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Season’s Greetings 2014

December 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year 2014

Best

Christine and John
(turn the sound on !!……..there is a nice carol playing……)

Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt

October 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

JuergenGER / Pixabay

Our Local Conservative Councillors have been telling residents for years that they have to remove Green Belt protection when drawing up their Local Plans, in order to meet [housing] demand.

Conservative Government Minister Eric Pickles has now stepped in to say that the Government did not require this and the move will be seen as a pre-election pitch by the Conservatives to win round rural Tory supporters who are furious about new development.

“Nothing can now change the loss of Green Belt in Hawkwell, Ashingdon and Rochford for 1000 houses where it has not been proven that these are required to meet local housing needs” said Residents Councillors John and Christine Mason.

They went on to ask “So will there be a change of mind on another over 1000 houses in green belt in Rayleigh and Hullbridge?”

“The Government seems to be blaming the local Conservative Councillors who were in charge of local planning policy which is what local residents have been saying for a long time.”

“This “volte-face” by the Government is too late to save them in the local elections unless big changes are made in the Core Strategy before May 2015 and any promises will be seen as “just election promises as usual” !!

The Conservatives promised at the 2010 General Election to reverse Labour Housing Targets and give decisions on planning to Local Residents. All that happened was the concentration of planning decisions in Conservative Councils which followed a house building diktat from the Conservative Government without any challenge to Government despite the views of local residents.

Whatever way you look at it the Conservatives are to blame. If houses have been built on Green Belt despite your wishes then you will know already how to vote.

Specifically the new guidance makes clear that councils do not have to build on the Green Belt just to meet the locally set five-year housing targets.

The new planning guidance states explicitly for the first time that “once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances”.

Councils will have to “take account of any constraints such as Green Belt which indicate that development should be restricted and which may restrain the ability of an authority to meet its need”, it says.

 

New protections for England’s Green Belt unveiled by Eric Pickles – Telegraph
www.telegraph.co.uk

Official in the ECHO ‘You don’t have to build on green belt’

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

blue-352470_1920Well worth reading what the Government Planning Inspector said about Green Belt which goes against the edict which has been put out by RDC for years !!

Michael Hoy and I put forward a Motion to say that housing numbers must be assessed on LOCAL NEEDS years ago and the Tories were scathing in their rejection. But now they say that local needs are the key !!

In the Echo Today, an Exclusive from Jon Austin, “GREEN belt land in south Essex could be spared from thousands of homes being built after a senior planning inspector said it was a matter for local councils to decide. Keith Holland, an inspector for the department for communities and local government, is shown on video telling Castle Point councillors they would not be forced to release green belt to meet housing targets. His assurance, made in a video leaked to the Echo, is at odds with what Castle Point, Basildon and Rochford councils have told residents while they prepared local development plans for the next 20 years.” In the video, he also says councils will not be forced to build the homes if flooding is an issue,such as happened recently on Canvey and across Rochford.”

Again in the Echo A Castle Point Tory councillor at the inspector’s briefing, said: “This is the complete opposite of what planning officers have been telling members, which is that if we don’t designate enough house building sites, then they will be imposed on us by the Planning Inspectorate, but here the inspector could not have been clearer this is not the case.”

Sounds to us Independent Councillors exactly the same message we have been hearing from Rochford Conservatives for years!!

Councillor Ward , Cabinet Member for planning at RDC said in the Echo last week blaming the Conservative Government, “We might not like it, but we have no choice” and “We are following the law of the land, set out by Government”.

MP Rebecca Harris told the ECHO “Frankly I was fed up with the Government’s view being misinterpreted. I am grateful that the planning inspector spelt it out in crystal clear terms.”

But Councillor Ward has now changed his mind by saying in today’s Echo “Rochford’s sensible, pragmatic approach to identifying land for development to meet the needs of the district in a planned way is the correct approach to fulfilling the requirements of the national planning policy framework.”

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE 250 HOUSES PER YEAR for 20 YEARS MAY WELL BE IN EXCESS OF OUR LOCAL NEEDS AND THIS HAS NOT BEEN ASSESSED ON A LOCAL BASIS BUT PART OF A REGIONAL NEED !!

Rochford District Council Budget 2015/16 – Have your Say !!

September 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dollars-31085_1280Rochford District Council Budget 2015/16 – Have your Say !!

WE NEED YOUR HELP !!

Council Members have been invited to an All Party But PRIVATE Away Day at the Freight House on 4 October to discuss the ideas that the Conservative Cabinet Member for Finance has on next year’s Budget.

Whilst the Public will be asked by the Council later for their views on the DRAFT Budget we wondered if residents would like to make their ideas known right now on what should be cut and what should be increased.

These ideas will can then be put forward at the Away Day by The Green and Rochford District Residents Group as an alternative “RESIDENTS BUDGET”.

So do you wish to see a FREEEEEEEEZE on Council Tax or a minimum of a 1.5% increase which has already been factored into the Council’s projections?

If there is a DEFICIT GAP of say £100,000 to £500,000 what would you wish to see cut? Or would you say just increase other charges, like car parking again, or just increase the Council Tax to meet the DEFICIT.

Please email to john.mason@bigfoot.com

Flooding Risk in Rochford District made a political football by former Conservative candidate !!

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

DSCF0638floodYou can read the Letter published in Friday’s Echo here.

Mr. Webb wrongly accuses  your two Independent Councillors of not attending a Council Meeting.

