Phil and Tracy Capon are husband and wife, and both are currently Conservative Councillors on Rochford District Council. In fact Phil is the Chair of the Development Committee. Word reached us at the weekend that they had both been deselected by the Conservative Association – so they cannot stand as Conservatives when they both come up for election next May.
This is pretty dramatic by Rochford standards – councillors are very seldom deselected against their wishes, except on the grounds of old age, which doesn’t apply here. Might it possibly be that they can’t manage to slavishly follow the party line? Here’s a few things we have written -on onlineFOCUS over the years:
Rochford Life has a short interview with Hawkwell Tory District Councillor Phil Capon. Phil is Chair of the Development Committee – the one that deals with planning applications. He makes some good points, for example:
I’ve always believed that if you are going to be on the Council you should be open to all views and be open to change. It’s what I don’t like about party politics where it tends to be go with the prevailing view rather than think through alternative possibilities that may be good from other parties.
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:
At the last meeting of the Standards Committee, there was an item on updating the Councillors Code of Conduct On Planning Matters.
You can find the full officers report here. Chris Black noticed that something quite startling was being suggested by officers:
Members should copy and pass on any lobbying material, such as correspondence or leaflets they receive, to the Head of Planning and Transportation.
This would have meant that if anyone wrote to a councillor about any planning issue, the councillor would have been required to pass a copy on to the Head of Planning – Shaun Scrutton – or otherwise face disciplinary action!
Chris strongly opposed this. One reason is that it would destroy any privacy between councillors and members of the public. (What would be next? Tapping councillors’ phones? ) The other is that it wasn’t practical. On a really contentious planning application, 20 people might write to each councillor. That means that Mr Scrutton would have to receive nearly 800 copies of letters!
Thankfully, other members of the committee supported Chris on this – in particular, Cllr Phil Capon. And the sentence was changed to something reasonable:
At tonight’s District Council Committee meeting we had the debate on whether to allow some Parent and Child bays in our Council Car Parks.
As we wrote a few days ago, the officers were recommending… doing nothing. Apparently there are some spaces that could be widened into Parent and Child spaces, but it would cost an estimated £500 per space (!) to adjust them, and then it might be a problem that they might be left empty when they could be occupied by non-parents.
However the item was up for debate by councillors. The committee has 9 Tories (2 of them didn’t turn up), 1 independent (who didn’t turn up) and 1 Lib Dem (Chris Black.) When the chairman of the committee, Tory Phil Capon , began speaking, it looked like we would get some spaces agreed:
“Since becoming a father my eyes have been opened to the many issues and problems that the parents and carers of children face. I can appreciate what my residents have been telling me for some time.
To return to your car and find you are unable to get your child back in his or her car seat due to the thoughtlessness of others is potentially dangerous and annoying.
I don’t advocate the loss of parking bays but merely that end bays should be designated ‘parent and child”
We continually hear that we must prevent the High Streets from dying and that ‘out of town’ shopping centres are luring people away. This is true – they appreciate the problems and offer suitable parking bays.
We can not only show our commttment to child safety but also that we support local businesses.”
Chris Black felt quite good at this point as he was on balance in favour of the idea and it looked like it was going to happen. BUT THEN – a sombre Cllr Capon continued to speak:
Sadly members, my dream is not to be. Due to the blinkered views of other members, who I can only assume care nothing for the wellbeing of children and who don’t want local shopping centres to survive, a wonderful chance is being lost.
The “whip” is on, I cannot vote against it otherwise I lose my right to represent ny residents. Morally , I cannot vote for the recommendation so I will abstain”
The situation became clear. Cllrs Phil and Tracy Capon had raised the item in the private Tory group meeting. They’d lost out in a vote to the Tory ‘dinosaurs’ . Then the Tory leadership had enforced a whip, so that if Phil Capon voted for Parent and Child parking bays, he’d be thrown out of the Tory group.
After Phil Capon spoke, there was an embarassed silence. Chris jumped in and proposed allowing some Parent and Child parking spaces but didn’t get a seconder. So Tory leader Terry Cutmore proposed having no Parent and Child Bays and Cllr Tony Humphries seconded that.
Chris then scornfully said that in his 20+ years on the council he’d never seen any political party impose a whip on such a small item. He was very disappointed with the Tory group’s behaviour.
The voting was:
No Parent and Child Bays : 5 Cllrs Terry Cutmore, Tony Humphries, John Pullen, Mavis Webster and David Merrick (all Tories)
Abtaining : 2 Cllrs Phil Capon and Colin Hungate (both Tories)
For Parent and Child Bays: 1 Cllr Chris Black (Lib Dem)
A big mistake by the Tory leadership tonight. If they’d let Phil Capon vote with his conscience, the issue would have been over in 5 minutes. But now it won’t be forgotten so quickly, and it shows them in a bad light.
