Friday, 7 December 2018

Seaway carpark development - part 2

In my last post I commented on the controversy currently raging with regard to the proposed development of the Seaway car park. I thought it might be helpful in better facilitating a proper debate for me to comment on my previous involvement.
I would make clear that I will not disclose any information which was or remains confidential but will refer to the council minutes which are publically available on its website.

The motivation behind the scheme was a recognition as to the ongoing plight of the High Street, the strength of the seafront as a draw to the town to include not only the beach but a number of highly effective seafront businesses, the strength of the wider cultural appeal across the Town and the over dependence of the Council on car park revenue.

I have previously been critical of the recent changes to car park charges and I stand by those criticisms however what has to be recognised by those who claim that charges should be significantly reduced or abandoned is that for historical reason these charges make an important contribution to the council’s income and with reducing central government support and increasing demand on council services such as social care the money has to come from somewhere. Accordingly what was needed was to try to generate alternative income sources with as little risk as possible to make the car park income less significant and allow substantial reductions in charges to be made.

Seaway was identified as an important link between the seafront and town centre and whilst full on certain days there were also times when this important strategic site was underused. Accordingly this scheme was developed as a possible option with a new independent cinema operator providing a more focussed selection of films and supported with a new multi storey carpark, residential, some business use and improved access to the seafront. This was intended to work to the potential benefit of both the High Street as it attempts to modify its offer and layout and the seafront traders and strengthen the all year offer with benefit to the Town as a whole.

As is confirmed in the recorded minutes:
1. The proposed deal was subject to external certification for compliance with S123 Local Government Act 1972 which provides, amongst other things: Except with the consent of the Secretary of State, a council shall not dispose of land under this section, otherwise than by way of a short tenancy, for a consideration less than the best that can reasonably be obtained;
2. There should be a fixed timescale for delivery;
3. The leisure development would be delivered ahead of the occupancy of the residential accommodation;
4. The Council’s then revenue return from the site would be retained and improved with a share of the long-term income from the development.
5. Any change to the Heads of Terms would be considered in consultation with all Group Leaders.

I cannot comment on the capital aspect for the reasons I have mentioned however the key triggers for the scheme were the improvement of the Council’s revenue return and the enhancement of leisure facilities within the Town, building on the seafront and creating a better link with the High Street. It was also acknowledged in debate that alternative car parking provision in the vicinity of the seafront would be needed.

That was where things stood when the Conservatives lost control and I stepped down from the Council. I do not know what happened subsequently other than I understand that out preferred cinema operator withdrew with obvious ramifications and the scheme has still to be delivered.

I await with interest confirmation from Cllr Ron Woodley, who as the next leader signed off the deal in November 2014, and the current administration as to where we are now as it is quite possible that the economic and practical challenges and opportunities which existed in January 2015 no longer apply.

Seaway Car Park development - part 1

The Leigh edition of the Oracle dropped through my letterbox recently and I note that it included an article by Paul Thompson criticising the Council on its plan to redevelop the Seaway Carpark. The objection was based on the loss of car parking spaces and the assertion that, in effect, the Council had failed to strike an appropriate financial deal.

This article followed various comments and tweets by a number of other local businessmen and residents along similar lines. At present I have still to see a response by the current Administration justifying their approach to the scheme. I fully appreciate that this is in part because aspects of the deal are financially and commercially sensitive and therefore confidential however I would still encourage the relevant portfolio holders to reassure residents as to their stance in general terms on both the economics of the scheme and its current status bearing in mind the obvious delays.

It would also be interesting to hear Cllr Ron Woodley’s’ justification of his previous actions bearing in mind that the scheme was signed off by him. The deal was originally developed during my leadership of the council and in my next blog I will set out why in my view the decision was the right one to take at that time.

However in the meantime I am intrigued by Mr Thompson’s comment that “In November 2014 the new then leader of the council, Cllr Ron Woodley was advised by senior council officers to sign this agreement”.