A Local resident has emailed to say that he has written to the Echo about Mr. Webb’s views that a cross party Flood Committee should now deal with with past and future local flooding events “This is the same party who voted to cover thousands of acres of land with concrete to build houses on which commonsense says will cause more flooding. Mike I live on planet earth where do you live?.”

Officers of the Council advised that The Flood Forum is technically an Advisory Group to Council Leader Cutmore who is the Decision Maker. BUT Council Leader Cutmore appointed ONLY Conservative Councillors to be Members of the Flood Forum. And any decision he makes on the advice given by his Conservative only Councillors cannot now be even “Called In” to Full Council for discussion.

So much for a “Cross Party” Committee as called for by Mr. Webb !”!”

Is Mr Webb saying that all 39 Members MUST attend, without fail despite illness, family and personal needs, every single Council Committee and Advisory Group Meeting, regardless of whether they are actually APPOINTED BY THE COUNCIL to those committees?

That would make every type of Council Meeting a FULL Council meeting where by COMPULSION all 39 attend?

That would make the CABINET system DEFUNCT saving may about £100,000 in ALLOWANCES for ONLY Conservative Councillors !!

Popular with Independents and the public but may be not so popular with the Conservative Party Mr. Webb !!!

 Here is the reply from the Independent Councillors to Mr.Webb and the Echo;

Wistaria Cottage
Hawkwell

29th August 2014

The letter from Mike Webb is breathtaking in the inaccuracies it contains. I totally agree that ‘all parties should be working together to try and resolve the problem’ of local flooding. Perhaps Mr Webb would have been better advised to ask this question of the Leader of the Conservatives at Rochford District Council who determined that the Flood Forum would only have Conservative members.

Rochford District Residents have not waited a year to hold a local meeting as have the Conservatives. Instead they led a well supported community initiative to clear the watercourses that were responsible for the flooding last August in Hawkwell West, last November. Indeed Mr Webb briefly turned up to assist on one of the days and used a photograph of his participation to aid his (failed) attempt to be elected to Rochford District Council for the Conservative Party. Not only that but Rochford District Resident’s Councillors filed a report to Rochford District Council last year detailing work the Council needs to do on its own land in relation to flood prevention. Despite reinforcement of this by the Environment Agency, a year later and still no work has been carried out to our knowledge.

Over the last few months both John and Christine Mason have been in regular contact in the form of site meetings and detailed discussions with the Environment Agency over the issue of implementation of the Surface Water Drainage scheme on the David Wilson Home site (which also abuts the water courses that flooded last year) and through our endeavours this has been checked and compliance with approvals ensured. All done prior to the postponed Flood Forum meeting! (Postponed due to further flooding that did not, thankfully, occur in Hawkwell West where the preventative work led by Rochford District Residents took place.)

If Mr Webb wants to criticise perhaps he could check his facts first? Out of 21 Council Wards how many did The Conservative Party agree could be represented on the Flood Forum and participate as full Members? Why only attack one Ward’s representatives? Why not include the other political groups i.e. Green Party, Labour, Liberal etc., why single out only Rochford District Residents? Or does a political motive have precedence over accuracy? If Mr. Webb intends to stand in Hawkwell West again in 2015 he should declare this so that this inaccurate attack be seen in its proper light.

Christine Mason,
District Councillor for Hawkwell West Ward
Notes:

As the General Public can attend any Council Meeting it follows that any Member of Rochford District Council can attend but each Advisory Group/Committee etc has appointed Members who ONLY have a RIGHT to speak and participate.

All Members of the Council COULD attend, like the Public, but all Members were not INVITED to attend as Members of the Flood Forum and to say this would be INCORRECT.

 

Electoral Ward Review – Rochford District

August 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

LATEST UPDATE:

electoral ward review

Rochford District Council will be considering, and voting on, the model presented in the map above on 4 September. (just click on the map to see it full screen.)

If you wish to read all of the Council’s working numbers then you can download it here.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is conducting an ‘Electoral Review’ to look at ward boundaries in order to shape Rochford District Council for the future.

The first Public Consultation is taking place right now from 22 July to 29 September to determine ward boundaries across the Rochford District.

These new wards will be for all District Councillor elections from 2016.

The Commission has also announced that it recommends that the Council should have 39 councillors in future, the same number as in current arrangements. The Commission wishes to see 13 by 3 Member Wards making 39 and as close to an equal number of electors for each ward (5400) and each Member (1800).

https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/3536

If approved by Rochford District Council the above map will be presented to the Commission as the Council’s preferred model which the Commission will consider and, if necessary, the Commission will present its own model for further consultation with the public in December.

If you have any comments before the Council’s Meeting on 4 September then please email us at john.mason@bigfoot.com.

We have a few tweaks in mind to present to the Commission before 29 September because the model presented here corrected an earlier Officer error and because of that we think that some further small changes in Hawkwell are necessary.

If you submit information to the Local Government Boundary Commission athttps://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/3536 unlike other consultations no one else will see what you said until AFTER the first Consultation closes.

 

Holding Decision Makers Accountable

July 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Why hasn’t Rochford District Council made  Press Releases  or given prominent publicity on its Web Site or in Rochford District Matters to  “Holding Decision Makers Accountable”?

We are going to run a series of posts over the year to tell you how the powerful Review Committee will be holding Council decision makers accountable.  It is led this year by the Green and Rochford District Residents Group i.e. US!

