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Report by the Leader of Rochford District Council

August 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fountain pen tips 3

Every 6 weeks or so the Leader of Rochford District Council at a Full Council Meeting in Rayleigh reads his “Report of the leader on the work of the Executive”. The Executive are all Conservative Councillors who are Cabinet Members.  Only The Cabinet Members can speak at Meetings of The Executive. The Conservatives in their own words “control” the Council.  The latest Leader’s Report was read out on 30 July.

You can read it here.

In our view this Report is  much less about “the work of the Executive” and more about Party Political  Statements.  (Make up your own mind, of course.)

The first paragraph confirms the content of our Press Release.

Paragraph 4, which goes over the page, states “there have been fights between us politically at election time and in the run up to elections………………..

and

“There does appear to be a lot of misinformation being circulated.”

The many emails that I received last week suggest to me that this might have been referring to the challenges being raised against 772 new houses in Rayleigh.

It is a pity that the Leader does not name the organisation that is causing so much angst and confusion.

For the record Rochford District Residents  does not circulate misinformation.

But we have evidence that residents found the election leaflets of other political parties misleading. 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

But a quick look around on other local web sites revealed this today.

Councillor Colin Seagers (Conservative) wrote on the Lib Dem Web Site – Comment 12 ;

“Also to make quite clear, a proposal for 1800 homes in Rayleigh was never supported by RDC Members – it was an initial proposal suggested by RDC Planning Officers that was rejected by the Conservative Member majority, not just Chris Black and the Lib-Dems.”  

This was quickly refuted by the Lib Dems by quoting from a Council Meeting in March 2007.

“The Tories won the vote by 4 to 2. The 4 voting for were Terry Cutmore, Phil Capon, James Cottis and John Pullen. The 2 against were Chris Black and John Mason.”

“So now the council will go out to public consultation on a document that includes 1800 houses for Rayleigh, 1000 for Rochford/Ashingdon and 400 for Hockley/ Hawkwell without giving any reasoning. Let’s see what the public makes of that.”

Cllr Colin Seagers replied:
August 4th, 2013 at 10:08

Cllr John Mason/Rochford ’Independent’??? and Admin/Cllr Ron Oatham?

You may not remember that I attended that Planning Policy SUB-COMMITTEE meeting on 23rd March 2007 as one of the two non-voting Visiting Members choosing to observe, along with Cllr Mrs Heather Glynn.
My recollection is that RDC Planning Policy including that contentious ‘1800’ suggestion had been driven largely by Officer Andrew Meddle right up to that Sub-committee meeting, immediately after which he left RDC to join another authority.
However, since when did a recommendation from a SUB-COMMITTEE totalling just seven Members attending dictate the view of the very large Conservative Majority Group (among 39 RDC Members in all)?
The Sub-committee’s recommendation WAS turned down by the CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY, as previously stated, when the recommendation was subsequently put before them. How else could it have been voted down, since all the opposition parties combined formed but a rather small fraction of the 39 RDC Members in 2006/7. The Officers’ suggestion of 1800 houses to be allocated in Rayleigh was scuppered by the mass of CONSERVATIVES VOTING AGAINST.

@Councillor Colin Seagers from John Mason

To recap I have questioned your following posting on OnlineFOCUS;

“Also to make quite clear, a proposal for 1800 homes in Rayleigh was never supported by RDC Members – it was an initial proposal suggested by RDC Planning Officers that was rejected by the Conservative Member majority, not just Chris Black and the Lib-Dems.”

The 1800 in Rayleigh definitely went to a Public Consultation.

I therefore interrogated the public CMIS System at the Council Web site to find exactly what happened in 2007.

Looking at the two documents below I can see that 1800 for Rayleigh was approved for Public Consultation.

Sub Committee

Committee

Is it correct that the approval for the Consultation was given by 4 Conservative Councillors in Sub Committee and then by 8 Conservative Councillors in Committee?

The Committee included Cllr C G Seagers.

The Rochford Core Strategy Preferred Options (May 2007) was formally known as Regulation 26 Draft.

The document is here;

This was subject to Public Consultation during May, June and July 2007.

At 4.6.10 of the Regulation 26 Draft appears a consultation proposal for 1800 in Rayleigh.

