onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003

 

Archive for Local Democracy

The Ones Who Signed – And The Ones Who Didn’t

These are the 20 Conservative Councillors who signed the motion to abolish ordinary councillors’ rights to call in a decision to full council:

Cllrs T G Cutmore; Mrs C E Roe;
K H Hudson; D Merrick; I H Ward; M R Carter; M J Steptoe; Mrs L A Butcher;
Mrs M H Spencer; Mrs G A Lucas-Gill; Mrs J E McPherson; M Maddocks;
C G Seagers; K J Gordon; S P Smith; Mrs A V Hale; Mrs C A Weston;
R R Dray; Mrs J A Mockford and B T Hazlewood:-

 

and these 7 are the ones who haven’t signed:

Phil Capon
Tracy Capon
Heather Glynn
John Griffin
Jack Lawmon
Dave Sperring
Barbara Wilkins

Tuesday Night’s Questions And Call-Ins

There ‘s a lot happening at the council on Tuesday night. You can download the agenda from here, but here’s the public questions and the call-ins:

First of all , two questions from members of the public:

 

1 QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC

1.1 the following question has been received from Mr J E Cripps of 5 Durham Way,
Rayleigh, Essex of the Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr K H Hudson:-
‘On the 21st September 2013 Cllr Hudson issued an open letter making
various personal pledges in respect of the Local Development Framework-
Rayleigh & Rawreth. My question relates to the following “quoted”
statement:-
“To facilitate this it will be necessary to relocate the Rayleigh Sports and
Social Club (a valued facility for our residents), they will receive new and
enhanced facilities in recognition of their contribution to Rayleigh life at no
cost to themselves – this is my pledge.”
Recently the Leader of the Council (Cllr Cutmore) has announced, via the
letters page of the Evening Echo, that there will not be any new and enhanced
facilities for RTSSC.
My question is, therefore, at what Council meeting was this discussed/agreed
and recorded.’

1.1 the following question has been received from Mr R Lambourne of 7 Whitehouse
Court, 158 Eastwood Road, Rayleigh, Essex of the Leader of the Council,
Cllr T G Cutmore:-
‘I note from the latest edition of Rochford District Matters that the Council has
employed a barrister to defend an action by a local resident concerning the
Core Strategy and Allocation Plan.
Can you confirm who authorised the defence of this action and in particular
the considerable extra expense that is presumably budgeted for and will be
paid for out of the council tax and why that authorisation hasn’t been
sanctioned by the Full Council?’


And here are the four call-ins to council by the opposition. If the Tories get their way, this will be the last time anything can be called in to council!  The first is an item regarding open spaces taht will be dealt with in private because it has been deemed confidential. The second and third are from UKIP. The fourth is a last-minute one regarding planning policies on density of housing developments, floorspaces etc.

 

REFERRAL OF DECISIONS TO COUNCIL

1 Draft Open Spaces Strategy
1.1 Pursuant to Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rule 15(b) a requisition has
been received in the names of Cllrs C I Black, M Hoy, J R F Mason and R A
Oatham requiring that the decision under Minute 74 (Draft Open Spaces
Strategy) of the meeting of the Executive held on 2 April 2014 be referred to
Full Council.
Note: The report in relation to this decision was exempt, so this referral will
need to be considered following exclusion of the public and press and is
picked up at Item 18 of the Council agenda.

2 Collections Support Officer
2.1  a requisition has been received in the names of Cllrs J Hayter, J C Burton and N J Hookway
requiring that the Portfolio Holder decision on the post of Collections Support
Officer be referred to Full Council.
2.2 A copy of the decision and associated report is set out at Appendix A.
2.3 The reasons given for referral are that the further work envisaged could be
carried out more economically and reasonably by the existing workforce, in
particular without putting at risk £11,650. Further, as there is £11,650
available in case of no additional income, surely this money could be made
available to support our sorely neglected front line services. These include
the proper care and management of our parks and open spaces, the locking
of our park gates to reduce crime, and the Rayleigh car parking fees issue.

