised one. The many owners who understand that if their dog poos then this must be picked up and disposed properly should also be congratulated; these are the vast majority of dog owners.

But, a black mark must goes against those dog owners who find it acceptable to allow their pets to do their business in the middle of pavements, etc, and care not to pick it up. They let themselves down, they let all dog owners down, they let the community down.

I ask that all who walk their dogs, wherever they do this, to be responsible. Dog poo is unhealthy (especially for our smaller citizens), unsightly, and sometimes even dangerous.

Please pick up after your pet.

Vote! Southend’s best ward

Anyone who has had an email from Cllr Aylen will have seen his sign-off :

Cllr Stephen Aylen
Voted best ward 2015

Prepared as I am to test any theory out, I will now see whether his assertion is borne out by the readership of this humble blog. Please vote!



An incident at Barringtons

011Out for an evening stroll as I am oft wont to do, and lo – an incident.

“A major multi-agency incident” was how the man-in-charge described it to me. A crime scene, with the southern spur of Sutton Road (that which connects directly with Southchurch Road) taped off.

I saw am apparently incapacitated male lying on the canopy over the entrance to Barringtons.

Two fire engines, three ambulances, and half a dozen police cars; something like thirty to forty emergency services personnel present.

I called Cllr Jones (Barringtons being in Kursaal ward) who hot-footed it from her bed. She got a representative from South Essex Homes to attend – it is they who manage Barringtons.

The incident occurred somewhere between 9 and 9.30pm, and was likely (so I was told last night) to mean the road being inaccessible all night. Although all were tight-lipped, it seemed that a serious incident had taken place.

It certainly attracted a fair amount of attention from passers-by and near-neighbours alike.

In Blenheim Park, and about Blenheim Park

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

SEMF AGM, and Ms Lo Bao talks to those assembled

Campaigning is a year-round activity in Southend-on-Sea for the local Labour Party, and whilst the weather remains reasonably good we have had teams out and about in a number of wards. This weekend I opted to join the crew in Blenheim Park ward where Matt Dent is making his presence felt.

This ward is currently represented by three different parties, and Matt aims, in May, to keep that up by replacing the Liberal Democrat councillor with a Labour voice. Judging by the positive reactions I have witnessed it is a real possibility.

Earlier this week I attended the Southend Ethnic Minority Forum annual general meeting which featured an interesting talk on Southend Airport given by Hannah Lo Bao, Head of Customer Services. The airport is a wonderful facility, I have used it twice, and am not surprised it wins awards. It does attract some criticism, especially from those within its flight path. Those in Blenheim Park ward, though, were largely concerned about early morning and late night flights, and accepted that in the main it is an asset to the town.

What is going on in the park that gives the ward its name? It appears that drainage work has created new water features – and there are concerns over just how safe these are.

Yakety yak (trash)

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

There are some places where you just know that a visit will result in a conversation with Council officers. One such is the Ceylon Road car park.

One small victory I think I can claim some credit for is that it is not as dangerous as it used to be. I wonder through quite safely at all times of day. It cannot be said, though, that it is a place that is much cleaner, despite the best efforts of the two Labour councillors for Milton ward. It does occasionally look lovely and clean, just after a spate of emails from Cllr Nevin and myself. This is followed in pretty short order with the next batch of trash to festoon both the car park and the walkways that lead from it. To be frank, it is often quite disgusting. Still, we shall never surrender to stupid and irresponsible actions.

This car park is not the only place within the ward where there are regular litter issues, and I have to wonder at the mindset of some people, and it is clear that much of this must be down to regular repeat offenders. There are some, it seems, who just view the world as one big trash can.

Recently I went to a CAST meeting. There is an event on Thursday (8th October) where I will be one of the speakers talking about the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Also had an Essex Fire Authority meeting this week where the independent cultural review was discussed. It is no exaggeration to say that this was a very damning report.

