On Your Side in Milton


The Milton record

% vote share for Labour and Conservatives candidates in Milton ward, 2001 - 2015

% vote share for Labour and Conservatives candidates in Milton ward, 2001 – 2015

This graph shows the Labour and Conservative vote shares in Milton ward for every local election contested on the current boundaries.

The general picture is of declining Conservative vote share, whilst Labour’s has dipped and recovered. We are still not at the level we were in 2001, although in numbers of actual votes secured we went beyond 2001 this year. Had the Greens not secured 10.9% of the vote then the Conservatives would not have held on in May. The 1658 votes Gary Sergeant attracted would have won in any other year, and if one presumes that the majority of greens support would have come our way then a good majority would have been ours.

I have no idea whether the Greens will put up a candidate this year, my campaign must concentrate on what we will be doing and not be distracted by who the potential opposition is. I have got to concentrate and beating the Tory candidate, for this ward is a tight two-horse race, whatever the actual size of the field.

I am a long way from confident of success, but I know that me and my team will work hard. I am heartened by the huge increase in Labour membership since May, and this augers well for the mechanical side of winning elections.

I will also keep up my campaigning on those issues dear to me. Whatever residents may think of the causes I champion, and consequently what view they hold of me, they cannot accuse me of not being prepared to tackle some of the bigger issues.

I will struggle to assure when community policing numbers are slashed in April

I have not assiduously recorded every conversation or correspondence with residents regarding police numbers, but I think I am on pretty sure ground when I say that I have yet to hear from anyone who wants fewer police. Certainly, if my memory has failed to recall such a conversation it is certain that those who desire less of a police presence are in a minority. A tiny minority.

I represent a ward that is part of a trio that has the worst crime statistics in Essex. It has been this way for some time, and the central Southend wards are not just number one for crimes in Essex, the numbers here are more than double the next most blighted community. Of course there are special circumstances that go some way to explaining this, but this is scant consolation for the 35,000 or so who reside here, as well as those who visit and work in the centre of Southend-on-Sea.

I am less certain when I say that ward councillors and residents really appreciate community policing, although I have yet to hear a word against it. Certainly I am grateful for the work that the community teams do, especially in Milton ward. To hear that they will be reduced to less than a third of their current strength come next April is appalling news.

Community policing teams are an important link in the battle to combat crime and keep our streets safe. Quite why the Government is cutting police budgets so that these sorts of decisions are being forced on those that run police forces throughout Essex is beyond me. Is Mr Cameron under the illusion that the war on crime is won already? It certainly has not been won in Milton ward.

I am not one to spread alarm, and I am sure that the police that remain after the latest round of cuts (and who knows what is in store in the years ahead) will work smarter and harder to keep our streets safe. But police presence on the ground is going to be affected, and with more police stations closing visiting your local police will be that bit harder. Many that I know want to see the reassuring presence of a bobby on the beat, and whilst I will try for a bigger share of resources I can understand the arguments that competing wards will doubtless make.

I am sure that Southend-on-Sea will remain a safe town. I am also sure that I am bound to disappoint residents who ask for more visible policing in their area. This may have the knock-on effect of keeping indoors those who will feel vulnerable when wandering out and about. Is this what those who voted for cuts want – residents made virtual prisoners in their own homes by the fear of crime?


Pleased I is

Pleased I is

I contested my first Milton ward selection in the summer of 2010, and yesterday I was successful for the third time (also being selected in 2011). It was a great honour in 2010, when the political backdrop was a safe Tory ward with three Tory councillors and a ward that had never elected a Labour candidate in its current configuration. That has all changed since, and we were mightily unlucky not to have secured the hat-trick in May this year.

I do not doubt, though, that despite the advances Labour has made in this most wonderful of wards this is going to be a battle. I won in 2012 with a narrow majority, and the Tories will see this ward (particularly after holding it this year) as a top target. I am sure that they would be pleased to see not just Labour defeated, but me too. I do not take this as a sign of personal animosity though, but rather a testament to my industry when it comes to challenging them, both locally and nationally.

