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Residents to Give Evidence on Climate Change to Council Committee

October 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Rochford District Council Review Committee is to take evidence from the public following the intervention of independent councillor, John Mason. 

Officers presented a project plan to the last Review Committee which had not been tabled on the Agenda.  One Tory Councillor was concerned that this had not been drawn up by Members and the obvious unseen nature of the proposals.

Councillor John Mason stepped in and swiftly proposed vital changes to the project plan to include taking evidence from the public and commerce before the Review Committee makes recommendations to the Executive Board in the New Year. He also made a recommendation to visit the Borough of Merton which has reportedly angered the Government by insisting that all new housing developments have a significant percentage of sustainable energy sources on site.  John said “Given that the Council is proposing building 3300 new houses in larger developments across the district then this will be a very important policy to consider.”

Meanwhile the Committee has the following to go on from nearby districts; 

In 2005 the South East Essex Green Party released the results of the public opinion poll on climate change they conducted in Southend and Castle Point.

Most people (177 out of 200) believed climate change caused by human activity is happening. Nearly half (91 out of 200) had made lifestyle changes to try and stop it, including three who had given up their cars. However, many people would do more if they knew more about how to live a Greener lifestyle and it was made easier.

The majority (170 out of 200) thought politicians were not doing enough and particularly singled out American politicians for criticism. Our politicians pay lip service to the problem of climate change, but their actions will make things worse. 

Questions that were used for the survey;

1 Do you think that climate change is happening because of human activities?

If yes 2 Have you changed anything in your lifestyle based on this view?

If no 3 why you have this opinion? A) Media B) Part of the natural cycle C) Politicians

If don’t know 4 What would convince you that it is happening? A) An event B) Arguments

5 Do you think politicians are doing enough?

Results-

Southend

Question 1-86 Yes 6 No 2 Partly 3 Possibly 3 Don’t Know
Question 2-45 Yes. 45 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-1 Said A. 3 said B. 2 said C.
Question 4-4 said A. 2 said B.
Question 5-77 No. 4 Yes-Rest (19) 1 said OK. 7 don’t know /do what they can. 1 could do more. 1 no idea. 1 not bad. 1 should concentrate on other things. 5 not sure/ don’t know. 1 possibly. 1 Environmentalists create unnecessary panic
Castle Point
Question 1-91 Yes. 1 No Idea. 3 Probably. 5 No.
Question 2-46 Yes. 48 No. 1 Not Yet.
Question 3-4 Said B. 1 Said A.
Question 4-No Answers
Question 5-93 No. 4 Yes. 3 Don’t Know. 

 

  

Local Residents in Hawkwell Meet to Oppose New Housing

October 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The meeting was so well attended that the organisers, Jamie Popplewell and his neighbours in Mount Bovers Lane, asked Belchamps if they could move the meeting to the larger upper hall.  Luckily, Belchamps were happy to do this otherwise about 90 people would not have been able to get in because the small hall only held 60.

Over 150 concerned residents attended mainly because of the possible threat of new housing being allocated to the Mount Bovers field but also the threats to land at Thorpe Road and behind Rectory Road adjoining Windsor Gardens and Clements Hall.

Some residents had attended the RDC Central Area Committee which was held on 24 October to ask questions about housing allocations to Hawkwell but the Chair and Councillor Hudson really didn’t want to discuss the subject pushing this out to the next public consultation in the Spring of 2008.  But he said that they would listen and would consult again and again if residents felt that they had got it wrong. 

Councillor John Mason gave a presentation of what was happening at the District Council and how the proposal for 365 new Houses in Hawkwell and only 36 in Hockley had come about.  That upset a number of staunch Conservative supporters in the audience but it was quite true.  That proposal was made by the Conservative Party in a private political meeting following which the Councillor Hudson, Deputy Leader of the District Council (and Member for Hockley), wrote an open letter to the Residents of Rochford District containing these figures which was published in the Echo. 

Not too difficult to find the smoking gun !! It is a pity that this meeting coincided with the Executive Board of the District Council meeting on the same night because a representative was not there to explain why they thought 365 houses in Hawkwell was justified and how they arrived at this proposal. 

Nevertheless to ensure that there was political balance, John invited local resident and Labour Parish Councillor, Myra Weir to speak and for the Conservatives there was a heckler and former Tory District Councillor John Sheaf. 

Concern was expressed by many residents that the infrastructure of roads,sewerage, water, refuse, dentists, doctors, schools was not up to supporting 400 new houses in Hawkwell.  John advised that sustainability consultants were looking at these issues before the next public consultation in the Spring of 2008.

The Government has forced the District Council to consult again because the first without likely sites and justification was unacceptable.

Residents did not seem to know about the original consultation in June anyway and it came as a relief that there would be another !!  Residents decided that they wanted an Action Group to oppose all the potential sites in Hawkwell and 365 new houses anywhere. 

