onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003

 

Archive for Council Budget

Help From The Council- And Some More Money Is Still Available For Voluntary Organisations…..

From the Echo:

GRATEFUL volunteers say their free advice service has been saved from closure after it was handed vital funding by their council.Rochford and Rayleigh Citizens Advice Bureau was given £67,000 by Rochford District Council. The council is giving more than £100,000 to voluntary groups across south Essex.
—-
The CAB helps more than 3,000 people a year. Sue Murray, chief executive of Rochford and Rayleigh CAB, said: “This money will enable us to provide a service. Without that funding and the support of the council, and they really do support us, we wouldn’t be able to provide any advice.”
——
Rayleigh, Rochford and District Association for Voluntary Service has been awarded £15,000. June Lumley, its chairman, said: “This grant will allow us to continue to support the hundreds of local volunteers and organisations which make such a difference on a daily basis.”—–
——–
The funding will help support nine projects in the Rochford district, including buying equipment for disability sports sessions run from Stambridge Memorial Hall.
Rayleigh Age Concern will get some help towards buying a new boiler, while Fairview pre-school, in Rayleigh, will be given cash for a storage shed.
Local Scout and Cub groups will be able to improve their Scout Huts, refurbish toilets, buy a new trailer and waterproof their tents, and Rankins Cricket Club will be buying a new sightscreen.
——-
More than £7,000 was left unallocated and the council is inviting applications for the remaining funding.
Jo McPherson, Rochford District Council’s councillor responsible for the community, said: “These organisations truly make a difference to the lives of residents.”
If you are a voluntary organisation and would like to apply for funding, contact Andrew Lowing, on 01702 318061 …

Full Council Next Tuesday Night

The are two District Council meetings open to the public next week. Both start at 7:30 pm at the Civic Suite (opposite Rayleigh Church). Tuesday night has Full Council, Thursday night has Development Committee.

Some of the items at Full Council are:

2 formal questions from Chris Black to Cllr Ian Ward:

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Revised Budget Estimates for the current financial year:

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Adoption of the “Development Management Plan”:
This is basically a new version of the council’s “Bible” of planning policies. Not the zoning of land for development, but all the other policies. Things like the design of new developments, housing density, infilling of gardens, phone masts, what is allowed in the Green Belt, green tourism, playing pitches and other leisure and recreational uses…. You can download the 50 page document from this page.

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Adoption of the “London Southend Airport and Environs Joint Area Action Plan” :
This is another weighty document, which you also can download from this page.

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And finally, an important item about restructuring the staff organisation at the District Council:

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In Case Of Fire Or Flood…

The District Council Executive – the “Cabinet” meets next Wednesday. One of the items they are discussing is removing the council tax discounts that homeowners get for having unoccupied or uninhabitable properties.

At the moment you pay no council tax for the first month you have a property unoccupied and unfurnished. This free month is going to be abolished.

You also get a 50 percent discount for the first year you have a property that isnt occupied because it needs , or is undergoing, major repairs or structural works. This discount is also going to be abolished.

The reasons? Partly to get extra income – about £46000 per year for the district and more for the County. But also to discourage homes from being empty and help them be available for people to live in.

What we want to highlight here is that if your home is uninhabitable due to a crisis that wasn’t your fault – flooding being the most likely cause- you can apply to the council to be considered for a special exemption. This was agreed by the council earlier this year.

District Council’s Budget Survey

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The District Council are carrying out a online survey on what local people think should be priorities in the council budget.

You can complete it here

It will be interesting to see if anyone mentions the various themes that we have mentioned on onlineFOCUS recently – flooding, the council cabinet, air quality, planning enforcmnt, street lighting…..

Money , Money , Money

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You can download the District Council’s latest Financial Management Report here.

Here’s an extract:


3 OVERALL FINANCIAL POSITION
3.1 The results to the end of June 2014 indicate that for the General Fund, the year-end position is forecast to meet the original estimate of £10.39m.

3.2 The main factors that are reducing the overall net expenditure are:-
Land Charge income is forecast to be £20,000 above original budget.
Income from pre application planning advice is expected to exceed original budget by about £6,000

3.3 The main factors that are increasing the overall net expenditure are:-
Income from car park pay and display machines is forecast to be about £80,000 below original budget. The original budget included charging for Saturday afternoons, and for the tariff increase to be from April 2014.
Income generated from the newly installed Columbarium is forecast to be around £17,000 below original budget, due to lack of demand.

4 ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION
4.1 The Council’s Allocation Plan is subject to a judicial review. Proceedings are drawing to a conclusion. Costs will be incurred on legal fees and a decision that is unfavourable to the Council could incur additional costs depending on any requirements included in the Court’s decision. The estimated cost will be in the region of £40,000 – £75,000. This will be met from earmarked reserves.
4.2 Following the flooding that happened at the Council’s depot last year, costs for providing temporary accommodation for officers is estimated to be £54,000. This will be covered in the majority by insurance compensation of £49,000. The net cost of £5,000 has been incurred as temporary accommodation was provided longer than needed whilst options for renovating the depot offices are considered.