What has also changed since 2012 is that Milton ward now boasts the largest Labour Party membership in the east of the town, and this increase is not just in ‘silent’ members. The ward now has a fine and growing band of activists, and as other ward selections are announced you will see Milton members now becoming our candidates. In 2011 and 2012 I had a shoe-string operation, largely based around my willingness to work and work – this year I will have a loyal band of supporters, big enough that I can also lend them to other campaigns.

I look forward to the campaign, and I hope to meet as many Milton residents as I can. This is a mere continuation of what I have been doing since 2010, and Milton residents are never surprised to see a Labour face at their door nowadays. I am a keen proponent of pavement politics, and despite what it may seem with my forays into the local media and contributions in council meetings, this is where I am happiest.

I am modestly proud of my achievements in the three and a half years that I have thus far served the residents of Milton, and whilst I have neither always succeeded, nor indeed even pleased, all the time, I hope that people will recognise my willingness to speak out for both the ward and the issues I champion.

I must thank all those who have placed their trust in me. It truly is an honour to represent Labour anywhere, but especially in Milton ward.

And … don’t forget to vote Labour on May 5th, 2016!

Yakety yak (trash)

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

There are some places where you just know that a visit will result in a conversation with Council officers. One such is the Ceylon Road car park.

One small victory I think I can claim some credit for is that it is not as dangerous as it used to be. I wonder through quite safely at all times of day. It cannot be said, though, that it is a place that is much cleaner, despite the best efforts of the two Labour councillors for Milton ward. It does occasionally look lovely and clean, just after a spate of emails from Cllr Nevin and myself. This is followed in pretty short order with the next batch of trash to festoon both the car park and the walkways that lead from it. To be frank, it is often quite disgusting. Still, we shall never surrender to stupid and irresponsible actions.

This car park is not the only place within the ward where there are regular litter issues, and I have to wonder at the mindset of some people, and it is clear that much of this must be down to regular repeat offenders. There are some, it seems, who just view the world as one big trash can.

Recently I went to a CAST meeting. There is an event on Thursday (8th October) where I will be one of the speakers talking about the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Also had an Essex Fire Authority meeting this week where the independent cultural review was discussed. It is no exaggeration to say that this was a very damning report.

And to my doorstep engagement, the most enjoyable aspect of politics as far as I am concerned. Jeremy Corbyn came up twice, once favourably, once not so – so honours even. I have to say that I am hearing reports that suggest his impact is not quite so even elsewhere. Ed Miliband also came up in conversation, and I find that those who dislike Labour and its brand of democratic socialism/social democracy will find any reason to be critical.

I am seeking re-selection this year in Milton ward, and next Saturday is decision day. I welcome challengers, no-one should be immune from the democratic process. I hope I have done enough over the last three and a half years to merit being allowed another go, although I am hearing rumours of a far-left attempt to have me de-selected – an irony for this Marxist brought-up former Communist who apparently, according to some, does not belong in the Labour Party. I guess my championing the homeless and migrants is just too right-wing for some!

Dear anonymous lady, where is your evidence?

This is a response to the lady who left a message on my council telephone voicemail. I would have called her back except that she left no name or number.

She called regarding my article in the press regarding the homeless; she said that they were not very nice people, and that Milton ward had suffered a crime wave since they had set up tents on the Cliffs.

I really do not know how many of the rough sleepers she had actually met, but describing them all as not very nice leads down a particularly nasty road. Judge individuals not whole groups of people.

It is also some stretch to link to unrelated incidents without any evidence. A crime wave in Milton (a ward that sees enough crime without the presence of rough sleepers) can be ascribed to any number of reasons unless you, like me, prefer the rigour of evidence-based analysis.

I could also point out that the Cliffs have had rough-sleepers encamped within its environs for more than a year – it is just that the latest lot are more visible.

Lady, if you have evidence that links crime to anyone then it is your civic duty to report this to the police. Otherwise I suggest you keep your irrational prejudices to yourself.

Of course I want the problem solved, but let’s tackle this with compassion and empathy for those without a roof of their own.

Our correspondent in Shanty Town

007I first came across the derelict garages described as a ‘shanty town’ a month or two back. I was out with some councillors and a council officer looking at fly-tipping and dumping problems. I took them down one alley that I knew was normally full of rubbish, then wandered off down another when I came across a part of Milton ward that I had not previously encountered. This was an area, flanked by housing, that contained garages that had clearly not been used to house cars for some time. I could immediately see that some of the garages had been in use, a view substantiated by a resident who told me that it was frequented by the homeless and drug users.

