A word from Wier

This blog is in retirement.

I am now blogging here – a word from wier

On Your Side in Milton


My Place

This week’s sees the latest round of scrutiny meetings in Southend-on-Sea. Last night it was Place, a meeting that took just under two hours.

There were no comments about the Monthly Performance Report. As far as the Place Directorate is concerned it is all going well.

I asked a couple of questions regarding Allotments – Future Self-Management. My concerns rested primarily with access to allotment plots – I do not wanted self-management seeing anyone excluded from renting an allotment. After a bit of toing and froing I think I got the assurance I was after in this regard; I was told that the same rules and governance framework would apply under self-governance. I also sought assurance (given) that ownership of sites would remain with the Borough Council.

Cllr Mike Royston (Labour, Westborough) made a very valid point about access to sports facilities under the item Chalkwell Park and Priory Park Tennis Courts. He was concerned that charging for the two parks closest to his residents in Westborough would have a negative impact.

Under the Flood Incident Report – 24th August 2013 the officers referred to it as “extreme weather conditions”; it was also said that they were one in thirty to fifty year incidents. They then went on to mention another three or four such incidents in this year. I, naturally, pointed out that if we are seeing these incidents less than a year apart then they should more accurately be described as a one in one year event. A later explanation used percentages, describing the chances as being at 3% (it was dismissed as a matter of nomenclature) – I think 100% would be more accurate.

I stated that if these events are regular then they cannot be described as extreme. I hoped that this type of language was not being used as an excuse for failure or not doing enough

I also said that planning should now take account of the changes in our climate, and consideration made of draining and run-off issues when considering applications. I referred to the borough seeing more of its area covered by concrete, and to sewers that in many places have not been upgraded since Victorian times.

The minutes of the Chairmen’s Scrutiny Forum was briefly discussed. I wished I had queried the title of this body – I find ‘chair’ or ‘chairperson’ less sexist (especially as one of the chairs is female). On another note, all call-ins were made by Cllrs J I Courtenay and J L Lamb. I thought Group leaders and their deputies were usually credited with call-ins – has something happened to Cllr Ann Holland?

Why politics?

I once uttered, partly tongue in cheek, my disappointment at being elected – I was used to campaigning. My solution was to continue campaigning, and whilst not in pursuit of votes it was with the resolve that I would try my best to ensure the residents in Milton ward got the best representation I could manage.

You see, I do not engage in politics for the simple aim of being in power. I am trying, in my own small way, to help create a world where everyone is treated as equals and where peace abounds. I am also in it for the debate; I do not know all the questions, let alone the answers, in Rumsfeld-style it is unknown unknowns. I do not knowingly choose ignorance or the wrong path; I am just aware of my fallibility.

Just yesterday I had more conversations. One or two mutterings about all politicians being the same, all in it for themselves. “Of course, you are paid for doing this” said one, referring to my canvassing and campaigning activities. I happily informed said resident that I have never been paid for this – I doubt that any political activist of any persuasion is paid to knock on doors. Whilst elected politicians do receive recompense – for the last two and a half years I have had a councillor’s allowance – the majority of us are engaged in voluntary activity.

In part there is selfishness. I want a better world for me and my family. In large measure it is altruistic: I want a better world for everyone.

I have had a number of Conservative councillors in my home town tell me how easy opposition is. I think that six months into this new experience for them they have yet to really understand what has happened in Southend-on-Sea, and what they need to do improve their party’s fortunes locally. If opposition is easy then I suggest that they are not doing it properly. Whilst they may like to blame a whole range of factors, they cannot escape from the fact that they were given a comprehensive thumbs down by voters in Southend-on-Sea last May. They have been shut out of wards that until recently were considered Tory strongholds. I put this down to complacency, and if they think you can just turn up and do opposition with little effort or consideration of what it really takes to hold an administration to account then I suggest this as further evidence of complacent attitudes.

Complacency, or rather fear of it, also drives my compulsion to continue campaigning. It drives my desire to examine the world and my attitudes to it. Politicians should be alive to the issues that affect those elect them, they should also show leadership. I am not merely a conduit between Milton residents and the borough council, although there is an element of this in my role as a councillor. However, I do try to understand what is going on, what I can do about it, and also what is likely to affect people going forwards. It is not just the street-level parochial, bread-and-butter pavement politics issues – as this blog attests I take an interest in national and international issues.