I hope that Ron is not trying to evade responsibility for his part in this process. By November 2018 Ron had been Leader of the Council for 5 months, more than adequate to consider the merits of the scheme before authorising it to proceed. Equally significant when the Draft Heads of Agreement were approved by Cabinet on 6th January 2015 the item was then called in for detailed scrutiny by the relevant Scrutiny Committee the Chairman of which was Ron. The item was called in for further review at the following full council meeting at which he was also present and accordingly by November 2014 he was fully aware of the scheme and its pros and cons.

It is also the case that Ron regularly regaled other council members with confirmation as to his business and financial expertise and in such circumstances it is a little strange that he appears to be giving the impression that he was being led by council officers. Either he thought the deal was a good one which is why he signed it or he thought it was a bad one in which case why didn’t he block it. I cannot believe that he is suggesting for one minute that he did not understand what was being proposed or felt unable to stop it. So I would be interested to hear what he has to say on the matter and do hope that he will not attempt to hide behind officers which would hardly be consistent with the principle of “Ministerial responsibility” in so far as that applies to local government.

Friday, 21 September 2018

A new "bypass" - what goes around comes around!

I was delighted to see Cllr James Courtenay’s recent announcement (reported in the Echo) that as part of the Council’s 50 year strategy they are likely to include a new road linking from the A130 to ease access to the Town Centre and east of the Town.
I fully support this aspiration although it may be more accurate to describe this as being half way through a 100 year strategy rather than the beginning of a 50 year one.

Talk of a new access road has been on the table for some years, the theory being that if there was a new link road to the town centre and eastern areas the A127 could give concentrate on the west of the town leaving the A13 as a local feeder.

Back in I think the late 70s or 80s the then senior council officer Peter Longden had a plan for a scheme along these lines and when I was Chairman of the Highways Committee of the then lower tier Southend Council in the early 90s there were discussions on the plan with Essex County Council as the then Highway Authority.

In my years as leader whilst funding was obtained for improvements to the junctions of the A127 it was always made clear to the funding agencies that this was a short term fix but the long term solution could only be provided by a new northern access road.

Indeed there was a third party group who were attempting to formulate a more limited scheme which as far as I am aware has not progressed.
Unfortunately the progress over the last 40/50 years has been limited for two main reasons. Firstly to construct the road would cost a very significant sum and would the commercial and economic return justify this. Secondly it would involve large areas of land across Rayleigh and Rochford in particular not owned by Southend Council or falling within the Council’s geographical area.

There is nothing wrong with rebooting an aspiration of this kind and I wish it every success however an answer still needs to be found on the issues of the economics and land acquisition.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Southend Town Centre - a good intiative and some possible solutions

Firstly congratulation to Cllr James Courtenay for announcing a High Street Summit on 24th September.This has the look of a member driven initiative and is to be welcomed.

My only reservations are that it is important that he included the commercial property owners or their representatives in the invitee list; unless this has been a long time in the planning has he allowed sufficient time to ensure he gets who he needs at the meeting; he needs to ensure that discussions do not get bogged down in standard “local government” nonsense; and as the Council’s press team are already indicating that they will be sharing the outcomes on 25th September I hope that the results will be properly considered and that this is not simply a PR exercise.

For what it is worth I believe that the action points should include some of the following:

1. Agreement as to the future identity of the High Street. The days of lengthy high streets with large national retailers appears to be at an end. These national chains previously killed off the independence and originality of many High Streets across the country and are now being put to the sword by the internet. I would hope that the vision is based on building on the Town’s strong Culture/Tourism offer, supplemented by a return to smaller and independent niche traders and artists, with an increase in residential development in the High Street above street level with perhaps a supermarket and specialist food stores to serve a growing central population. Perhaps the increasingly vacant central section of the High Street could form a centre for these grocery shops to include a new more central Town Centre;
2. To achieve the above the larger units need to be subdivided in to manageable units with residential above and with affordable rents and Business Rates;
3. The issues with safety and the perception of safety need to be addressed. I believe we need to return traffic to the north and south ends of the High Street (at least in the evenings and for buses and taxis) which linked to greater residential use would increase footfall and safety. The rough sleeper issue needs to be dealt with. Not only is this bad for those forced to sleep on the streets but their presence can be threatening to other users;
4. There needs improved police presence in the High Street ;
5. The Town Centre market is positive and should continue;
6. The Council needs to deal with the parking issues. Make the use of council car parks simple and reasonable (not only to those prepared to download an app!) and reduce charges in the Town Centre in recognition of the fact that at present the offer is not sufficient to merit the levels being sought.

