Friday, 16 September 2011

Zero Based Budgeting - that's an idea!

It has been a running theme of mine that the problem Southend’s Independent Party faces is that having no common philosophical base they cannot offer the electorate a cogent alternative and must instead rely on scaremongering (eg the fight to prevent the closure of Westcliff Library which they knew had never been proposed!) or claiming the benefit for the achievements of others (eg the picture of Cllrs Chalk & Assenheim in the Echo appearing to claim credit for the Shoebury Heritage Centre). This is not surprising in a group that includes ex Labour candidates like Ann Chalk and Martin Terry but also the likes of Senor Delaney who had a reputation of being to the right of the Conservative party before he was dumped as a candidate. In these circumstances isn’t it just typical that when they do find a significant cross Borough policy which they appear to agree on they should choose a stinker like Zero Based Budgeting. In the words of the Council’s Head of Finance and Resources, who is a genuine expert in public finance : “Effectively ZBB is an old text book theory with relatively little practical implementation or empirical evidence of success in the UK public sector since its formation in the 1960’s and 1970’s when it was used within the United States of America.....undertaking detailed, resource hungry reviews across the Council will distract the organisation from delivering the required corporate savings target for minimal net benefit. It is therefore recommended that the Council do not proceed with utilising the technique of Zero-based budgeting as part of the Council’s budget process.” Oh dear – what “financial expert” dreamt that one up - well better luck next time!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Boundary reorganisation - a divided Leigh!

So we now have the Boundary Commission's recommendations for the new parliamentary constituencies. Whilst I fully support the drive to reduce the overall number of MPs and to introduce constituencies with similar numbers of residents I am concerned by the effect of the proposals on Leigh. If approved the wards of Leigh and West Leigh will join Castle Point with Milton, Victoria & St Lukes moving from Rochford & Southend East to join with the remainder of Southend West. Rochford & Southend East will then be swelled by Hockley & Hawkwell. For Southend it would mean that as a relatively small unitary we would have representation from 3 MPs of which only 1 was representing Southend alone - the other 2 having the majority of their residents living outside the Borough. Whilst Leigh & West Leigh would share an MP the other "Leigh" wards including Blenheim & Belfairs, as well as Chalkwell would have a different MP meaning no single parliamentary voice for the community of Leigh.Whereas Southend & Leigh form very much one community I am not sure that the same can be said of Leigh & Canvey! With local authority boundaries unchanged it means that West Leigh residents could be voting on the same day for their Southend Councillor & Castle Point MP. It will be interesting to see how residents react to these proposals. It has been suggested to me that perhaps it is also signalling a blurring of the boundaries across south east Essex leading to an increasing demand for a single south east Essex unitary authority - or is that just mischief making!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Leigh Police Station (Part 2)

You did not have to visit Mystic Meg to work out that any significant police restructure was likely to have implications for the front counter at Leigh Police Station. The reality is that the number of callers is small and in the face of the cuts required by the Coalition Government (who I assume Peter Wexham and his Lib Dem colleagues support) caused by the financial mismanagement of the last government (couldn't leave Labour out)decisions of this kind are unavoidable. For me I would rather prioritise a police presence on our streets rather than behind a police station counter as that is where the vast majority of us have day to day contact with our local force. If the Chief Constable can provide good cover on the streets of the Town by reorganising accomodation then in my view he is to be supported. However what I do feel remains important is that with the large number of restaurants, pubs and bars in Leigh and its thriving night time economy the police retain an obvious and outward presence, whether at the current station or otherwise, to provide reassurance to us all and deterence to those who seek to act irresponsibly. I shall continue to maintain pressure on the Chief Constable to achive this end.

Leigh Police Station Closure

I was amused to read in the latest edition of Leigh Times that local Liberal Democrat Peter Wexham is trying to suggest that I am responsible for the closure of the front desk at Leigh Police Station. This interesting allegation is based on the fact that I have had the temerity to speculate that with the Adult College about to transfer from Leigh Community College to Belfairs School there is an opportunity to consider future uses for the significant area of land in Elm Road which is in public ownership and to query whether it could offer a solution to the ongoing parking stress which understandably frustrates residents, traders and visitors to central Leigh alike. Perhaps I should be pleased to think that my musing on the issue would have such an immediate effect on the Chief Constable's strategy for future policing in the town but no - come on Peter get real. Do you want to hold me responsible for the poor weather, global economy and recent riots as well! Whatever the future of the police station the remainder of the publically owned site offers opportunities which should not be lost on any local politician, particularly when in the same eiditon you are whinging that Leigh is losing out on highway investment to West Leigh.For my further thoughts on the issue of policing in Leigh see my next post.

Southend Bikeathon 2011

Southend Bikeathon is nearly on us again with this popular annual event taking place this sunday (4th September). I am pleased to say that I am entering again this year and have persuaded some family and friends to join me as "The Saddle Soarers!".Let's hope the rain keeps off and in the meantime the event offers an enjoyable route, some exercise and the opportunity to raise money for a great charity.