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OUR INDEPENDENT SURVEY FOR A ROCHFORD DISTRICT COUNCIL BUDGET

November 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Because the RDC Officers are still making calculations for the Budget 2018/19 we are not certain what the Rochford District Council, DRAFT BUDGET GAP is this time round (shortage of income against expenditure [revenue]) that must be closed by law in the final budget. RDC also has a Capital Reserves and Receipts Budget.

However, as there certainly WILL be a REVENUE GAP we think that any BUDGET SURVEY needs to give residents the chance to look at what options there are for increases in charges and/or savings so that we can pass on your views. [if you are on the front page click the £5 !!] [if you are on a Mobile Phone please use Landscape.]

So we are publishing this BUDGET SURVEY as an alternative to the one put forward by Finance Officers.

We are asking for your email address so that we can show you the results in February and your post code to validate that only residents of Rochford District are voting.

We are Registered with the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act. Our Privacy Policy is here.

So what do you think?

The Questions are below.

Please indicate Yes (agree) or No (disagree)?

Thank you !!

 

[yop_poll id=”1″]

Annual Civic Dinner 2014 – Rochford District Council

March 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

under thumbWith the furore created by the MP’s Expenses Scandal you might have thought that the searchlight must have been fully shone by now in to every corner, nook and cranny of public life and that voters now know the full story and public figures would think twice when spending hard earned public money on themselves.

But in our opinion there is another scandal in our local District Council which is all the more surprising given the focus that has been placed on our District Council to dispense with any unnecessary expense.  This is in a time of financial austerity when the man/woman in the street is suffering another increase in Council Tax which, combined with the increased Parking Charges, is the annual equivalent of nearly 5% in Council Tax.

So who is in charge of the Budget for the Chairman’s Civic Dinner?  According to Officers it is the Leader of the Council, Councillor Terry Cutmore.

When and what is the Chairman’s Civic Dinner?

28 March 2014 – Mill Hall

Ticket price £40

Black Tie

Pre-dinner drinks

2 bottles of Red and 2 bottles of White on tables

 It is probably better described by who is being invited.

All Mayors and Chairmen of Essex Councils (District and Borough)

The Chairman of Essex County Council

All Parish and Town Council’s Chairmen

Councillors of RDC

Essex County Councillors

Lord Lieutenant of Essex

High Sheriff of Essex

Chairman’s Chaplain

Chairman’s invited guests

Citizen of the Year winner, guests and nominator

VIP guests: – such as Police Commissioner, local Police, local Fire Service, local Ambulance Service, Chair of CCG, Southend Airport etc; and other key stakeholders as appropriate.

Senior Management Team – RDC

Who does not pay?  Among others we are advised:

The Lord Lieutenant of Essex

High Sheriff of Essex

VIP guests

Some of the Chairman’s guests and the Chairman’s Chaplain

Who are the VIP Guests?

VIP guests – such as Police Commissioner, local Police, local Fire Service, local Ambulance Service, Chair of CCG, Southend Airport etc; and other key stakeholders as determined by the administration.

What is the Cost (Total expenditure less ticket income.)

Net Cost over the last 5 years was over £18,000. Net Cost last year was £2276.

What is the purpose of the Civic Dinner?

To be honest I don’t really know in this day and age.  It looks like a “grandee hang over” from the 70’s.

I suppose it could be argued that with the Council getting to talk to “Stakeholder VIP’s” on free tickets that this could provide an opportunity to influence these people?  But

For many public office stakeholders surely the following rules must apply?

Gifts and Hospitality: You must not accept any gifts or hospitality which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise your personal judgement or integrity or place you under an improper obligation. Where a gift or hospitality is accepted, this is recorded in a public register.

So Residents of Rochford District what do you think?  Should we be paying for this?

 

Notes.

Full Financial Information supplied by RDC

Year Income Expenditure Net

2008~09 (1,912.99) 6,951.83 5,038.84

2009~10 (2,770.80) 6,499.51 3,728.71

2010~11 (1,731.10) 5,603.92 3,872.82

2011~12 (1,525.15) 4,721.50 3,196.35

Rochford District Council – Council Tax 2013

January 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Education Government Grants

There have been no public meetings so far so we cannot tell you what Rochford District Council is going to do about Council Tax for 2013.