The Review Committee of Rochford District Council is empowered by Law to question elected members who sit on the Council’s Cabinet, Council employees, and representatives of other organisations involved in carrying out the Council’s responsibilities.   Review Committee is able to investigate any issue which affects the local area, or the District’s inhabitants, whether or not it is the direct responsibility of the Council’s Cabinet.

Members of the Public are welcome at most Review Committee Meetings and may be invited by the Chair to speak if they wish to. We will advise you when the “big issues” are in play so that your point of view may be reflected.

Hot Off the Press it has been recommended that the Committee will also look at the Council’s Budget proposals on 2 December in order to get direct feedback from residents and “To put rigour into the proposals”!

So what is this powerful Committee going to look at this Year?

  1. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA): changes in policy and the Council’s annual usage of RIPA.

The Council often works in partnership with Essex Police, and this will sometimes involve the use of CCTV. CCTV evidence can be used as long as the correct procedure has been followed. RIPA applies to covert surveillance, whereas the Council will generally use overt surveillance to address any persistent/on-going issues around, for example, fly-tipping. Covert surveillance can be used, once authorised, if this approach is unsuccessful.

  1. Car parking charges

A  review around whether there has been a change in income as a result of increased charges and to see if Budget expectations at the time charges were increased have materialised.

  1. Rochford District Matters (RDM)

Information generated by an internal Council review of RDM to be available to the Committee prior to the review taking place.

  1. ICT Contracts

A  review to include any contracts within the overall service, including an assessment of value for money and any issues that have arisen within the main contract.

  1. Building control

A review to cover the future of the service,  including the options of shared services with neighbouring authorities, withdrawing the service altogether or offering just a residual service.

  1. ECC financial contribution to cutting verges

It was agreed to wait until October to see if there is any change in the remuneration the Council will receive from ECC before commencing this review. (In addition a review the possible pollutant and blockage effect of Council Grass Cuttings adversely affecting surface water drainage has been requested.)

  1. Highways/Potholes –

An invitation to County Highways to attend either the September or October meeting of the Committee.

  1. Treasury Management Review
  2. Community Safety Partnership (CSP)

This is scheduled to take place at the November meeting; specific invitees from the Police.

  1. Dog Fouling – (Review to be scheduled.)

The next Meeting will be on 8 July in the Civic Suite in Rayleigh when the Review Committee will be receiving a Report on ICT Contracts – “A  review to include any contracts within the overall service, including an assessment of value for money and any issues that have arisen within the main contract.” from Shaun Scrutton. Members will be asking an initial set of fact finding questions in order to decide how to take this review forward.

The Infrastructure Bill – What it means locally……….

June 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As we posted a shared link to the Infrastructure Bill on Facebook we felt that we should look into this new legislation further particularly as it did not feature in recent compulsory Member Training from Rochford District Council on Planning. (We had a repeat subject session on The Duty to C0-operate and the Community Infrastructure Levy.)

The Infrastructure Bill covers various areas including planning, housing, fracking, reforms to the Highways Agency and some worrying changes to the Land Registry.

The Headlines in the link were “The Government plans to order local authorities to make 90 per cent of its brownfield sites (a designation that apparently includes parks, allotments, gardens as well as former industrial sites) available to be transferred to the Government quango the Homes and Communities Agency, which was established in 2008. The HCA can then pass it on to developers without any of tiresome planning restrictions.”

But as local Members delving further there is even more of concern in the detail.

We oppose the proposals for deemed discharge of planning conditions.

Why?

Deemed discharge of planning conditions is treating planning conditions as approved where a planning authority has failed to discharge a planning condition on time and has held up a development. Joint working between councils and developers is the most effective way of dealing with any concerns about planning conditions.

Currently we seem to have a confusion with The Environment Agency about where a new surface water drainage ditch is to be located. As local Members trying to head off this worrying situation we have supplied The Environment Agency with documents indisputably referring to the eastern boundary in the planning permission condition. If it were a deemed discharge then could the surface water drainage ditch be put in the wrong place? Potential flooding affects all of us and surely great care needs to be taken by all concerned, not only in this respect but in many other aspects of development that affect the local community!

Clause 23 of the Bill, which transfers the responsibility for local land charges to Land Registry, should be deleted from the Bill. The land charges service to businesses and residents can be improved locally, instead of going through a national transformation that is likely to have a negative impact on the system.

The proposal will separate Local Land Charge searches from additional land searches (known as CON29 searches) which local authorities will continue to provide. Councils will still need to employ people to collate information locally to supply data to the Land Registry, but will lose the income they now have as the Land Charges Fees which will be nationalised. This means that there will not only be cost implications for transforming the service into a national one, but more importantly costs to councils in managing data co-ordination and inquiries locally. Therefore the proposals risk stripping our Councils of income, while leaving our Council with many of the current costs making an increase to Council Tax.

Allowing councils to set out permitted development rights locally.

New national rules were introduced in 2013 by the Government here.

Extensions more or less got carte blanch to the potential detriment of the locality.

But under the New Infrastructure Act Local permitted development rights would give councils the powers to improve their locality and attract investment whilst tackling local issues such as clustering of, charity, coffee and fast food shops. As this issue continuously arises with objections from residents to planning applications and there is little currently that Councillors can do about it this change will be welcomed and we look forward to receiving the appropriate training from RDC so that Members are appropriately briefed when it comes to making a decision on our new local framework.

However the concern over Clause 23 is a real one and we would urge you to write to your MP if you share our concerns.

