TC Mismanagement Gives Way To More Adizone Stories This Week

Cllr Peter Burch exercising at Canvey's Adizone

AS IF IN AN EFFORT to quickly change the subject, the Echo, this week, decided not to follow-up this Blog’s revelations regarding Canvey Island Town Council’s financial mismanagement. 

Max Orbach, presumably stung into action by a Canvey Island Independent Party source, was, I am told, querying my interpretation of the Town Council’s latest budget; but dispensed with trying to contact me after looking at the actual figures

Interestingly though, the Echo did not run a similar article. Instead it reverted to rehashing an old piece on Kismet Park’s Adizone – with a twist. 

Instead of padding its allegations of yobbish behaviour with comments drawn from CIIP councillors, it introduced the island’s latest local celebrity, Colin Letchford, as the unhappy residents’ spokesman. And Colin, true to form, gave his own inconsistent take on why the public gym should be removed. 

Whenever I go past there are children as young as eight playing on it, even though a sign clearly states it is only meant for 12 years and over. 

It is dangerous for them, but they use it because the neighbouring playground for younger children is so run down. 

Shouldn’t the council have some form of security to ensure younger children are not injured using it? 

This is the same Colin Letchford who, when speaking to Rebecca Harris, in my presence, completely sided with her view (regarding Canvey’s Concord pool) that the Labour Government’s onerous Health and Safety Legislation needed to be rolled-back and a more sensible approach adopted to public facilities. And the same Colin Letchford (whose own report on the Concord pool highlighted its dangers to youngsters) who took the view that those dangers were acceptable and the council need only erect a sign saying that the facility is used at the public’s own risk to avoid any possible prosecution. 

So, having a youngster injure a limb through jamming it in dangerous rock crevices, or falling 1.8 metres from a slippery foothold is acceptable to Colin; but having the same child use the Adizone’s equipment as a climbing frame is not. 

The Echo does not make clear which council Colin is referring to in his statement. Logically, it is the Town Council (TC) to whom residents should first make their complaints; but it seems that the TC, rather than taking responsibility for the island’s yobbery alluded to in the article, would rather remain silent and pass the buck onto the local Borough Council, via Colin, in an effort to gain political points. (The Echo willingly conspired with this strategy later in the week by again raising the Concord pool topic – and quoting more Letchford comments). 

Refreshingly though, Matthew Stanton at the Yellow Advertiser, decided to adopt an objective approach to the Kismet park story. Moreover, he actually chased down Lee Barrett for a comment and succeeded in getting behind the real reason for CIIP-led residents’ protests. Despite the numerous press articles on the Adizone facility’s proposed location; coverage of its installation; announcements of its opening and, some time beforehand, having been informed by CPBC letter of the decision to erect it in Kismet Park, it seems that some 40 residents do not check their letter-box or read the local papers. 

Lee Barrett was reported as saying:- 

… The residents who want the equipment moved feel they were not consulted properly and only knew about the work when it was happening. 

I had a few calls from confused residents asking what was going on but it was too late to do anything about it. 

Meanwhile, on the subject of the Town Council and my Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act requests, the TC has not even acknowledged my last FOI’s receipt. Nor has it deemed to provide any further information regarding my first. It seems that, like denying residents their right to an Annual Town Meeting this year, the Town Council is determined not to release details of the companies and individuals whom have benefitted from their enormous expenditure over the past three years.

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Canvey Island’s Parish Council – An Opportunity Lost

WHEN ISLANDERS elected their first Parish Councillors, back in 2007, it was hoped that the new body – like those in neighbouring Leigh-on-Sea and Rayleigh – would form close links with residents and the Borough Council to improve islanders’ lives and tackle Canvey’s poverty.

With a joyful heart, islanders signed-up to an extra Council Tax charge to finance the new organisation, and looked forward to the island’s deprivation being addressed.

Rank Ward
1 Canvey Island Central
2 Canvey Island North
3 Canvey Island Winter Gardens
4 Canvey Island East
5 Canvey Island West
6 Canvey Island South
7 St Mary’s
8 Victoria
9 Cedar Hall
10 St James
11 Appleton
12 St Peter’s
13 St George’s
14 Boyce

Nothing was more urgent. Canvey Island’s six wards take up the top six positions in the borough’s poverty and deprivation rankings (as shown in the inset table) but it soon became evident that the newly elected councillors had other things on their minds.

