On the Seaway Car Park proposals, again

cineWorldPullsOutI was telephoned by the local press earlier this week in regards to the latest development at Seaway Car Park. I have spoken and written about this a number of times, but I think it is worth re-stating my views on the proposals.

I guess it all begins when one looks at deprivation, and how it clustered largely in the town centre. My post (Quietly raging), written just after my election, is still relevant, and explains why I cannot ignore what is going on at Seaway.

I will use bullet points to summarise what is the issue:

• The town centre wards have significant areas of deprivation.
• The town centre wards also see life expectancy rates more than ten years lower than other wards in the borough.
• Population density and overcrowding are a significant factor in deprivation.
• Whilst I do not suggest stopping all development, I am extremely concerned about further overcrowding an already crowded area.
• Milton also has significant traffic and parking issues.
• The town centre wards also do not have much open space – whilst only a car park, it is open.
• The road infrastructure already struggles to cope with existing traffic volumes – the commercial ventures here will attract more cars.
• There is a loss of parking, although I accept that some of this will be made up by other car parks. However, none are as close to the seafront as this is.
• The nearby residents will suffer a loss of view.
• Is there a need for a second cinema? Whilst I accept this is a commercial decision, I suspect that this will exacerbate the current south/north divide in the High Street – which sees (in my opinion) the southern, seafront, end doing much better than the northern, top, end.

Can Anyone Tell Me Where Sincerity Lives?

On the intermittent theme of bad poetry and song lyrics written by me as a kid, here is something I penned thirty-one years ago :-

Can Anyone Tell Me Where Sincerity Lives?

There are wilted flowers in the vase
There are crying eyes behind this mask
Wishing wells deceiving the willing
Promising much but only half fulfilling
Diagrams upon our wall
Describe our rise and fall
We are Egypt, we are Rome
Broken places are our home

Can anyone tell me where sincerity lives?

Triumphs in all our yesteryears
But futures only reflect our fears
History only exists on paper
To be written and altered later
We are hiding behind our illusions
Always arriving at someone else’s conclusions
We are mankind, we are deception
We are false smiles at the reception

Can anyone tell me where sincerity lives?

Julian Ware-Lane, December 1983.

Meeting of the Council held on Thursday 23rd July 2015 (up, down, up, down, up, down, up down)

Five hours of debate last night at Full Council, and my abiding memory is of the farcical attempts to get a named vote. Named votes are very important as it records how every councillor votes on a particular issue.

I cannot help but be left with the impression that the rules are designed to make the whole process look arcane, and it is quite difficult to get the numbers and timing right. In the end the Labour group must have looked ridiculous. The rules are obstructive to democratic processes and are in sore need of revision. I would prefer a system where there is a presumption of a named vote, or at least a sensible chance of getting one.

In the discussion on minute 121 (Blenheim Park Pavilion Proposal) Cllr Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) called Cllr Longley (Liberal Democrat, Blenheim Park) “a liar”. Although a rather limp apology was extracted by the mayor, Cllr Courtenay really ought to curb his hot-headedness. I am objecting to the proposal because I fear that this will lead to the loss of public open space. I also worry about the proposed sale of alcohol here, which is not only new to the area (no pubs or clubs in the near vicinity) but is also right next to two schools.

I was quite surprised that the third councillor for this ward, UKIP’s Cllr Waterworth, did not make a contribution to this debate.

My urban wood idea got a couple of mentions in the debate on minute (In depth Scrutiny project – 2015 / 16). I had to chuckle when Cllr Aylen (Independent Group, Belfairs) called me “Wares Lane” – this took me back to my bedsit days (perhaps more on that on another day).

Minute 135 (Delaware & Priory Update) was the cue for the Conservatives to indulge in political point scoring. They expressed (faux) concern over the terms and conditions being given to new employees in this venture; somewhat rich given their Government’s sustained attacks on the very poorest in our society. I pointed out that the Government’s cuts had caused all sorts of problems, and asked the portfolio holder to confirm that “notwithstanding the cuts the project is still on target and, unlike the plans of the previous administration, we are still to provide a council-run care service”. Cllr Moyies (Southend Independence, West Shoebury) was able to confirm this. Responding to concerns about the wages of the apprentices likely to be used, Anne Jones (Labour, Kursaal) referred to “a wage for the future” – a nice catchphrase.

Agenda item 22 was the Review of Members’ Allowances. In the end we voted for no increase in allowances, anywhere, and some modest reductions in some places too. For a majority losing free ink, paper and stamps was a step too far though. I voted to accept the recommendation in this regard, but this was lost by 18 votes to 25. It seems that for most councillors their allowances being used to purchase paper and ink, etc, was untenable.

I proposed that all increases to special responsibility allowances be rejected, and that any proposed reductions be accepted. This was effectively the reverse of a proposal by Cllr Ayling (Independent Group, St Luke’s), who wanted the allowances to rise as recommended (as a recipient of an SRA, Cllr Ayling of course has no personal interest in this!). My amendment was carried 28 -17.