It will be too late once the Bill is receives the final Royal Assent.

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Could YOU represent your Community? Do YOU like to be involved in local issues?  Can YOU assist your neighbours to find the right route to resolve a problem? If so Rochford District Residents needs YOU.

Rochford District Residents is a local political party that has its roots in Residents Associations.  Run and administered by John and Christine Mason who represent their Ward – Hawkwell West – on Rochford District Council the aims are simple:  To achieve the best possible results for the residents they represent in local matters.

Many national political parties, but not all,  set their policies focused on Parliament and Parliamentary seats and these are cascaded down from the top to the local political groups. Rochford District Council (RDC) seats come under two different Parliamentary Constituencies and the Leader of the RDC group ensures that both National and Local (Conservative) Policies are adhered to by use of the Whip. (Nothing to do with black leather (!!) but to do with ensuring that members of that group vote as instructed by the Leader of the Council.)

Rochford District Residents  are unlike national political parties as there is NO whip nor will there ever be.  We believe that everyone has a view that they are entitled to put forward and after a debate a vote should be taken on the merits of the points raised, discussed and debated.

Unfortunately at present the local administration have a different policy, their whip ensures that their Councillors vote in line with the party instructions regardless of whether it is right or wrong for your area.  The craziness of this was demonstrated by the recent Conservative led hike in car parking charges when 10 Conservative councillors disobeyed the Whip and abstained.  Yes, abstained because they were ‘not allowed’ to vote against the Conservative Policy.  Had they had the courage of their convictions and voted against the rise we would not be facing this increase, which is yet to be implemented. (Delayed from the beginning of April.)  These ten became nine etc and only one of the original ten has had the courage to continue to reject the Whip, becoming an Independent Conservative .

We are not anti- conservative, or anti-labour or anti-liberal for that matter.  We just believe that local people should have an independent  voice in local issues.  In many ways we are Independents under a Heading to allow voters to identify with us and our aims.  We had hoped that the much publicized Localism Act would create more democracy at a local level but unfortunately this has not been the case. Nor will it – ever.

Next May thirteen RDC seats are up for election, one in each of Ashingdon and Canewdon, Barling and Sutton, Foulness and Great Wakering, Hawkwell North, Hawkwell South, Hawkwell West, Rochford, Hullbridge, Hockley Central, Grange, Lodge, Sweyne Park, Downhall and Rawreth (Rayleigh Wards).

Christine will be standing in Hawkwell West seeking re-election.

Would you like to join her and stand in one of the other wards?

Even if you do not wish to use our heading of Rochford District Residents and wish to stand as an ‘Independent’ we are more than willing to help and advise you on the complexities of seeking election and representing your area and your views.

It may seem a long way till May 2015 but we feel it is best to get to know your potential ward well in advance of an election which enables you to go to the electorate with a track record and a clear understanding of the commitment you may be making.

Contact John or Christine on john.mason@bigfoot.com

Alliance between The Rochford Independents and The Green Party

May 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Rochford District Residents and the Green Party have today formed an alliance on Rochford District Council.

GB_Rochford District Residents_254

Both Parties will remain entirely separate in Elections continuing to remain true to their own objectives.

The last three years have demonstrated that our two Groups can work well together when polices coincide but believe that formal co-operation will lead to a more effective and positive questioning of the Conservative Policies which will lead to an improvement in outcomes for residents. Examples of this can be found in our joint opposition to the abolition of FREE Saturday Afternoon Parking and support for the questions that residents of the District are regularly raising about the capacity of infrastructure to sustain the house building quotas in the Rochford Core Strategy.

he Group will be called ‘Green and Rochford District Residents’ which means that this Group is now the main opposition to the Conservative controlled Administration by being the largest opposition Group.

Both Rochford District Residents and the Green Party feel a more robust Opposition is called for in the interests of residents across the whole District.

The Group Leader in Council will be John Mason and the Deputy Group Leader will be Michael Hoy.

Hawkwell West Election Results 2014

May 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Hawkwell West

Ward Candidates Name Description Results Elected

Hawkwell West

Gill Gibson The Labour Party Candidate 109 No
John Reginald Frederick Mason Rochford District Residents 853 Yes
Michael John Webb The Conservative Party Candidate 301 No
Rejected Papers 4
Turnout 37.93%

Reflections on the Local Elections – with just 4 days to go!

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christine Mason – Independent District Councillor for Hawkwell West

OpenClips / Pixabay

Seeking election or re-election is probably the most daunting job interview that you can experience.  I certainly felt nervous and uncertain when attending work interviews.  It takes a certain courage, or insanity, to multiply this activity a hundred-fold and effectively have a panel of examiners that cover every house and road, every opinion and point of view and to explain your perspective.

John and I are fortunate in that the community we live in seems to appreciate the work we do and often acknowledge it.  They may not always agree with us but hey! – that’s democracy.

Sometimes I think we are mad to work so hard but in truth when we are able to resolve a problem or help someone in need it makes it all worthwhile.  In some ways it is similar to having a large extended family, something I would have loved.

The banter of electoral debate heats up as we get closer to Polling Day.

Unfortunately this year has seen some difficulty where inappropriate and inaccurate statements have been made by canvassers and John was so upset that he reluctantly had to make formal complaints.  This type of unnecessary unpleasantness is hard to stomach and impossible to counter.  One thing we will not do is retaliate by descending to that level to win at all costs.