Their first act was to re-title the newly formed Parish Council as a Town Council – and their second was not to work with the Borough Council to improve island facilities: it was to work against the Borough Council’s attempts to improve the lives of islanders at every turn.

At no stage has this Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) Town Council attempted to address islanders’ needs – and its local Grants Budget, for each year since its inception, has only provided some £5,000 support for charities engaged in meeting them. That is just 1.8% of its 2010/11 precept – and £4,000 less than councillors have awarded themselves in allowances and expenses this year.

The last three years have provided an opportunity for councillors to come to grips with the lack of facilities for the island’s youth in poverty stricken areas like the Avenues. Three years in which to engage the island’s youngsters and address anti-social behaviour. But, when the Borough Council saw fit to erect a £150,000 Adizone in Kismet Park, the CIIP immediately launched a petition for its removal.

The Town Council (TC) has had three years in which to assess the island’s facilities and identify areas that need addressing. But, in all that time, the TC was apparently oblivious of the safety concerns surrounding the Concord pool. It seems that no town councillor had ever bothered to visit and assess the facility. In contrast, Leigh-on-sea’s facilities are regularly appraised by their Town Council, and councillors are keen to work in partnership with Southend’s council to ensure they are always maintained to a high standard.

Canvey Island’s Town Council instigated no such arrangement with Castle Point Borough Council (CPBC) – just as it has never attempted to table a solution to the island’s desperate housing needs.

This year, the Town Council will have squandered over one-million pounds of residents’ money. One million pounds, which, with proper planning and financial management, could have seen vast improvements to the island’s social cohesion. Local charities could have been supported; the island’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau might not have been forced to seek additional accommodation on the mainland; residents might have had their own, subsidised, Dial-a-ride service; and islanders might not have had to rely upon the local police force to arrange suitable events for Canvey’s youth during the summer holidays.

The fact is that Canvey Island Town Council does not represent the residents it was elected to serve. Rather, the Town Council is seen as serving the political agenda of the CIIP. Few residents talk of the Town Council Offices – they speak of the CIIP Clubhouse.

Parish Councils were never envisaged as political bodies. Instead they are run, in the main, by local business, charity and church leaders whom have close links to the local community – and whom are fully aware of its needs. In particular, being free of political bias, parish councillors are able to work with higher tier public bodies to ensure their services are accurately targeted where they are needed – and, because they are parish based, they also have access to grant funding that is not available to borough or county councils. For example, grants from: Awards for All; O2 It’s Your Community Programme; Green Prints Flagships; and the Sport England Small Grants programme.

Notably, Canvey Island’s TC has never applied for such funding – even though the CIIP is apparently committed to island youth facilities and preserving the environment. Perhaps this is because such bodies require detailed plans, which the Town Council appears incapable of producing.

Since its inception, the Town Council has not begun a single project that could be described as new. Not a single penny of the one-million pounds, contributed by islanders and which will have been spent by the TC later this year, has been ploughed back into the community. Instead, those funds have been wasted on maintaining existing island community assets that, until the Town Council decided to take them over, were the responsibility of CPBC and funded through the Council Tax collected from all Castle Point residents.

It is only islanders who will now contribute towards those assets upkeep – and for no corresponding reduction in their Castle Point Council Tax bills. And, because islanders are far fewer than the total number of Castle Point residents, their individual share of such upkeep will be considerably higher.

In other words: the Town Council has done nothing – other than to substantially increase islander taxes in return for no community benefits.

CITC Standing Orders On Contracts

One million-pounds is an awful lot of taxpayers’ money. It is equivalent to £25 for every man, woman and child residing on the island – or several new community centres. But, to whom that money has been paid, at this moment, remains a mystery. Moreover, it appears that the Town Council has not entered into a formal agreement with many of its contractors.

That the vast majority of the Town Council’s budgets have been aimed at building works, site clearance, greenery and environmental furniture (each totalling many thousands of pounds) residents will find it difficult to understand why these amounts have not been subject to formal contractual arrangements. After all, such contracts are the first concern of any householder embarking on engaging similar services themselves.

