Monday, 27 March 2017

Parking and infrastructure concerns in Central Southend


Parking and infrastructure concerns in Central Southend

Southend Labour Party has called on the coalition Conservative-UKIP administration to guarantee that no car parking places will be lost as development plans for central Southend go ahead.

Labour Councillor for Milton ward, Julian Ware-Lane, believes that the Council should be looking to expand the amount of available parking in the town centre, and not merely retain the same number of places.

At present there are around 5700 parking places in the town centre area, which includes designated car parks and kerbside availability (some of it metered), and we know that a certain number of these places will be lost due to the proposed developments. For example the Seaway car park will be entirely redeveloped; the Better Queensway development will remove the Essex Street car park as well as that in Short Street; the Marine Plaza car park will also be going.

Cllr Ware-Lane said: "The availability of parking is a huge issue for residents, and with the development plans to include new businesses then the stresses on parking will increase. Residents, visitors and businesses all need places to park, and with some significant development plans about to be implemented, we want assurances that these large scale developments will not adversely impact town centre parking."

The new developments will include many more new homes which will put greater stress on available parking as well as the local road infrastructure. There will be significant challenges ahead, particularly through Victoria Gateway, and consideration should be given to re-open The Deeping.

No adequate parking strategy appears to have been planned for in SCAAP, and no tourism strategy either. With extra housing and commercial enterprises attracting more visitors, these visitors will need places to be able to park.
Southend Labour is also calling on the ruling administration to conduct a thorough review before it is too late. “We are still awaiting sight of a parking strategy” said Cllr Ware-Lane, “promised as part of the SCAAP. I am worried that we will see a reduction in car parking as both Seaway and Essex Street car parks are built on.”

Southend radical fair

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The big knicker campaign

Flashmob Soup at Project 49

Street Art on Sea

There was something like 60 of us at the Flashmob Soup at Project 49! Sixty good people gathered to help finance a charitable endeavour.

Three local charities gave short presentations, bidding for a pot of money supplied by those who paid to attend (like me).

Little Free Pantry

John Bully spoke for Street Art on Sea. Lara spoke for Little Free Pantry. Alexandra spoke for GetThe Kids Out.

Get The Kids Art
Sherry Fuller presents the winners
All three were very worthy, and to choose one from them to receive the day's money was a tough choice. In the end Street Art on Sea received the £235.

It was a good event, with delicious soup as an inducement to attend. I have been to a number of Southend Soup events and each one has been thoroughly enjoyable. A special thanks must go to Sherry Fuller who so ably organises these events.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Degraded A&E in Southend is going to happen

Despite assurances, accident and emergency provision at Southend University Hospital is going to be downgraded. It is not a question of 'if', but of 'how much?' This affects not only the blue light  services, those people conveyed by ambulance, but also those that arrive at A&E under their own steam.

The proposals do not include a 'none of the above' option, and so only Basildon will have a full A&E operation, whilst Chelmsford and Southend are seeing changes. This has ramifications beyond the quality of healthcare provided.

The most obvious objection, oft repeated in almost every conversation I have had on this subject, are on the subject of extended journey times. Those living in the east of the Borough will not only drive pass Southend Hospital, but whilst doing will be doubtless noting that their journey is not even at the halfway mark.

When every second counts, substantially increasing journey times is a very bad idea indeed.

But what of those whose treatment is done? However you look at it, getting back from Basildon could be very expensive, and taxi fares in the middle of the night will hit hard-worked pockets.

Visitors will also have to endure longer journey times, meaning for some that a visit will become rarer, if not abandoned as impossible.

Of course I will be defending my local hospital, a building close enough to be viewed from my childhood bedroom window. But I am not looking to get one over on Basildon and Chelmsford. I weep at their degradation too.

It looks like the National Health Service is getting harder to access, contrary to the ideals of those who founded it in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

Labour leadership ballot threshold

In the run-up to the 2007 Labour Leadership (non) contest I was interviewed by Channel Four News. I wanted a contest rather than a coronation, and wanted John McDonnell's name on the ballot paper. I was going to vote for Gordon Brown anyway, but felt that a contest would have given him legitimacy. More importantly it would have given ordinary members like me a say in who ran our party.

Consequently, I think the avoidance of an election did not give Gordon the opportunity to sell his vision of what he wanted to do with his Leadership, which I think contributed to many of the problems he subsequently encountered.

I see myself as a centrist, mostly because I see compromise and accommodation with all views as central to my version of democratic socialism. In many areas I hold a traditional left-wing stance, and it is surprising just how many things I agree with our current leader about - surprising in that I twice voted for other candidates in the two most recent leadership contests.

The most important reason for Labour's existence is to represent working people - which means winning elections. Ideological purity is mere hot air if you cannot implement any of your ideas.

There is a McDonnell amendment that looks to lower the threshold for those seeking to lead the Labour Party. This is because the Left has not been able to get enough people elected as MPs to qualify for the contest without those from other wings of the party lending their names so that a Left candidate is on the ballot paper. Dianne Abbot (2010) and Jeremy Corbyn  (2015) both scraped in by borrowing nominations. Now that Jeremy won, many non-Left MPs are seemingly convinced against such beneficence in future.