Free Saturday Afternoon Car Parking Is Lost

Market Car Park 2 78009. crop

The vote to keep free car parking on Saturday afternoons was lost tonight 19-14. :( The Echo has a good blow-by-blow account of tonight’s meeting here.

In favour of keeping free car parking on Saturday afternoons:

Pat Aves (Tory) Chris Black (Lib Dem) Robin Dray (Tory) John Griffin (Tory) Angela Hale (Tory) Diane Hoy (Green) Michael Hoy (Green) Chris Lumley (Lib Dem) Christine Mason (Rochford Resident Party) John Mason (Rochford Resident Party) Toby Mountain (Independent Conservative) Cheryl Roe (Tory) Dave Sperring (Tory) Ian Ward (Tory)

Against keeping free car parking on Saturday afternoons:

Lesley Butcher, Phil Capon, Mike Carter, James Cottis, Terry Cutmore, Heather Glynn, Trevor Goodwin, Keith Gordon, Jim Grey, Brian Hazlewood, Keith Hudson, Gillian Lucas-Gill, David Merrick, Joan Mockford, Colin Seagers, Simon Smith, Mike Steptoe, Carole Weston, Barbara Wilkins. (All Tories)

There were no abstentions, though some councillors were absent.

Here’s a few quotes from councillors during the debate:

Toby Mountain, moving the motion to keep free Saturday afternoon parking:
80% of the council are Conservatives – we should be make decisions in an open and transparent way, based on proper information…. we should review this rush decision”

Dave Sperring seconded the motion. He pointed out that the reason why Websters Way Car park was busy on a Saturday morning wasn’t because of shoppers, but because of football being played on King Georges Field.

Ian Ward had been doing some research with Rayleigh shopkeepers to see how much they depended on Saturday afternoons:
“We have failed to think long enough and hard enough about this”

Cheryl Roe:
“This is suicidal for all of our towns”

Chris Black:
“However hard our local businesses try, however innovative “Shop At Mt Local Is”, however good the Italian Food Market will be, it won’t counteract the loss of business from getting free of free SAturday afternoon parking”

John Mason pointed once again that the £65,000 extra income that is supposed to come from this is the amount of money that the County Council DOESN’T pay us for cutting grass verges – we should be looking to the County for money.

Michael Hoy pointed out once again that the £65,000 could be covered by getting rid of the £75,000 “Innovations Fund” which seemed to be a slush fund for emergencies. He said this was:
“Madness”

Chris Lumley spoke without notes but very effectively. He is the chair of the Review Committee, which met 5 times this year to examine car parking charges, looking back at data since 2008. Officers had advised that that the £65,000 for Saturday afternoons was only a guesstimate, as we had had free parking then for 10 years. But looking at car park income in recent years, allowing for inflation, increasing the charges didn’t really produce much more income, people just stayed a shorter time. He added that :
“This will have a devastating effect”

The only person to speak against free Saturday afternoon car parking was the Tory Leader Terry Cutmore. He said:
“We have a thriving night-life”

None of the other 18 councillors who voted for this were willing to speak. Not even Hockley Tory councillor Brian Hazlewood, who had originally signed the motion to bring this back to council, but later changed his mind and voted instead with Cllr Cutmore.

Why The District Council Voted To Increase Council tax by 1.89 %

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It’s estimated that in 5 years time the District Council will get £687,000 a year less in government grant than we get now.

So its not surprising that District Councillors voted last night to increase the District Council part of the council tax by 1.89 %. That’s equivalent to 7 1/2 pence per week for a band D property. We don’t have a figure yet for the overall council tax – the biggest part is set by the County Council, but there’s also parish councils, the Fire Service and Essex Police.

In a recorded vote, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Rochford Residents Party voted in favour, and the Greens voted against. Green group leader Michael Hoy said this was because they couldn’t support earlier decisions made on the council budget.

Its worth writing here about the three main types of government grant and how they are changing.

The first is the traditional “Revenue Support Grant” from Central Government. Basically Whitehall has a complicated formula to work out how much grant each council gets. Very urban, with lots of inner-city problems? You get more grant. Very rural, so your dustcarts have to drive half a mile between each home? You get more grant. Have lots of commuters coming to work in your area and dropping litter in their lunch-hours You get more grant! Trouble is, Rochford District isn’t inner city and not rural enough either, and its residents commute to other places, so our grant has always been low. And now Revenue Support Grant is being greatly reduced. This year we get £2,282,000, but it’s estimated that in five years time we will get about 2 million pounds less.

