Monday, 9 June 2014

Peter Lovett - a response

In response to my blog item on "The forgotten West!" I received a response from Peter Lovett and felt it deserved a full response. Peter commented "Although when you were leader, you had Tony Cox representing the East, he unfortunately ignored the very people that gave him this power previously. Where are the care homes, libraries & alike? All in the East. Walk along the promenade now & see the repaired sea walls up to Shoebury common, where they stop. Where do you dump your spoil? Where is all the previous high financed projects located. Perhaps it is time that the East had some caring Councillors who respect their views and want to see a better Southend that people want. Spend the money on our Pier, not a Museum that nobody wants." My response is - Dear Peter, During my time as leader there were at times three Shoebury members in cabinet, namely Tony Cox, Derek Jarvis and Roger Hadley. There was also a good geographic spread around other parts of the town with representatives at certain times from West Leigh, Belfairs, Eastwood, Blenheim, Chalkwell, St Lawrence, St Lukes, Milton and Thorpe. In my personal experience Tony worked tirelessly for the residents of West Shoebury during his years on the council. He faced an impossible challenge due to the UKIP surge across the country particularly bearing in mind their performance in West Shoebury two years before but was still not frightened of taking the courageous decision to support a potentially unpopular flood defence scheme because he believed that it was of paramount importance to protect Shoebury homes and businesses from future sea flooding and was not prepared to ignore the specialist and professional advice which was being provided to him by council officers. This was an approach which was shared by other members of our administration. I do think that it is disingenuous in the extreme to criticize the motivation and priorities of elected councillors simply because you disagree on one or more specific policies. I am not aware of any local councillor from any party who has not cared about the town and its residents and has aspired to deliver a better Southend. The reality is that significant improvements in core services and investment in infrastructure have been achieved over the last seven years by an administration of which Tony Cox was an integral part. Capital investment has been made directly into Shoebury and West Shoebury to include the construction of the new Hinguar School, investment into other schools in the area, improvements to the access and car parking arrangement at East Beach, investment in ongoing sea defences and beach replenishment, improvements and investment in the swimming pool, expenditure on highway repairs and improvements, proposed expenditure on the new Shoebury library etc., and it is of course also the case that, due to its geographic location, Shoebury benefits from the improvements to the road infrastructure which we have prioritized over recent years and the more general expenditure with regard to regeneration and the improvements of facilities. We have spent significant capital funds on the pier to include strengthening and ongoing maintenance of the structure, final repair of some of the fire damaged areas, the installation of the popular Royal Pavilion and the current installation of an outside viewing area, which has been reflected in significantly increased visitor numbers and accords with the priorities that the public identified in our earlier consultation process. You suggest that nobody wants a museum. Regular messages from residents and businesses alike is that they want Southend to continue to develop an all year round tourist/culture offer to take advantage of our location, our active cultural community and the new links provided by the airport. They’re also concerned that we should provide a suitable and adequate home for the Saxon finds. A museum along the lines contemplated would deal with both these points. I am more than happy to justify all the decisions made during my years in charge and where there have been circumstances where errors have been made, we have been quite prepared to openly admit it to the public and to react accordingly. A good example would be the seafront parking following the installation of the cycle track when the technically correct answer of requiring visitors to back into herringbone parking spaces simply did not work resulting in the spaces being reversed. Kind regards. Nigel

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