Here is part of the email conversation I had with John Burridge, the new Town Council clerk, regarding a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

  • Me: Please supply a detailed, dated, list of all contracts awarded since the Town Council’s inception, along with each contract’s purpose and full details of the individual contractor.
  • Burridge: Please let me know a minimum price for contracts, as, clearly, it would be disproportionate to provide information on, say, stationery orders.
  • Me: I do not think the commissioner would agree with you there, John. It is, after all, just a detailed Bought Ledger report (and I would be surprised if your stationary were not bought in bulk to ensure maximum discounts). I am not requesting details of the Town Council’s Petty Cash expenditure. Once again, paper is fine – just let me know when you would like me to pick it up.
  • Burridge: Please find attached a list of the contracts that CITC has with suppliers. We do not have any formal contracts with any other bodies or authorities.

Burridge’s list consisted of the following contracts for 2009/10 (I still await previous years’ details):-

  • Guardtec Security, annual maintenance charge: £285.53
  • ING Leasing, photocopier lease: £1,315.96
  • Pinnacle Essex, grounds maintenance: £7,080.40
  • Talk-Talk, phone rental: £113.85

Residents have a clear right to know to whom their money is being given, so, following Burridge’s obfuscation, I submitted a further FOI focusing upon the TC’s Purchase Ledger.

  • A detailed list of the firms, organisations and individuals to whom the Town Council has paid taxpayers’ money since its formation – along with the total individual amounts concerned. Just to be clear: the details of each firm, organisation and individual recorded by the Town Council’s purchase ledger and, for each, the accumulative invoiced amounts, less any credit notes. (I am not asking for details of any Petty Cash expenditure that might require manual compilation – and I am not requesting individual Purchase Ledger balances).

I have yet to receive a reply.

Formal contracts are an important element of any public body’s administration because they ensure only those works or supplies that have been agreed by council are in fact carried out – at the agreed price and with the agreed contractor. Without them it is possible for contractors to bill for other ‘necessary’ works; evade their responsibilities; or simply inflate the previously agreed price. But contracts have a further purpose when it comes to protecting taxpayers’ money: each needs to be formally approved, and it is therefore possible for residents to trace the arrangement back to responsible councillors and the minutes taken at the respective meeting to discover who agreed with, and who opposed, the proposals.

For example: who was it that agreed to the Town Council spending £1,000 of taxpayers’ money on ‘Regalia’ this year?

If it is indeed the case that the TC has entered into no formal arrangements, other than with those declared by Burridge, councillors will be in serious breach of their own Standing Orders – which is a very serious matter.

In the meantime, while the Town Council considers my latest FOI request, residents can only speculate on the reasons it might have for not immediately dumping the requested purchase ledger information to paper or electronic spreadsheet for detailed public inspection…

You Can Never Trust An Inde

Policy breakers - Lee Barrett and Anne Wood

IT WAS Anne Wood, the Deputy Leader of the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP), whom received the most reader attention this week.

In the matter of Kismet Park’s Adizone, Wood demonstrated just how reluctant she was to comply with her party’s policies – when she could instead gain some welcome local media attention by supporting a 41-weak resident petition to none other than Castle Point Borough Council’s Cabinet.

That is the same Cabinet that Wood and her CIIP colleagues, together with Colin Letchford and the Swann sisters, have continuously accused of being undemocratic; meeting behind closed doors; and taking all decisions in secret.

On Tuesday evening, the Cabinet met as usual in the Council Chambers – along with general members of the public and non-Cabinet members wishing to raise questions on their electors’ behalf. And, as in the case of all other Cabinet meetings, it was Webcast for the benefit of any resident unable to attend.

Following David Marchant’s presentation of the Adizone petition, a confused Lee Barrett (CIIP, East Ward) used his question to call upon Cabinet member Peter Burch to postpone any decisions over the Adizone equipment.

Peter Burch (Conservative, Cedar Ward) was forced to explain to him that it was impossible to postpone a decision that had already been taken and enacted.

That Barrett was so out-of-touch with political reality will come as no surprise to residents who will remember his vague proposals, made to council, regarding the provision of youth facilities in the Paddocks (which would have not received the cursory rejection it did, had he made any attempt to put forward a detailed proposal – rather than a nebulous idea).

But Barrett did not seek to raise any of the anti-social behaviour aspects, which would be later alleged by Wood. He addressed only the petition’s first point – that its signatories did not want it. ‘Our councillors were not consulted,’ the petition read. ‘We were not consulted and we do not want it [the Adizone].’