I do not support the McDonnell amendment, and this is not for any tribal reason . I believe that all wings of our great party have much to contribute, and actually I refuse to slavishly follow any faction. I am as at home in Compass and the CLPD as I am in Progress and the Fabians. Good ideas come in all shapes and sizes.

My principal objection manifested itself in the abortive coup after last June's EU referendum. The Leader of the Labour Party's main job is to lead the PLP, and to do this he (or she) must command their support. A 15% threshold to get onto the ballot paper in any future leadership contest does not strike me as unreasonable.

A Leader foisted onto MPs by a membership who are far more radically inclined has its problems, and the infighting that accompanies this helps no-one.

We need a united party, and a sensibly set barrier to leadership I think encourages us to be united.

Let me be clear though; I am a loyalist. I have yet to vote for the winner in a Leadership contest in the two decades of my membership of the Labour Party, but I accept the result and support whoever is chosen. I also am a firm believer in democracy. I just want some commonsense to prevail.

Finally. If Momentum and the like are upset about the make-up of the PLP then they will get their chance to change this when the next round of Parliamentary selections begin. Please, though, let us have people capable of actually winning support from the electorate.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Ric's unfinished matters

Last month Ric Morgan, former Liberal Democrat and Independent councillor, passed away.

I have just re-discovered this missive from him, sent just as he was departing the chamber in May 2015.

I do not necessarily agree with every sentiment, but I thought it worth sharing.

Ric Morgan.  
                     In leaving SBC there are some matters I think it my duty to bring to your attention.
                                                Since the little lad was run over and killed on the London Road and safe journeys to school were discussed in the chamber, no road safety measures have been introduced.
                In Prittlewell the entrances to Earls Hall School are all on rat-runs and Officer Backhouse’s scheme for speed tables has been shelved. Crossing build-outs have been installed for Southend High for Boys but there is nothing on the same road, Prittlewell Chase, for the Chase School.
                Other ward members will have concerns of the same kind. You must not wait for the next child to be killed.
                                                After six months of asking Leftley finally admitted that the head of Westleigh has been paid an extra £135,000 as executive head of failing primaries. Officer Theadom’s ‘School Improvement’ Team, whose only recourse is to bring in executive head teachers, costs £650,000pa.
                The executive heads are coaching schools to get them through Ofsted inspections but this is not giving help to the children who need it most.
                [The above matters comprise the principal reason why I can no longer be associated with Southend Borough Council.]
                                                Monstrosities like the City Beach block of flats are being pushed through DC by officers who have prepared overlong reports and warned committee members of the dire consequences of opposing such developments [and officers’ wishes]. The committee needs to make it clear that members decide what will or will not be added to the landscape of our town and that officers must look to policy and regulations in order to implement those decisions, rather than putting difficulties in their way.
                                Ron Woodley has not yet acted on his promise to review salaries in the Civic Centre and change the balance so that we have the number of social workers and other front-line workers our residents need, instead of more highly-paid managers than any town needs.
                [SBC pays £695,000pa to the firm running Garons – so what does Officer Harris do?]
                This is one matter for which calling in an outside consultant could be justified.
                                With ‘Outlook’ being cut to one issue per annum, residents will be obliged to depend on the council website. When Tower Hamlets did a survey on how effective this might be it was found that only 22% of residents were able to use the website and a mere 9% of over-60s. When I asked Officer Corrigan to survey figures for Southend I was met with the usual obstructive insolence.
                I estimate that in Prittlewell 90% of older residents will be cut off from council communications, which suits senior officers but any member expecting residents to have their say on multi-million pound projects – or anything – must be seriously concerned.
                                After repeated complaints to the group leaders and the chief executive it is clear that nothing is done about officers who give unsatisfactory, slow responses to members’ questions. Back-bench members need to collect their findings with regard to officers’ responses and present them, naming names, to the cabinet.
You, the elected councillors, are the ones who make the decisions, take the responsibility and run our town.
Don’t be intimidated by deliberately confusing documents and threats of chaos.
Show ‘em who’s boss.
Goodbye and very, very, very good luck,

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Save Southend's A&E

Last night, after a brief Full Council that ratified Alison Griffin's appointment as Southend's new Town Clerk, I moved a couple of hundred yards southwards to the Beecroft Gallery to take part in an Open Planning Meeting: Save Our A&E - No NHS Cuts. There was more than fifty of us there, which is quite impressive when compared to many local  meetings that I have gone to over the years. The more than fifty (I actually think it was fifty-four, but I could easily have missed one or two) included three Borough Councillors (McDonald, Robinson, Ware-Lane) - all Labour.

The meeting was chaired by Tim Sneller, and Norman Traub was the principal speaker. Plenty spoke of their concerns for the future of healthcare in south Essex, and many ideas came forward as to how we could publicise what is going on, and campaign to protect our precious NHS.

This is not a Labour Party campaign, but a campaign supported by Southend Labour as well as many who have no link to the Labour Party. I saw Green Party activists and NHS workers, and many faces I did not recognise. This issue is too important to be monopolised by Labour, but it is important that Labour people take part and voice their concerns.