Housing Allocations – Who does What?

June 21, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Urban SprawlThe Liberal Democrats have published an article called A “Presidential-style” Council but The Rochford Independent would like to share with all residents just how this new BASIS for Rochford District Council will directly affect one of the big decisions that are made in the next few months.  We don’t think that the public appreciates that the new cabinet members are in a very powerful position.  So how will this impact on the allocation of 3700 new houses across the District?  This is how it works…………and if you wish to get your views known before the policy is made then write to Councillor Hudson now rather than later.  We feel that although there is a public consultation period it will be so much harder to get big changes once it has been published so do it now ……..

The Planning Policy Sub Committee at RDC comprises:

Keith Hudson (Hockley)
Carole Weston (Hockley)
John Pullen (Rayleigh)
Chris Black (Rayleigh)
Trevor Goodwin (Great Wakering)
Keith Gordon (Rochford)

“The Planning Policy sub committee has had a day when we travelled together around the district looking at various proffered sites.”

Responsibilities under the new Leader and Cabinet system
The Council has set up a Planning Policy Sub Committee. Councillor Hudson is the portfolio holder for Planning & Transportation and, as such, is responsible to the Executive for coming forward with proposals prior to the Executive making recommendations on policy to the Council through the sub-committee.

A portfolio holder can consult whomsoever he wishes in connection with matters falling within his portfolio, even setting up his own sub-committee if he so wishes. If the Council’s sub-committee meets before the portfolio holder has formed a view, there will be very little to discuss as the Executive’s recommendations will not be known. Under the old regime, officers prepared the reports that now fall to the portfolio holder and they presented their own recommendations. The new system is intended to ensure members lead, take responsibility and make the decisions albeit with proper professional advice and input. In the present circumstance, the portfolio holder will be obliged to take advice, have discussions and make site visits before arriving at a considered opinion. None of this breaches the rules of confidentiality and officers will still provide professional advice to the Council on final proposals.
Meetings the portfolio holder has do not fall within the Access to Information Procedure Rules applicable to Council meetings unless the portfolio holder intends to take a key decision. These meetings may be describe as “private” but this should not be confused with “secret”.
With regard to the current development of the LDF, Officers have full knowledge of portfolio holder meetings and will usually be present although not necessarily so.


It’s Half Time on The NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council

October 25, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

We looked at the NEW Political Structure at Rochford District Council about six months ago.

Here is the evidence that it does not work

At the Cabinet Meetings no one else can speak, not even the Ordinary Councillors that you elected to represent YOU, and you can’t even hear what was agreed. Grange Community Centre : Liberal Democrats : Uh Oh, Looks Like Chris Misunderstood.

Heaven forbid if the nine super councillors in the Cabinet get executive powers over budget and personal decision making in 2009 !!

The gang of 5 Liberal Democrats have now been reduced to having to table written questions in order that Ward Councillors are consulted. Liberal Democrats: Our Questions To Council.

And there will only be “potted” answers from Cabinet Members – but no debate of course.

But Grange Community Centre Liberal Democrats Call In DEcision made at the Cabinet last week.

Proposals for new housing, which were only consulted upon in May and June 2007, are subjected to material change in Conservative Party Meetings held in Private and then announced to the public by a letter to the Echo.  No explanations for the changes, except to respond to political pressure from the Lib Dems in Rayleigh, and when the public come to the new Community Forums, they are denied answers and discussion.

Verdict from the Public

Residents in Hawkwell, who got no answers at the RDC Area Committee, call their own public meeting to find out about the proposals about 365 new houses proposed for their area. They decide to form an Action Group to fight the Conservative Council.

Residents in Hullbridge who wanted the same answers at the next RDC Area Committee decide to walk out in disgust having told the Chairman that no one will turn up next time !!

The Council’s Review Committee, who are reporting on the NEW Political Structure, need to talk to the public not other Tory Councillors who have done nothing to date to stop this farce.



Conservative Party Group – RDC

June 16, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Is the Conservative Group on Rochford District Council already seriously split and are some Tory Members on the verge of not only resigning the party whip but leaving the Conservative Party Group?

Here is an anonymous comment made on the Lib Dems web site:

anonone Says: June 15th, 2007 

Has the council changed forever? There are quite a lot of Tori councillors here in Rayleigh that are very unhappy with this situation and are trying to band a group to bring back the old council as we used to know it. And im not talking any of the portfolio holders whoos slip of the ______ Its time this council was reverted back to it previous state were councillors felt they were taking part not left like ZOMMBIES.

I have had recent conversations with three NON Rayleigh Tory Councillors who have also talked about leaving the Conservative Group because of issues relating to the NEW Political Structure.

They will have to leave the Party because I asked Paul Warren, the CEO of RDC, at a Member Training Session if he could forsee any opportunity to return to the Committee system. He gave me the shortest answer I have ever received from him…… unconditional NO !!

