Do I Detect The Seeds Of Another Canvey Petition Protest?

IT SEEMS THAT  Canvey Island Town Council, under the new chairmanship of CIIP member John Anderson, are now about to spend more residents’ money in obtaining the views of islanders regarding a pedestrianised shopping precinct in Canvey’s town centre.

Not content with wasting £180,000 on Canvey Lake, which is in any case earmarked for improvements under the Town Centre’s regeneration plans, the Town Council has apparently decided that the 3,687 participants in the public consultation process do not reflect islander opinion. They are certain that, given the opportunity, islanders would choose a pedestrianised High Street as opposed to wider pathways; cycle tracks; and a two-way traffic system to overcome the present congestion problems.

Indeed, it seems that congestion – whether it be island traffic or just petulant opposition to any modern progress – is the Town Council’s stock-in-trade. They have had the opportunity, since September last year, to promote their own ideas regarding the town centre’s regeneration; but instead they have, as usual, waited until the last moment to criticise the consultation process and infer that the developers have it all wrong.

True to form, the local Echo has taken to providing its column inches to the Town Council’s view – with no coverage of the alternatives that the visitors to Canvey Island’s Regeneration Shop have had the opportunity of choosing between. Furthermore, the Town Council is not urging residents to visit the Regeneration Shop to make their views known, they would rather just pose a simple question to residents – rather than give them the opportunity of making an informed decision.

The Town Council’s proposed opinion survey is heavily weighted against the developers. Most people, asked if they would like to see the Town Centre pedestrianised – and given no alternatives – are likely to say, ‘Yes.’ A fact that is not lost upon the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP), which has a reputation for taking arguments out of context and then organising petitions around them.

The protests over the Concord pool and Kismet Park’s Adizone have since flowered and gone to seed; but the CIIP is determined, in this the Town Council’s election year, to create another local issue that it can use to retain its political foothold.

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Spink’s Gambit For An Elected Mayor In Question

BOB SPINK and Dave Blackwell will be wondering what on earth they have done, this bank holiday week-end, to upset their tame poodle Colin Letchford.

On Friday, the Echo reported that Letchford would prefer a return to the old committee system of local government – rather than having an elected mayor.

He is reported as saying: ‘A system which involves the whole council making decisions has got to be more democratic.’

That Letchford should publicly come to this conclusion, now that he is so close to achieving the 3,364 signatures he requires to force a referendum on the issue, may well derail our two conspirators’ ambitions to create a lucrative position from which to engineer their separatist plans.

The discredited committee structure

In the same article, Blackwell is quoted as saying: ‘In Castle Point, we are desperate to put democracy back into the council. The leader and the cabinet should sit up and take note and bring back the very democratic committee system as soon as possible.’

‘The leader and cabinet should… bring back the… committee system’?

Blackwell cannot resist the temptation to allude that the cabinet holds all the power; but, as has been shown previously on this Blog, the most powerful body in the cabinet system is the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) – of which Blackwell just happens to be chairman.

That the OSC can be abused by an opposition to undermine the elected majority is, however, not a good reason to return to the simpler, older system, in which all decisions are made by full council and in which all opposition members vote.

Whilst it is true that, under the old system, Blackwell would not be able to sit back and watch as cabinet are forced to make unpalatable choices – like closing the Concord pool – and could not then ‘call-in’ the decision to make political capital from a situation he had allowed to take place, the fact is that Blackwell’s particular form of politics was born of the old committee system (so it should not come as a surprise to find that the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) would still benefit from a return to the old, discredited, routine).

So, how do the two systems differ?

CPBC's Cabinet System

Well, the cabinet system was imposed by the last Labour Government in an effort to streamline decision making. Rather than requiring all members to vote on every single matter that came before council, day to day matters were removed to a separate cabinet body consisting of a selection of between eight and ten majority members.