In summary concentrate on developing Southend as a safe and fun place to go for leisure and niche shopping with a strong residential presence and let us positively market the strengths which I identified in my last post.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Southend Town Centre - the challenges, strengths and possible solutions (part 1)

With hardly a day passing without more negative news on the Country’s High Streets whether a s a result of the financial problems or closure of another famous chain or the continued rise of the internet it is unsurprising that concerns as to the future of Southend High Street continue to grow.

I suppose the easiest part of the debate is to identify the challenges the High Street faces. For me the main issues include:

1. The national decline of High Street shopping due to the challenge of the internet;
2. Southend’s geographical location literally “at the end of the line” which means that its shopping catchment does not extend significantly to all directions but mostly to the west where other competition lurks;
3. The linked issues with accessibility by car from outside the Borough boundaries;
4. The elongated length of the High Street itself with anchors by way of the shopping centres at both ends making any consolidation difficult;
5. The limited sideways growth caused in part by the length of the High Street itself;
6. The large size of many of the units on the High Street;
7. The high commercial rents and Business Rates;
8. The high cost of parking and the recent changes which have made the Council owned carparks and on street parking less user friendly;
9. The dependence of Southend Council’s budget on car park income;
10. The pedestrian layout of the High Street and poor finish of much of the work previously carried out, and the ramifications on the perception of safety – particularly at night;
11. The limited nature of the retail offer available – particularly in areas covering electrical goods, furniture, houseware etc. etc.
12. The large number of students in the High Street which some older shoppers can find intimidating.

I would stress that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list but provides a range of challenges which it is difficult to overcome.
By the same token the Town has obvious strengths:

1. Its seaside location;
2. Its strong leisure offer which tempts £6/7M visitors to the Town each year;
3. Its vastly improved range of hotels and other overnight accommodation;
4. Its wide and inviting range of restaurants; bars and clubs;
5. Its location at the “end of the line” giving it a potential catchment who face the same challenges getting out of the Town as visitors face getting in!
6. The University and College in the Town centre with the resulting footfall generated;
7. Its non-road transport infrastructure including 7 main line stations within the Borough on 2 lines and a growing airport;
8. The continuing presence of a significant number of potential entrepreneurs who are such a feature of South Essex life.

It is interesting that some factors have a potentially positive and negative effect.

Once again this is not intended to be an exclusive list. However it demonstrates why Southend has more reasons to feel positive than many other Town centres across the country.

So given a magic wand and influence over the Council, local commercial property owners, local entrepreneurs and Southend residents Well the Holdcroft masterplan will follow next week…..

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Divorce law and the need for change

It does appear that the recent furore over a wife who has been unable to obtain a divorce from her husband because his alleged “unreasonable behaviour” was insufficient to justify an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, is going to persuade the Government to try once again to tackle the challenge of changing our divorce law.

As a solicitor undertaking family work for over 36 years I support the view that reform is long overdue although whether our law makers are capable of arriving at a compromise acceptable both to those who demand modernisation and those seeking to protect the sanctity of marriage is more debateable.

Under the current law dating back to 1968 to obtain a divorce you must satisfy the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and you can only do that by proving 1 of 5 grounds namely the other party’s adultery, the other party’s unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with the consent of the other party, 5 years separation, or 2 years desertion.
So assuming that the marriage has died but the parties are still living in the same property and no third part is involved the only option is an allegation of unreasonable behaviour (whether by agreement or not).