Volunteers came forward to run a campaign from now and until the proposal was withdrawn. They were encouraged that Rayleigh had won a reduction of 1800 to 740 by strong opposition and the fact that the Conservatives have said publicly at the Central Area Committee on 24 October, held in Hawkwell Village Hall, that they would listen and if the public said that they had got it wrong then proposals would be changed and there would be new consultations.

One resident said that he had telephoned RDC that day and been advised that “in relation to the LDF Core Strategy and the allocation of new housing, that the land already notified to RDC at Mount Bovers Hawkwell, was in a conservation zone, that it could never be built upon, that it was designated Common Land, and was SACROSANCT from any development.”

NOT TRUE SEE BELOW.

John Mason has contacted The Head of Planning at RDC, Shaun Scrutton, and the reply is in the Comment below:

John,

The land referred to is shown on the ‘call for sites’ map, stretching from Main Road in the east and bounded by Mount Bovers Lane to the north and Gusted Hall Lane to the south.

This area of land is within the upper Roach Valley and is identified within the adopted Local Plan (policy NR1) as a special landscape area.

The Council has indicated that it does not want to see any development in the upper Roach Valley and certainly there has been no proposal presented to me to suggest the site proposed is one that is justified to be considered as being suitable for housing.

Therefore, the response to questions about the possibility of this land being developed in the future is to the effect that it is likely protection will remain as per the preferred approach set out in the Local Plan and reflected in the draft Core Strategy.

I should say, that having spoken to the policy team, I am told that words like as “sacrosanct” or “common land”, have not been used in providing a response.

The Head of Planning at RDC, Shaun Scrutton does not agree that the RDC had said that the Mount Bovers Land could be described as “sacrosanct” or “common land” as claimed by a resident at the public meeting at Belchamps.

Newly co-opted Parish Councillor Bob Mitchell attended the meeting.  Well done Bob and thank you. 

The Echo weren’t overkeen to attend and presumably did not because they said “nothing is concrete with that area yet”

Apart from John Mason no other District Councillor for Hawkwell (there are six !!) attended.  There were enough posters around but I suppose if they did not live in Hawkwell, then they would not have been aware !! 

The Hawkwell Residents’ Association did not appear to attend. 

Hopefully it never will be “concrete” and if it is then it will be no thanks to the ECHO (who everyone thinks is a Tory Line paper). 

If you wish to join the Action Group then please email us through our Contact page.

Likely next steps are:

  • an email to all District Councillors expressing opposition 
  • further leaflet publicity
  • letters to Shaun Scrutton and Councillor Keith Hudson who is the Cabinet Member in charge of the LDF
  • meeting with Hawkwell Parish Council
  • meeting with the Chair of the Hawkwell Residents’ Association

 

 

So much for local consultation – Ignored !!

September 23, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

The Central Area Committee on 20 September in Hawkwell Village Hall considered a request by Hawkwell Parish Council for a Teen Shelter to be sited on the field adjoining Clements Hall Leisure Centre.  No details had been submitted before the meeting but the Central Area Committee was supposed to recommend this in principle to the Executive Board.  A large number of residents from Hawkwell West, my Ward, attended and some spoke out very strongly against this proposal.  Because no details had been submitted before the meeting no one knew if it required Planning Permission or not.  If it did not then the Chairman, also a Member for Hawkwell West but a Tory (Executive Councillor Derek (Steve) Stansby), said that the Executive Board would approve it.  Not so said an Officer and indeed Councillor Hudson, Deputy Leader of the Council, but the Chairman, wishing to push this through regardless of local opinion, the people he represents, insisted otherwise.  Under the circumstances I publicly voted against because it went against the views of residents and I had not even seen the details.  So much for local consultation.  Indeed I discovered in the Minutes of Hawkwell Parish Council that only 6 adults had attended their public meeting – so the rest,54,were young people and Parish Councillors.

Other residents had come along to challenge housing allocations.  36 for Hockley and 365 for Hawkwell as put forward by the Tory Party.  Despite what Councillor Hudson had to say about specific sites not having been considered, residents did not accept this.  One answer to a written question was wrong.  The questioner asked if the allocation to specific sites could be undone at a future planning application.  Absolutely Yes wrote the Officers – THE ANSWER IS NO and residents have been misled again.

The British Horse Society and a Member of Ashingdon Parish Council came along to ask for the access from Clements Hall to a bridle way running between Hawkwell Park Drive and Park Gardens to be reopened.  This was overlooked when a new barrier and fence was installed to keep motorcycles off the playing field.  Site visit to be held for a special barrier solution.

Speeding is at the top of the list for all three local police public forums.  Data is available but nothing has been done and the police are concerned about a kick back from motorists.  I asked the police to get the data and make some decisions.  They will now do so. 

