Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sea defence funding

I am not sure if I was Independent Party Leader and Cabinet member Martin Terry I would have had a photograph of me happily smiling over an Echo headline “Council may lose seawall funding”.

The item reflects the increasingly high risk that by stalling on the Shoebury flood defence scheme the current Administration are putting at risk the £1.4M pledged by the Environment Agency in respect of the scheme. This was of course a risk highlighted to Cllr Terry previously but which he seems happy to take.

Cllr Terry also comments that “There is a clear view from our engineer that the previous scheme could not go ahead as it was”. The obvious question is whether this is the same “engineer” who previously recommended that the scheme was the best and most cost effective option. Additionally where are the council’s professional officers on the issue who also supported the previous scheme.

If officer advice changes then I am sure that members will ensure that this is not as a result of pressure from cabinet members and will seek a full and detailed explanation. If it is being suggested that the original advice of external advisors was flawed then what remedy will be pursued against them? I have to say I find this suggestion surprising as the original scheme had obviously gained EA approval.

Alternatively is this Cllr Terry trying to bend the situation to what he believes to be his political advantage? I am amazed to see him also comment that the previous scheme was going ahead “like it or lump it” bearing in mind the very extended debate that took place on the subject both inside and outside the Civic Centre. The earlier decision also received considerable support from members across the political spectrum.

If the EA funding is lost then I trust that Cllr Terry and his colleagues will accept responsibility and in the meantime with a harsh winter threatened my major concern remains the delay in undertaking this flood defence work which seems to have been orchestrated by the current cabinet. Lets us hope that they, and more particularly residents and businesses in Shoebury, do not rue the day.

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