At Full Council last Thursday

The meeting commenced with a minute’s silence for Cllr Liz Day (Conservative, West Shoebury) who had passed away. Very sad news.

I asked two questions.

The first was this: Members will be aware that I, and my fellow Milton councillor, Cllr Nevin, have some reservations regarding the redevelopment proposals for the Seaway Car Park. At a recent meeting I was assured by the portfolio holder, Cllr Terry, that he would ensure that the road infrastructure in and around the Seaway Car Park, would be improved to cope with additional traffic demands. Would the portfolio holder please give me an update on where we are on this issue?

In my supplementary I suggested that the portfolio holder appeared to be handing over responsibility to the developer – something he denied. This is an issue I shall be keeping an eye on.

The second was this: Noting the UNISON petition on cuts to mental health services, can the portfolio holder confirm that he has met with affected staff, and can he outline what step are being taken on this issue?

On a number of occasions Cllr Davies (UKIP, Kursaal) seemed intent on demonstrating his lack of understanding regarding council procedures. They are pretty straightforward, although I guess some allowance can be made for the first meeting, or two. But a year on – what is going on?

Under Minute 805 Monthly Performance Report the Conservatives requested a named vote as they were unhappy with the education target. They lost this voted 13 – 24, with one abstention, yet again proving how comprehensively out-gunned are they in council at the moment.

I asked a question on Minute 835 Entice 42-82 Warrior House Southend-on-Sea. I expressed regret that this application had been allowed, although I did not blame the councillors on Licensing for their decision – their hands were effectively tied. There is no Locality Policy, and I extracted from the portfolio holder a promise that he would look into this. I expressed my gratitude for his response, and stated that I believe this is urgently needed.

Cllr Cheryl Nevin (Labour, Milton) also expressed her disappointment. Cllr Judith McMahon (Labour, Kursaal), who chaired the Licensing meeting, said that the vote was not unanimous and that she had voted against it.

Pledge to vote for public services


10th July


Cuts in Trade Union facilities time – both sides of the argument

I have received (as has every councillor) a letter from the Southend-on-Sea Local Government Branch of Unison about the proposed cut in trade union facilities. The letter runs to five pages, and so I will not produce it in full here. Instead I reproduce the Conclusion, which seems to neatly sum up their argument.

There are many challenges ahead and there is a clear need for a consultation mechanism at all levels to implement fairly any changes the council propose. It must be therefore also be clear that this financial cap on trade union facilities will exacerbate the problems we already have in meeting requests for Unison’s presence from the employers ranging from the representation of members in individual cases to collective grievances and restructures.

Many of you, I am sure, may not agree with the current attacks on public services and believe this Government is failing the public. The erosion of trade union facilities time will not help support local services but will simply mean that proposals for cuts go without challenge and the voice of staff is not effectively heard.

Both the employers’ and trade unions’ heads of the Eastern Regional Joint Council (the joint body where employers and trade unions meet) are clear that they do not support the loss of facilities time and that attacks like these do not benefit councils in any way.

Facility time for union officials helps to ensure timely availability of representation leading to early resolution of work issues and, ultimately, better outcomes for employers, the workforce and service users. Undermining this investment will not prove productive in the long term.

I have also received the council’s response. I do not reproduce this in full either, instead choosing the Current Position as this similarly strikes me as a neat précis of the council’s position.

 As part of the 2013/14 budget proposals, a further reduction of the time off for trade union duties is currently under consideration.

Following a benchmarking exercise with other authorities a reduction to £45k has been proposed. The benchmarking identified that other similar sized unitary authorities were allowing between 1.5 – 2.5 FTE and that a number of County Councils’ were allocating less than Southend. In most District councils the amounts are significantly less and tend to be agreed on an ad hoc basis with more support coming from Regional officers (employed and funded by the unions themselves)

Most Councils who responded also indicated that they are in the process of reviewing and reducing their allocations.

Reference was also made to the consultation by the Cabinet Office on trade union facility in the Civil Service. This calls for a reduction in overall facility time and for a balance to be struck between reasonable paid time off and business needs and ensuring best value for money. This consultation also includes a proposal that no employee spends less than 50% of their time delivering their substantive job.

The proposed reduction for Southend Council does not include any change to the following benefits which will continue as follows:

  • Accommodation ( Unison only)
  • Telephone ( Unison only)
  • Use of notice boards
  • Access to e-mail
  • Access to intranet
  • Access to space on the Council server