Liz Day

Whilst I would normally rejoice at the resignation of a Conservative councillor, I do not when this is forced on them through ill health. I wish Liz Day all the best in her tough battle in the coming months.

The day after the local elections in 2012 I went to Southend-on-Sea’s Civic Centre to officially become a councillor. There are forms that have to be completed.

On entering on spotted another councillor, Liz Day having been re-elected in West Shoebury. She was cheery and welcoming, I mentioned that she shared her name with one of my wife’s aunts.

There has been little interaction since, not least because her ill health has seen some absences. When she has been present Liz contributes to the debate – and sometimes I have even agreed with her.

Tony Cox reports her departure here, and I leave it to others to speculate as to who is the likely second Conservative candidate in West Shoebury.

As this news has only just been announced Labour does not yet have a second candidate for this ward.

Down, down, deeper and down – indigent thinking in Rayleigh and Wickford

Francois
A grinning Mark Francois is presumably delighted that his Government is solving economic woes by targeting the most vulnerable and poorest people. Reforming welfare does nothing to make work pay – but one could not strengthen workers’ rights, or insist that employers pay a decent wage, could one?

The undeserving poor need to be cajoled by penury to find work – and to subsist on minimum wages whilst enduring the uncertainty of zero-hour contracts once employment has been found.

And what of the gap between the numbers jobless and the numbers of jobs vacant? It is surely a sign of indolence. No jobs? You are not trying hard enough.

Whilst The Right Honourable is able to beat the poor, his own inflation-busting pay-rise is just reward.

As for the bankers? You can keep your bonuses, unmolested by the irritation of tax, you deserve it.

Whilst not for a moment do I doubt the welfare needs overhauling, it needs to be handled with care so that it works for all that need it.

J Garston: putting residents before party politics – but only if they are Tories who like coach parks on their doorsteps, Cliffs museums, and all sorts of useless and expensive vanity projects

JGarstonHe may protest otherwise, but I have certainly been left with the impression that Cllr Jonathan Garston is not the keenest doorstep politician in town. Nor is he runner-up, or even third, fourth, fifth, sixth … you get the picture. I get the impression he only talks to politically friendly faces, which must be a dwindling pool in Milton.

I presume this is a calling card, although he may be opting for smaller leaflets on the basis that he has little to say on what is going on in either Milton or the borough as a whole.

His idea of a local business is one that is not within the borough. Still, Conservative ideas of ‘local’ run contrary to most people’s – last year’s Tory failure in Milton described himself as the ‘local choice’ despite living further from the ward than all the other candidates.

His claim about party politics, a sop to the independents if ever there was one, runs contrary to his voting record – one that demonstrates a slavish devotion to the Conservative line on things.

I wonder what those in and near Warrior Square will make of this when they consider that it was Garston who wanted a coach park in their midst. I wonder whether those who still oppose a Cliffs museum will consider Garston as their champion, despite his desire to see the museum built.

Putting residents before party politics? That must rate as the best joke so far this year.aa

On cloudy expectations

007In 2008 and 2010 the Conservatives won in Kursaal ward. If there had been an election in 2009 it would be safe to assume that they would have got that seat too. There wasn’t, and so their zenith here was to have two out of the three seats available.

Those two victories were attained against the backdrop of an unpopular Gordon Brown Government. The majorities were slim (seven votes in 2008, and 24 votes in 2010). This year the electoral weather is a lot more favourable for Labour, and we are back to two seats in this ward following victories in 2011 and 2012.

Alex Bright is fighting a lost cause here. Of course he will argue that anything could happen, and he would be right. But the Tories will struggle to hold onto all that they are defending this year, and a gain in Kursaal really does look a distance prospect for them.

Kursaal Record, and elsewhere

013The one bit of praise I feel I can bestow upon Southend’s Conservatives is their willingness to experiment when it comes to their literature. The experiments are not always good, but they at least are sold on the idea of variety.

Sometimes their output borders on the surreal, sometimes it is very good. They like glossy, which does not always work. There is also a noticeable lack of coherence across the borough – which for some illustrates their independence of thinking. For me, though, it is a weakness; voters want a strong team to run the borough, not a bunch of individuals with competing agendas. This is the Independent Group’s weakness, although in output they actually manage to be more consistent than the Tories.

The Tories latest offering defies their usual strategy – they have opted for identikit leaflets across the borough, altering only the ward and candidate in each locality. They have also offer up some policy, for a change, which allows those of us who value debate a chance to dissect and discuss.

The leaflet is almost good. It lambasts cuts, and regrets increased charges and taxes – things that I can endorse, sort of. For you see, whilst I too can express disappointment, my ire is trained on those that have forced the Joint Administration’s hand, the Conservative-led Government.