On the plus side the government is letting councils keep some business rates. The calculations are very complicated, but it looks likely that this year we can keep £1,544,000 of business rates and that in five years time we will be allowed to keep about £600,000 more.

The third part of the picture is the “New Homes Bonus”.
Some people might think it is a positive incentive to provide new homes for people , others might think it is more like financial coercion, but anyway, the following explanation of the “New Homes Bonus” was included in a report to the council meeting on Jan 28th:

This Government incentive to encourage more homes was introduced in 2011/12. It is based on the increase in new houses and bringing empty homes back into use and the grant matches Council Tax for 6 years, with 80% being received by the district council, as the planning authority, and 20% going to the county. The growth in housing is measured from a statistical return which reports the Council Tax base as at September each year and the NHB is based on an average Council Tax rate.
There is also an additional reward of £350 for each new affordable home and Council provided Travellers’ pitch, which is measured in April each year, again split 80:20 to districts and county.

On the predicted housing figures for the years ahead, it’s estimated that we will get £440,000 this year from the New Homes Bonus and about £800,000 more in five years time. So like or hate it, the New Homes Bonus is going to be important for council finances. And in fact at last night’s meeting Tory leader Terry Cutmore said “:

“We will need to ensure that we achieve growth targets in new housing to make up for this loss”

However Chris Black replied on this point , saying that he would judge future planning applications on their planning merits, and that he hoped all councillors would continue to do so!

Now There Really Is a Chance To Keep Free Saturday Afternoon Parking

Straight after last week’s council meeting we wrote:

Still A Chance ?

The vote tonight to increase car parking charges AND end free parking on Saturday afternoons was quite close.
It might just be possible to persuade some councillors to switch sides and replace what was passed tonight by a compromise motion, that still increased the charges but kept free Saturday afternoons.

 

So we said a compromise motion might work, and now 9 Tory councillors have followed our lead and signed a motion to bring this back to Full Council!, So there will be another vote on free Saturday afternoon car parking at next Full Council. If their motion is supported by the 7 opposition councillors who voted against last time, that makes a total of 16 out of 39. It could be a very close vote, and a very interesting night…

This is their motion (click on it to enlarge)

motion to rescind

When the same councillors abstained last week, the public reaction was pretty contemptuous. Bringing a motion to council is a very different matter, and should attract more respect. We’ve received a couple of comments tonight regarding the abstentions that we haven’t published yet, and we’ll hold them back in light of this different situation.

Things remain uncertain:
– will the bigwigs in the Tory party concede that they have got this wrong, and agree to this compromise? They’d be wise to do so.
– or will any of the 9 Tories be persuaded by their party whip to back off? They’d look really foolish, though.
– how will the voting go on the night? If the Tory leadership don’t concede, they might still have the numbers to win the vote.

Still A Chance ?

The vote tonight to increase car parking charges AND end free parking on Saturday afternoons was quite close.
It might just be possible to persuade some councillors to switch sides and replace what was passed tonight by a compromise motion, that still increased the charges but kept free Saturday afternoons.

The key paragraph in the council constitution is this one:

16.1 Motion to Rescind a Previous Decision
A Motion or amendment to rescind a decision made at a meeting of Council within the past six months cannot be moved unless the Notice of Motion is signed by at least 8 Members.

Read It And Weep…. Car Parking Increases Go Through , But Only 14 Councillors Vote For It

Market Car Park 2 78009. crop

The increase in car park charges went through tonight. And the free parking on Saturday afternoons was ended as well. But the vote was closer than expected – you could weep with frustration. 14 voted for, 11 abstained, 7 voted against.

14 Councillors voted for (all Conservatives) :
Butcher (Hawkwell), Cottis (Rochford) Cutmore (Ashingdon and Canewdon) Glynn (Hawkwell) Gordon (Rochford) Grey (Rayleigh) Lucas-Gill,(Rochford) , McPherson (Hawkwell), Merrick (Rayleigh), Mockford (Rayleigh) , Seagers (Wakering) , Smith (Rayleigh) , Steptoe (Barling), Wilkins (Wakering)

11 Councillors abstained (10 Conservatives and 1 Lib Dem)
Aves (Rayleigh), Dray (Rayleigh), Griffin (Rayleigh), Hale (Hullbridge), Hazelwood (Hockley), Mrs Lumley (Rayleigh), Maddocks (Hockley), Mountain (Rayleigh) , Roe (Rayleigh), Sperring (Rayleigh) and Ward (Rayleigh)

7 voted against (3 Lib Dems, 2 Greens 2 Rochford Residents)
Black (Rayleigh and Rawreth), Mrs Hoy (Hullbridge), Mr Hoy (Hullbridge), Mr Lumley (Rayleigh), Mrs Mason (Hawkwell), Mr Mason (Hawkwell), Oatham (Rayleigh and Rawreth)

It was quite a sight to see 10 Tories defying their powerful party whip and abstaining. Pity that 8 of the abstainers didn’t actually vote against – then we w0uld have won.