Because this site has been in the local newspapers this week I decided to revisit. I was going to take photographs and do some investigating. I expected a flying visit – I stayed an hour and a half.

I parked up in the Ceylon Road car park and made my way round to the alley that runs along behind the shops and flats between Ceylon Road and Hamlet Court Road. This alley, often strewn with all sorts of rubbish seemed especially blighted this morning. I wandered into the area where there were something like twenty garages, roughly two sets of ten facing each other. Some were in a very bad way, with caved in roofs and all sorts of detritus in them.

Whilst taking a look around I spotted someone in a garage. Crouching to make myself visible under the half-closed garage door I introduced myself to the gentleman who had evidently made this his home, and asked whether I could come in for a chat.

Mr A appeared to be in his early 40s. He told me he had been homeless since February 4th, when he was evicted from his Eastwood flat. He had had a short stay with HARP, and had recently been on the Cliffs, leaving because it was quite cold there. He wanted accommodation. Mr A told me that there were six staying in these garages.

Mr B would like an address – a common theme as the morning went on. He was not able to claim benefits as he had no address (not true for all of the rough sleepers here), and had to beg to get any money. Mr B had been homeless for 19 years.

Mr C had been thrown out of HARP for not engaging. I did question why he had not engaged; he suggested that he had somewhat misunderstood what was required of him, and also said that the rules were too rigid.

Mr D, a 44 year-old, He confessed to having drug issues, and like a number of those here had spent some time in prison. He was another who had spent years on the street.

Ms E, another 44 year old, wanted a roof over her head. She had been homeless for about a year, previously leading a settled life. She was clearly not well, had not eaten much recently, and I suggested that she must see a doctor.

Mr F was another critical of HARP. Mr G, a 33 year old ex-window fitter with young children that he was not seeing regularly explained the vicious circle that was the norm for rough sleepers trying to find work – no home no job, no job no home.

Mr H, at 30, was the youngest I met today. He had been homeless for 3 months since his release from prison. He needed a roof over his head.

Some general themes: Aside from one, a schizophrenic who suffered from claustrophobia, all wanted accommodation. Yet, even the schizophrenic wanted an address – somewhere to leave stuff, etc. His requirements were for a small space to call his own.

There was some criticism of HARP. I attend their trustees meetings (as the Council’s representative) and I have nothing but praise for the organisation, but my opinion was did not entirely tally with those I spoke to today. However, there seemed to be recognition that HARP, in general, were doing a good job.

“They set you up to fail” was what one said of HARP, complaining of too many rules. Another said they were too “black and white” – not enough “grey” with them rules.

“Always worrying about what to eat. How you are going to get food, how you are going to get drinks.” “No address often means no help. Can’t get a place because you can’t get a deposit.”

One guy owed Southend-on-Sea Borough Council £720, and they would not house him because of this debt (says he).

“Drugs numb the pain” said another. I heard stories about rough sleepers being beaten up, kicked, and set on fire.

“Spoke to Family Mosaic yesterday, hopefully they can help.”

A few had mobile phones. I heard how some charged these. It seems you learn a few tricks on the streets.

I was thanked for coming and listening. They were all polite, all very erudite. They need help, but also recognised that (some at least) had made mistakes. Many had seen prison, some were re-offending owing to the need to eat. Many were keen to assure me that the rubbish thereabouts was not their fault – and I can attest to the area being a dumping ground long before the latest batch of rough sleepers had set up home here.

Many had arrived in the last week, although I think it has been used by some for up to a month.

I ended my visit by breaking one of my own rules of not giving in to begging. It was impossible ignoring a request for some money for a drink. I have so much compared to these people.

There is clearly camaraderie amongst those homeless. They do care about having no proper home, not being able to wash, have a toilet, cook, or a place to keep things. They do worry about a lack of regular income. They have problems, and need help. They were happy to talk, and polite. I was pleased I went, pleased to have chatted with them, and hope that in some small way I can make their lives better.


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