Filling the wires; much discontented chatter regarding The Deanes

In common with all other councillors in Southend-on-Sea I have received a fair amount of correspondence in respect of The Deanes School and its closure. Every one has condemned the proposed closure and I entirely sympathise. This issue, in some ways, neatly shows how frustrating a vote every four years can be.

The decision to close, taken by the responsible local authority, was made not long after the May elections. That this was a decidedly fishy time to do it is obvious – any hint of this coming before the voters had a chance to have their say would, in my view, changed the outcome of the elections. Jillian Reeves would have seen her tenure at County Hall end. As it is, the LA involved is Essex County Council, and Cllr Reeve’s term runs for four years – long enough, she will hope, for memories to fade.

I know of a number of parents who chose The Deanes School, a choice driven by a desire to avoid what are seen as sink schools in Southend-on-Sea. The Deanes also benefits from a leafy environ leading parents to feel this better suits the needs of their progeny.

I am seeing a crisis of sorts in primary school places in my borough, and this will feed through in time to the secondary schools. We are also seeing significant population growth in this corner of Essex, as well as proposals for more housing, all of which will inevitably put pressures on all secondary schools and the places available.

The closure puts a dent into the choices available locally, reduces the number of secondary places in the area, and has distressed many parents. The closure appears linked to plans for housing, and whilst I think we need housing I cannot understand why a school would not also be needed; one need not preclude the existence of the other.

Undoubtedly tough choices have to be made at times, and unpopular decisions made. It does stink though when accountability is circumvented by some very convenient timing.

Essex County elections summary 1965 – 2013

Vote % 1965 - 2013

Vote % 1965 – 2013

Seats won 1965 - 2013

Seats won 1965 – 2013

Here are two charts showing how the County elections in Essex have gone since 1965. Please be aware that 1997’s data is incomplete.

These show the votes accumulated and the seats gained. There have been a number of boundary changes to have some effect, but the biggest change is the exclusion of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea when Unitary status was granted these tow authorities – this significantly affected the Labour vote. (Southend-on-Sea is also excluded from the early results because it was had County Borough status.)

Labour’s zenith was 1973 won they won 40 of the 97 seats and gained 42.7% of the vote. 2009 was their worst year. Labour are still some way down on the 30% which was the norm therough the late 1970s and up to the start of the century.

Green support dropped slightly between 2009 and 2013, and bizarrely won two seats in the later election.

UKIP’s surge, superficially at least, appears to have come at the expense of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The BNP in 2009 scored 9.5%, and dropped to 0.3% this year – I suspect most of their vote also went UKIP’s way.

Conservative support is still solid, and they outperform in terms of converting votes into seats. This year, for instance, their 34.2% of the vote gained them 56% of the seats. In 2009 they got 80% of the seats on 43.5% of the vote – as good an argument for proportional representation as you are ever likely to see.

Tim Coulson replies to grandad Joe

Hi Julian. Here’s Tim Coulson’s reply which I see no problem in publishing. Thanks – Joe



From: Tim Coulson Director for Education and Learning
To: Joe Cooke
Subject: RE: Consultation re Deames School

Dear Mr Cooke

Thank you for your e-mail about The Deanes school. You raise important points. The detail of the proposals will be published on 10 June and it would be inappropriate for me to give these details in my response to you at this stage. However, if you do not feel that the consultation contains sufficient responses to your questions, please do let me know after 10 June.

You have outlined clearly the many concerns and I have heard from a number of people about their concerns this week.

In terms of decision making, you will understand from your own experience that decisions are made by members and if any decisions follow the consultation they will both be on the council’s forward plan and will be made by councillors. The decision to consult has been made following discussions between officers and councillors as you would expect.

Yours sincerely

Tim Coulson

Director of Education and Learning

Essex County Council

Con to Lab swings in Essex

I am grateful to Cllr Ian Gilbert for sharing the following data with me. This table shows the swing from the Conservatives to Labour in the recent Essex County Council elections. The divisions shown are those where Labour polled more than 20%.


  Swing % Con to Lab
Rochford South 17.9
Harwich 17.8
Maypole 13.2
Laindon Park and Fryerns 12.8
Pitsea 12.2
Wivenhoe St Andrew 11.9
Clacton West 10.9
Harlow South East 10.7
Clacton North 9.5
Harlow West 9.4
Harlow North 8.8
Bocking 8.4
Witham Southern 8.3
Braintree Town 7.4
Halstead 6.1


I am pleased to note that the division that I helped out in had the biggest swing, and this is testament to Jerry Gibson and his hard-working team.