 

 

However there are two main alternatives:

 

The Council might continue to accept a Grant from Central Government – no increase in Council Tax

Or

The Council might reject Grant from Central Government and increase Council Tax

There are, however, a number of pointers as to what may happen based on the intentions of a majority of Councils as published in the National Press.

Many Councils are set to reject the ‘freeze’ grant, increase Council Tax with probably further cuts to services , and/or price increases to some services

If ANY of this is of concern to you please email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Christine.Mason@rochfordessex.net and tell us why. This will help us represent you.

To explain this in further detail please read on.

Background

For the last two years the Government has provided a grant to local councils in order that there can be a District Council Tax Freeze.

This year this Government Grant reduces so that only a ‘Freeze’ representing 1% increase can be adopted by Rochford District Council. i.e., The existing Council Tax you currently pay plus the Grant = a 1% increase in income for RDC in 2013/2014 without any direct cost or increase to you.

So Rochford District Council could accept the ‘Freeze’ Grant and increase overall income by 1%

Or

Rochford District Council could forgo this Government Grant and reject the ‘Freeze’. In rejecting the Freeze the Council could increase Council Tax by up to 2% without having to hold a Local Referendum. (Any figure in excess of 2% would require a Local Referendum which in itself is a costly exercise and seems unlikely.)

So Rochford would not accept the 1% Government Grant and the whole increase up to 2% would be paid by residents. (It is likely that the increase will be slightly under 2% but certainly over 1% as if 1% was being considered you would expect the Government Grant to be taken up.)

Why would Rochford District Council consider this?

We all know about inflation because with your pay freezes this means that without a rise your pay does not go as far as it did. And if you get a rise one year then the next rise you get is a rise on a rise. With the last two years Council Tax Freezes the Council has lost out on rises on rises that it forecast for the next five years or so. Less money to spend in the future. Just like you. Unfortunately you won’t be getting a pay rise but the Council will if the Council Tax goes up by up to 2% and the Freeze Grant is rejected.

Wouldn’t this annoy the Conservative Government, (sorry the Coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats)?

Yes

(but we could not find the position of Nick Clegg on this) !

Here is some of what has been published in the National Press.

  • Pickles: Freeze council tax – Source: The Times, Page: 14

Eric Pickles [Secretary of State for DCLG, Conservative] is set to warn council leaders that they risk losing next May’s elections if they refuse to freeze council tax. His intervention comes after research found that over half of all local authorities are considering raising council tax next April. A survey of finance officers, carried out by the Local Government Chronicle, found that 55% of the 326 English councils were preparing to raise council tax. Brandon Lewis, the Local Government Minister comments: “When costs are rising elsewhere the public won’t tolerate unnecessary tax increases. In particular, councillors with elections in May can either show they are helping people with the cost of living, or face explaining on the doorsteps why they have snatched money away from hardworking families and pensioners”.

(Rochford District Council has no Elections this May)

  • Tax rises “morally wrong” – Source: The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 The Guardian, Page: 34

The Daily Telegraph reports that Eric Pickles will today warn local authorities that it is “morally” unacceptable to increase council tax next year. More than half of councils are understood to be ready to raise the levy as the Government prepares to announce a slight reduction in their funding. Liverpool City Council said there would be “riots on the street” if council tax was frozen again, as it will lead to more cuts to services. While Birmingham City Council has also indicated that further restraint is not possible. The announcement is set to lead to a “war of words” between Mr Pickles and council chiefs. Meanwhile, Patrick Butler, in the Guardian, discusses how councils will react to the Government’s latest spending cuts. He says that many authorities will have to make cuts to previously protected areas, such as adult social care and children’s social services. He also notes that the late settlement will leave many struggling to stitch together a coherent budget by the end of January.

You might hear from District Councils that the increase is only pennies per week……….BUT this adds up to £’s

  • Families worse off – Source: Financial Times, Page: 3 The Times, Page: 43 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2, 4 The Guardian, Page: 31 The Scotsman, Page: 8

Asda’s Income Tracker has found that families were nearly £50 worse off last month than they were two years ago. Families had £146 a week of discretionary income last month, meaning they were £1 a week better off than a year ago but compared with November 2010, they are £12 a week worse off.

