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Archive for Local Democracy

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



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



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…



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….

A Big Night Next Tuesday

Market Car Park 2 78009. crop
There are four big items on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Full Council meeting:

- a motion to keep free parking on Saturday afternoons. This looks like being a very tight vote.
whether or not to finally approve the Allocations Document, which has just been okayed by the government inspector
whether or not to approve the Hockley Area Action plan
setting up of a ‘flood forum’

It would nice to have some people in the public gallery! It’s harder to argue that free car parking or protecting the green belt is important, if absolutely nobody from the public bothers to turn up!

The meeting starts at 7:30 in the Civic Suite, opposite Holy Trinity Church. The public can come along to listen, but can’t speak. (Unless someone has submitted a public question).

Rawreth Parish Council Meets Next Wednesday


The next Meeting of the Rawreth Parish Council will take place on Wednesday 4th December 2013, at Rawreth Village Hall, Rawreth, at 7.30 pm.
The Christmas meeting is always a very friendly one, but one of the items on the agenda is:

217. VILLAGE REPORT- To receive details of concerns or items worthy of note around the Parish, including a recent increase in Burglaries in and around the Parish

Plus grant requests, the setting of the parish precept for 2014-2015 , and a chance to bend the ears of Parish , District and County Councillors…

Fancy Watching A Council Meeting?

If you’ve become interested recently in what the District Council is doing, but never been inside the council chamber, why not come along next Thursday 22nd to a meeting of the Development Committee? You won’t be able to speak, and you might find it boring – but on the other hand you might find it quite interesting .

You can find more information on the meeting here..

The meeting is dealing with planning applications :

13/00367/OUT – 177 Main Road, Hawkwell
To consider an outline application for the demolition of an existing dwelling and re-development of the site, including land to the rear of No. 173 and 175 for one no. four-bedroomed detached two storey dwelling with integral garage and four no. three-bedroomed bungalows with garages and new access. All matters reserved except access, layout and scale.

13/00370/FUL – Site of Former Shellfish Packing Station, South Fambridge
To consider an application for the change of use of the northern building to use for storage ancillary to car repair use, layout car parking, store excavator and storage container with hardstanding.

13/00332/FUL – 36 Main Road, Hockley

To consider an application change of use from A1 (shops) to A5 (hot food takeaway) including installation of extract system/ducting to rear elevation.

13/00344/FUL – 32 High Street, Great Wakering
To consider an application to remove condition no. 2 of planning permission 12/00095/cou (change of use from A1 to A3 (restaurants and cafés)) to allow the selling of hot food to be consumed off the premises.

13/00381/FUL – Land Between Main Road and Rectory Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell
To consider an application to replace a single garage at plots 44 and 45 to layout as approved on 17 December 2012 under application 12/00381/FUL with pitched roofed double garage.

13/00376/FUL – Land Between Main Road and Rectory Road and Clements Hall Way, Hawkwell

To consider a revised application to construct a single storey part pitched roofed part flat roofed sales building and car parking area for period of 24 months.

Four things to bear in mind:

These are serious meetings, so people watching in the public gallery can observe, but not call out.
It’s a rather handsome council chamber.
Unlike just about every other council in the country, all 39 councillors are members of the committee and can speak, move motions and vote.
There is never any political whip, which means that votes can be very close and councillors from the same party may disagree with each other – but councillors from different parties often support each other. Everyone listens carefully to what everyone says – but especially what the ward councillors say.

The Thoughts Of Our Big Neighbour

The Conservative leader of Southend Council, Nigel Holdcroft,  writes here:

I attended the Local Government Association’s Annual Assembly and Conference in Manchester last week and Lord Heseltine was a lead speaker. His comments were generally well received and it was interesting that he stressed once again his belief that the future of focussed and cost effective local government should be based on a combination of directly elected mayors and unitary authorities. Whilst shying away from a forced implementation of this change Secretary of State Eric Pickles made clear to conference that he believed that it was inevitable that smaller districts would have to come to terms with shared officers or more if they wished to remain viable.

Perhaps this was food for thought for colleagues in Rochford as they seek to appoint a replacement for their retiring Chief Executive rather than opening a dialogue as to how the role of senior officers can and should be shared across south east Essex delivering significant savings without adverse effect to residents. I know my door remains open as I am sure are the doors of the leaders of Castle Point and Essex CC.

Merging with Southend or Castle Point isn’t an attractive option for Rochford  – we currently have lots of green fields and no debts .

As for sharing officers – that can sometimes work, and we do it to some extent already.  But would we end up just losing our own officers,  and just helping to pay for Southend’s officers, still based in Southend and focussed on Southend?



Government Confirms Right Of English Social Media Users To Report And Film Council Meetings

From the Mayorwatch blog:

The right of social media users and bloggers in England to film and report meetings of their local councils is confirmed in a new guide published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Ministers have intervened after reports that some councils had blocked the filming and reporting of meetings, citing both health and safety and data protection laws.

Available online, the document makes clear that councillors and council officers can be filmed during meetings and that there is no prohibition on such activity under the Data Protection Act or health and safety legislation.

Council Ends Cabinet System….

But unfortunately it’s not our council, it’s Cambridgeshire County Council:

A motion to Cambridgeshire County Council by Cllr Kilian Bourke yesterday, passed by all the minority parties acting together, marks the end of the Cabinet system that came into being under Labour’s Local Government Act 2000.
The Cabinet system has seen the Council Leader and a small group of executive councillors from the same political party group making all the big decisions about how the council spends taxpayers’ money.
In May 2014, this will cease and a committee system will take its place, with all councillors playing a role in council decision-making.
In yesterday’s debate, the Conservatives, who form the largest group on the council (32) but who lack the majority necessary to carry a vote, rejected the motion and proposed to keep the Cabinet system. The other parties (Lib Dems 14, UKIP 12, Labour 7, Independents 4) together carried the motion.
For legal reasons the change cannot happen until May 2014, so the Cabinet remains for one more year. The Conservative group won a three-way vote for the council leadership. The new Leader, Martin Curtis, appointed his Cabinet, all from the Conservative group.
The outcomes of Council votes are no longer predetermined. It should be an interesting year

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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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