We have just 4 days to Polling Day and the difference the Postal Voting has made to the election process is very noticeable.

Friends who are away have been able to vote despite their absence (for any person of their choice of course), the issue of the weather affecting turn out is less of an issue and the constant ‘busing’ of people by the large political groups to the Polling Station is less obvious.  Another surprise was yesterday when out shopping someone called out to John that he had already voted for him.  Not only did it cheer John up remarkably but it brought to mind that voting now is a more continual process due to this facility.  I am sure it makes for a lot of hard work for our electoral staff but I observed some of their work and was highly impressed at the meticulous efficiency.

Certainly I endorse any effort to encourage more people to vote.  I have always felt it regrettable that turnouts are relatively low when I reflect on the history of one man one vote and the sacrifice by both suffragettes and our soldiers to obtain and preserve our democracy.

So please vote on the 22nd May.  I would naturally prefer you to vote for John but the really important thing is that you make your vote count.

Rochford District Council Subsidises Gala Dinner

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The confusion over the Rochford District Council Annual Civic Dinner persists, but we seem to finally be getting a truer picture of the event.

According to latest information from The Chief Executive it would appear that;

  • 47 guests paid for their tickets at £40.00,
  • Also 16 guests, including three RDC Councillors, received ‘free’ tickets
  • And 11 ‘chauffeurs’ dinners were provided;
  • 7 at the reduced price of £10
  • the other 4 free for RDC Operational Staff.

(Not quite sure what the difference between the chauffeurs’ dinner is other than price.)

£90 is still owed by someone.

Confusion reigns because there does not seem to be any reconciliation between the number of tickets and the income and accounts are presented without the VAT element.

My maths calculate a gross income of £1950 and gross expenditure £3920. This of course excludes any staff costs as RDC do not appropriate such overheads to individual events.

This results in a loss of £1970 for the 47 paying guests, or alternatively a subsidy of about £42 per full priced ticket, meaning that the full cost should have been £82 instead of £40.

There are of course many other ways of looking at this.

But however you look at it the event makes a loss and is a drain on the public purse.

Multiply this across every Council in England and the potential cost could be substantial.

If RDC wish for a Civic Dinner perhaps they should ensure that it is cost neutral, or even better raises money for the Chairman’s Charity.

Certainly most organisations would not run a loss making event year on year and since the Recession in 2008 the cost to the community is over £16,000.

A little bird tells me that they might seek a Sponsor for next year’s do.

Perhaps we shall see a menu with builders’ soup, highway congestion of mixed vegetables and a large slice of humble pie.

Personally I think the answer is simple – raise the ticket price to cover all of the costs.

What do you think?

Email john.mason@bigfoot.com or Comment on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rochfordindependent

Free dinner guests below:

• Chairman, Councillor Mrs B Wilkins
• Mr Martin and Mrs Julie Butler (Citizen of the Year Winner and wife)
• The Rt. Hon Mark Francois MP (Guest Speaker)
• James Duddridge MP and Mrs Katy Duddridge (wife)
• Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex
• Mr and Mrs Julia and Charles Abel Smith (High Sheriff of Essex and husband)
• Mr Nick and Mrs Pippa Alston (Essex Police & Crime Commissioner)
• Rev. Alun Hurd (Chairman’s Chaplain)
• Mr Malcolm and Miss Rosanna Hiscock (South East Essex Symphony Orchestra – one of the Chairman’s Charities)
• Leader, Councillor T Cutmore (hosting a table)
• Councillor Mrs Mockford (hosting a table)

John Mason – Local Elections 2014 – Hawkwell West, Essex

April 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Why John Mason is asking you to Vote for him on 22 May 2014 at the Local Elections in Hawkwell West, Rochford District Council

Why You Should Vote For John Mason on 22 May

April 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

[evp_embed_video url=”http://rochfordessex.com/rol/images/Elections2014.mp4″ width=”500″ height=”400″]

Action Taken on Local Issues – Update

April 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

signingYour Independent District Councillors, John and Christine Mason  have been working on the problems and issues that you have given us feedback upon this week face to face, by phone, text, email and Facebook.

Here is an update on the position with FIVE of your big issues.

There are others, of course, in the feedback on Facebook that can only be facilitated at Essex County Council and your “Ward” County Councillor. In order these are not lost we will send the details to the TOP of ECC, namely the CEO, Joanna Killian.

OpenClips / Pixabay

1. Car Parking Charges up 25% and No Free Saturday Afternoons

Rochford District Council decided in January that it had to raise £180.000 a year for the foreseeable future to plug huge future gaps in the Council’s finances.This was supposed to start on 1st April. It was not an elaborate April Fool but the charges have not gone up!! Should we all keep quiet? Or could it be that the new charges won’t come in until after the Local Council Elections in May? Call me cynical if you like but what other explanation could there be?

Or has the Council listened to Iain McGeoch OBE, Chairman M&Co, “Your decision to introduce parking charges on Saturday afternoon in Rayleigh will be detrimental to the long term prosperity of the town’s shopping , and shows little understanding of retail dynamics in 2014……..”?

Update from the Echo

The Tory-run Council now says the charges have been put on hold until they can be debated further at a full council meeting in June – after May’s local elections.

A Council statement said: “The charges are under review to consider the objections received and are set to be discussed at full council in June.