And

  • Elderly walking a financial tightrope – Source: Sunday Express

A study by Age UK has warned that more than 1.2m elderly people could be made bankrupt if they received an unexpected fuel or energy bill of more £200. Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s director general, said: “Many older people are living hand-to-mouth and dreading the day when the cooker breaks down or energy prices rise again.”

WHEREAS

  • Rural communities to feel the strain – Source: Manchester Evening News, Page: 4

Rural communities will bear the brunt of government cuts that will force local councils to slash their services. The warning follows the publication of the government’s finance settlement, which details the amount of central funding given to local authorities. Rural councils will face a bigger reduction in central grant and spending power than urban councils, according to an initial analysis by the Rural Services Network.

  •  Our Community – Source: As published by the local Liberal Democrats

According to the BBC, Rochford District Council is facing a cut of 2.5% in funding.

(http://onlinefocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/budget-cuts.jpg)

So residents of Rochford District might see a rejection of the ‘freeze’ grant, an increase in their personal fixed costs, further cuts to services and price increases for individual services.

We will let you know more about what is proposed for Rochford’s Council Tax 2013 when we are allowed to say but we felt that you ought to know the way the land seems to be lying and give you the chance to comment and make your views known to either us or your own Ward Councillors if you do not live in Hawkwell West.

If ANY of this is of concern to you please email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Christine.Mason@rochfordessex.net and tell us why. This will help us represent you.

Public Cash Spent on Hotels

June 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

ホテル HotelIn the Echo on Monday, Terry Cutmore, Conservative Leader of Rochford District Council said “there is nothing wrong with the council’s practices.  The whole council is involved – not just the Conservative Members”

RDC spent £4000 including £1395 spent at the Western Ivy hotel and restaurant in Margaretting.

Whilst these are working away days for all Members, I have always declined to go because the Council already has adequate premises and I see no reason to waste council tax.

So it is not true, The Rochford Independent, aka Councillor John Mason, is not involved but FOR THE PUBLIC RECORD, Conservative and Lib Dem Members are.

 

 

Snouts in the Trough

June 23, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

In financial terms 39 Rochford Councillors ate twice as many free sandwiches as over 200 Rochford Council Employees.

In terms of sandwiches that is really 10 times as many.

Here are the figures;

In 2006/07 the records for officer buffets etc show expenditure of £1,825.
 
In 2006/7 the records show we spent £4,065 on buffets for Members.

That means that in a year 39 Councillors devoured 8000 sandwiches paid for by your Council Tax.  And no healthy options with even doughnuts being insisted on by some Members !!

As an Ordinary Councillor I receive a sufficient Council Allowances to provide for myself and run my office from home. 

Councillors should provide there own food.

Executive Councillors receive even more Allowances !! 

Community Initiatives Fund – How was it spent in Rochford District?

June 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Essex County Council – Community Initiatives Fund 2005/2006

How was the money spent in Rochford District? 

Reducing Council Tax : Matter of Concern Number 2, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

Read more

Meeting with Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Carmel Napier

May 31, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Anti Social Behaviour : Matter of Concern Number 1, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

I undertook a visit to Essex Police Headquarters as part of the Anti Social Behaviour Review being undertaken by Rochford District Council.

We met Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Carmel Napier who is in charge of Neighbourhood Policing.  Rochford Area Commander, Chief Inspector John Walker reports to Mrs Napier.

Armed with our 2007 Residents Survey from Hawkwell West, I set the scene by advising how residents see Anti Social Behaviour as their number one concern, where this is supported by your view that the quality of policing still needs to be improved.  Your view on safety coincided with many of the views that essentially we live in a safe place but that anti social behaviour needs yet still more attention.  I said that Neighbourhood Policing was a strategy that was working but we needed more of it to improve the quality of policing.

Mrs Napier confirmed that her strategy for Neighbourhood Policing was long term with even more resources to be redirected to the community.

I reiterated your concerns about evenings being the priority.

I also learnt that Parish Councils could now fund a PCSO for their area and more or less have this resource ring fenced.  So come along Hawkwell Parish Council, we have had several public meetings about Policing and Anti Social Behaviour and the time has come to spend our Council Tax on something REALLY IMPORTANT to all of us.