3 Essex County Council Call for Waste Sites Submission
3.1  a requisition has been received in the names of Cllrs J Hayter, J C Burton and N J Hookway
requiring that the Portfolio Holder Decision on a waste sites submission be
referred to Full Council.
3.2 A copy of the Decision and associated report is set out at Appendix B
3.3 The reasons given for referral are that this will not be a fair and equitable
service for the people who live in the East of Rochford District, and may
encourage fly tipping. The Council should consider the following options:-
(1) Two sites, one at Michelins Farm and one at the Eastern end of the
Rochford District.
(2) Accept the Michelins Farm Site for the Rochford District but re-instate
the concession at Stock Road, Southend for Rochford District Eastern
Residents.
COUNCIL – 29 July 2014 Item 8
8.2
(3) Provide one centrally located waste site in the Rochford District
accessible to all Rochford District Residents.

Development Management Plan Examination – Proposed Schedule of
Modifications to Development Management Submission Document
a requisition has been received in the names of Cllrs C I Black, T E Mountain and R A Oatham
requiring that the Portfolio Holder Decision on approval of the Proposed
Schedule of Modifications to Development Management Submission
Document (April 2013).
1.2 A copy of the decision and associated report is set out in Appendix A.
1.3 The reason given for referral is to allow the Full Council to discuss, amongst
other items:-
Ref MM4 “The density across a site should be a minimum of 30 dwellings per
hectare, unless exceptional circumstances can be satisfactorily demonstrated”
Ref MM9 “New dwellings (both market and affordable housing) must adhere
to the minimum habitable floorspace standards set out in Table 3, unless it
can be clearly demonstrated to be unviable or undeliverable.”
Ref MM56 – “Regarding non-retail uses in primary shopping frontages.”

 

A Slap In The Face

Next Tuesday’s Full Council has a lot going on. But the most important thing is a motion from the Conservative Group.

You see, Rochford has something called a cabinet system. Instead of decisions by a committee, most things are decided by the ‘cabinet’, an elite group of councillors. Sometimes they decide matters in cabinet meetings, but on many items they have delegated powers, so that the councillor dealing with, say , grass cutting, can decide something on grass cutting by himself.

The plus point with this that its meant to be quicker. The negative is that the experience and local knowledge of all the 30 ‘ordinary’ councillors is ignored. The cabinet are all Conservatives and ordinary councillors aren’t allowed to speak or ask questions at cabinet meetings. Though we are allowed to watch, and, so far at least, breathe.

There are two democratic safeguards in the council constitution allowing ordinary councillors to challenge these decisions. One is that the Review Committee, currently chaired by Michael Hoy from the Green Party, can ‘call in ‘ a decision for review, discuss it, and then send it back to the cabinet. The other way is that any 3 councillors can call in a decision to the next ordinary Full Council meeting. Please note that in the case of urgent decisions, there is no right to call something in.

The constitution says that the powers should only be used in exceptional circumstances. And in fact there don’t seem to have been any call ins between May 2013 and April this year. But we haven’t had an ‘ordinary’ meeting of council since April, and there have been 4 call-ins since then. They all come to the council next Tuesday.

These 4 call-ins seem to have upset the Tories immensely. They don’t like things being challenged.. So they have put forward a motion to abolish the right of councillors to call in things to full council. It is almost certainly going to be whipped through.

So we will then have a situation where ordinary councillors will have no way of challenging a decision by one of the cabinet. That’s appalling. It’s a slap in the face for local democracy. It’s a slap in the face for anyone who voted for Liberal Democrat Chris Black, Residents councillor John Mason, UKIP’s John Hayter, Labour’s Jerry Gibson, or indeed Conservative Jack Lawmon, who isn’t in the cabinet.

If the Tories want to speed things up, hold more frequent council meetings, or allow ordinary councillors to speak at cabinet meetings!

Do You Want To Ask A Question?

question mark

The next full meeting of Rochford District Council is on July 29th at 7:30 p.m.

it’s worth reminding everyone that members of the public can ask questions. The questions have to be submitted in writing to the council by midday 7 days before the day of the meeting, though ypun should normally come along and read out your question in the flesh. You get an answer , and you are then allowed one follow-up question. Here are the rules in full:

10. QUESTIONS BY THE PUBLIC
10.1 General
Members of the public may ask questions of Members of the Executive, at ordinary meetings of the Council. The maximum time limit for asking each question is 3 minutes. The maximum time limit for a supplementary question is 1 minute.
10.2 Order of Questions
Questions will be asked in the order notice of them was received, except that the Chairman may group together similar questions.
10.3 Notice of Questions
A question may only be asked if notice has been given by delivering it in writing or by electronic mail to the Chief Executive no later than midday 7 days before the day of the meeting. Each question must give the name and address of the questioner and must name the Member of the Council to whom it is to be put.
10.4 Number of Questions
At any one meeting no person may submit more than 2 questions and no more than 2 such questions may be asked on behalf of one organisation.
10.5 Scope of Questions
The Chief Executive may reject a question if it:-
 is not about a matter for which the local authority has a responsibility or which affects the district;
 is defamatory, frivolous or offensive;
 is substantially the same as a question which has been put at a meeting of the Council in the past six months; or
 requires the disclosure of confidential or exempt information.
10.6 Record of Questions
The Chief Executive will enter each question in a book open to public inspection and will immediately send a copy of the question to the Member to whom it is to be put. Rejected questions will include reasons for rejection.
Copies of all questions will be circulated to all Members and will be made available to the public attending the meeting.
10.7 Asking the Question at the Meeting
The Chairman will invite the questioner to put the question to the Member named in the notice. If a questioner who has submitted a written question is unable to be present, they may ask the Chairman to put the question on their behalf. The Chairman may ask the question on the questioner’s behalf, indicate that a written reply will be given or
decide, in the absence of the questioner, that the question will not be dealt with.
10.8 Supplemental Question
A questioner who has put a question in person may also put one supplementary question without notice to the Member who has replied to his or her original question.
A supplementary question must arise directly out of the original question or the reply. The Chairman may reject a supplementary question on any of the grounds in Rule 10.5 above.
10.9 Written Answers
Any question which cannot be dealt with during public question time, either because of lack of time or because of the non-attendance of the Member to whom it was to be put, will be dealt with by a written answer.
10.10 Reference of Question to the Executive or a Committee
Unless the Chairman decides otherwise, no discussion will take place on any question, but any Member may move that a matter raised by a question be referred to the Executive or the appropriate Committee or Sub-Committee. Once seconded, such a Motion will be voted on without discussion.

These rules are in part 4 of the Council Constitution, which you can download from the council website here.

Two Rawreth Meetings Tonight

240px-Rawreth_sign

Rawreth Parish Council meets at 7pm in the village hall … followed by the Annual Parish meeting at 8 pm.

Uncontested Parish Elections!

There aren’t going to be any contested parish council elections for either Rawreth Parish or Rochford Parish this year – there were fewer candidates than spaces available. So there are two vacancies in Rawreth and five vacancies in Rochford.

Additional councillors will now have to be co-opted, this is quite common at the parish level .

Rayleigh Annual Town Meeting Tonight

rayleigh town council

7:30 tonight at Sweyne Park School

Pushing For A Public Meeting On Infrastructure

no meetings

At tonight’s Full District Council meeting Chris Black pushed for the council to hold a public meeting about infrastructure in the West Rayleigh / Rawreth / Hullbridge area – to discuss drainage, sewerage, highways, education, health etc. He pointed out that the council has a page on its website to list public meetings but the page was blank. He stressed that many members of the public would welcome a meeting. Cllr John Mason backed the idea, saying it should actually deal with infrastructure for the whole district.

The initial response from Cllr Cutmore and Cllr Hudson was rather negative- Cllr Cutmore saying that the council held business breakfasts where these things could be discussed. But as discussions went we on began to make some progress, with Cllr Hudson saying he would welcome the reinstatement of the old area committees.

No vote was taken, but we made a bit of progress, and will keep pressing the issue.

Hopefully A Bit Easier Now

 

computer

Last week we asked onlineFOCUS readers how easy it was to find out from the District Council website about public speaking at meetings of Full Council.

Well , the District Council have today added some information in their “Council and Democracy” section. Hopefully this will help a bit. So a big thank-you to Corey Vost, Christine Paine and Mark Lydford for their assistance! Here’s the new wording (click to enlarge):

public speaking

 

 

 

 

 

“Getting stuff done as a ward councillor can be a marathon not a sprint. “

A Labour Councillor in Hackney. Luke Akehurst,  is stepping down after 12 years, and has written ten things he’s learned in his time in local government.