Wood used her question to paint a graphic picture of local unruly youths throwing stones, bricks and eggs at local resident’s houses; smashing bottles and urinating.

The Adizone, she said, had become a magnet for all the island’s unruly youth.

‘What action are the Cabinet going to take?’ she demanded.

A surprised Godfrey Isaacs (Conservative, St James) explained that he was unaware of any such problems. Nor was he aware of any increased level of complaints regarding anti-social behaviour to the local police. He would, he assured her, look into the matter and come-back with a proposal she might accept.

Neither Wood, nor Barrett, sought to highlight the petition’s concluding reason to have the Adizone removed: that, ‘There are no public parking and no public toilets.’

Had Wood and Barrett been paying attention to the wording of the petition they were supporting, a case might have been made for restoring part of the £60,000 budget savings (made by Council from installing the Adizone – and constantly criticised by the CIIP) to address the toilet issue. But neither co-operative, nor intelligent, politics, through which CIIP policies might be achieved and community lives and facilities improved, are part of the Indes’ strategy.

The CIIP would rather trash three of its seven policies, upon which it was duly elected, and disregard its responsibilities to residents in order to obtain some meagre column inches in the local press.

Throughout their local election campaign, the CIIP cried Freudulently from their Website: ‘You can never trust a Tory;’ but events this week illustrate that the exact opposite is true.

It is the Canvey Island Independent Party that cannot be trusted – and their actions this week have proved it…

No Annual Town Meeting This Year, Dave?

Dave Blackwell

CANVEY ISLAND TOWN COUNCIL (CITC) has published a list of its meetings that will take place between 14 June 2010 and 23 May 2011; but the only Annual Town Meeting on the list is to take place on 9 May next year. 

Perhaps Dave Blackwell intends to ignore this year’s annual meeting – in the same way that he ignores answering questions in general. Perhaps he intends to ensure that no dissent over the Town Council’s policies and fiscal competence is provided with possible access to the press. (In an election year, you have to manage your coverage carefully). 

But Blackwell and his cronies do have questions to answer. In particular, what does the additional £200,000 expenditure, which suddenly appeared in January, consist of? And why has the 2010/2011 budget not been published? 

Why is CITC proposing to spend £489,400 this year? (Almost twice its existing annual precept). 

What are Town councillors trying to hide? And why is it taking so long for councillors to approve minutes and have them published on the Town Council’s Website for residents’ inspection? 

This year’s expenditure is HUGE, and residents have the right to know if this is to be a one-off – or whether, as many suspect, it simply denotes additional annual expenditure that will, in future, double islanders’ Town Council levy. 

Blackwell’s aim seems to be to re-establish the old Canvey Island Town Council, where his parents were once councillors, and which was once separate from the then Benfleet District Council. But, in those days, islanders did not pay Benfleet’s Council Tax. 

The Town Council has already taken control of Canvey Lake from the Borough Council (to which islanders will now be forced to contribute instead of the cost being shared amongst the whole borough). The Town Council is committed to taking-over responsibility for Canvey’s tidal pool (with similar arrangements being put in place) – and, in neither instance, are islanders to receive a reduction in their main Council Tax. 

The only thing that these changes have ensured is that islanders are worse-off financially, while mainlanders benefit from no longer being responsible for those assets’ repairs or maintenance costs – and yet continue to receive islander contributions to that previous arrangement. 

The policy is simply absurd. And constitutionally separating the island from the mainland would not help the situation either. 

Is Blackwell and his party seriously proposing to take-over all those island assets and services that the Borough Council currently provides? Waterside? The Paddocks?Refuse and Recycling? Meals on Wheels? School Transport? Home Services? Council Tax Benefit? Housing Benefit? Concessionary Travel? Housing? 

What Blackwell fails to realise is that, unlike his parents’ time, the island no longer consists of a few thousand residents without a town centre – and simply establishing suitable offices and recruiting the personnel necessary to administer a vastly scaled-up old regime would be a logistical nightmare. (That is aside from the enormous costs). Furthermore, back in the day, the island had few aged residents to care for – and no housing problem either. Residents now rightly expect a much greater level of services than they did in the 1950s. 