That afternoon Mrs Napier was meeting with John Walker to talk about his plans for improving the quality of policing and she asked for a copy of our 2007 Residents Survey from Hawkwell West. 

What Mrs. Napier did say in response to my request was that the Local Commander, John Walker, would be producing a plan to reduce the incidence of Anti Social Behaviour over the coming summer months which almost always sees an increase.  His team will be targeted by Nrs Napier to reduce demand – basically less calls from you and I. 

Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

May 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Which local issues matter the most to you? %
Anti-Social behaviour 18
Council tax 12
Litter 11
Medical care ie., dentists/doctors 10
Planning 8
Traffic congestion 7
Street parking 6
Facilities for Young People 6
Recycling 5
Parks and green spaces 5
Bus Services 5
Street crime 4
Graffiti 3
Leisure/ Sports facilities 0
How safe do you feel? %
Neutral 52
Quite Safe 34
Quite Unsafe 10
Very Safe 4
Very Unsafe 0
How do you rate the quality of local policing?
%
Neutral 53
Quite poor 29
Quite good 12
Very poor 6
Very good 0
How Clean and Tidy and Attractive do you find Hawkwell? %
Neutral 53
Quite attractive 29
Quite unattractive 17
Very unattractive 1
Very attractive etc 0

Clearly the issues of policing and anti social behaviour continue to be important to residents.

Still in the Top 5 are Council Tax, Litter (which cross links to the last survey question), Medical Care and Planning.

I shall give these issues my priority in District Council and my seat on the Governing Board of Southend Hospital continues to allow me to represent your medical needs.

Note:  This survey information is subject to full copyright and all rights are reserved by John Mason and Rochford District Residents.  Prior written permission must be given to link to this survey, reproduce this survey in whole or in part, whether in writing or otherwise.

Litter,Litter,Litter – Hawkwell West

May 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Litter : Matter of Concern Number 3, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

Former Liberal District and County Councillor for Rayleigh, Richard Boyd is now a neighbour in Hawkwell.

He has sent me an e-mail talking about the amount of rubbish and worse that Former Labour District Councillor, Myra Weir, collects up every day as a public spirited duty in Hawkwell Parade and The Clements Hall Area.

It is a disgrace that Myra, a resident, should have to do this daily.  It is what we pay RDC Council Tax for.

I have written to RDC Corporate Director Graham Woolhouse and asked for his employee team to take over from Myra on a daily basis.

I will let you know what happens. 

 

 

 

 

Hawkwell Parish Council is financially paralysed by its Parks

May 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Council Tax : Matter of Concern Number 2, Residents Survey – Hawkwell West 2007

Having served on Hawkwell Parish Council from 2003 to 2007, I wish to bring out into the open, my personal, but well qualified opinion of the situation this Council is in.

I found this period incredibly frustrating because at the beginning of my term I was asked to put my ideas forward a plan for a range of projects that could be taken forward over both the short term (3 years), medium term and long term (10 years) periods. I put 33 projects forward which would have benefitted all age groups in Hawkwell.  None were taken forward in my term of office.

Very few ideas were even looked at.

A very significant proportion of its funding, all paid by council tax residents of Hawkwell, is spent on a administration comprising of a Council Clerk and an Assistant to the Council Clerk.  Another tranche of wages was spent on a contracted handyman and also a groundsman for the three parks that it has taken over from Rochford District Council. In addition because the maintenance and parks improvement programme required significant regular expenditure on large plant and machinery there was little remaining budget for new projects.

The parks have been superbly improved.  But………..at what cost? 

The replacement of the plant and machinery means that each year significant sums of money are needed to be transferred to reserves.  So the council tax goes up and there is nothing more to show for it.

So the Parish Council has to apply for external funding for any new projects.

It is my opinion that the strategy of not outsourcing both the wages and capital costs of the Parks is a major mistake.  It has financially paralysed Hawkwell Parish Council.  It is a “one trick horse”.

Rochford District Council must be eternally grateful because it can spend it’s relieved budget on other things.