 

 

Rochford District Council – Executive Board

June 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

If you want to read a report on the first Executive Board Meeting then you can find one on the Lib Dems site together with some relevant comments from residents.

http://onlinefocus.org/?p=670#comment-18795 

I did not attend because I had already been advised that I could not speak and I knew that I would be completely sidelined.

The following letter is, I think, now the only way that I can represent residents on policy matters – I hope that this example proves that important matters of policy can still be influenced by ordinary councillors rather than the just the highly paid nine RDC Executive Councillors – but who knows?

Technically I could be invited to speak by Councillor Cutmore but this is unlikely because the CEO, Paul Warren, advised me in a Members Training Session that once this is allowed the precedent is made and he would be strongly advising Councillor Cutmore not to agree to any request. 

Even then the “super nine” would appear, from e-mails that I have received, to be instructed on policy by a prior Tory Group Meeting which is held privately away from the public.

I will provide an update on the response I get and what action is taken but I suspect that the issue will be directed to the Review (or investigations committee) which is led by the Opposition or a Lib Dem Councillor. I had already raised the matter with the Review Committee leadership but the subject did not appear in the working group list.  Perhaps it will now as an emergency item because of neglect by the administration?

Dear Councillor Cutmore
 
I am writing to you formally as the Leader of the Council and Chair of the Executive Board.
 
I am sure that you also received a copy of Graham Patchings’ letter regarding Taxi Licensing/Regulations.

I  telephoned the Officers at RDC to ascertain what is happening regarding Graham’s letter. I was advised that the matter would be considered at the Executive Board.

The Officers also 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.
 
I am unable to speak at the Executive Board and under the circumstances I can only ask you to deal with my representation to you in this respect, namely that the Council engages immediately, sufficient resources to undertake such a review of all taxi conditions and regulations and present new taxi conditions within 12 months.

Bearing in mind that this is a major responsibility of RDC which seems to have been neglected and there is no plan to up date and there are insufficient resources any way will you please advise me what action you and the Conservative Group is going to take in respect of the present status of the taxi regulations in Rochford District.
 
I have referred to the Conservative Group making a decision because you will recall that reference was specifically made to this prior policy making procedure by John Honey,Councillor Hudson and Councillor Seagers all in e-mails that were widely circulated.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Councillor John Mason

 

 

 

Rochford District Council – How are decisions made?

June 1, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

CEO Paul Warren has said  “I’m not convinced the public are that interested in the processes of the Council – what they’re interested in is outcomes!!” 

There was no surprise when every seat on the powerful Executive Board was reserved for a Conservative.

I attended a “training session” run by Paul Warren (CEO of RDC) who advised Members how this was going to work and what non Executive Board Members could not do.

Non Excecutive Board Members could attend but could only speak if pre-sanctioned by the Chair of the Executive Board.  But he added that that he had already advised the Chair not to do this because once you have let one speak then it will be impossible to stop the others.

The Executive Board is like a company board meeting.  There is no debate.  Debate will be before the meeting behind closed doors in political group meetings.  And remember no other Members can speak.

Many of the decisions of the Executive Board will not be subject to sanction by Full Council.  If you want to know which ones, I was told curtly to look in the Constitution.

Paul Warren almost gleafully advised that such decisions wouldn’t even be on the Full Council Agenda for noting (so no opportunity to ask questions).  The Executive Board Chair would just report on what the Board had done.

So with Full Council Meetings only being ceremonial what is the point I asked.  Full Council will be the main debating forum for Members he said. Debate on what I said.  The Full Council Meetings will no doubt be over by 7.45 on an Agenda which had nothing on it.   

Paul was however in for a bad surprise.  The Independent Standards Board Committee Member asked if all Members were aware of the way it would work.  I said that I had not known this before tonight and indeed had an email from an RDC Officer which was contradictory.

“The Executive Board meetings are open to the public and you are welcome to attend. They are held in Committee Room 4 at the Civic Suite and as a Visiting Member you would be able to sit at the Committee table and the practice is that the Chairman of the Executive Board will call both Members of the Board and Visiting Members to speak in turn during the debate. The only thing that you will not be able to do is vote at the Executive Board meetings.

Agenda item No 2 on the Executive Board Agenda is for Non Members attendance at the meeting to be recorded.”

Paul wanted to know who it was.  I would not tell him because lack of training of council employees is his fault not the fault of the employee who clearly had not been advised either.

 

A Politico Blog on the RDC New Structure

May 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

It was inevitable that only members of the Conservative Party have seats on the powerful Executive Board.

Whilst decisions can be questioned by Full Council or Overview and Scrutiny in reality the Party Whip will ensure that the Conservative Party majority will prevail.

All other Councillors on RDC are consigned to the only remaining role available – Opposition. I mean ALL OTHERS, including some disgruntled Conservative Councillors. The spectacle of Conservative Councillors scrapping for votes to become Area Committee Chairman must have upset the losers.

