Sunday, 20 April 2014

A brief look back

At the end of the council meeting last Thursday was the chance for a quick acknowledgement of those members who have chosen not to restand, which this year includes me as well as current Mayor Brian Kelly, Richard Brown, Louise Burnett and Maria Caunce. In addition there will of course be those who are unsuccessful in May - potentially a loss of quite a lot of experience in one hit.

This part came after the meeting had moved into private with the webcast stopping. When my term has come to end I will reflect on some of the high and low points but thought I would paraphrase my response to the kind words said about me.

I believe that any political leader who survives for as long as the 7 years I have managed and who can look back on certain success needs 2 important strengths - timing and luck! I think I have had the benefit of both. 

It was timing of a sort to arrive on the council as the then leader lost her seat resulting in becoming deputy leader within 3 months of my return and this was then followed by the next leader losing the following May so that within 12 months I found myself as leader. It was not intended to go that way! I also think that there is a need to get the timing of departure right and in particular to leave whilst there are still a resonable majority of people who are sorry to see you go. If you wait until everybody has decided the time is right then you have almost certainly outstayed your welcome. This does mean that there remains 20% of me which regrets my decision to stand down so again this probably means I have it about right.

As for luck I have been massively fortunate. Firstly I have been able to rely on John Lamb as deputy. You could not ask for more whether helping to cover the numerous regional meetings with me or generally watching my back on council affairs. There is nothing more important in politics than being able to turn your back and John has ensured that I have been able to do so. Secondly I have worked with committed and able members of my own group both in and out of cabinet and all those whose have accepted cabinet jobs have performed effectively and loyally. Thirdly there have been members of other groups who at times have provided support or guidance. Admittedly there have been quite a few who have not, but the input of the likes of David Norman and others has been appreciated.

Finally I have been lucky to work with a very capable, committed and likeable Chief Executive in Rob Tinlin. The importance of this relationship (Leader/Chief Executive) working cannot be underestimated and my successor needs to remember and work at that. We have been supported by a hard working and very able team of senior officers as well as staff throughout the organisation who are committed to the town and it's residents and who are impatient to drive us forward. Whilst as Leader the plaudits are nice members can achieve nothing without able staff and they don't come better than the team we have assembled at Southend.

Timing and good luck indeed!

Last full council

With my departure from the council fast approaching it was my last "proper" full council meeting last Thursday leaving only Mayor Making next month. Notwithstanding the large number of questions and reserved minutes the meeting was quite short being finished shortly after 10. I am not sure whether this was as a result of the absence of former councillor Martin Terry or because of a certain spirit of demob happiness with the elections now looming. 

I have to say that it was slightly annoying! One of the problems with long meetings for those of us that work, relates to the early start the next morning. As I have tried to juggle my leader duties and legal work I try to arrive in the office as soon after 7am as possible. With a meeting finishing at midnight or thereabouts, dragging out of bed the next morning can be challenging. For this meeting the following day was a Bank Holiday with the promise of a lie in before a morning of election delivering. In typical form the meeting therefore finished nice and early!