It was a long and frustrating evening in the Council Chamber tonight. The Tories won all the key votes – but by a narrower margin than they would have liked:
Chris Black proposed keeping firm minimum standards for the sizes of new flats and houses – vote was lost 17-12.
Toby Mountain proposed cancelling the increases in car parking charges – vote was lost 19 -11. So car parking charges are still going up, though Saturday afternoons stay free.
Tory Leader Terry Cutmore proposed abolishing the right of any 3 councillors to refer a cabinet member decision to Full Council – this was passed 20 -11. A sad day for local democracy.
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”
“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
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
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
(2) Accept the Michelins Farm Site for the Rochford District but re-instate
the concession at Stock Road, Southend for Rochford District Eastern
COUNCIL – 29 July 2014 Item 8
(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
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.”
We have the final vote on car parking charges at an extraordinary council meeting on July 1st. There’s a very good chance that we can win the vote to keep free car parking on Saturday afternoons. Though probably the other increases in charges will go through.
You can find the agenda here.
The officers report is signed by Shaun Scrutton as Head of Planning and Transportation , rather than someone on the finance side of things. Here’s some extracts:
DISCUSSION – SATURDAY AFTERNOON CHARGES
5.1 The proposal to reintroduce charges on Saturday afternoons resulted in the
greatest number of objections to the proposed Parking Order, with the
concerns primarily focussing on the car parks in Rayleigh.
5.2 Of most concern to objectors was the possible impact of Saturday afternoon
charges on trading in the town centres and that being the case, Members will
need to determine whether this element of the proposed Parking Order should
10.1 It is proposed that Council RESOLVES
(1) To agree the revisions to the tariff change for Blue Badge holders, and
the introduction of a one hour concession beyond the expiry time
printed on their ticket.
(2) Determine whether to introduce car parking charges on Saturday
EXTRAORDINARY COUNCIL – 1 July 2014 Item 4
(3) To agree all the remaining proposed changes to the Parking Order
including the tariff revisions and adjustment to the charging period in
Old Ship Lane, Rochford.
Interestingly, the officers’ recommendation is to agree to all the increases and changes proposed EXCEPT for charging on Saturday afternoons. The recommendation on this is merely to make a decision…. so there is no pressure from council officers to start charging on Saturday afternoons.
It would be good to have some people in the public gallery for this one… could be an interesting night. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm at the Civic Suite in Rayleigh.
Independent Tory Toby Mountain writes on his blog about the selection of the Local Highways Panel for the new civic year. He’s pretty scathing…
The District Council has its Annual Council meeting on Tuesday night.
A week ago we were expecting there to be six groups – Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP, Greens, Independent Conservatives and Rochford Residents, plus one lone Labour councillor.
But now there will only be four groups. The Greens and Rochford Residents have joined up in the council chamber to form one group, and now one of the Independent Conservatives, Dave Sperring , has gone back to the Conservative Group after leaving them in the spring. That means there is no longer an Independent Conservative Group, we just have one lone Independent Conservative – Toby Mountain.
A surprising development today – the Greens (Diane and Michael Hoy) and the Rochford Residents (Christine and John Mason) have announced they are joining forces to become the largest opposition group in the council chamber. This means that one of them will chair the important review committee, and the number of committee places for each group will have to be recalculated. This is their joint statement:
Rochford District Residents and the Green Party have today formed an alliance on Rochford District Council.
The 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.
Over the last three years the Liberal Democrats Party has been the ‘Main Opposition’ in Rochford but this may not have been as effective as it could have been possibly due to the Coalition in Government blurring some political policy boundaries.
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.
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 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.
The Group Leader in Council will be John Mason and the Deputy Group Leader will be Michael Hoy.
This is not a joining of political parties but an alliance in the Council Chamber.
Each member of the Group will continue to represent their own Wards and the parties will campaign separately as before remaining true to their core objectives.
The District Council website now has this chart showing the seats each party has:
So there are now 6 groups plus a lone Labour councillor. (Legally, you can’t be in a group of one).
It’s going to be an interesting back row in the council chamber with 6 opposition parties sitting there! The first meeting of the new civic year is Annual Council on June 3rd.
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.
Dave Sperring and Toby Mountain have officially formed a new group of councillors on the District Council – The Independent Conservatives, with Dave Sperring as group leader.
The make-up of the council is now:
Liberal Democrats 4
Green Party 2
Independent Conservatives 2
Rochford Residents Party (John and Christine Mason) 2
John and Christine Mason write about council ‘awaydays’ here.
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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If you want information on a particular planning application, you can find it on the District Council website here.
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