Hawkwell Parish Council now needs to outsource its groundsman and plant and machinery to other Parish Councils to justify its position as a maintenance contractor of parks and open spaces !!  This is ridiculous because RDC outsources its own maintenace contracts because it is financially cheaper than employ staff and purchase plant and machinery.

Hawkwell Parish Council is unique because I know of no other local authority in Essex in this position and it does not work to the advantage of the council tax payers of Hawkwell.  

I do not expect the position to change unless three firebrands fill the vacancies.

In the meantime, if you hear of new Hawkwell Parish Council projects then be prepared to see rises in your council tax.

   

Taxi Owner says – Taxi Licencing Regulations in Rochford are out of date

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Alerted by a letter of complaint from an individual taxi owner about Taxi Licencing Regulations, John called the Council to ask how this was to be dealt with.

Whilst this complaint will be dealt with in June the officers advised that all the conditions are way out of date but they do not have the resources to undertake a review and update which they agree needs to be done.  There are insufficient resources.

Because of the parlous state of public transport in Rochford District this is a major and responsibility of RDC which seems to have been neglected and there is no plan to up date and there are insufficient resources.

John has asked this to be subjected to Overview and Scrutiny.

What is Overview and Scrutiny?
The Overview & Scrutiny function at Rochford District Council is carried out by the Review Committee.
 
The Committee reviews areas that have been suggested or are causing concern with respect to the operation of the Council, and that of its Partners, brought to its attention by the Public or Members (Councillors) and officers of the Council or, indeed, the Council’s Partners. It can also scrutinise decisions made by the Council’s Policy Committees to ensure that best practice and best value is provided at all times for the benefit of Council Tax Payers, and develop recommendations relating to Council Policy and activity.
 
Councillors appointed to overview and scrutiny committees are expected to adopt a deliberative, investigative and evidence based approach while casting aside party politics. Scrutiny should work in an open, transparent, inclusive, and accountable manner adopting an outward looking focus.
 
Who is on the Review Committee?
 
The Review Committee is primarily comprised of 8 Councillors: Cllr Mrs J R Lumley (Chairman), and Cllrs.Mrs L M Cox, Mrs H L A Glynn, Mrs S A Harper, T Livings, J R F Mason, P R Robinson, Mrs C A Weston. Other interested parties may be invited to act as advisers to assist with the review of a particular subject as appropriate.

Essex County Council – NEW COUNCIL TAX

February 26, 2007 by · 3 Comments 

Essex County Council – NEW COUNCIL TAX

On 22 February 2007, Members of Rochford District Council were advised by Shaun Scrutton that Essex County Council were going to charge a swinging new tax on property developers.

Basically it is a levy of £10,000 on each new dwelling as a general charge for highway improvements.  So for the 8 flat application we were discussing this was a huge £80,000 tax.

I saw it as a NEW TAX but another Member felt that it was an incentive for RDC to pass the planning application !!

On the basis of the number of new homes to be forced on Rochford District Green belt, the new tax would raise £46 Million but perhaps it is a blessing in disguise because developers won’t want to pay it !!

Financial Concerns over Parish Council Decision

September 19, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Some years ago the council tax raised by Hawkwell Parish Council was much lower than it is now.  If memory serves me correctly it was about £50,000 per annum and when the Spencers and Magnolia Open Spaces were taken over the  costs increased to the high 80’s and now over 100,000.

So when the Council decided to take over the Glencroft Open Space, I was concerned that the costs were fully understood before the land was taken over rather than discovered as the project proceeded.

When Hawkwell Parish Councl took the decision to take over the Glencroft Open Space on 12 June 2006  this was made without any presentation of the way it was to be managed and by implication the costs that will be incurred on a permanent basis together with those additional capital costs of plant and equipment that will be required,

As the Open Space is being taken over from Rochford District Council it would have been appropriate to find out exactly what current costs are being incurred by RDC.  This has not be done.

I supported, with another 6 Councillors, a Motion on Notice to rescind the Council decision made on 12th June regarding the Glencroft Open Space.

Unfortunately the vote to protect your financial insterests was narrowly lost 8/6 and the project will proceed on a hand to mouth basis with the Parks Committee asking for money as required.  What this will do to the figure raised as council tax I do not know.

This is the letter I sent to all councillors before the meeting in an attempt to get them to not commit unless the costs were known. Read more

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