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2 Hours on What Needs to Change at Rochford Council

July 14, 2007 by  

Tory Councillor Heather Glynn said “how sad it was that only 3 (of the 9) Executive Councillors attended.” Those absent included the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council.

All Councillors were invited to attend the initial feedback.  Important because it was fresh with direct explanation from the whole Review Team.  Apart from many staff only 7 Councillors attended.  Tory Executive Councillors Seagers, Starke and Stansby.  Ordinary Councillors Humphreys, Glynn and Cottis for the Conservatives and myself, John Mason an Independent representing Rochford Residents.   

A written report which will be made available in August and a Presentation will be made just by the IDEA Member of the Review Team in September. Let’s hope the  Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council and the rest of the Executive Councillors fully understand what is required of them to improve the Council  and get an assessment of better than POOR in the official inspection by the Audit Commission in 18 month’s time.

But already Rochford Council has missed the boat in my view.  The IDEA Team Leader, himself a Chief Executive of a successful District Council, explained that his Council had adopted a cultural organisational change theme called “One Team” but this had taken 2 years to establish. And having just split the Members into Executive Councillors and Ordinary Councillors with definitive political polarisation then the Council will find that it will take much more than this to create a “One Team” at Rochford.

I know from personal contact with Pam Challis, The Castle Point Borough Council Leader, that neighbour Castle Point is already a long way through a cultural change programme there but the Rochford Council Executive Councillors are content to only discuss matters such as Handymen, Play and Weddings !!

There were some really positive findings about Rochford Council but the focus of the Audit Commission will have changed by the time the official inspection takes place and there is a huge amount of work to do if Rochford is to get away from being assessed as a POOR Council.

Here are what I think are the most important matters to be tackled from a presentation lasting two hours;

  • The Review Team stated at the outset that Rochford District Council has all of the necessary components in order to create significant improvements; green attractive environment, airport, railway, bus network etc., There is no reason why Tourism, regeneration and a vibrant market town cannot be established but there needs to be a clear strategy with established timed expectations and outcomes.
  • Council needs a cultural identity or ethos which can be embraced by all polititical parties, residents and the staff of Rochford Council
  • there is no focussed vision of what the Council will be doing – the public do not understand what the Council vision is
  • Community Strategy and the Corporate Plan are only loosely connected
  • there is an over dependence on the Local Development Framework (LDF) to deliver the overall Council strategy
  • the public do not understand the LDF and what a spatial planning strategy is
  • 67% of the population of Rochford cannot afford rented/private housing accomodation (figures from RDC Housing Needs Study 2004) so much more, even all, of the new 3700 housing allocation must be allocated to affordable housing.  In the words of the IDEA Team Leader “This will be a testing decision because residents do not wish to see new building on green belt and business are looking for initiatives too”. “Roads are congested due to residents moving out of the area for work, so more work needs to be established in the District.
  • there is only some recognition of residents opinions in developing projects, they appear to have already been decided at consultation
  • Council projects do not have firm delivery targets or stated outcomes which are tested post delivery
  • Overview and Scrutiny does not examine, challenge or relate to the vision and objectives of the Council
  • Council Staff want to know who the Executive Councillors and Councillor Champions are and what they are doing
  • there is little evidence of Members involvement in the Corporate Plan and Economic Strategy
  • area profiles do not have clear input into decision making and no devolved decision making and budget
  • no evidence of political commitment to address the needs of hard to reach groups
  • Residents do not understand what is included in Paper kerb side recycling – an example of poor communication
  • the CDRP (Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership chaired by Chief Inspector and Rochford District Commander, John Walker) needs to be less operationally focussed and focussed more on strategy – Safer by Design and Youth Engagement are examples

 

 

 

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