 Part of those objections will be a 500-strong petition collected by Chris Stanley, Liberal democrat candidate for the Grange ward. Collected in Rayleigh High Street, Mr Stanley submitted the petition on the grounds of a possible increase in on-street parking and congestion.

The Liberal Democrats think “There’s a growing feeling that the District Council is going to do a U-turn and keep free car parking on Saturday afternoons. Either the leadership will gracefully back down on this, or there will be another vote.”

John Mason, Independent, Rochford District Residents, does not hold out such optimism “if the £154,000 owed by ECC to RDC on verge cutting is paid that could easily restore Saturday Afternoon Free Parking. That could have been reversed on 15 April if the Council Administration had wanted to do that. But the delay till June does not suggest an about turn given the benefit that a reversal might have had on some candidates electoral chances !!”

OpenClips / Pixabay

2. Speeding in Rectory Road, Hawkwell – 30 MPH Limit !!

In response to our posting last week about the lamp columns and road safety in Rectory Road Hawkwell more residents have complained to us about the alleged speeding of the heavy construction vehicles visiting the Barratts, Clements Gate site through Rectory Road and Clements Hall Way.

Whilst we have drawn this to the attention of Barratts/David Wilson Homes and they will have raised this with the haulage contractor it was great surprise when the Barratts/David Wilson Homes spokesperson asked us to report this to Essex Police as they also have concerns. “DWH have a concern about the general traffic using Rectory Road that do not stick to the speed limit, putting our workforce and local residents at risk.”

John Mason has written to Chief Inspector Ian Cummings, the Commander for Rochford District, to ask for action to be taken on all speeding and inconsiderate driving in Rectory Road, Hawkwell.

 Update 

 John Mason, Independent, Rochford District Residents, thinks that “we need the speed flashing boards to help deal with this problem.”

But Essex Police say ” I understand that the flashing boards now sit redundant in an office at ECC due to no funding so am not sure if you are able to do anything in that respect for us.”

John Mason has asked  County Councillor Cutmore  to take steps to unlock this kit.

Update from Essex Police

Nothing definite but “The Essex Police motorcycle team may be available to carry out some work at the location”, “the newly formed Community Speed Watch (CSW) group for another part of Hawkwell might be able to assist”, “Officers need a laser speed gun otherwise we can’t prosecute and currently there is only one which is being used for a long term operation elsewhere.”

We have also drawn to the attention of Essex Police to speeding in Main Road near the “lower” Zebra Crossing ” where some drivers also show a lack of awareness of pedestrians.

 

 street lights3. Street Light Blackout

We saw the Article in the Echo this week where Essex Police advise that Crime has not increased during the “Blackout”.

Whilst we have seen articles in the Echo from Basildon, Wickford showing that residents are not happy about the “Blackout” explaining their reasons we had seen nothing from Residents of Rochford District.

We thought that we would put this right using our Facebook, Streetlife, Twitter, Feedblitz and Web Site Subscribers by running a survey of opinion as fairly as possible.  Incidentally we get to 1000 people daily by our “Channels” and probably many more on a casual basis.

We asked;

Are you FOR, AGAINST or NEUTRAL? Please comment below and let us know how you feel about this 3 months on. Essex County Council (a Conservative controlled Council) decided to cut night street lighting to save just £59,000 a year in Rochford District. Compare this to the £300,000 a year increase that RDC has just imposed on residents through freeze busting Council Tax rises (£120,000) and Parking Charges (£180,000).

The Results; 

Straw Poll from all channels (not just FB!!)

FOR 5

AGAINST 24

NEUTRAL 5

My Summary

Residents of Rochford are not generally fearful of the increase in crime, although some mention that, but the general issues of safety out and about on foot and by car/bike and the issue of FEELING SAFE. This is a big issue as well as the risks run from potholes and footway surfaces that become dangerous in complete “Blackout”.  It is not right that there should be a CURFEW imposed because people do not FEEL SAFE to go out or are stopped from going out because of the REAL SAFETY ISSUES.

The £59,000 could easily be found by Rochford District Council if the £154,000 owed by ECC to RDC on verge cutting is paid.

Above all residents do not see £59,000 saved as value for money given their concerns. Most would like ECC to pay for the lighting out of the money that they owe RDC for verge cutting.

In real terms this is much more than £154,000 as the RDC have been underpaid for many years by ECC and this is money effectively owed to us all!

echo hawkwell 3009134. Clements Gate – David Wilson Homes/Barratts

There is still no definite basis for the unmade end of Thorpe Road to be repaired although some work seems to have done by a sub contractor according to residents.

A resident of the unmade part of Thorpe Road has written on behalf of himself and other residents to County Councillor Cutmore to have the  the unmade end closed for access of residents and pedestrians only.  Your Independent District Councillors understand the residents’ concerns and support this.

A suitable tree replacement on the estate has proven problematical and Officers at RDC have been asked to make sure matters are put right for the residents in Thorpe Close who have put their complaint to us.

 

5. People still have worries about local flooding

Have you a new large estate housing development being built near you? Has the land been cleared of all trees and shrubs down to the top soil?

Hans / Pixabay

If so are you concerned that the surface water might now run off faster and in greater volume possibly flooding you and the surrounding area?

Why have local Independent Councillors John and Christine Mason called an important meeting in Hawkwell DIRECT with the Environment Agency? Because residents have raised continued concerns about the possibility of local flooding following the 24 August event and Council Officers have not answered questions from the Councillors.

