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Archive for Council Drama

Crunch Vote On Car Parking On July 1st !

Chris Stanley collecting names for the petition to keep free Staturday afternoon car parking.

Chris Stanley collecting names for a petition to keep free Saturday afternoon car parking.

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
be retained

10 RECOMMENDATION
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
afternoons.
EXTRAORDINARY COUNCIL – 1 July 2014 Item 4
4.4
(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.

Politics And The Highways Panel

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…

And Now There’s Only Four Groups

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 Surprise Manoeuvre From The Green Corner !

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 7 Parties.

The District Council website now has this chart showing the seats each party has:

parties

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.

“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.

A New Group

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:

Conservatives 29
Liberal Democrats 4
Green Party 2
Independent Conservatives 2
Rochford Residents Party (John and Christine Mason) 2

Awaydays

John and Christine Mason write about council ‘awaydays’ here.

They conclude:

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.

“unpleasantness, hypocrisy, threats and abuse”

blue rosette

 

The Echo has an interview with Independent Tory Councillor Toby Mountain here.

….Mr Mountain said: “It is important to remember that at every level, we are the servants and not masters of those who elect us, transparency is paramount.

“Since I pushed the suggestion that there should be a higher level of democratic accountability and more transparent discussion and debate within the decision-making process of the ruling administration, I have been on the receiving end of unpleasantness, hypocrisy, threats and abuse.

“This is not what I signed up for.”

Mr Mountain explained in Tuesday’s meeting how an idea to increase parking charges throughout the week, along with the idea of Saturday charges, was put forward at a council awayday in January.

Members agreed to further discussion on the suggestions, but no debate was held until the full council meeting on January 28….

 

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.

Toby Mountain Resigns Conservative Whip

blue rosette

We heard last night that Toby Mountain, one of the Conservative councillors for Sweyne Park Ward in Rayleigh , has resigned from the Conservative Party Whip under the current leadership of Cllr Terry Cutmore.

It’s been clear for some time that various Conservative councillors in Rayleigh have been unhappy about various issues, and about the lack of discussion on some important topics. Toby was willing to speak up at last Full Council and say he couldn’t support the budget if it meant increasing car parking charges AND abolishing free Saturday afternoon parking.

Toby’s decision means he now becomes an Independent councillor, and the make-up of the council becomes:

Conservatives 30
Lib Dems 4
Greens 2
Rochford District Residents 2
Independent 1

It will be interesting to hear what Toby has to say in the council chamber on each issue.

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.

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