Unreasonable behaviour allegations must by definition give a very black and white view of a relationship when in reality the situation is rarely so one sided and more a varying shade of grey.

The reformers argue that if one spouse has finally concluded that the marriage is at an end then it has irretrievably broken down and this is certainly the case where both parties are agreed. They say if 2 adults can enter in to a marriage why should the state prevent them from exiting in a quick and non-confrontational manner if they wish. Others will argue that to make divorce too easy will undermine the institution taking away the incentive to work through difficulties and others will say that marriage is intended as a lifelong commitment.

I have seen it suggested that the easiest solution would be to reduce the separation periods mentioned above from 2 and 5 years to perhaps 6 months and a year. This may work in some cases but in the majority of cases I have handled over the years the parties could not afford to live separately until the entire financial package had been agreed and potentially the family home sold. The financial order is not made until an advanced stage of the divorce and so if the divorce can only be started post separation there is an obvious chicken and egg quandary.

The options are numerous but my preference would be to have 3 potential grounds:

1. Mutual consent – this would involve reliance being placed on a certificate of consent by the other spouse signed in the presence of a family lawyer to avoid the risk of duress;
2. The other party’s adultery;
3. Where the parties were not agreed and provable adultery had not taken place then a spouse should be entitled to lodge a certificate of intent with the court and say 6 months later could commence divorce proceedings. This would allow a spouse who is convinced that an irretrievable breakdown has taken place to commence action without the need for a lengthy separation or allegations against the spouse, but also building in a cooling off/reflection period.

I will be watching developments with interest!

Lib Dems - Why bother!

The recent conduct of Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable is quite bizarre. For the leader of a party whose only message to the public appears to be that they want to stay in the EU notwithstanding the referendum result, it now transpires that he missed an important Brexit vote because he was attending a meeting to discuss the possible formation of a new anti-Brexit party sitting in the middle of the political spectrum.

Well I must be missing something but I thought the Lib Dems regarded themselves as an anti-Brexit party sitting in the middle of the political spectrum so why would their leader contemplate participating in such a meeting even if more conveniently scheduled?

Perhaps he believes that the image of the Lib Dems is so damaged in the eyes of the electorate that the only solution is to morph it into a new party.

It seems that it is not only Mr Cable who is suffering this identity crisis. As someone who has been involved in local politics for years I am fully aware of the Lib Dems stock electioneering campaign tactic of moving from a left wing party to a right wing party and back depending on the character of the seat they are chasing.

Indeed local Lib Deb leader Carole Mulroney is happy to herald her party political credentials when fighting her Leigh seat in Southend Borough elections, taking advantage of the long links parts of Leigh have had with the historic Liberal party, but when seeking election to Leigh Town Council she implies to voters that she is an independent as that is in keeping with the public perception of a Town Council.

So perhaps Carole and her party leader have quite a bit in common - both apparently prepared to consider avoiding their connections to this damaged party if they think it can work to their advantage.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Sally Carr is alive and kicking!

How very unfortunate. In a small item the Leigh Times intended to mark the unfortunate death of ex mayor and Thorpe Bay councillor Daphne White but for some bizarre reason suggested that it was that other ex mayor and Southend Councillor Sally Carr who had passed away.

Fortunately Sally remains alive and well. I suppose that it does give her the opportunity to use that famous Mark Twain quote "The report of my death was an exaggeration"!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Leigh Town Council - The farce continues

I was not a supporter of the formation of Leigh Town Council and nothing that has happened in subsequent years has changed my view. It was formed at a time when our long campaign to escape the clutches of Essex County Council and to return Southend to the status of a unitary authority was reaching fruition.

So at a time when we were cutting the levels of local government reducing operating costs and increasing accountability Leigh Town Council was formed to undermine that progress. I accept that since Southend Council agreed that LTC should take over the running of Leigh Community Centre they appear to have done so effectively however they represent a very expensive basis for a community centre operating committee.