The XXXXX (insert ward name here) Record blames my party and our partners for the budget. Fair enough, we authored it, we supported it, and we won the vote to carry it through. However, local authorities, Southend-on-Sea included, are facing a tsunami of cuts in recent years, cuts caused by central Government.

Whilst we can argue over where we choose the axe to fall, we cannot disagree that however we juggle the figures the cuts are going to come.

To ameliorate some of the shortfall the local administration has opted for a modest rise. This amounts to about 42p a week for a Band D property. This modest rise has consequences beyond the immediate year, for it helps boost our council tax base too. This is important as we face the axe for a few more years to come.

Car parking charges has seen a rise, offset to some extent by a reduced charging period in parts of the town. This has been a difficult decision, but I suspect the extra few pence per hour this means for motorists will not be the disincentive the Tories are claiming for it. Tony Cox likes to cry ‘hypocrisy’ – but has conveniently forgotten the rises and suggested lengthened charging periods of recent years when his chums ran the town.

Toilets closure were headed off by me, and I acknowledge that some will claim that victory here had little to do with me. It is a strange ploy to big up a cut that never happened.

I accept that the removal of 54 litter bins is contentious. Cuts have to be made, much that I wish it were otherwise. I have argued for new bins in Milton ward, and so to see that some will be removed is not enjoyable. I blame Eric Pickles.

I must say I do find it distasteful to see the dead being used as a political football. Cremation charges are being increased, but this one-off charge merely aligns us with nearby authorities – and I again repeat that we have to find the money from somewhere.

The former local Tory leader (who does not pay his council tax in Southend-on-Sea) has written some interesting pieces on the budget. For an alternate take on what is happening they are worth a read. Whilst I admit to finding much to argue with, I am grateful for his intelligent (sometimes) contribution to the debate. Now, it only remains for Nigel to see that all this misery is a direct consequence of electing a Government intent on an ideological attack on local authority finances.

Belfairs Record – almost there

Belfairs_recordI do not know whether ‘In Touch’ has been permanently abandoned in favour of ‘ Record’ or not, but this is Cllr Lesley Salter’s latest offering; a second leaflet in quick succession that once again fails to mention her fellow Conservative ward councillor. Now you know why the Tories do not call each other ‘comrade’.

I am pleased that Southend’s Conservatives are complaining about the cuts, and I hope their two representatives in the House of Commons are equally vocal. The Conservative-led Government has an agenda with regard to local government, an agenda that is all about starving it of money. This has one consequence , and this is the shrivelling of local services.

So I say a big thank you to Cllr Salter for highlighting the disastrous cuts that are being forced on our local authority.

We live in miserable times. Misery is raining down on all who cherish local services. If Lesley wants to join my campaign to rid us all of a Government intent on destroying these services she would be most welcome. She should, of course, step aside for Dave Alston, the Labour candidate in Belfairs ward. It is only Labour who can wrest control of the country from Cameron’s clutches.

It is not all good news on this leaflet though. Cllr Salter, quietly ignoring her oft repeated wish to see our care homes closed, claims that “only … the local Conservatives will continue to support hard pressed local residents“. Aside from the over-worked adjective ‘local’, this statement rather flies in the face of reality. Her spendthrift administration were apparently unconcerned about local residents (do we have non-local residents?) who objected to shared spaces or unsightly and expensive flood defences. Over-priced and under-used kiosks, unfit art objects, and ill-suited clocks also adorn a list that could be headed ‘things the Tories in Southend wasted tax-payers money on’.

She moans about pier charges – did she moan last year when her administration shut the pier for two days of the week? You can guess the answer to that one.

Come on Lesley, use your brain and think on who is really responsible for the cuts. You are half-way there, just a little further to go.

Meg, are your pants on fire?

DavidsonleafletAm I surprised that the local Tories are spreading misinformation? Well, yes actually.

So desperate has their campaigning got that they have resorted to some … how shall I put it … imaginative descriptions of how the Joint Administration is behaving. I thought they would have some regard for the truth.

This is something being put out by Prittlewell Conservative candidate, Meg Davidson. It is not all untrue, but a couple of things are.

Retaining weekly rubbish collections” – these are not under threat. In fact, the only time I have ever heard discussed the possibility of fortnightly collections was under the previous administration – in a meeting chaired by a Conservative councillor. Suggesting weekly collections are to be stopped can only be described as scurrilous.

Opposing plans by the Council’s Labour/Lib Dem/Independent administration to close public toilets and withdraw litter bins from Southend’s streets.” The budget vote is tonight, so nothing has yet been decided. However, the toilets are not now being closed, and only a fraction of the bins are being removed. Again, deliberate misinformation.

Meg lives in Prittlewell so knows the area and understands the local issues.” More accurately, Meg is new to the area, and knows the ward far less well than Labour’s Tony Borton, our candidate for this May.

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