Thursday, 20 November 2014

Days of milk & honey?

I had become so used to hearing that everything wrong in the Town from every unpopular decision to the state of the weather was the fault of the wicked Tory administration which failed to recognise the democratic process that I was expecting to see a post May transformation under our new Rainbow Alliance.

Well I have to say that from the people I speak to there is increasing concern about the current operation of the council and its effect on the town and most of the positive feedback relates to the implementation of policies which were pursued and agreed pre May, often in the face of criticism from some opposition members – particularly where they involved greater borrowing.

These popular policies include the roll out of the new replacement LED lights, the improved performance of many of the town’s schools and the continuing policy of resurfacing roads rather than simply filling potholes. On this last issue it was a theme which ran through every budget I presented that we invested additional money on road surfacing recognising that this item had been over cut in previous years which amounted to a false economy. So in praising the availability of funding for road surfacing in roads such as Canewdon Road this represents praise for the previous Tory administration who put in place a proper system for prioritising the funds available and pursuing a concerted campaign to improve our roads – even if it did result in the council’s debt increasing!

But what about the new initiatives and policies? Well so far as “democracy” is concerned the suggestion of a return to the committee system did not even get past the first hurdle of council approval, notwithstanding the clear majority enjoyed by the opposition parties and the support of UKIP form the opposition benches. We also had the farce of the last Development Control meeting and in particular the application relating to the Garrison with councillors voting to reject the plans, then changing their mind and voting to defer, leading to a UKIP member (or will that shortly be ex member) storming from the room in a huff.

Hopefully the critics of the previous administration and its members may now be starting to realise that Development Control is a quasi judicial committee which must act in accordance with relevant planning laws and policies and not at the whim of members who may have their own agendas to pursue. Fail to follow that approach and we will start to see increasing numbers of successful appeals with costs orders against the council and also a return to the bad old days when local investors found the committee so unpredictable and on occasions perverse that they started to take their investment elsewhere. We have fought long and hard to rebuilt relations with business so let’s not prejudice that. It doesn’t mean that all applications are well founded and must be approved but if they are rejected make sure that it is on good planning grounds and the committee is balanced, predictable and defensible.

What else? – well we have seen a cop out on the library review, chaos on the seawall and associated village green claim and this is before they start to put together a cogent cost cutting budget without simply plundering the limited reserves which provide an important emergency fund.

So no milk and honey as yet.

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