One of their supposed strengths was the absence of party political affiliations. The result of this is that the process has not had the support of the party machines which, like or not, does help improve communication with the public, and has meant that most voters have absolutely no idea what their potential candidates stand for or wish to prioritise. This has resulted in poor voter turnout (even by local government standards) and often a chronic lack of candidates. In addition we have the farce of Lib Dem SBC councillor Carole Mulroney purporting to serve on LTC as an "independent".

My scepticism was fuelled by a recent edition of the Leigh Times which reported that following 2 recent councillor vacancies and a complete absence of any call for by elections 2 new councillors had been co-opted albeit by a meeting where only 5 of the 14 remaining councillors attended! So much for democracy.

In addition the LTC clerk was quoted as suggesting that an attendance of 77 residents at the Council's Annual Meeting was credible and reflected the interest in the affairs of the Town Council. Far be it for me to add a touch of realism but this pathetic attendance linked with the reluctance of electors to call for by elections to select the councillors to represent them or to vote unless in the polling station already for another more significant vote, in fact demonstrates that the majority of the community are either opposed to the cost and insignificance of LTC or are simply apathetic - not particularly caring one way or the other.

The time has come for the electorate to be given the opportunity to vote on the future of LTC but this time there should be a threshold of at least 50% of those voting and 40% of the total electorate before this costs group is allowed to continue.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Wexham's Airport Amnesia

Understandably for the significant number of residents living under or near to the flight path the news of Ryanair’s imminent arrival at Southend Airport linked with the greater awareness of flights in the summer when windows are open and gardens more used, has caused concern.

Such a situation obviously gives the perfect opportunity for some politicians to try to take advantage of the situation, linked with a convenient mistelling of history, to try to curry electoral support.

Accordingly it was no great surprise to read Lib Dem Councillor Peter Wexham’s latest comments in the Leigh Times.
Peter comments: “There is not much than can be done about it now because Southend’s Tory controlled council, at the time, made the lease very easy and flexible for Stobarts…I for one voted against the extension…and then during the negotiations we put forward a motion that there should be no night flights unless it was an emergency..but that was rejected by the Tory council. The airport company are free to do as they like because they are allowed so many night flights a month”.

What Peter does not mention is:
1. The existing airport lease contained almost no effective restrictions, particularly on flight numbers, night flights, noise levels or flight direction;
2. The current operators acquired the lease of the airport without discussion or agreement with the Council as landlord. If we had not negotiated a new lease with more effective restrictions they would have worked the airport within the current restrictions, no doubt to include more freight and significantly higher numbers of night flights;
3. This was not a new airport. It has existed for years and the runway was in place when most if not all of the affected homes were bought by their current owners. When I was young in the 70s the noise levels were far greater than now and permissible under the previous lease;
4. Whilst some of us representing wards to the west of the Town were concerned the reality was that the majority of councillors across ALL parties were strongly supportive of airport expansion because of the economic benefits. The grant of a new lease was inevitable and the option was either to stick our head in the sand and vote against any realistic compromise as it salved our personal conscience (like Peter Wexham) or to work with the situation as it was and concentrate on negotiating the best restrictions we could get which was the approach of me and my colleagues.

The Lib Dems therefore proposed no night flights cynically knowing that the airport would never accept this because of the obligations to the successful repair companies on site.

On the other hand we negotiated a stringent set of controls relating to noise levels, flight numbers, limited night flights, passenger numbers and uniquely directing that at least 50% of all flights took off and arrived from the north. This was enshrined in both the terms of the lease but also the planning conditions on the runway extension.

We also created a Monitoring Committee to check the airport played by the rules. Rather than bleating perhaps Cllr Wexham should be ensuring that Committee meets as soon as possible and that the restrictions are enforced. In the meantime he might care to point out to residents that the situation would have been far worse if left to him rather than the efforts of the then Conservative Administration!

Friday, 8 June 2018

More parking issues!

I have already moaned about Southend Council's current car parking policy but here we go again!

