Dear Comrades in the Independent Group

Dear Comrades in the Independent Group

Being the ever helpful chappie that I am, I thought I would offer some guidance. You see, from where I am standing (actually, sitting) you seem to want to act like a party but cannot suppress your inner-anarchists. Whilst individualism is to be applauded, acting like a mutinous crew does not inspire confidence. If we are to be bosom buddies for more than a couple of years can suggest you look at the handy hints listed below?

• Argue behind closed doors. Particularly useful if you want to keep the group intact.
• Debate like comrades. Scrapping like Kilkenny cats may satisfy your blood lust, but it may also end with you as spectators rather than players in Southend politics.
• Have a whip. If you can agree a policy line then a whip ensures that all your members honour the collective will of the group.
• Dictatorship is not leadership.
• Treat your ward colleagues like a team, not as rivals for the affections of the residents.
• If you must disagree, at least act gracefully.
• If you need to have a robust conversation do it without an audience.
• Service before self is a motto worth unofficially adopting. You serve to improve the town, not your bank balance.
• Throwing a tantrum and quitting does not serve yourselves, your group, or Southend residents. However, it does make your opponents very happy.
• Value your independence of thought, but also value collective action.

Lots of love, Jules XX

Aylen quits the Independent Group

The fallout from the Place Scrutiny Committee 13th July is that the Independent Group is down one.

Cllr Stephen Aylen (Belfairs) has resigned from the Group. In his own words:

I have been elected to represent the residents of Belfairs and I can no longer do that to an acceptable standard to my residents under the independent group control.
I was forced to make a choice between my residents and supporting the leader of the council.
Supporting the leader of the council would I believe seriously affected the residents of Belfairs and adjoining areas.

Cllr Aylen remains in the Joint Administration, although whether he remains Chair of the Public Transport and Buses Working Party remains to be seen.

This leaves the political composition of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council as follows:

22 Conservative
10 Independent Group
9 Labour
4 Liberal Democrat
3 Southend Independence
2 UKIP
1 Independent

It is clearly a fractured picture, with Labour within touching distance of being the largest group in the Joint Administration. This will make next May’s elections very interesting.

Come on Tammy, surely you can do better than this?

tammyCooperWhen someone writes to me ‘personally‘ I somehow expect to be addressed other than as ‘Dear Voter‘. Hmm, a cynic might suggest that this is some mass-produced leaflet rather than a hand-crafted missive.

It goes downhill from here.

OK, I accept that my style of representation may not suit everyone’s tastes, but I defy anyone to suggest that I have not been vocal in my term thus far. So, what does Tammy mean by ‘Milton can get the representation it deserves‘? Her showing at the hustings demonstrated ample evidence of her unsuitability for the task.

Ms Cooper also repeats the spiel about not wanting party politics in the Council Chamber. Yet, she represents the Independent Group, who collectively signed the Joint Administration agreement, put out collective literature, meet collectively, have a leader – at what point is this not a party?

Besides, if all you are going to do is reflect the views of all residents without a hint of leadership then we may as well all pack up and go home and let officers respond to inquiries.

There are also the lies. The Independent Councillors (or, more accurately, those that find favour with Messrs Terry and Woodley) did not force out the Tory administration. The Tories lost power because of gains by three groups.

Her ‘Vision for Milton and Southend‘ (do I point out that more of Milton is in Westcliff-on-Sea than in Southend-on-Sea?) is this:

A planning process which refers all major planning applications to the full Council.

Really? Are we to become a fifty-one member Development and Control Committee?

Since Tammy wants: A shift towards building more family homes and fewer flats retaining the residential character and charm of Milton – I wonder whether she has a view on those who convert garden sheds into dwellings so that they can let out their homes?

Shoebury News

ShoeburyNewsThere is going to be quite a tussle in Shoeburyness ward. Labour are working hard, the Conservatives fancy their chances, and the defending member of the Independent Group won’t go without a fight.

The first thing you notice about Anne Chalk’s leaflet is that there is no mention of her fellow Independent Group ward councillors, and only a passing reference to the Joint Administration that she is part of. Anne clearly believes her best chance of remaining a councillor lie with her showing true independence.