How will the new Tory Member for Hockley North get on?  I hope that he knows that he will be assigned one or two Tory Members to act as Monitors to ensure that he tows the party line. How do I know this?  Because I had a conversation recently with a Conservative County Councillor who happily advised me that this was how the Conservative Party Group worked.  So the electors of Hockley North elected a Party not a Member who will be told what to do and say ather than represent the residents how they wish !!


New RDC Area Committees

May 26, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The new Area Committees were the only promising part of the New Political Structure put in place by the Conservative Party Group on Rochford District Council.  But that promise has been dispelled even before they have met.

They were promising because they meet almost locally and would allow residents to speak.

The Area Committees were approved before the way that they would work with public speaking had been worked out.

I have now been informed verbally by Councillor Stansby, Central Area Chair, that residents who wish to speak will have to fill in a form beforehand !!

This was worked out by the three Area Committee Chairs without consultation with other Members.

Where do you get a Form from?  Make a visit to Rayleigh or Rochford?  Might as well write a letter to the Council instead !!! No need to wait 6 weeks between meetings.

An Officer did confide to me that one option they had put forward was that residents could just come along and speak but then the Chair of the Area Committee would have to be on the ball.  Clearly the Executive Councillors that are paid more are not up to the job and need to know what residents are going to raise beforehand.  And no doubt get Officers to do the work of research and work out the excuses for them.

Meetings For Central Area – Hockley, Hawkwell and Hullbridge 

12 June 2007      Greensward College, Hockley
24 July 2007    Hullbridge Community Centre
20 September 2007       Hawkwell Village Hall
24 October 2007 Hullbridge Community Centre
4 December 2007 Greensward College, Hockley
22 January 2008 Hullbridge Community Centre
6 March 2008    Hawkwell Village Hall

All meetings are scheduled to start at 7.30pm

Other attendees are Parish Council representatives, Police representatives and Essex County Council representatives.

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.

RDC New Political Structure – Some councillors who want to be busy are left with nothing!

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

(NOT ME, I AM VERY BUSY !! – John)

This was an interesting statement left anonymously the Liberal Democrats Web Site. (Could it have been a disgruntled Tory?)

Initially it provoked me, an “independent” Member of RDC to feel the same but an enquiry of John Honey, Corporate Director of Internal Services at the Council reminded me that ALL Councillors can attend ALL public meetings and speak.  But you can only vote on those Committees to which you have been appointed by Council.

Independents don’t get to be on many.

Not because they are not interested but because the Controlling Political Party does not allow them to be.  And no Chairs or Leadership positions.  And not because an Independent is not qualified, experienced and not because they do not have all the relevant business skills. (I do !!, CV available on request.)  What a waste to the Community.  If the Political Parties thought more of the best person for the job then the Council would be better for all of us.  But that is politics !!

Having been made redundant, I can now attend meetings during the day and even being a non driver I can claim travel and child care expenses.  I was not aware of that until a day or so ago when John Honey confirmed that I could.  It may not have been what the political parties intended but the rules allow me to claim my taxi fares when the No 8 bus stops running in the evening after 7.00pm.

So I will be attending as many Council Meetings whether I can vote or not but have a say on behalf of RESIDENTS !!

Watch this site and I will tell you what really goes on and is not in the Minutes !!

John Mason 







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?

Rochford District Council is Weak – Audit Commission

May 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The Audit Commission assesses the performance of councils and the services that they provide for local people.

The way that Rochford District Council is run and the delivery of services has been assessed as weak (on the scale excellent / good / fair / weak / poor).

Quote: Its priorities are not based on a clear understanding of the needs of local people.
Rochford District Residents still does not believe that this is being dealt with.

Did the needs of local people include as priorities the early introduction of a new political structure or the increase in members allowances?

Rochford District Residents will maintain this as a page which is always at the top of our site to remind the Council that it is weak and why that it so.

Here are some matters that Rochford District Residents are going to try to get treated as priorities;

1.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Taxi Licencing Regulations in Rochford are out of date – this is a major responsibility which has been neglected.

2.  “understanding of the needs of local people” – Greater use of consultation by the Residents Panel – including a review of new political structure and feedback on members allowances and value for money.
3.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Saving the Planet – What is Carbon Profile of the Council and how it will be actively managed to lead the District in the fight against global warming and climate change?

4. “understanding of the needs of local people” Members to significantly reduce use of paper and use electronic copies at home and in Council.

5.  “understanding of the needs of local people”  Cost Cutting Programme. Is there one? How is it deployed? Targets? Performance. More of it because the Council is strapped for cash !!

6.  “understanding of the needs of local people” Complaints – Council is only concerned about the formal letters but the Council must log all complaints received over the telephone or from callers at the Offices – Definition to be as FSA – Any expression of dissatisfaction fully logged and with action plan for service improvement.

We will let you know what happens !!