Mrs H made one of her regular trips to the hairdresser yesterday which meant using the Shorefield Road car park.

She needed 3 hours which of course meant paying for 4 at a cost of £4.50 So not a good start.

She is an intelligent woman but did not appreciate from the instructions, which are far from clear, that she needed to enter the required parking period before paying her money.

She inserted £4.50 In cash but then had to go back to the beginning to enter her car reg and period required. There was no apparent option to return her cash or to reject the coins. The machine having apparently swallowed her money then required further payment before the ticket was issued.

So £9 for a 3 hour stay.

Her complaint email went to SBC yesterday and she has received an acknowledgement so we now wait for what happens next.

Whilst not wanting to labour the point again, car parking charges are an important element of the Council's budget and to maximise their potential they need to be reasonably and fairly priced and payment machines easy and logical to use so as to encourage rather than discourage potential users.

On the experience of me and my wife to date this challenge is not currently being met.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Proper priorities

The Leigh Times recently dropped through my letter box including an article by new Council Deputy Leader James Courtenay. I have a lot of time for James and indeed appointed him to his first cabinet post. However I am concerned about the work apparently now being put in to formulating a vision of the Town for 2050 which he was championing.

This followed an earlier meeting which I attended addressed by the Town's Chief Executive which was talking about work focussing on how the Town will look in 50 years.

In circumstances where we are constantly being told that the Council's budget and staff have been cut to the bone and we are facing massive and urgent issues which need immediate action to include the challenges of social care, the decline of the High Street, the pressures on the Town's infrastructure etc, I would question the urgency of this work.

If I was adopting my fall back "Yes Minister" synacism I would say that this is a local government officer policy made in heaven. No pressure and more importantly no accountability on the basis that by the time the target date is reached most of those involved will be dead or elsewhere and certainly the officer group will be long gone.

Never mind about engaging the public with hypothetical speculation about the future, when in any event changes to life which we can't currently even contemplate will have take place to change the way local government is provided. I would suggest time would be better spent developing a deliverable plan for the next 2-5 years which engages with the public and delivers on some of the challenging areas I have indicated.

Or would it be better simply spending month's and precious council resources going in ever decreasing circles and ending up looking up our own backsides!

Friday, 1 June 2018


When visiting the Town Centre I generally try to do my bit for the Borough's balance sheet by parking in one of the Council's car parks however I have to admit that yesterday I finally lost patience and used the multi storey at Victoria's.

I have commented previously on some strange strategies on town centre car parking but I can no longer bite my tongue on the issues of charge rates and pay on exit.

At the outset I fully acknowledge that for historical reasons the Borough is dependent on car parking income as an important element of its budget. However with the Town Centre struggling this has to be balanced against other issues.

To attract users car parks must be priced competitively and in my view pay on exit is essential to give the perception of value for money and also to ensure that visits are not capped by the need to return to the car. It is why in my 7 years as council leader we avoided increases in charges for 6 years and introduced pay on exit in Tyler's Avenue with a view to rolling it out elsewhere.

So what has happened. Pay on exit seems dead in the water. I know that for some reason certain council officers were not enthusiastic but that is why we have elected members.We also have the ridiculous policy that with certain town centre car parks you can pay for 2 or 4 hours but not 3.

Yesterday Mrs H and I were in town and knew we would need 2 and possibly 3 hours to do everything planned but not 4 hours. Paying a significant amount to pay for 4 hours did not appeal and accordingly we defected to Victoria's where the fees were less, it was pay on exit, and I ended paying for the slightly in excess of 3 hours that we required.

In my view the current approach to charging is not making use of the Council's car parks appealing or user friendly. It is part of the wider issue of the Town Centre on which I will be commenting further in due course but in the meantime it would be nice if the approach to car park charges could be rethought with a priority being the users.

In the meantime Victoria's I will be back!