Cabinet meetings were still held in public – and non cabinet members could ask questions regarding matters in hand; but they could not vote. However, their questions could always ask the cabinet to refer a certain matter to full council if they thought there were reasons for doing so – and any member could bring any matter debated in cabinet to the attention of another body, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was given extensive powers to ‘call-in’ any cabinet decision; investigate the matter in detail and, if necessary, refer it to full council.

Day-to-day decision making was made much quicker – because it removed the ability of an obstructive opposition to tie members up debating matters of little local concern – thereby frustrating the ability of the majority to move-on to policy matters. It was argued, by the then Labour Government, that too little was being done by local councils because necessary decisions were being purposely held-up in committees whose make-up did not represent the majority’s views.

Under the old system, many majority election pledges found their way into political committee dungeons to never again see the light of day. The cabinet system broke the back of such obstruction by ensuring that a majority’s pledges could at least be rubber stamped by cabinet before being exhaustively scrutinised. Moreover, it laid the basis for any subsequent full council vote that would either approve or reject an intact proposal. (Committees were no longer able to tinker with original majority proposals in order to ensure their subsequent rejection).

In short, the cabinet system breathed new life into councils where the majority was unable, through opposition obstruction, to implement the policies they had been elected to implement.

It could be argued that the cabinet system is actually more democratic than the old committee system; because the majority is not clandestinely denied the means of implementing its manifesto. However, there is no doubt that many long serving members feel slighted by not being able to vote on every single matter – just as government back-benchers feel slighted that they have not been picked for a lucrative cabinet post.

Of course, Blackwell and his cronies promote the idea that the cabinet holds all the power. But the fact is that the cabinet is just a means for the majority to filter matters into those that can be quickly dealt with and those that might need fuller debate. It is rather like a production line, overlooked by the opposition leader who has the power to remove any product from reaching the stores. But, of course, Blackwell will never admit to that.

You see, Blackwell is not a willing production-line employee. He is not looking to remove faulty products from the conveyor belt before they reach the packing department. He is much more concerned with allowing faulty goods to pass unnoticed so he can complain about the firm’s management when they hit the stores.

That is why you will rarely see opposition councillors attending cabinet meetings. If they did, the attending public might well ask why no CIIP member asked questions when a controversial decision was made. Just as Blackwell ensured he was not around to chair the scrutiny of the Concord pool decision, he and his CIIP councillors like to make themselves scarce when any decisions have to be made. After all, it is easier to join a protest than it is to launch one of your own (and take the risk of wrongly judging the public mood). And the CIIP’s absence has also helped to affirm the lie that cabinet takes all its decisions in ‘secret.’

Tuesday evening’s cabinet meeting was interesting, because it seems, at last, that the ruling group is finally aware of CIIP strategy. At that meeting, Pam Challis introduced an item for the council’s constitution to be modified to allow members of the general public to ask questions directly of cabinet. (At the moment they can only do so through an elected representative).

The motion, calling upon officers to investigate the legal position and asking them to draw-up a revised constitution, was passed unanimously.

The move will be warmly welcomed by residents – although CIIP members made no supportive noises when the decision was taken. Perhaps they took cabinets’ vote as a direct reflection of their own abilities to represent their constituents at cabinet – since the proposal would effectively make them redundant…

New Political Year – New Mayor for CPBC

Mayor David Cross

TO MARK THE START of the new political year, Castle Point Borough Council elected a new mayor. He is David Cross, the Conservative councillor for St Mary’s Ward, who replaces last year’s mayor, Cliff Brunt.

His deputy will be Jackie Govier, the Conservative member for St George’s Ward.

Pam Challis, Conservative, St Peter’s, was officially re-elected as Council Leader, along with her deputy, the Conservative member for Boyce Ward, Jeffrey Stanley.

Godfrey Isaacs, Conservative, St James, was appointed as the Member for Safer Communities – replacing Tony Belford, who retired ahead of this month’s local elections.