We then got onto what I thought was a very interesting item: Revised Contracts Procedure Rules and Financial Procedure Rules. I have been pressing for changes here for some time, and whether the council will admit that the revisions are down to me or not, I am claiming a victory of sorts. I do think the types and bandings could be revisited, but it is a start. I also hoped that there would be an explicit bias in favour of local businesses in Southend-on-Sea. Cllr Walker (Conservative, Eastwood Park) saw fit to make a particularly inane comment, and thus demonstrated his ineffectiveness as a scrutiniser of council business.

In Part Two we had the debate on the Adult Social Care Local Authority Trading Company. I cannot report on the debate, but I can report that on the vote on whether to accept this three Conservative councillors abstained, effectively a vote to reject this. They were Cllrs Jarvis (West Shoebury), Lamb (West Leigh) and Phillips (West Leigh). That is three Tories (at least) who are opposed to the administrations at trying to save the council care homes. Shameful.

And finally, it is very noticeable that we end meetings with fewer councillors present than we start with. The Labour Group in its entirety stayed to the end, all nine of us. This is not true of other groups. I am not about to name names, but I do wonder why so many find it acceptable to leave whilst business is still going on. This not only lets their residents down, it lets their parties and themselves down. Of course, in extremis leaving earlier is entirely justified. But if you cannot last the course then you should not seek public office.

What Liz stands for

At my CLP’s nomination meeting I was the advocate for Liz Kendall. I created some notes for the meeting, which in the end I did not use. I think they may be useful for those who want a quick understanding of what she stands for.

Liz will win power to give it back

Liz will devolve real power to the regions, moving power not just from Whitehall to Town Halls, but down to our communities. Liz trusts people to make decisions about their own lives, communities and services.
In politics to tackle inequality
Some of the poorest kids start school over a year behind their classmates, so Liz will prioritise spending on early years education, giving them best chance of succeeding in the future.
We all worry about our parents (and ourselves) getting older.

That’s why Liz wants families to choose their own carer – and to ensure that carers are properly rewarded. She’ll outlaw carers not being paid for travel time and having to buy their own uniforms.

Building a living wage society, with a real living wage

That means more powers for the low pay commission to drive up wages and reviewing tax loopholes to find the money to give public sector workers the pay rise they deserve.

Liz is the candidate the Tories fear

She gives us the best chance of beating the Tories in 2020. For the millions who need us, that’s what really matters. Because, if we don’t win, we can’t put any of our values into action.

Oppose the attacks on trade unionists, fight for a strong voice for workers

As Labour leader, Liz will fight to oppose the Tories’ attacks on working people, and today’s blatant attack on the rights of trade unionists to organise and withdraw their labour.

As Prime Minister in a Labour government, Liz will:
• Make it a priority to reverse these Tory anti-trade union laws
• Give workers a greater say and share in their workplace
• Take practical steps such as allowing online ballots over industrial action

A strong role for trade unions in the 21st Century is essential, and as a proud trade unionist Liz will fight to defend the existence of effective, free and independent trade unions.

If George Osborne won’t tackle low pay Liz will

Balancing the books is not just about how much you spend or how many jobs there are; it’s also about how much people in our society earn. Labour’s historic mission has always been to build nation of people in work and, crucially, ensure a decent standard of pay for all.

The Tories’ record on low pay shows contempt for those who don’t earn enough to get by – and their plan to attack in work tax credits shows they just don’t understand what life is like for millions of people who have to make every penny count. The Tories won’t tackle low pay, they’ll make life for the low paid worse.

Liz is determined to lead a country where everyone gets the fair day’s pay their hard work deserves.

Liz Kendall pledges to scrap failed Tory work programme and give powers to local government

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall has pledged to scrap the Tories’ controversial work programme as a “failed experiment in welfare privatisation” and hand down control of welfare to work scheme to cities.

UK should be calling for UN action on LGBT rights not banning Pride flags

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall has called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy for LGBT rights as part of achieving equality globally.

The Labour party Liz leads will always remember its purpose

We must end the scourge of illiteracy and innumeracy, broaden the horizons of our young people and give everyone a better chance in life. Under my leadership, Labour will do just that.
So my approach to building a fairer Britain – and reducing the crippling inequality that shames our nation and holds it back – will be rooted in transforming the life chances of all our children; by backing our teachers and parents but challenging them too. And our economic credibility will be based on having a plan that starts before children are born and follows them through the ups and downs of their lives.

And it will be based on a simple truth – that a Labour Party that isn’t talking about education and social mobility has forgotten what it exists for.

Liz wants to increase the number of women Labour councillors by a third

Our councillors are the backbone of our party, working hard to spread the Labour message and deliver Labour values locally. This is why it is just as important that at the local level, as well as the national, our politics looks and sounds like the communities we serve.

Britain needs to play a leading role in Europe

Liz Kendall appoints Margaret Hodge to investigate Britain’s £100bn tax relief bill

The Labour leadership hopeful, who has described regaining the party’s reputation for economic credibility as “the gateway to government”, has appointed Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a renowned tax avoidance campaigner, to look into the United Kingdom’s £100bn annual tax relief.