Putting party differences aside for the moment, there are some useful things for candidates from any party , especially the last five:

6) Getting stuff done as a ward councillor can be a marathon not a sprint. When I first stood in 2002 we pledged to rebuild two very rundown housing blocks, Bridge House and Marian Court. That project is happening, but it isn’t complete yet as I come off the Council now.

7) But never take no for an answer. I was told “the Council will never fit security doors on Trelawney Estate, there’s no budget for it” and “the Council will never agree to adopt Stevens Avenue (an un-adopted road hence no street lighting or road or pavement repairs), it sets too expensive a precedent”. Loud campaigning on both by the three ward councillors meant that miraculously the budgets were found to do both.

8) Life as a councillor is a lot easier when you have good colleagues in your ward. I’ve been very lucky to be in a mutually supportive team for 12 years with Guy Nicholson and Sally Mulready as ward councillors. I’ve seen councillors who fall out with a ward colleague or have to carry the workload for someone not pulling their weight made completely miserable by it.

9) Campaigning and casework aren’t separate activities. If you don’t canvass and deliver survey leaflets you won’t find out about most of the problems people in your ward want sorting out. Similarly when you do casework most of the people you do it for are far more likely to bother to vote for you.

10) Good officers are as important as good councillors to driving forward change. We were very lucky that at the point when we really needed to improve Hackney we were able to persuade key people like then Chief Exec Max Caller to take a huge risk with their careers and be part of Jules Pipe’s attempt at rescuing what was a badly failing council. Without dedicated and incredibly hard-working civil servants implementing the changes Labour wanted, we wouldn’t have been able to turn Hackney round.

Hat-Tip to Southend councillor Julian Ware-Lane for this.

Whipping Themselves Into Errors

ukip

 

There’s a slightly peculiar article in the latest Rayleigh Times this week,  from the UKIP candidate John Hayter. It’s called “THE SCOURGE OF THE PARTY WHIP  – ITS IN THE PARTY’S INTEREST NOT THE ELECTORATE”. As you can guess, he’s not keen on the party whip system.

The article begins:

The local elections are fast approaching with 11 wards to be contested in Rochford District. There will be several key issues . There is the matter of the party whip employed by the three main parties – the Lib Dems,  Labour and the Conservatives…

… The Conservative councillors are told which way to vote, and do so for their party, and not for the electorate. The same applies to the other two main parties in councils…

And that’s just incorrect . Because the Lib Dems haven’t had a whip on the District Council for years  and there haven’t been any Labour councillors at all for years.  It shows a pretty shocking lack of knowledge about the council.

And then the article goes on to describe things that UKIP are committed to doing in our district.  Which is weird. Because how can UKIP promise in advance how any UKIP councillors would vote – without having some kind of a whip themselves?

 

 

 

 

This Week in Rawreth…

 

240px-Rawreth_sign

Rawreth Parish Council meets this Wednesday at 7:30 in the Village Hall . You can find the agenda here.

A hot drink for the public (maybe even a biscuit). Public Question time, a bit of laughter and a chance to see how local democracy should be….

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Latest Comments

  • Richard Lambourne: I think mention should be made that “LIB DEM” Cllr Lumley “ABSTAINE D” on...
  • Toby Mountain: @13 Sadly, it has now become such a regular occurrence for opposing members to win a debate but then...
  • Toby Mountain: Cllr Terry Cutmore (The Leader of the Council) confirmed last night that he is proud to be associated...
  • Jim Cripps: Disappointing but no surprise , the compliant Conservative majority has the whip-hand ( literally )...
  • Jim Cripps: Christine – yes I did give enough advanced warning ( more than the 7 days req’d ) and last...
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  • Jim Cripps: Attended tonight’s meeting to ask my question of Cllr K Hudson but he was a no show, Wonder why ?...
  • Christine Paine: I still think there should be someway to appeal this decision, especially in view of martin̵...
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  • admin: Christine @7 – there are currently 9 cabinet members. http://www.roch ford.gov.uk/cou ncil_and_dem...
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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.

The Roads That Need Repairing


The County Council admitted in July that over 200 roads in our district need repairing! They say they will fix them by May 2013. Click here to see the list.

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“Rayleigh was the birthplace of Britain’s first surviving quintuplets, but that’s just one of its many claims to fame”

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