It does show the size of the mountain that Labour has to climb that of the 73 divisions in Essex we have only got above a fifth of the vote in fifteen of them.

The Tories retain control in Essex

Here is a summary of yesterday’s Essex County Council elections:

% vote share seats candidates 2009 %
Conservative 34.3 42 75 43.5
UKIP 27.8 9 75 4.4
Labour 17.5 9 73 11.6
Liberal Democrat 10.9 9 72 19.8
Green 4.7 2 66 6.2
Tendring First 1.3 1 8 1.4
Independent 1.1 1 7 0.0
Independent Loughton Residents Association 1.0 0 3 0.6
Canvey Island Independent 0.9 1 2 0.8
BNP 0.3 0 13 9.5
English Democrats 0.3 0 4 1.2
South Woodham Ferrers Independents 0.2 0 1
Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts 0.1 0 3
National Front 0.1 0 2
others 0.1 0 3 1.2

Mr Seagers: experience does not trump policy

Colin Seagers is clearly a rattled Tory. He is fighting the Rochford South division. This was won by the Tories in 2009 on 51.1% of the votes, some 38.5% ahead of Labour. Yet, since 2009 the electoral tide has turned and I very much expect a close run final result.

Mr Seagers says this in his leaflet:

The Labour candidate falsely claims to be local to Great Wakering, and that he understands how councils are organised and work – but he plainly does not – having very little local authority experience or training even at Parish level.

Now, I am not about to detail Jerry Gibson’s experience, but I can assure you that he brings a wealth of experience and talent to the role. But is this relevant? Colin Seagers is not a County councillor and so this, if he is successful, will be a new experience for him. I presume when he first sought election as a district councillor he did not remind the electorate about his own inexperience at the time.

This really is poor form by Mr Seagers.

I suspect that he does not like democracy and having to face the electorate – his elections in 2007 and 2011 saw him returned unopposed. His last democratic contest, in 2003, saw him victorious with a thin 3.9% majority. He was first elected in 2002, and came third of the three Tory candidates in that all-up election, a mere 25 votes ahead of the fourth placed Labour candidate.

A decade on, and he surely realises that his propensity for making a safe seat look like a marginal is going to be repeated in just under two weeks.

I am curious about the imprint on the leaflet. It states:

Promoted by John Sheaf on behalf of Colin George Seagers both of 192 Main Road Hawkwell Hockley Essex SS5 4ED.

His Rochford District Council web page shows his address as: 2 Wedds Way Great Wakering Southend-on-Sea Essex SS3 0DN

Since he now claims to reside in Hawkwell his claim to be a TRULY LOCAL CANDIDATE (his capitals) is bunk.

Jerry Gibson: on your side in Wakering


Stock result

The Essex County Council by-election in Stock was fought on Thursday, and here is the result:

Ian Grundy Conservative 1820 59.3%
Jesse Pryke UKIP 736 24.0%
Maurice Austin Labour 273 8.9%
Marian Elsden Liberal Democrat 160 5.2%
Reza Hossain Green 80 2.6%

This was fought because of Lord Hanningfield was forced to stand down following his imprisonment.

The result was hardly a surprise, this is a rock solid Tory division, but nonetheless it was nice to see the Labour vote improve on its 2009 showing. Una Norman vote share then was 5.2% and finished fifth out of five candidates. The Liberal Democrats came second in 2009, and their collapse
continues as their vote has shrunk from the 12.5% they achieved two years ago.

Stock by-election

News from Chelsmford Labour Party:

Stock by-election  has been called for 8 September by Essex County Council.  Maurice Austin has been selected as candidate for this Tory held seat which has become vacant as a result of Lord Hanningfield no longer being eligible to be a councillor.  Maurice will be standing as a Labour and Co-operative candidate. 

Chelmsford Central by-election result

Yesterday’s Chelmsford Central by-election result –

Richard Madden – Conservative – 1496 – 43.6%
Graham Pooley – Liberal Democrat – 1323 – 38.6%
Russell Kennedy – Labour – 610 – 17.8%

This election was for Essex County Council and was caused by the death of the sitting Liberal Democrat Councillor, Margaret Hutchon, and is therefore a Tory gain.

This is an improved showing for Labour compared to the 2009 result.

Liberal Democrat 44.5%
Conservative 33.6%
Green 8.2%
Labour 7.7%
BNP 6.1%