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Did Your MP Vote For Houses That Are Fit For Human Habitation?

The Independent has the following report:

On Tuesday MPs voted down an amendment which would have seen landlords forced to ensure their properties were fit for humans to live in.

The amendment was defeated by 219 votes to 312 – a majority of 93.

… shadow housing minister Teresa Pearce called for the new rules to be added to the housing bill, rules which would require private landlords to ensure their properties were in a fit state…

So how did our local MPs vote on somethihg that would have required landlords to keep their houses and flats fit for human habitation? The Independent has this interactive map to tell us:

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) voted AGAINST this proposal.
Rebecca Harris (Castle Point ) voted AGAINST this proposal.
Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) DIDN’T vote.

housing map independent

Major Rasch

A Political Ghost Story …

Some people like ghost stories at Christmas …this is a true story about a former MP for our area – Major Sir Frederick Carne Rasch.

Rasch seemed to have had a pretty good life. He went to Eton and then Trinity College Cambridge, and did a lot of rowing there (that’s rowing boats , not rowing in arguments). He spent ten years in the Dragoon Guards, became a director of a couple of breweries, and then went into parliament as a Conservative, representing Essex South-East from 1886 until 1900, and then Chelmsford until 1908.

A magazine article on 1896 described him as “an Essex man and wholesome, bluff, genial fellow of strong opinions; who calls himself a Democratic Tory.” The very first question he asked in the House of Commons was about cavalry saddles, and you can imagine him in one of the Commons bars having a cigar and a few whiskies with his friends and talking about horses, rowing and country pursuits.

Rasch clearly had a social conscience, for example , speaking up several times in the House of Commons for poor farm labourers in Canewdon. But he definitely wasn’t a progressive- he was very much against giving the children of agricultural workers much of an education : “I know very well I am not an enthusiast, a crank, or a fanatic on the subject of education in the agricultural districts. To speak plainly, I detest it so far as I am concerned. I am here simply as an agricultural Member, principally to keep the rates down, and particularly the rates for education.”

So all in all he was a very down-to-earth chap. Not the kind of person you’d connect with any kind of paranormal events. And yet…..

It was the spring of 1905. The MP Sir Gilbert Parker described what happened as follows:

“I wished to take part in the debate in progress, but missed being called. As I swung round to resume my seat I was attracted first by seeing Sir Carne Rasch out of his place, and then by the position he occupied. I knew that he had been very ill, and in a cheery way nodded towards him and said, `Hope you are better.’
“But he made no sign and uttered no reply. This struck me as odd. My friend’s position was his and yet not his. His face was remarkably pallid. His expression was steely. It was a altogether a stony presentment — grim, almost resentful.
“I thought for a moment. Then I turned again toward Sir Carne Rasch, and he had disappeared. That puzzled me, and I at once went in search of him. I expected, in fact, to overtake him in the lobby. But Rasch was not there. No one had seen him. I tried both the Whips and the doorkeeper, equally without avail. No one had seen Sir Carne Rasch.
“I went round the House, inquiring in all the corridors and to the same end — Sir Carne Rasch had not been seen. Going again to the lobby, I heard that Sir Henry Meysey-Thompson, who was at the lobby post office, had also been inquiring for the major, but without result.
“I joined Sir Henry, and we exchanged views.”

Sir Gilbert was interested in psychic phenomena and wondered if Rasch had died and appeared as a ghost! Rasch was actually at home, ill with influenza, but he was neither dead nor dying. He seemed have been amused by the whole affair and couldn’t resist having a friendly dig at the Liberals:

“I was rather ill at the time, and had to keep my bed, and why I should have gone to the House of Commons that night I don’t know. However, the Express of Friday says that I did. I am worth a good many dead ones yet, I hope. At any rate, I mean to go on a little longer.
“I feel, however, that I ought to apologize to the Liberal Party for not having died when I suppose I ought. Had I done so it would have saved them a good deal of trouble. If I have another chance perhaps I will endeavor to oblige them.”