Blackwell’s delusions of grandeur have ensured that islanders, many of whom live in the most deprived areas of the borough, now pay some 9% more in Council Tax than their mainland counterparts. But, if the island were ever to separate itself politically from the mainland, the situation would be far worse. That is because Council Tax payers, as opposed to those receiving Council Tax benefits, are not evenly distributed throughout the borough. The majority of those who are in receipt of benefits, and do not pay Council Tax or their own rent, live on the island. 

In other words, if Canvey were to separate from the mainland, those fewer islanders who do pay council tax would have to contribute far more than they do now – to pay for those who pay nothing at all. 

In conjunction with the loss of large economies of scale (the fact that a large borough can provide services much more cheaply per unit than one smaller in size) some have it that an island Council Tax would have to be some 200% higher than the current CPBC level. Moreover, Blackwell and his Canvey Island independent Party have never denied that figure – nor countered it with one of their own. 

It would be a travesty if, in this its election year, the CIIP run Town Council did not hold its annual town meeting to address islanders’ concerns. Residents have a right to know what the objectives of the Town Council are – and how they will be paid for. 

It took a petition of just 10% of residents to establish the island’s Town Council. Next year will be the first time that the 90% majority will be able to have their say on the matter. 

Despite constant prodding by this Blog, Blackwell and his cronies have remained silent about their Canvey Island Independence ambitions

From amongst the local media, only this Blog revealed Bob Spink’s true conduct in the house and his fraudulent expenses. And it has been left to this Blog to pursue the matter of the Canvey Island Independent Party’s dishonesty in its separatist aims. But, like Spink, Blackwell chooses to neither confirm or deny the facts put forward in this publication. 

Must residents be forced to draw their own conclusions – as they did with Spink – or are you finally going to say something, Dave?.. 

Are We Any Wiser About Where The CIIP Stands?

IT IS A WEEK NOW since this Blog published its Dave Blackwell: A Changed Man? piece, responding to Blackwell’s voluntary comment in the readers’ forum in which he stated: ‘[sic:] i have always tried to work with the ruling group for the benifit of the residents of canvey.’ But it seems that Blackwell has no intention of participating in a public interview, or responding to the legitimate concerns of voters. Instead he would rather hide behind an online alias or instigate the likes of Letchford to change the subject while the piece disappears from public view and hence from readers’ minds.

Residents will remember that this is exactly the same tactic employed by Spink to deny constituents the right to an explanation regarding his fraudulent expenses.

Small wonder then that this Blog now has another ‘Page That Will Not Go Away.’

Dave Blackwell and his Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) launched its Blog on March 8th this year. Its inaugural post was written by Neville Watson, ending with an appeal to residents to ‘watch this space.’ But were residents made any the wiser about CIIP policies and how they were to pay for them?

Sadly the answer is no.

Here is a list of CIIP posts and position statements upon which islanders voted:-

  • The year so far, 08/03/2010: The CIIP is against over development and the closure of Canvey’s seaside pool.
  • Silly season is here, 18/03/2010: The CIIP is against over development and the closure of Canvey’s seaside pool.
  • Youth facility at the paddocks, 21/03/2010: A youth facility at the Paddocks would be a good idea (but we have no idea how we would pay for it).
  • Fantastic projects, 22/03/2010: Who knows? The post provided no details.
  • Kismet Park, 26/03/2010: The CIIP is against the Adizone.
  • The Point, 27/03/2010: The CIIP says there are plans to build more houses on the Point and that they are against the plans.
  • Website issues, 30/03/2010: The CIIP site was not targeted by hackers, their host’s server was.
  • Full Council 30/03/2010, 31/03/2010: A spun report of the Full Council meeting in which the un-costed Paddocks youth facility and the Adizone motions put forward by the CIIP were defeated by the majority.
  • What would Canvey Island be without opposition?, 04/04/2010: The CIIP is against the closure of Canvey’s seaside pool and over development.
  • A little bit of info, 11/04/2010: The CIIP lists its candidates for the election; but does not say what they are standing for.
  • Don’t trust the Tories!, 14/04/2010: The CIIP’s ‘first and foremost policy’ is to work for Canvey Island and its residents. (Other parties regard that as an obligation from their oath of office).
  • Polling Stations – Important, 19/04/2010: It is David Marchant’s fault, here are the correct polling times.
  • Do they think Islanders are fools?, 19/04/2010: Don’t trust the Tories.
  • What a Day! 20/04/2010: The CIIP is not politically motivated (and yet they are standing for election?).
  • Protecting our seafront, 29/04/2010: The Tories are incompetent.
  • Fact NOT Fiction, 05/05/2010: The Tories are liars.
  • Thank You Canvey, 07/05/2010: The CIIP wishes to thank all its supporters.

