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.

Yesterday at the Southend Central LCM

Southend-on-Sea is a safe town, but there is undoubtedly crime, and sometimes it is nasty. In my ward we had an (alleged) murder recently, and attending last night’s police meeting (more properly known as the Southend Central LCM) this came up. I am pushing for increased resources in the area which was the scene of this most violent of acts.

Apparently burglaries are up in Milton ward, with twelve reported in the last eight weeks. This compares to two in each of the neighbouring wards. Burglaries remain a policing priority, as does prostitution and begging.

We still have a dog warden in the borough, which surprised me because I thought it went some time ago owing to the cuts.

The stats (below) are interesting/worrying/illuminating/puzzling – take your pick. I think that again Southend Central has more crimes reported than anywhere else in Essex . However, I should point out that the various communities are not equal in terms of either physical size or numbers of inhabitants, and that Southend Central is not only very densely populated, it also has four rail stations, two high streets, many clubs, pubs, etc. Nonetheless, though, I would like to see this number shrink considerably.

Crimes reported in April 2015, by neighbourhood in Southend-on-Sea, Rochford, and Castle Point.

706 Southend Central
335 Canvey
267 Blenheim
243 Southchurch
211 Leigh
151 Shoebury
143 Rayleigh
109 Rochford
98 Eastwood
71 Benfleet
60 Hadleigh
58 Thundersley
39 Hockley
37 Wakering
20 Hullbridge
17 Ashingdon and Canewdon

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.

Oooh, lukewarm but found at last

There we have it. It has only taken five hours, but I have found my first Tory.

I became cast-free a week ago, and since then I have managed just over five hours on the doorstep. Towards the end of today’s session I met my first Tory since returning to campaigning after injuring my foot. To be honest, though it was not a ringing endorsement.

I inquired how the resident was going to vote in next year’s General Election. “Probably Conservative” came the reply. Probably!

I inquired what he thought of the Cameron premiership. He thought he was “about 50%, no make that 60% good, 40% bad.”

So far, mostly Labour, a smattering of UKIP, and nothing else declared (sole Tory aside). Quite a few undecided though, which must include wavering Tories (and some unconvinced Labour supporters too). This is across three wards, and whilst I may have just stumbled on areas where the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) are weak, two of those wards have both Tory and Lib Dem councillors.

Doorstepping apres interruptus

The first door I knock on after returning from an injury-enforced lay-off from canvassing was not an auspicious start, for no sooner than I had announced myself as someone from the Labour Party when the resident said “I’m not interested” and shut the door firmly in my face. Welcome back!

Fortunately it got better.

I did stints in Kursaal and Chalkwell wards today. Not especially long stints, for not only was the weather indifferent but I am still limping. However, it was good to be out again.

Unusually I did not have a single conversation about dog poo, parking, or fly-tipping. Instead it seemed to me that minds were definitely tuned to the coming General Election as national topics were discussed. The top three items today were the cost of living, the National Health Service, and the European Union.

I found one Tory, or perhaps more accurately one former Tory as this resident was definitely undecided who to plump for nowadays. Now, not finding a Tory in Kursaal is not especially unusual, but I expected to find some in a ward that is represented by three of the species.

I spied no Liberal Democrat or Green supporters either; it was all UKIP or Labour, with Labour winning by a ratio of three to one. I know that some when confronted by a Labour activist will either say what they think the activist wants to here or keep their allegiances secret – some. Finding no-one prepared to express a preference for either of the governing parties was quite a revelation. Green support is quite weak in my home borough, and they barely register at the best of times; so no surprises that I came across no-one declaring for them.

UKIP are gaining some traction, but I did find that those opting for them would at least chat, and some said they would look into the Labour offer for Southend-on-Sea.

Does this mean very much at all? Not really, because in truth despite my best endeavours it was still a fairly small sample. Nonetheless, I really sense a Conservative Party in trouble, at least in parts of the town. It also suggests that what we saw in the local elections six months could easily be repeated next May, that is even more Conservative losses in the council chamber.

Getting the best deal for Kursaal

ChasIsTheBestChoiceForKursaal

Kursaal Tory councillors and their terminological inexactitudes

Kursaal Conservative councillors Burdett and Robin have made some very silly remarks recently regarding Labour councillor Stephen George.

They have been making ill-founded and unsubstantiated claims about Councillor George and his relationship with the local Labour Party.

As a friend of Stephen George and a Vice-chair of the Southend Labour Parties Local Government Committee I want to set the record right.

The Southend Labour Parties Local Government Committee oversees all selections for local government elections in Southend. I can confirm that the selection for Kursaal was conducted according to Labour Party rules.

Stephen did not seek re-selection for the seat he holds until next May. I have been aware for some time that he was considering not standing and have tried to persuade him to stay – he is skilled and experienced. His reasons are personal and not for me to divulge. However, this is no permanent break with frontline politics, rather a rest, and Stephen can still be found out and about campaigning to get others, such as myself, elected.

Perhaps it is too much to expect the two Kursaal Tories to get their facts right.