Rather unexpectedly, there was a response from the Liberals that confirmed this ghostly sighting. A letter from Colonel Sir Arthur Hayter, published in the Daily News said:

“Sir, On my way home to Southhill Park today I noticed in The Daily News that Sir Carne Rasch had been seen in the House of Commons by Sir Gilbert Parker when he was reported to be lying ill at home, and that further evidence in confirmation was required.
“I beg to say that I not only saw Sir Carne Rasch myself sitting below the gangway (not in his usual seat), but that I called the attention of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to whom I was talking on the Front Opposition Bench, saying that I wondered why all the papers inserted notices of Sir Carne Rasch’s illness, while he was sitting opposite apparently quite well. Sir Henry replied that he hoped his illness was not catching. — Yours, etc.”

Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman became Prime Minister the next year, so should certainly trusted as a witness….

The full story can be found here. We originally posted this story in 2009.

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A Couple Of Surprises

 

There were a couple of surprises tonight at Annual District Council.

First of all the Conservatives nominated Jack Lawmon as vice-chairman of the council, even though he’s only been on the council for 1 year.

Secondly they went out of their way to place Labour Councillor Jerry Gibson as chair of the Review Committee, voting down Michael Hoy from the Green Party who held the post last year,. This is an important role , to scrutinise what the Conservative majority group do. So the person whose job it is to scrutinise the Tories only has the post at the gift of the people he is supposed to be scrutinising….. Hmmmm….

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Something Curious In The Agenda

 

The District Council has its first Full Council Meeting of the civic year next Tuesday at 7:30. You can find the agenda here.

This is where the new chair of the council , chairs of committees, and cabinet members are appointed.

Also each May each councillor has to sign a piece of paper to say which group they are in. This is normally pretty obvious , but there’s a curious omission this year. The Conservative group only has 28 members instead of the expected 29. One councillor is ‘non-group”:

membershipIt appears to be Councillor Keith Gordon, re-elected last week as a Conservative Councillor for Rochford Ward.  He is currently Cabinet member for the  Environment (covering recycling; open spaces; waste management; street scene; pollution control; flood prevention; emergency planning, Tree Preservation Order Service – hedgerows and cemetery services) He’s not on the Conservative List:

cons membership

We don’t know why he is shown as ‘non-group’ , it could simply be that he’s on holiday and not around to sign!  But this has never happened before in 30 years…  We are withdrawing the comments facility on this item.

Riding Roughshod Over Some Else’s Property….

houses2The Conservative Party’s proposal to allow the sell-off of housing association homes has been criticised from the left – and from the right.

Lib Dem Nick Barlow writes on his blog:

Back in 2010, the Tories made a big play of how they would transform the country through localism and the Big Society. Localism would free communities from the dead hand of Whitehall controlling everything, while the Big Society would encourage a new era of civic involvement, getting people involved in community organisations, allowing them to really make a difference.

If the first leaks from their 2015 manifesto are anything to go by, both those ideas have been thrown into the bin, which has then been set on fire and the ashes scattered to the four winds to prevent any prospect of them ever coming back together again. Community-based organisations are to be ripped apart by Government policy, while councils will have to follow diktats from the centre in order to raise the money to fund this dismemberment.
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Housing associations are private non-profit organisations, generally run by members of the community they’re based in and providing a valuable service in providing social housing. The proposed Tory policy will declare them to be nothing more than another arm of the state, in order to compel them to sell off their housing at below the market rate. Yes, because we’re not suffering enough problems in the housing market thanks to forcing councils to sell their stock off cheaply, they’ll go on to compound the error by doing the same to housing associations. Remember, these aren’t government-owned organisations, and yet the Tories – the usual champions of property rights – seem to see no problem in riding roughshod over someone else’s in pursuit of their policy.

(Of course, this policy won’t apply to other private landlords, and tenants in the private rented sector won’t get any right to buy their homes no matter how long they’ve lived there. Perhaps if Housing Associations were allowed to donate to the Tories, they’d have been exempted from this policy too?)

Even the most barking policy to sell assets off at below market price has a cost, and in order to fund this, they’ve decided to show how much they’ve decided localism was a bad idea by committing to a true policy of anti-localism…..

Meanwhile in the Daily Telegraph, Julia Hartley-Brewer describes the idea as “dumb, economically illiterate and – even worse – morally wrong.”