Interesting is it not? Two whole months of posts and residents still have no idea what policies or spending plans the CIIP have. Their campaign was fought purely from a position of being against over development (the same position as the other main parties) and against the closure of Canvey’s tidal pool (the same position as Labour and local Conservative candidates). But, whereas the main parties were keen to discuss their approach to necessary spending cuts; a third road for Canvey; island congestion and the need for additional homes – the CIIP were not.

That is because discussing local issues would force them into taking a position – and hence alienate some voters. The CIIP’s tactic continues to be that it is better to say nothing – and have voters think what they will.

The CIIP’s form of politics is both arrogant and dishonest; but it has appealed to a slim majority of islanders because the party puts claim to representing Canvey. Just as the BNP wraps itself in the union flag to attract nationalist support, the CIIP’s support is mainly from those who love this island and believe CIIP propaganda that the borough’s majority is unrepresentative of their views

The CIIP would never admit that the leading force behind the millions of pounds that have been invested in this island over the past few years – and many of those before it – is one Ray Howard, whom just happens to be a Conservative councillor.

The CIIP have not, and never will, attract a single penny of external investment in the island – because no investor will provide funds where councillors have no policies or plans.

Historically, of course, prior to the CIIP’s claims to represent islanders, the Labour Party dominated Canvey Island. Why that party is no longer held in high esteem probably has to do with the chaos ensuing from the borough’s Labour administration prior to 2003 – in which Blackwell was deputy leader. But, over the past six years, Blackwell’s CIIP have usurped Labour’s vote and replaced it with a party that can never hope to regain control of the Borough council. (The CIIP only fields candidates in 17 island seats and there are 24 on the mainland).

So why do a slim majority of islanders waste their vote upon a party that is arrogant, dishonest, and can never hope to take control of council?..

Like many other islanders, I am bemused.

Would anyone care to enlighten us?..

‘The People Have Spoken – We Are Just Not Sure What They Said’

For the first time since the Second World War, Britain is to be governed by a coalition. On Tuesday, Gordon Brown decided to break the hiatus by tendering his resignation to the Queen whilst David Cameron and Nick Clegg were still in the midst of final negotiations.

As Cameron addressed the press in front of Number 10 Downing Street, it was still unclear as to whether the Lib-Con agreement would be finalised; but, on Wednesday morning, the markets were finally buoyed as Cameron and Clegg shook hands on the steps of the prime ministerial residence.

A new government had taken shape against the background of UK unemployment passing 2.5 million – the highest since 1994 – and a staggering financial crisis.

One of biggest tasks facing the new government lays in paying-down the country’s debt – and the Liberal Democrats have shifted their position by supporting 6 billion pounds of cuts to take place this year. The Conservatives have modified their aims too, to incorporate Lib Dem policy.

Cameron and Clegg outside no 10

From next April, the first stage in increasing the personal tax allowance to £10,000 per year will come into force – providing a welcome respite for the lower paid in times of economic frugality.

Constitutional and voting reform will take place under the eyes of the new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and we can anticipate a referendum on the latter. In return, the Lib Dem pro European stance has been set aside for this, five-year, parliament.

The National Identity Card scheme will be scrapped; but the employee portion of Labour’s NHI increase will take place next year, countering some of the benefits of reduced taxation from the personal allowance rise.

Constitutionally, it is likely that the first Act of Parliament in the new session will be to ensure fixed term parliaments from 2015.

The next general election will take place on the first Thursday in May, 2015.

During Wednesday afternoon, it became clear that this was to be a full coalition government. Despite its limited seats, the Liberal Democrats were to be fully embedded within government departments and their subsequent roles were by no means minor. Vince Cable was given the post of Business Secretary; David Laws was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Chris Huhne as Energy and Climate Change Secretary; and Danny Alexander became the Secretary for Scotland.