“The Council will set out a policy allocating the total number of housing units to the top (90%) and second tier (10%) settlements, to gain a smaller number of large sites which will deliver the greatest amount of infrastructure improvements.The split (with approximate numbers) will be as follows:”

“HOUSING UNITS
Completions 2001-2006 900
Rochford / Ashingdon 1000
Hockley / Hawkwell 400
Rayleigh 1800
Smaller settlements 500
TOTAL 4600”

OnlineFOCUS on 23 September 2007  published a reference to a Report made to the LDF Sub Committee which, following the review of the Public Consultation conducted in May, June and July 2007, the 1800 in Rayleigh was eventually rejected by the new Sub Committee but having previously been rejected by residents having been through a Public Consultation.

 

 

Decision Making at Rochford District Council – Change or No Change?

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford Independent has run a series of articles over the last week which have focused on the new policies for local government that will be introduced by the New Lib/Con Coalition Government.

In many of these what we are wishing to do at the Rochford Independent Web site is firstly inform and then to put the issues, risks and impacts to Rochford District that we see on record and open to public scrutiny.  In certain instances we will be a campaigning voice with a point of view that we think will be supported by many residents.

In this case the Coalition Government is offering an optional basis for change to Rochford District Council.

We will allow councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to.

If you wish to see change then you will have to nudge this so please write to me at mailadmin@rochfordessex.net

But the article needs to set out some facts. Sources are quoted.

The Labour Government through the Local Government Act 2000 imposed changes on local authorities that were designed to streamline and modernise their political structures. The act was intended to end the old committee system of local government which, it was argued, was slow and ineffective although, others may counter, democratic and accountable.

Rochford District Council chose the option of a leader elected by the council, with a cabinet of between 2 and 10 councillors either selected by the leader or the full council.

But it could have chosen a modified committee system.

Since then the costs of administrating the council have increased hugely mainly because much greater monetary allowances for the leader and cabinet members have been established although it must be said that there were far more modest monetary increases to the basic allowance.

 In 2004 the total sum for allowances was £111,000 and in 2008 it had risen to £233,000.

If you want to see the data it is here(http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/uk/09/english_council_allowances/data/allowances.xls) courtesy of the BBC.

It is hard to escape, with hindsight of course, the notion that the Labour Government years promoted the “more for me” culture in the public sector which should have run against all Opposition Party principles but then again we have also seen, and continue to see, the product of that culture in the MP’s and Lords Expenses scandals some of which are being heard in the Criminal Courts.

If you wish to see lower cost, greater transparency and greater democracy in RDC then you will wish to push for change.

In April 2009 the BBC’s expose journalist Donal MacIntyre on his Radio 5 Show reported as follows (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8017582.stm);

 Rochford District Council in Essex had the biggest rise in its allowances bill – of 110 per cent over the four years. Although it is still well below the level of many other councils.

The leader of the council Terry Cutmore was paid almost £10,000 in allowances three years ago. By March 2009, his allowance had gone up to £25,500.

“The reason it’s so high is we have actually gone to the average of Essex councils,” Councillor Cutmore said.

“That’s done through a remuneration panel which is totally independent and the rise has gone through because we were paid so lowly to start with.”

Heather Wakefield, from Unison, said: “I think it’s rank hypocrisy for councillors to have awarded themselves these increases when our members are being offered a pay rise of 0.5%.”

But Ms Wakefield said Councillor Cutmore’s allowance needs to be compared with council employees’ pay.

“A quarter of a million council workers earn less than the amount the leader of Rochford is awarding himself,” she said.

Allowances are voted on by councillors themselves. Initially a recommendation is made to the council by an independent panel made up of people who do not sit on the council.

But the councils can choose to ignore the recommendations. Richard Kemp said that often they will take a lower amount.

“Very few councils actually make a big difference to the recommendations of the independent panel,” he said.

Only the Cabinet Members can speak at or even address the Executive or Cabinet Committee at Rochford District Council.  But other Members of the Council and the Public can listen instead.

When this was first established myself,the Lib Dems in Opposition objected to this publicly but it is believed that many other Conservative Group Members did as well but behind the scenes.

There was no chance of change until now.  Will the disaffected Conservative Members speak up for change?

Because of the Cabinet approach decisions are being made by the Portfolio Holders only in discussion with Officers and other Cabinet Members at best.

Or is it that such consultations and discussions within the Conservative Political Group are being held behind closed doors?  This is not a transparent and democratic approach in my view.

I know that decisions can be called in the The Review Committee but initial open discussion with all Members is by far the best course and better value for money.

With the UK being run by a Coalition Government it is hard to avoid the conclusion that consensus political decision making should also return to local government.

The choice of change is there if the residents of Rochford District want it but you will need to ask or even demand it.

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