By Law every new estate development has to have a sophisticated surface water drainage system to protect the NEW residents AND those living nearby BUT will it be only be fully operational when the development is completed ?????????????

How long will that take?

Everybody now knows that clearing the land causes less water to be retained on the building site and more to run off…………so unless the SUDS drainage system is in place to take the water away and control the output into ditches and larger water courses we ask the question ” where does it go and does it go?”

There seems to be a gap between agreeing what will protect residents in giving planning permission with an FRA (Flood Risk Assessment) and when the protection will be delivered.

In the time gap, which might be several years before the flood prevention system is in place, what protects everyone?

This seems to be another National Planning GAFF !! What do you think?

Think about how this would look on the front page of the Daily Mail.

Another failure of National planning procedures to protect people from flooding?

A definite question for you to ask your MP and the Lib Lab Con UKIP Candidates plying for your vote on 22 May what they are going to do about it !! (Independents are already on the case !)

Please SHARE this post so that more questions can be asked by more people across the UK and please…………… LIKE our Page if you have not already done so at www.facebook.com/rochfordindependent

Essex County Council – Non Payment for Grass Cutting

April 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

ecc“As you are no doubt aware, this Authority manages the contract for the cutting of highway verges on behalf of Essex County Council, but for 2012/13 we received a subsidy equivalent to only 18% of the cost. Our total expenditure for this year was £187,000 set against a contribution of only £33,300.”

This is all at a time when the BBC reported this week that “The biggest increase in Council Taxes will occur in the South East outside London, where average council tax is set to go up by 0.8%,” but the increase at Rochford District Council was nearly 5%. This is made up of 1.89% Council Tax plus Car Parking Charges of the equivalent of 3% Council tax making 4.89% overall.

With an extra £154,000 a year Rochford District Council would not have had to increase Council Tax by a Government Freeze Busting 1.89% or increase Car Parking Charges by 25% including charging for Saturday Afternoons.

This letter from one Tory Councillor to another was only sent after I protested against this situation by making two speeches in Full Council.

But will anything happen? Have the Tories at RDC enough backbone to get this payment from ECC?

Letter Sent on 21 March from RDC to ECC attached

ECC Grass Verge Cutting Non Payment

Extract

“As you are no doubt aware, this Authority manages the contract for the cutting of highway verges on behalf of Essex County Council, but for 2012/13 we received a subsidy equivalent to only 18% of the cost. Our total expenditure for this year was £187,000 set against a contribution of only £33,300.

In these times of austerity, I am facing increasing pressure from my local Members and an increasing number of residents as to why this Council is subsidising what is clearly a County Council function. Whilst we have been able to reduce our costs to some degree for the next financial year, there is still a significant gap between what our residents see as a basic service and what the County are currently funding.”

Residents of Thorpe Road Have Had Enough !!

April 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

shmaResidents of the “Unmade End” of Thorpe Road. Hawkwell have suffered so much damage to the road surface that they have issued an Open Letter of Complaint to David Wilson Homes/Barratts at their Clements Gate (Christmas Tree Farm) Site.

We hope that Barratts will now listen to the these residents and put things right immediately.

Street Light Re-location in Rectory Road

Rochford District Council has also issued the following by email.

“Dear Councillor
It was apparent that the lamp columns along Rectory Road, which were required to be repositioned off of the footpath, had been installed by the power utilities company in the wrong place. They have been instructed accordingly and will put right their error.”

“FYI…there is an officer meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss the ‘correct’ position of the relocated lamp columns.”

Damage to the Verges in Rectory Road and Thorpe Road

Because of the above problem there will be a delay in seeing this damage put right as well !!

 Open Letter of Complaint from Residents to David Wilson Homes/Barratts at their Clements Gate (Christmas Tree Farm) Site.
Dear Sir

I write with regard to the unmade end of Thorpe Road opposite the four bungalows numbers 82,84,86, and 88 and along the side and front of the bungalow on the corner of Rectory Road number 400. The road has been dug up some four times now and left in the most appalling state by YOUR contractors and despite several complaints to your communications people nothing is being done to correct the damage, we are therefore asking you directly for the following:

The grass verge opposite the four bungalows has been dug up and just left as mud, as has the verge along the side of number 400 Rectory Road. We ask that the grass verge is reinstated.

The entrance to Thorpe Road either side is churned up with deep tyre tracks by YOUR contractors lorries and diggers and has been left in that state. We ask that the entrance to the road is cleaned up.

The unmade road fronting onto numbers 82,84,86 and 88 Thorpe Road was repaired last summer by the residents with hardcore provided by yourselves. This was extremely hard work and we do not see why we should have to do it all over again when the damage has been done by YOUR contractors lorries and heavy plant. Contributing to this is the number of lorries, big ones, that ignore the ‘No Access’ signs at the entrance to the road every single day. We have asked for a yellow ‘Construction Traffic’ sign with an arrow pointing up Rectory Road as this might help, but this has been refused!! We ask that potholes are repaired and the road reinstated to how it was last summer.

The grass verge and the driveway across the outside of number 400 Rectory Road has been left in a mess by YOUR contractors and despite several complaints nothing has been done to tidy it up. We ask that this work is done.

A line of Lavatera bushes along the right hand side of the entrance to the road, planted by residents, has been trashed and left. These need tidying up or replanting.

Every time we complain we get the answer ‘nothing to do with us’. These are YOUR contractors and YOU are responsible. WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR MONEY, WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR COMPENSATION, WE ARE SIMPLY ASKING THAT THE AREA IS PUT BACK THE WAY IT WAS BEFORE YOU DUG IT ALL UP.