In addition …

Liz has said that she would never close a successful school.
The country should always come first, not the party.
The UK should spend at last 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
Harriet Harman is right — Labour need to understand that the voters did not trust them on welfare, and that regaining that trust is as important as gaining a reputation for economic competence.

Liz is backed by

Alistair Darling
Chuka Umunna MP
Emma Reynolds MP
Stephen Twigg MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
John Reid
Paul Brannen MEP
Rod Liddle
Progress
Simon Danczuk MP
Ivan Lewis MP
Brenda Dean, former general secretary of Sogat
Maggie Jones, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Unison
Margaret Prosser, former deputy general secretary of the TGWU
Margaret Wall, former boss of Amicus
Hopi Sen
John Mills (top Labour donor)
Mark Ferguson (former LabourList editor)
Paul Flynn MP
Tristram Hunt MP
Gavin Shuker
Lord Glasman
Stephen Timms MP
Gloria de Piero MP
John Woodcock MP
Margaret Hodge MP
Toby Perkins MP
Dave Rowntree
… and many more.

Southend West CLP nominates

Southend West Constituency Labour Party met last night to decide who it would nominate for the leadership. It was a comradely conversation, and when I said that whatever the result we had to get behind the new leader this was received well and accepted by all.

I was championing Liz Kendall, and was politely listened to. She had some support, but not enough to win a majority. Southend West, after a vote, has decided to nominate Yvette Cooper.

We also decided to nominate Caroline Flint for the deputy leadership, and I spoke up for her too (so I can claim a 50% success rate).

Each nomination went to three rounds, which indicates the closeness and quality in the contest.

If the kids are united

The four Labour leadership contenders have more in common than they disagree about. This should be pretty obvious. All want to lift people out of poverty, want to narrow the wealth gap, want good public services, etc. Of course there are differences, but in the main these are around the ‘how’ of what we do.

I think we can glimpse at how the PLP would behave under the leadership of the four contenders.

After last night’s shambles that was the vote on the Welfare Bill I think two things have emerged. One is that the leadership contest is badly timed and too long. The other is that indiscipline makes us look dreadful.

Whatever the merits of abstention (and I happen to think it was the wrong decision) all that emerges from last night’s rebellion is a sense of disunity. Whilst this is only one vote, and is not necessarily a harbinger of more to come, the sense of drift that arises from this is going to hang around for a while – possibly until the new leader has been elected.

Harriet Harman has a difficult job. Being temporary is a tough place to impose discipline from. Whilst she is right to acknowledge that what Labour has being saying clearly does not chime with the views of the electorate, hers is surely a continuity role. To do anything else is to somewhat second-guess what the new leader will wish to do.

To do anything but robustly oppose Conservative welfare plans seems a denial of what we fought on in May, and whilst I think we do need a serious rethink on the whole range of policy issues this has to be a proper process. The Labour position came across as a muddled compromise, made up on the hoof.

I wonder whether the move to OMOV for leadership elections has created an air of free-for-all. Under the old system there was a significant say for MPs in who was chosen to lead them, under the current system they could have a leader imposed on them who commands little support from the green benches. This is less than healthy. I can see this being the green light for some to cherry pick what policies they will support. I hope I am wrong, for if one thing is certain it is that the 2020 battle to come will not be made any easier if we are not united.

Flying like an eagle (or, perhaps, a parrot or a pigeon)

Looking east towards the North Sea, Milton ward and beyond

Looking east towards the North Sea, Milton ward and beyond

The session ended with a polite but firm “sorry, not interested”. It began with what some in my party insist represents a big enough caucus to support a Labour Party moving leftwards in order to win, and that was someone for whom Labour is a compromise in the absence of a more left-wing alternative. This resident was thoroughly engaging, and we had a good discussion across a range of subjects. This leftie was alone in holding his views, and whilst it was certainly a small sample (insofar that I cannot speak to hundreds in an afternoon session) if there really is a hidden majority of those who want ideological socialist purity they do not reside in areas that I go canvassing.

In between I had a parrot perch on my right shoulder, which is a first for me and could be a first for any councillor in Southend-on-Sea. It was a very charming parrot. It was hot afternoon for campaigning, and a rewarding one. There was not huge numbers of Labour supporters, but each conversation was rewarding in its own way.

Someone had a pigeon problem, someone else had yet to register to vote over a year after moving in, another let me know why Labour could never attract their vote. Parking, rough sleepers, and dog’s mess also came up. A good afternoon, and a thirsty one.

My overall impression is of a Tory resurgence though, and in the absence of strong opposition my view is that the Conservatives are making hay. The distraction of a Labour leadership election cannot end soon enough for me. I have said it before, and I will say it again – Ed Miliband should have hung on for a while and we should have had the contest after the autumn, or even later. I do not understand the need for haste. It is largely acknowledge that the leadership election in 2010 allowed the Tories to set the narrative, and it could easily happen again in 2015.

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