And to my doorstep engagement, the most enjoyable aspect of politics as far as I am concerned. Jeremy Corbyn came up twice, once favourably, once not so – so honours even. I have to say that I am hearing reports that suggest his impact is not quite so even elsewhere. Ed Miliband also came up in conversation, and I find that those who dislike Labour and its brand of democratic socialism/social democracy will find any reason to be critical.

I am seeking re-selection this year in Milton ward, and next Saturday is decision day. I welcome challengers, no-one should be immune from the democratic process. I hope I have done enough over the last three and a half years to merit being allowed another go, although I am hearing rumours of a far-left attempt to have me de-selected – an irony for this Marxist brought-up former Communist who apparently, according to some, does not belong in the Labour Party. I guess my championing the homeless and migrants is just too right-wing for some!

Dumped, discarded, fly-tipped – the world as created by the inconsiderate and damnably stupid

120912131214It truly is a privilege to represent Milton ward on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. This exciting ward has many wonderful things. However, it has to be said that there are parts of Milton that repeatedly come to my attention. This, usually, is because of rubbish. Dumped, discarded, fly-tipped. Sometimes this rubbish includes excrement, sometimes drug paraphernalia.

I am reluctant to name and shame areas, largely through fear of stigmatising it. The reality is that those inconsiderate, and let’s be honest, damnably stupid people who think it acceptable to deposit their crap wherever their laziness takes them are a minority. The areas thus blighted are still largely inhabited by decent people who deserve better neighbours and visitors.

What this means is that I have to contact the Council and request that an area be cleaned up, and this comes at a cost. Every council tax payer in Southend-on-Sea is footing the bill for the wilful and ignorant whose ideas of civic responsibility would certainly intrigued this councillor.

It is not always possible for the Council to clear up rubbish – it largely depends on where that rubbish is found. The public highway and land owned by the Council is quite straightforward, private property is much more difficult.

Thus, my travels have ensured yet another missive about rubbish, another visit by the Council’s contractors to an all too familiar black spot, blighted by the inconsiderate and damnably stupid.

Despite Tory claims, the Cliffs Museum will be very visible

Some within local Conservative Party ranks may choose to believe that “the only thing visible would be the windows looking out over the sea” when it comes to the proposed Cliffs Museum. This somewhat defies reality.

The museum, if ever built, will almost be the height of the cliffs – some five storeys are planned. This includes a car park. The frontage, car park entrance, and indeed various entrances to the museum and restaurants planned will all be visible. Not only this, but the Cliffs gardens here will have to make way for this structure.

By all mean applaud your vandalism, but do not pretend that the impact is minimal. It is a carbuncle that will permanently alter the character of the Cliffs in the area where it is to be imposed. And I keep to my opposition to it.

Southend Labour says: “Don’t lose your voice!”

As the local authority is dispatching voter registration forms across the borough, the Labour Group on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is urging everyone to ensure that they will still “have their voice” when the next set of elections arrive.

There are two sets of elections in 2016: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council elections, and for the Police and Crime Commissioner. It is also possible that the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will be held in 2016. No-one can participate in any of these if they are not registered to vote.

Being on the electoral register also improves one’s credit rating, and the register is used for jury selection.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Ware-Lane says “Registering is a legal responsibility, but it is more than that. It ensures that you have a voice. Voting matters too; nothing changes if you do not vote.”

“It’s your money that politicians are spending – and you should have a say in how it is spent”, added Cllr Ware-Lane.

See Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Household Canvass

Stop loan sharks

793In my role as Deputy Leader of the Labour Group on Southend-on-Sea Borough council I was delighted to be able to sign up to Zero Tolerance to Loan Sharks. You can just about make out my scrawl at the foot of the Partners’ Agreement. I attended to formal ceremony for this yesterday (at the Hub in the Victoria Shopping Centre).

Representatives from four of the six groups on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council were there to add their support; for some reason neither the Liberal Democrats nor UKIP attended.

You can report a loan shark here.