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…

Divided Britain – Divided Borough

State of the parties

AS THE STOCK EXCHANGE FALTERS and the pound falls in the wake of a hung parliament, the electorate is coming to terms with a future that is bleak.

Thursday’s elections saw no outright winner; no clear leader to steer us out of our financial crisis; and no clear plan to unite the nation in its time of need.

Brown hid the nation’s books from the opposition; Cameron adopted a mantle of economic prudence; and Clegg cursed both his opponents’ houses. The electorate grudgingly gave Cameron a preference vote; but withheld their full support.

As predicted in this blog, the 2010 election result was not based upon party or financial policy. The public were less concerned with economics (for which no party had firm plans) and more about the state of British politics. The majority were not about to cast a vote of confidence for any politician. Their only aim was to vote against the hypocrites and fraudsters that the Telegraph had exposed within its pages.

As the results were made known, parliamentary fraudsters fell like nine-pins as constituents voted to oust them – and a whole new political landscape was formed, which pollsters had been accurately predicting: a hung parliament.

Thursday night and Friday morning were one helluva night for Democracy, with UKIP and the BNP being comprehensively rejected.

In Castle Point, Bob Spink felt the weight of public outrage and anger. Thirty percent of voters decided to stay at home; but sufficient numbers decided that enough was enough and dispensed a resounding beating.

Locally, the Independent Save Our Green Belt party could not muster the protest vote against the main parties, which they had wished for. Their association with Spink had been their undoing; but, on the Island, matters were different. Knowing full well that the Canvey Island Independence Party could never form a majority, islanders decided to bloody both main parties’ nose and happily vote CIIP.

Do not for one moment think that islanders have given you a firm mandate, Dave. Your party is being used to send a message.

The only way you will retain the Town Council, and your borough seat, is to show how you can work with the Tories to manage the financial crisis.

Protests will no longer cut it…

Canvey Island Votes For Independence

THIS MORNING, Canvey residents awoke to find that Dave Blackwell’s Canvey Island Independence Party had comprehensively pushed the Conservatives into second place on the island to take all council seats in the local elections.

On the mainland, the Conservatives romped home, taking all seats and denying Spink’s Independent Save Our Green Belt Party a foot hold.

Labour Councillor, Brian Wilson, lost his seat to the Conservatives in St Mary’s Ward, and the CIIP wrenched Canvey West from the Tories. Overall there was no change in the council’s Conservative majority.

The result sets the scene for more implacable opposition to any majority decisions in the borough – and a Summer of fuelled protest against any necessary cuts introduced by a coalition government.

The island’s results were as follows:-

Canvey Island Central Ward

  • Peter James May (Canvey Island Independent): 1,579
  • Stewart Topley (Conservatives): 913
  • Daniel Curtis (Labour): 421

Canvey Island East Ward

  • John Albert Payne (Canvey Island Independent): 1,572
  • James Lee Parkin (Conservatives); 1,041
  • Alan Curtis (Labour): 402

Canvey Island North Ward

  • Nick Harvey (Canvey Island Independent): 1,675
  • Pat Haunts (Conservatives): 1,046
  • John Payne (Labour): 561

Canvey Island South Ward

  • Joan Margaret Elizabeth Liddard (Canvey Island Independent): 1,565
  • Mark John Howard (Conservatives): 1,146
  • Katie Curtis (Labour): 406

Canvey Island West Ward

  • Jane Elizabeth King (Canvey Island Independent): 1,000
  • Colin Alan MacLean (Conservatives): 926
  • Bill Deal (Labour): 285

Canvey Island Winter Gardens Ward

  • Peter Greig (Canvey Island Independent): 1,549
  • Richard Bender (Conservatives): 951
  • Maggie McArthur-Curtis (Labour): 373

… (07/05/2010) – Bye, Bye, Bob – Hello, Rebecca

… (09/05/2010) – Dave Blackwell: A Changed Man?

… (Ted Pugh, 25/05/2010) – A New Political Era For The Country – But The Same Old, Same Old For Canvey