The full list of cabinet posts is as follows:-

  • Prime minister: David Cameron, 43, Conservative
  • Deputy prime minister: Nick Clegg, 43, Liberal Democrat
  • Chancellor: George Osborne, 38, Conservative
  • Home secretary: Theresa May, 53, Conservative
  • Foreign secretary: William Hague, 49, Conservative
  • Defence secretary: Liam Fox, 48, Conservative
  • Justice secretary: Kenneth Clarke, 69, Conservative
  • Health secretary: Andrew Lansley, 53, Conservative
  • Education secretary: Michael Gove, 42, Conservative
  • Business secretary: Vincent Cable, 67, Liberal Democrat
  • Chief secretary to the Treasury: David Laws, 67, Liberal Democrat
  • Work and pensions secretary: Iain Duncan Smith, 56, Conservative
  • Energy and climate change secretary: Chris Huhne, 55, Liberal Democrat
  • Local government secretary: Eric Pickles, 58, Conservative
  • Transport secretary: Philip Hammond, 55, Conservative
  • Environment secretary: Caroline Spelman, 52, Conservative
  • International development secretary: Andrew Mitchell, 54, Conservative
  • Northern Ireland secretary: Owen Paterson, 53, Conservative
  • Scotland secretary: Danny Alexander, 37, Liberal Democrat
  • Welsh secretary: Cheryl Gillan, 58, Conservative
  • Culture, media and sport secretary: Jeremy Hunt, 43, Conservative
  • Leader of the Lords: Lord Strathclyde, 50, Conservative
  • Minister without portfolio: Lady Warsi, 39, Conservative

Also attending cabinet will be the Minster for the Cabinet Office: Francis Maude, paymaster general (Conservative); the Minister of state, Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin (Conservative); Minister of state (universities and science), David Willetts(Conservative); Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young (Conservative); and Parliamentary chief secretary to the Treasury and chief whip, Patrick McLoughlin (Conservative).

Attorney general, Dominic Grieve (Conservative) will be invited when required.

As soon as the posts had been formally declared, ministers were hurrying to their new offices, determined to get to work.

There was no such drama in Castle Point, where the Conservatives retained a comfortable majority in last Thursday’s local elections. But it did not take long for the Canvey Island Independence Party (CIIP), in the shape of Nick Harvey (leader of Canvey Island’s Town Council and Canvey Island North Ward Councillor) and Canvey Island South resident Colin Letchford to begin berating, what both see as, the lack of democracy in the borough.

Colin Letchford had apparently put pen to paper the day after this Blog published its Dave Blackwell: A Changed Man? piece. In a letter written to the Echo, and copied to this Blog, Letchford alleges that he was banned from the local elections count  – in which he had been asked to act as a teller by Harvey. He further alleges that the reason given was that he had had the gall to begin a petition for an elected mayor – and that the Swann sisters had been similarly banned for beginning the ‘Save Our Pool’ petition.

Like Liz Swann and her remarks regarding ‘it was actually told to Lea Swann by a Conservative Cabinet Councillor in front of one of Conservatives own who is above reproach,’ in the readers’ forum on this blog, Letchford provides no evidence for his allegations.

His letter is a confused patchwork of unfounded statistics and innuendo aimed at manufacturing a case for the CIIP to be represented in the borough’s cabinet. Along with CIIP members, he seems incapable of realising that the Conservatives hold a comfortable 33% majority and that they are therefore entitled to none. He argues that 94% of islanders are unrepresented in cabinet; but that figure is totally discredited. The fact is that 48.6% of island residents, whom took part in the last local election, are not represented by their newly elected councillors – and that the CIIP has no firm mandate because, on a proportional basis, they only have the slimmest of majorities (just 469 votes across the whole of the island – representing only 2.7%).

Letchford is keen to take the opportunity for promoting his petition for an elected mayor; but it transpired in our discussion that the true purpose behind it is not to provide residents with the opportunity of electing a charismatic council leader. Letchford states that the purpose behind his petition to have an elected mayor is because: ‘The mayor chooses the cabinet members.’

As already pointed-out on this Blog, Letchford’s petition is simply another means by which the CIIP hopes to infiltrate the policy making body of Castle Point Borough Council – and provide a lucrative post for its main sponsor.

And Letchford, it seems, is also unable to understand that, even if Spink were elected as mayor, and he were to fill the eight cabinet positions with CIIP colleagues, that there would still be no change in the balance of power. If mainlanders voted in the same way as now, they would still retain their majority. Consequently they would hold a majority on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as they do now, and be in a position to call-in every cabinet decision and refer it to full council – where it could be easily defeated.