Three things worth mentioning:
1) Cllr Dray abstained, though the minutes will probably show him voting for, that will be corrected later.
2) It was good to see some people watching in the public gallery.
3) By this evening, it was clear that the increases are no longer linked to flood prevention measures, it’s part of an attempt to increase council reserves from £750,000 to £2,690,000

IMPORTANT: Car Parking Charges To Be Increased To Allow Spending On Flood Prevention?

Down Hall  Road, Rayleigh

Down Hall Road, Rayleigh

Next Tuesday 28th we have a meeting of Full Council to deal with the council budget. You can find the documents here.

The most important item is probably to increase car parking charges – and end free parking on Saturday afternoons. The proposals are:

30 minutes parking – increase from 40p to 50p
1 hour parking – increase from 80p to £1.00
2 hours – increase from £1.40 to £1.70
3 hours – increase from £2.00 to £2.40
4 hours – increase from £2.40 to £2.90
5 hours – increase from £3.00 to £3.60
Daily – no change, still £5.00

“In order to encourage the turnover of parking and make available more spaces for visitors to the town centres , it is proposed to introduce Saturday afternoon charging”.

It is estimated that this would increase income from car parking by about £180,000 per year.

Now the aim behind those who want to increase the charges is to use the money for flood prevention. To quote from the report at length (page 3.28):

10.6 During the last 6 months, the District, like other parts of the country, has experienced severe flooding which has directly affected residents, with 34 properties still uninhabitable because of flood damage last August.
10.7 A meeting is being arranged with Essex County Council, the Environment Agency and Anglian Water to consider the arrangements for setting up a Rochford Flood Committee (RFC).
10.8 There is no intention to relieve Essex County Council of their responsibilities as the lead local flood authority (LLFA).
10.9 The RFC would, in conjunction with the county, work on the implementation of the Rochford elements of the South Essex Surface Water Management Plan. The RFC will play a key part in determining expenditure on flood alleviation schemes, both larger schemes requiring investment from multiple sources, including grants from relevant bodies, but also smaller schemes that may be funded directly from Rochford’s sewers and drainage budget or under the Capital Programme.
10.10 The sewers and drainage budget currently sits under Public Health. The budget was originally established to carry out drainage maintenance work to properties over a certain age where the system served more than one property. In recent years, Anglian Water have taken responsibility for household drainage up to the boundary of the property and the budget has recently been used for small drainage works on the Council’s property. Larger drainage works are done under the Capital Programme. Some of the underspend on the budget has been set aside in the Repairs and Maintenance Reserve with £18,000 available. For this reason, a new budget for 2013/14 was not required and was taken out when the Revised Estimates were presented to December’s Council. No budget is planned for 2014/15, as the £18,000 is still available, and provides an opportunity to implement several small, but essential, flood alleviation schemes as identified by the RFC.
10.11 If Members agree the principle of a Rochford Flood Committee, the working arrangements (i.e. a full committee, sub committee or working group/forum, or advisory group reporting into the Executive) and the terms of reference will be prepared and reported to Council on 25 February 2014, taking account of the principles outlined above.

Note : The County Council have a budget for flood prevention in the County, one main source of funding is  £598,800 per year by central government.

Now, we would very much like to hear your view on this before Tuesday, before we vote.
For example :
Are you not bothered about increasing car park charges and paying on Saturday afternoons – or are you horrified?
Do you think that increasing car parking charges to pay for flood prevention is a necessary evil – or should we insist on the County and developers paying for this?
Do you simply need more information, and think that the council should provide more details before coming to a decision?

Let us know!

Flood Questions

Full credit to Councillors John and Christine Mason for their work on flood prevention – as reported in the Echo here.

echo - flooding

Especially their questioning about the district council budget, and the apparent failure to use £10,000 in the council budget for sewers and ditch clearance.
It would be very good news if the council administration could have a rethink and reinstate this budget!

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500 HOUSES BETWEEN LONDON ROAD AND RAWRETH LANE

There's lots of information on the District Council website about the planning application "North of London Road ". To see it , just click here.

The Core Strategy

This is the official master document for planning policy in our district! To download it, click here click here. (2.5mb)

Planning Applications…

If you want information on a particular planning application, you can find it on the District Council website here.

If you want to know what new planning applications have been submitted this week, click here.

Reporting A Problem

If you want to report a problem, you can email Lib Dems councillors by clicking here.
There's also an independent website called FixMyStreet. It's very good for reporting minor street problems like holes in the road, grafitti or failed streetlights. You can find FixMyStreet here.

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To find the food hygiene rating for eating places and other businesses in our district , click here.

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