I think it has been a broadly successful year for the Joint Administration, although I know that Anne has had her gripes. I confess to be a little puzzled by her strategy – we will not have to wait long to see whether it is successful.

This leaflet has no imprint.

Independent trends – 2015 promises a good year for the roses

Trying to judge how the local elections will go in Southend-on-Sea is to employ the tea-leaves, crystal ball, and a lot of guesswork. There are trends that give an indication of how things should go, but throw into the mix the backdrop of a General Election and all sorts of possibilities emerge. National politics is in flux, and change seems to be the order of things by the seaside.

One could speculate that the Independent Group will find this a tough year. Already one down, Cllr Morgan having decided to call it a day in Prittlewell, they are defending in three other seats. The Leader of the Council is amongst those defending, and whilst it would be some coup for the Tories if they could unseat him I doubt this is at all likely – and I suspect the Tories also think this. As for Indie prospects in St Luke’s and Shoeburyness, I think ‘interesting’ is the best description. It will be a test of personality versus the bigger picture.

Independent candidates have popped up in elections over the years, but it has only been in the last decade and a half where they have begun to make an impact.

Independent candidates in Southend-on-Sea:

1999 – 1 (0 elected)
2000 – 0
2001 – 2 (0)
2002 – 9 (0)
2003 – 2 (1)
2004 – 1 (1)
2006 – 8 (1)
2007 – 6 (2)
2008 – 7 (4)
2010 – 12 (1)
2011 – 9 (5)
2012 – 10 (5)
2014 – 9 (4)

The numbers in brackets show their successes, and the last General Election year shows a noticeable dip.

I have not included Mum’s Army (a single candidate in 2006 and 2007), but these numbers do include both the ‘official’ Independent Group candidates (and their one-off incarnation as Alliance Southend), and the truly independent.

Recent trends suggest there will be nine or ten candidates, and whether 2010 is an indicator of how successful they will be remains to be seen.

I have not seen much evidence of campaigning by those calling themselves independent, excepting David Webb in Westborough. To be honest, though, it is only Labour and the Conservatives who have been really active in recent months, reflecting the real choice that lies ahead come May. Given the rejection of the Tories by Southend’s voters in recent year I reckon 2015 could be a good year for roses.

Westborough Independent Group Winter Newsletter

Webb1The ballot paper for the local elections in Westborough ward could be a crowded affair this year. Rumours are of anything up to three independents in addition to the potential five party candidates.

To date, though, I have only heard of two declaring themselves – David Webb (a former Liberal Democrat activist) has thrown his hat in the ring and joins Charles Willis (Labour). David has been out distributing the leaflet shown here.

The title is interesting, suggesting that regardless of how many independent candidates come forward for Westborough ward it is David that has Cllr Martin Terry’s endorsement

The overheated Indie spin machine

It looks like the excitement of toppling the Conservatives from power in Southend-on-Sea has gone to some people’s heads; one or two are giving the appearance of being drunk on success.

In the local print media I am seeing all sorts of pronouncements regarding policy U-turns and new initiatives, pronouncements dressed up as facts when in reality they are, at present, a wish-list.

For example, headlines quoting Cllr Terry announcing that the plans for the Shoebury sea defences have been scrapped are wrong. The previous administrations plans are being reviewed, and whilst they could be scrapped equally they could get another endorsement.

These sorts of decisions will be taken by the fifty-one councillors who represent all within Southend-on-Sea, not by one excitable portfolio holder. I am minded to mention that those in the Independent Group who consider the Cabinet system imperfect should remember that a decision taken by one is even less democratic.

I am compelled to issue an arithmetic lesson too. A two thousand signature petition does not mean “the people of the town rejected the proposals” – this is less than a fifth of one ward, and under 1.2% of the population of the borough.

Any new proposal is likely to mean additional borrowing, and I have no problem with sensible borrowing, yet the noises from the Independent Group on this subject have been somewhat shrill. They will have to re-think their attitude in this respect.

I am in the administration too, and I am pleased with the reviews. However, I am concerned that review outcomes are being pre-judged.

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