This New Political Structure has for once and for all polarised the business of Council.  Something that the system that the public liked, The Committee Structure, did not.

So my personal role in Council is Opposition.

The New Political Structure is counterproductive in Local Government.  Polarisation with an Opposition stifles cooperation and constructive debate.  

With nine Conservative Super Councillors, the remaining 20 or so Conservative Councillors must feel pretty sore.  From what has been said anonymously in the Lib Dem Web Site this must be true. It must be even harder to be a silent dissenter in the Conservative Group.  I doubt whether The Conservative Group is democratic with a majority carrying the decisions.  The Party Whip must be omnipresent and omnipotent. They could leave and become an Independent but the future would not be comfortable.

The New Political Structure is no good for the political parties and more importantly our residents.

The nine Conservative Super Councillors will acquire individual executive powers next year. So far the Officers do all the work and I am wondering if  this will change?  Better that they make a decision based on sound Officer work rather on their own skill base according to the Anonymous views on this posted to the Lib Dem site.

Insurance of assets can save in times of trouble. Most commercial insurance is still not done online while personal insurance has online presence. You can have online car insurance quotes and loads of companies give online insurance quotes for various personal items. To get an insurance quote from a broker search for “brokers insurance” on Google. Effort should be made on our part to know various insurance laws such as health insurance law law.

Central Area Committee – Hawkwell, Hockley and Hullbridge – RDC

May 20, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

As the Chair had been appointed and the first meeting was due on 12 June, I wrote to Derek Stansby and asked how the public could participate.  These new Area Committees are about consultation with residents but no details were available to advise residents.

I sent the letter and the by the afternoon of receipt by Derek Stansby, it had been passed to Rochford District Council Officers to ascertain how the Area Committees were to work!! I thought that these “super councillors” on the Area Committees and Executive Board were paid additional allowances for additional responsibilities.  If they are going to use the old ruse of asking the Officers what to do then why do we need executive councillors who are paid?

LETTER

I have been asked by residents to ascertain how they may arrange to speak at the Central Area Committee.  What will the environment be like?  Standing or Sitting?  Delivered to the Committee from what situation?  In what format?  How long?
 

The request is for the first meeting of the Central Area Committee on 12 June and I understand that those who wish to speak may wish to call an Officer from Essex Police in support.
 

How will such matters be taken forward.  Will there be debate on the night?  Can the residents join in the debate?
 

Do I as a Member have any rights to place items on the Central Area Committee Agenda.  Please advise the procedure and the basis of determination if an item is to be admitted to the Agenda.
 

You will recall that the latest report on the matter of the Local Development Framework was rejected by Full Council for further review.  This will now be undertaken by the Local Development Framework Sub Committee of which you are a Member by virtue of being the Chair of the Central Area Committee.  Given that further review has being determined by Full Council I wish to know whether the subject of the Local Development Framework will be reviewed by the Central Area Committee before the Local Development Framework Sub Committee reconsiders the matter?
 

As there is such little time before the summons is issued for the 12 June Meeting of the Central Area Committee my own view is that the matter has some urgency especially as residents have expressed an interest in the Central Area Committee.
 

    

 

New Political Structure – Not Working for You !!

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

I received a copy e-mail from a Conservative Member who did not wish the Executive Board Meetings moved from the evening to the afternoon.

The Liberal Democrats on RDC have said this on their web site:

“We were also promised that things would be kept democratic. So the meetings of the Cabinet would be held in the evening , meaning:

All councillors could attend if they wanted to (maybe to take part, maybe just to watch). Members of the public who work could come and watch.”

But the big point they did not comment on, because they are a political group as well, was the fact that the Deputy Leader, Keith Hudson, (Hockley ) wrote this in one of the e-mails.

” In reality the Controlling group will also have their group meeting prior to the executive to determine policy.”

I made a complasint but this is completely legal.  But do you want Council Policy talked about and agreed behind closed doors so no one, you or other elected councillors like me, can have a say !!

Another comment in favour of this closed door policy making was from Conservative Member, Colin Seagers (Great Wakering)  who wrote by e-mail ”  Far better to have considered items beforehand than make all policy ‘on the hoof’ and in overly long drawn out meetings.” But he wanted the Executive Board Meetings in the evenings and clearly wants short ones.

Better then that Keith Hudson wants afternoon meetings so that “A meeting can be allowed to go on into the evening, exceptionally, if so required by the pressure of business.”  Perhaps then the Conservatives would not need to ” have their group meeting prior to the executive to determine policy”?

Is this what you want from Rochford District Council?  The nine Conservative “super councillors” comprising the Executive Board squabbling over e-mail about afternoon or evening meetings and going back on their word to the Liberal Democrats?  And drawing sizeable additional allowances for their additional responsibilities?

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