…by helping those 1.3 million lucky souls in housing association homes, Mr Cameron won’t do anything to help the many more unlucky ones who aren’t and, indeed, will actually make life that little bit harder for everyone else who wants to share in his property-owning dream.

Selling off social housing at a discount is great for those individual families who benefit, but are these really the families that are most in need of the state’s help?

Why should people who have already enjoyed the benefits of secure tenancies in affordable social housing now be granted extra help worth up to Ł102,000 (and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of pounds more when they later sell their property) while millions of others get absolutely nothing?
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First of all, many of those 1.3 million tenants – the poorest – won’t be in any position to get a mortgage to buy their home, regardless of the generous discounts, while those who are able to take advantage of the scheme are unlikely to be those in the direst need.

Indeed, there are many people living in housing association homes who are not in any need at all and are more than capable of renting in the private sector or buying their own home but are understandably reluctant to relinquish a home with a subsidised rent.
———
This, then, is a policy which (almost by definition) will help people who are in a better position to help themselves than many others.

It’s all very well rewarding hard work but what about all the many millions of other families who also work hard on low incomes but who are stuck paying sky-high private sector rents? What about their dreams of home ownership?

Good Week, Bad Week….

So….

It’s been a good week for the Conservatives in Rochford gaining an extra councillor, and the national Tory website Conservativehome reports on it here. There’s a mixed response in the comments.

It’s been a bad week for UKIP in Essex , on the same day that Nigel Farage visited the county, they lost one of their council seats in Harlow to Labour. And a UKIP councillor in Thurrock has been suspended from the party following drink driving. Why oh why do councillors say to the police “Do you know who I am? I am a prominent councillor, I know the police commissioner.”

It’s been a good week for the main opposition group on Rochford District Council. The 5 residents Councillors and 2 Greens all spoke at Full Council on the budget, there was actually a bit of a debate for once. We’ll write more about the Budget meeting when the minutes are published and we can link to them..

Goodbye June

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We heard from our Lib Dem colleague June Lumley today that she is going to seek re-election to the District Council this year – but this time as a Conservative.

June has been both a District and Town councillor in Grange Ward for a long time, with a good reputation that has helped her survive repeated Conservative challenges. June has indeed been a dignified and serene chairman of the District Council this year.

If June had stood as an independent, that would not have been a surprise – June has been an independent on the Town Council for a long time. But standing for the Tories isn’t going to be easy- the Conservatives are pretty unpopular in West Rayleigh right now! Her switch is bound to be seen as an endorsement of the Tory District Core Strategy which may lead to all the proposed development North of London Road.

If she wins it will be interesting to see how she manages moving from the Lib Dems, where she has not been whipped, into a tightly-whipped Conservative Group.

For the local Lib Dems , this gives us the chance for more some vigorous campaigning and recruiting in Grange Ward. In a period of 10 years, we found 7 good candidates in Downhall and Rawreth to stand for us around Rayleigh. No new candidates came from Grange Ward.

The Capons’ Greatest Moments

 

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:

 

September 12th, 2014 |

An Admirable Attitude

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.

July 27th, 2014 |

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

June 20th, 2009 |

A Very Important Principle

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:


‘Members should consider whether it is appropriate to copy and pass on any lobbying material, such as correspondence or leaflets they receive, to the Head of Planning and Transportation’.

 

October 10th, 2006 |

“Vote for Parent and Child places? – We’ll throw you out of the Tory Group”

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 Ł500 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.

An Admirable Attitude

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.

and

I’ve found over the years that sometimes there are councillors who think they are big but the truth is we’re no different to anyone else. The only difference is we’ll give up time to do it. Some people do it for personal gain; I do it for the residents’ gain, because that what we’re here for. My view is that you do what is best for the District, whatever political colour you may be.

Yes, Minister….

Congratulations to Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge on becoming a minister in the Foreign Office, with responsibility for Africa.

He replaces James Simmonds, who has resigned, telling the Telegraph :

…. he was quitting as a Foreign Office minister and was standing down as an MP because he was unwilling to carry on staying in hotels while his family were hundreds of miles away in Lincolnshire…

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