Spink: "I've been here before. Maybe I'll be here again..."

But Spink is not that disorganised. He knows that, with his media savvy and increased profile, a position as elected mayor would provide him with a platform that could be used to his advantage. And again it is the far-left protest strategy that will be employed. Despite it being the majority whom would defeat his ambitions in the chamber, Spink would continue to call ‘foul’ and point to the Conservatives as continually blocking him.

Same old, same old. And the borough and this island would continue to stagnate while Spink and his colleagues played their political games (while lining their pockets with taxpayer funds and enjoying civil benefits).

Is this all about island independence from Castle Point? Well, if it is, Blackwell and his colleagues are not saying anything. Just as they have never made clear their position on any other matter. If it is, then residents have a right to know just how much separation will cost them. A rough estimate, at the present time, is that islanders’ Council Tax would soar three-fold.

But if it were about island independence, why do the CIIP not stand on the mainland and provide all residents with the opportunity of voting for separation? That way they could democratically achieve a majority with which to pass such a resolution.

The answer is that it would not create a power-base for Spink’s own Independent Save Our Green Belt Party – and his and Blackwell’s ambitions to be Lords of their purposely divided manors would not be fulfilled…

Dave Blackwell: A Changed Man?

THIS BLOG’S readers’ forum has been somewhat taken aback. Yesterday afternoon, Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Island Independence Party, posted this comment:

Hi Ted can i just say now all the dust has settled as leader of canvey island independent party i have always tried to work with the ruling group for the benifit of the residents of canvey island .people who attack me dont even know me i have lived on canvey all my life and i love the place and want to help inprove it for the better and i will work with anyone who wants the same .i just wish the leadership of the council in benfleet would except the canvey peoples decision and work with us . and i hope rebecca will to .Dave

Readers recognised this as Dave Blackwell – his signature is unique – but they were surprised to find him posting under his own name. ‘Is this a serious statement from Blackwell?’ my inbox asks, ‘Or are we about to be used as a springboard for CIIP propaganda in the same way that Neville Watson, posting under the alias of ziggy123, abuses the Echo’s facilities?’

Well, Dave: what do you have to say? Is your latest post merely an attempt to woo Canvey Beat readers in the wake of Bob Spink’s comprehensive defeat? A recognition of the fact that the Truth always has a louder voice than any that can be mustered against it?

You see, the fact is, Dave: I and my readers have a healthy distrust of any political party that devotes itself to misleading its voters. Perhaps you could explain why you have adopted the word ‘independent’ in your party’s brand, rather than employing ‘independence’ to make a truthful statement.

You are at pains to point-out, in your post, that you are that party’s leader – and it is evident that you employ a party whip; because your members always vote together in council. (Which, incidentally, is not something that can be claimed of the borough’s majority).

Has the defeat of Bob Spink’s Independent Save Our Green Belt Party (ISOGBP) on the mainland forced you to consider that this was largely brought about by Canvey Beat readers – and that you need to set about presenting a more moderate face in order to hoodwink them into believing that you and your ISOGBP colleagues are not a threat to this borough’s Democracy?

What you and your colleagues do not get, Dave, is that, if your party were honest and published a detailed manifesto that the public could examine: it would receive no criticism from this corner. But, is it not a fact that the reason you do not publish your Canvey independence ambitions is because they make no economic sense?

Is it not a fact that separating the island from the mainland would have little effect on the Council Tax paid by mainlanders; but that islander’s Council Tax, together with the Town Council levy, would increase by at least 200%?

And is it not the case that the only way to reduce that Council Tax to manageable proportions would be to virtually double the amount of housing on Canvey? And that the only place to build such accommodation would necessitate building on ALL of Canvey’s green belt?

Is not the truth that your party actually has no real vision for improving this island – or seeing it properly integrated with the mainland to generate wealth and employment? And that the only objective you and your party members share is ensuring your continued re-election, by whatever means necessary, to satisfy your personal egos?..

(You don’t have to confine yourself to the comments section, Dave. Send me an email and I will publish it in full)..

… (15/05/2010) – Are We Any Wiser About Where The CIIP Stands?

… (22/05/2010) – No Annual Town Meeting This Year, Dave?