I have copied in our local Councillors Christine and John Mason and give them permission to publish this email on their website and to forward it on to anyone they think might be able to assist us. If nothing is done our next step is to go directly to Mr David Eardley who I am told is the Managing Director of Barratt Homes.

I look forward to hearing from someone in authority or perhaps it might be a good idea to send someone along to actually look at the mess!

Yours sincerely

Carol Dutton

84 Thorpe Road
Hawkwell

UPDATE FROM DWH/Barratts

In respect to the grass verge, this is the responsibility of one of our statutory service providers, Power On Connections. These works are still to be finished in this area and they are due to return and conclude works on the 17th and 18th April. They have a contractual obligation to reinstate the area of their works to its original state and this usually occurs within a month of work being completed.

In regards to the disturbances on the unmade section of Thorpe Road, I believe Nikki has explained that we are unable to repair these ourselves as not all of the residents want it repaired, out of a wish to deter non-residents from using the road as a thoroughfare. Therefore, we are happy to provide material for individuals to carry out the works on their own initiative. We can get you this material fairly quickly but believe it is best to wait until Power On Connections have finished their works.

Local News from Hawkwell, Hockley and Rochford District

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

front pageIf you live in Hawkwell, Hockley and Rochford then please “Like” and “Share” Our Page on Facebook or “Bookmark” to get regular local news.  The Rochford Independent was first published in 2006 and is a trusted source of local news being run by John and Christine Mason who are also Independent Members of the District Council.  
If you give our FB Page a “Like” we promise you that there will be no advertising feature articles or adverts just relevant local news and updates.
So please do give this “free offer” a go !

Do Council Budget Awaydays Benefit Residents?

March 11, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

head_in_the_sandThe Council Members’ “Budget Away Days” held in November and January, which cost the best part of nearly £2,000 (and over the last 3 years £5000), reversed The Conservative Cabinet recommendations to Full Council NOT to increase Parking Charges.

This is all at a time when the BBC reported this week that “The biggest increase in Council Taxes will occur in the South East outside London, where average council tax is set to go up by 0.8%,” but the increase at Rochford District Council was nearly 5%.  This is made up of 1.89% Council Tax plus Car Parking Charges of the equivalent of 3% Council tax making 4.89% overall.

With the “Tory Whip” being applied one wonders why it was necessary to have any of the Away Days at all because the decision to charge for Saturday Afternoons and increase Parking Charges by 25% must have already been taken in private group meetings.  There certainly was no discussion or “exchange of ideas or views” at the Away Day about the recommendations of Review Committee not to increase any Parking Charges or any explanation as to why the Cabinet had changed its mind.  Even at Full Council on 25 February this question was ignored despite having been put twice by Councillor John Mason to the Leader of the Council.  Not one Member of the Conservative Administration appeared to be able or willing to explain the about face.

Despite what Councillor Cutmore said on 25 February about Budget Away Days being “inclusive of All Members” this was a sham consultation because there was clearly nothing anyone, even rebel Conservatives, could do to change this decision so the almost £2,000 cost of the Way Days was an unacceptable waste of public money.

Here is what the Official Freedom of Information Request of the Council reported.

Thank you for your request for information which has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

 “With regard to financial away days, we hold two of these per financial year.”

 “The costs for the last 3 years were 2011/12 = £1,869.55    2012/13 = £1,332.67   2013/14 = £1,794.00”

“The Away days are not Financial Committee meetings.  All Members and the Senior Management Team of the Council are invited to the Away day in order to have the opportunity to consider the priorities and budgetary pressures for the forthcoming financial year in an informal environment which encourages the exchange of ideas.  It would be difficult to achieve this free exchange of views in a formal committee or Council setting.  With around 40-45 attendees, the Council Chamber is not a suitable venue.”

Our experience is that it is not an occasion for exchange of views with non Conservative Members but a rehearsal to show ALL Councillors of how futile it will be to challenge the Tory Whip at Full Council.  Indeed the second Away Day was presented to Members not as an exchange of views but draft, fait accompli, Resolutions which would be put to Full Council on 28 January, some with fatal results to business in our District.

Whilst we were unsuccessful in generating any “exchange of views” on Car Parking Charges we did on Planning Fees , where  although it was stated forcefully “that this has already been decided”, your Independent Members did vigorously challenge the imposition of new Planning Pre-Application Charges to ordinary residents.  Furthermore the way forward with a Review of Public Toilets was simply incorrect and again the Independent Members had this changed.   That said, all these things could have been changed at Full Council, without the additional cost of Away Days.

As Independent Members we joined with a number of Tories at the Away Day to affirm that the Flood Forum needed no NEW Budget as a previous unspent budget could be utilised without subsidising landowners and other responsible authorities.

However our view remains that the expense of these meetings is unjustified.  The Conservative Whip effectively means a block vote for the Council Leader to impose his will.  It is a sad fact that even those Conservatives who disagree with the decisions made by their party are not allowed to express their view by voting in residents’ interests.  Abstaining is NOT enough.

All discussion and debate decision making should be done in the Council Chamber with residents interests at the heart of it and not in closed political meetings with party interests paramount.  There is no need for a Whip if proposals are truly in line with the wishes of residents and ALL Councillors are allowed to represent residents rather than tow the political line with the Whip as dictated by a single Leader. 

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