Friday, 4 May 2018

Elections 2018

Since stepping down from the Council I have taken a step back from the cut and thrust of local party politics (or rather in the case of attacks from our opposition parties - the thrust of a stick of wet celery) although I do continue my active involvement in Southend West Conservatives and more particularly West Leigh Ward so I had my reminder of the "fun" of it all at last night's local election count.

First it was great to see West Leigh Conservative candidate and current Mayor Fay Evans pull of a comfortable and well deserved victory. Fighting elections as the sitting Mayor always poses particular challenges as it involves a difficult balance between important mayoral duties and campaigning - however her continuous hard work on behalf of residents was clearly recognized by voters and in a week's time she will have reached the end of her mayoral term and the ward will be back to full strength to build on this result over the coming months.

Particular congratulations to James Moyies who made creditable start in rebuilding Tory support in Thorpe. I am sure that this progress will be a great foundation for a potential victory in the seat next May.

It is interesting that the diminishing strength of the Southend Independent Party is build on Thorpe and more particularly the Burgess Estate Residents Association and the impression from this side of the town is that this relates more to Ron Woodley's previous work as a Residents Association Chairman rather than anything he and his colleagues have achieved on the Council.

As I have said before I cannot see how an Independent "Party" offers any long term solutions in local government and contrasts with the usual independents in the past who are often one issue individuals or collectively represent a single residents group or other organisation. If they are a "party" and have shared policies (which would seem to be the case in Southend from the election material distributed over the last few weeks) then their candidates are not any more "independent" then any other local party group which, certainly so far as the Conservatives are concerned, operate independently from any central party control. If there is no central belief or ethic then the voters are signing a blank cheque for a potential Councillor with no clear understanding as to what they will do simply because they like the concept of "independence"!

Finally my golden turkey award for the worst post declaration speech of the night must go to Martin Terry. (Anyone who wins this award when one of the other potential candidates is Howard Gibeon has certainly hit new highs - or rather lows). Firstly to bleat about negative campaigning is gloriously ironic bearing in mind that Cllr Terry and his party colleagues have turned negative campaigning in to something of an art form. But even better was his proud reference to his long period as a councillor and how this must indicate what a good job he has been doing. That would be slightly more credible if he acknowledged that having been elected and reelected as a Councillor in Westborough he chose to do the chicken run to Thorpe a few years ago no doubt worried that he would be unable to retain his seat and anxious to seek the protective arm of Cllr Woodley and his comfortable majority. Oh well that's a politician for you - even an "Independent".

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Parking Charge Madness!

The view from my office here in Nelson Street includes an opportunity, in moments of distraction, to watch activity in the road to include the regular motorists who drive up this one way street in the wrong direction and the use of the “on street” parking spaces.

Due to the firms of solicitors, accountants etc. based in Nelson Street there are inevitably regular client comings and goings and the spaces are generally well used with helpful parking income for Southend Borough Council.
For as long as charges have applied there have been coin operated ticket machines which as far as I can tell have been used by the vast majority of people parking in the street.

Now I am not claiming to be a great supporter of the design of the pay machine the council has adopted in more recent years, and I am sure that I am not the only person to be confronted by machines which are out of order or refuse to accept coinage, but on the occasions where they are in working order they are at least usable.

However recently it has been all change in Nelson Street with the latest bizarre “improvements” which have resulted in the pay machines being covered and reasonably small notices being displayed requiring those parking to either download an app to their smart phone to make payments or to phone and pay by card.

The result has been some people missing the signs and assuming that charges have been suspended resulting in parking tickets being issued, or being generally bemused and confused and either taking a risk of parking without a ticket or parking elsewhere.
Indeed for those without a smartphone or without immediate access to a credit card it would appear that the Council now wishes to make Nelson Street a non-parking areas.

Parking charges are very important to the Council and encouraging visitors and residents to park and pay should be encouraged by making the process simple and accessible. For heaven sake let’s stop this mad system now and ensure that we have well maintained and simple to use pay machines in place so that any frustration we face in paying parking charges ise not increased by an apparent reluctance on the part of the Authority to accept our money.