Thursday, 15 March 2012

Council of the Year

I am delighted to report that at a ceremony last night Southend Borough Council was confirmed as the Council of the Year in the LGC Annual awards. Having been shortlisted for the most improved Council 2 years ago and the Council of the Year last year it was a special moment to win the top award. In announcing the decision the judges recorded the strength of our staff, partnership work and leadership. The award is great recognition for the hard work of so many members of staff who have driven standards up notwithstanding the challenge of the current economic situation. More details will soon be available but in the meantime having got home after 3am this morning I am going back to bed!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Thorpe Bay car parking charges - credit where credit is due!

Congratulations to Cllr Woodley on raising the possibility of introducing car park charges in the car parks at Southchurch Park East and on Eastern Esplanade behind the Camelia Hotel. These are both reasonable suggestions which had been overlooked by officers and the Tory administration alike. What I can't understand is that having followed his lead Cllr Woodley is now trying to distance himself from the decision. We did make a change to the proposal on Eastern Esplande to accomodate local hotels and guest houses who were concerned that if charging started at 9am it would catch out guests taking the advantage of a lie in, so this was changed and charging will only be between 10.30am and 6pm.

Perhaps car parking remains a sore point for Ron having failed to notice or oppose last year's introduction of parking charges along Eastern Esplanade.

Anyway come on Ron - you don't make many achievable proposals so when you do be prepared to take the credit.

It's all in the figures!

Last night's budget debate once again saw the Independents spraying around statistics which simply don't add up. We had an apparent dispute that over recent years the council had shed jobs!! This was supported by a figure for the current year based on people rather than full time equivalent posts and compared with historic figures which rather than recording the council's full time equivalent permanent roles referred to everybody including short term government funded contract staff and casual staff. If you really think this authority is not sheding it's permanent staff then perhaps you would like me to introduce you to some of the people involved. They also suggested that the "top" 275 staff cost over £19M in salaries each year. Where does this come from - it is simply wrong.It is time they actually justified these figures or acknowledged that they are misleading the public. For further examples look no further than Cllr Woodley's last Oracle article and the similar article shortly afterwards by Cllr Terry in the Leigh Times. The question is are they misquoting the figures deliberately to mislead or do they simply not understand the information available to them?

Budget Debate

As usual a long and rather frustrating debate last night resulted in approval of the Administration's proposals. Surprisingly whilst opposition members spent lengthy periods criticising the Conservatives and moaning about specific savings they made no alternative suggestions, made no formal amendments and did not even vote against the budget! These proposals have been on the table since January so they can hardly say that they have not had the time or the opportunity. My favourite comment came from Independent Party member Cllr Chalk who said that she was unhappy about the increase in the cost of meals and wheels and would give consideration to alternatives. It was necessary to point out that she had already had over 6 weeks to come up with something and as the budget now had to be approved it was too late.These are difficult times and there are hard decisions to take but it really is time that certain members of the opposition groups stepped up to the mark and started representing the residents who elected them. They either agree that we have made the best (but hard) choices and support the budget or come up with alternatives and propose them so that they can be considered and debated. If they have good ideas that we have not thought of then why we would ignore them. For the 5th year in a row my message to them is the same - put up or shut up!