Council Criticised Over Lack Of Affordable Housing

Wendy Goodwin, Cabinet Member for Homes

CASTLE POINT BOROUGH COUNCIL (CPBC) was heavily criticised this week by the charity Shelter. Its Local Housing Watch revealed that there are 1,374 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in the constituency and that, at current letting rates, this will take over 14 years to clear.

One would, the charity says, have to earn £47,727 per year to afford to buy an average-priced house in the area – almost twice the average annual income of residents, which is just £24,778.

The average selling price of a home in the borough is £175,000 (down from some £200,000 in 2006)..

Shelter’s independent experts say Castle Point needs to build 209 homes per year; but criticise the council for not saying how many homes it intends to build. Just 10 new affordable homes were in fact delivered, on average, in each of the last three years.

Just 95 lettings were made to new social tenants last year.

46 households are considered as homeless, and 66 are housed in temporary accommodation.

With just five percent of the number of affordable homes delivered, Castle Point was rated at the bottom end of the charity’s housing league table. It was number 303 out of 323 councils rated, and performed particularly badly when compared to its Basildon and Southend neighbours – who were positioned 13th and 102nd respectively. Basildon delivered 91 percent of its 208 target, and Southend managed 26 percent of its 344.

Cllr Wendy Goodwin, Cabinet Member for Homes, was contacted regarding Shelter’s criticism; but no reply was received by the time this article was published.

Last year, the local Labour Party were suggesting that 1,014 empty homes in the borough could be utilised in solving the local housing problem; but that figure, from 2008, does not paint an accurate picture. Included in that headline total are natural and seasonal movements in the area’s housing as properties become empty waiting for new owners or tenants to move in – or remain temporarily unsold in a weak housing market.

Of that headline figure, 649 private properties (693 in 2009) were identified as having been empty for more than six months; but, once again, the figure also includes properties that await being sold or renovated by their owners. Furthermore, while it is probably true that some of these properties, if money were available, could be purchased by council to add to its housing stock, the truth of the matter is that, in most cases, renovating a run-down property is often likely to be more expensive than knocking it down and rebuilding from scratch.

In short, the option of buying-up aged empty properties is not the viable solution that many would like us to believe.

With projected Council income from Government likely to be cut by some 25 percent in response to Britain’s financial crisis, the outlook for overcoming the borough’s housing crisis in the short term is bleak. If there is to be a silver lining, it is only likely to come from the private sector in reaction to the 2012 Olympics and local town centre regeneration.

On Wednesday, the Development and Control Committee will meet to examine proposals by Barrett to develop the mainland’s Kiln Road site, which includes plans for 53 affordable new homes.

Locally, the plan is opposed by the Thundersley and Daws Heath Hands Off Our Greenbelt Action Group; but the plot is actually designated as possible building space and Barrett have sought to address the outstanding nature conservation issues on the site – as well as providing for contributions towards highway and public transport improvements, early years and childcare education.

Given the current financial crisis, and the borough’s poor housing record, it is difficult to see how the plans could be refused. It is probably the only option the borough has to provide suitable accomodation for its homeless.

On the island, the Town Council has made no attempt to identify private property availability; suitable building locations or, indeed, the housing needs of its residents. Instead, in line with Canvey Island Independent Party strategy, its position is simply to oppose any new homes on Canvey.

In this, the first real test for the CIIP since the local elections, and Blackwell’s comments here to ‘work with the ruling group,’ it will be interesting to see if that promise holds any truth. As the borough’s only opposition party, will they put the needs of the constituency’s homeless first? Or will they simply adopt their Canvey Island stance and oppose the only opportunity our most deprived residents (mostly islanders) have to better their conditions?

Wednesday evening’s vote will serve to make things clear…

… (CPBC, 26/05/2010) – Barrett proposals refused

… (28/05/2010) – So Much For Barrett’s ‘Proposals’

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?

Just To Coincide With The Pool Protesters’ Flyer In My Letter-Box…

Today's Yellow Advertiser advert: Spink is an independent again (and heading the Canvey Concord pool protest in the picture)

… (26/04/2010) – The Spink Advert You Will Not See

AA Staff Vote To Strike

(Independent) – STAFF AT THE AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION (AA) have voted for their first national strike in more than a century, in a row over proposed changes to their pension schemes.

The breakdown service’s union, the Independent Democratic Union (IDU), said that 57 per cent of its 2,400 members had voted in favour of the walkout, with an 87 per cent turnout. Staff are angry at the AA’s plans to cap employee pensions.

“We will look at the result and decide what we’re going to do next,” said the IDU national secretary Alistair Maclean. “We would rather talk with the AA and try to reach an agreement. If we don’t manage to sit down with the company, we have no alternative than to follow the result of the ballot and set dates for strike action.”

The AA management wants to put a cap on pensionable salaries, to raise employee contributions and to reduce the maximum annual rise in pensions paid to 2.5 per cent a year. Mr Maclean accused the AA’s owners of trying to rob pensions in a move he said would cost employees. The AA expressed disappointment at the outcome of yesterday’s ballot, describing the IDU as “out of touch with the real world”. The breakdown service accused the IDU of “jumping the gun” by balloting AA patrols on strike action before the consultation period ends on 23 April.

“Ballots calling for industrial action are premature as we believe that most staff accept the need for change,” said Andrew Strong, chief executive of AA Services. “We have committed to increase our contributions by 40 per cent, and have improved our offer by raising the cap so feel that the union is out of touch with the real world on this issue.

“We think the majority of staff will support our proposals. We want to offer all our staff a good deal on pensions. The AA is bucking the trend by proposing to keep our final salary section and career average sections open when most companies are closing theirs.”

The AA said a majority of patrols did not vote in favour of strike action – which would be the first in organisation’s 105 year history – as more than 400 were not part of the union. “There’s still support among our patrols so we’re hoping it won’t go to a strike,” said Sue Beeson, head of PR at the AA.

The AA’s 15 million members across the country have been reassured by the self-proclaimed “fourth emergency service” that contingency plans would be enacted to ensure they received a good service, as hundreds of patrols would not be involved in any strike action.

However, the Association of British Drivers expressed concern. “It’s a very sad day if people are going to be breaking down and not getting the help they need,” said a spokesman. “A lot of people do rely on the AA and RAC for breakdown cover. If that’s not forthcoming, that’s not a good situation for drivers.”

Meanwhile, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union held an executive meeting yesterday to plan for a fresh ballot, after strike action timetabled for this week was ruled unlawful by the High Court. “Our dispute with Network Rail remains alive,” said the RMT leader Bob Crow. “The fight to defend 1,500 safety-critical jobs out on the tracks, and safe working conditions for both our signals and maintenance staff, will not be kicked aside by one highly political court ruling.”

… (Guardian, 08/04/2010) – AA Strikes Will Include Bank Holiday

… (Telegraph, 24/04/2010) – AA Strike Is Called Off

Spot The Signature

Dave Blackwell - alias 'bob'

THE BLOG FORMAT, with its rolling pages, does not lend itself easily to providing readers with a ‘puzzle page’ like traditional newspapers. But this particular brain-teaser might prove to be an exception.

Consider the following three comments. Do you think they are written by the same person? If so, how do you prove it? Is there a common ‘signature’ in all three?

Readers are invited to contribute their thoughts in the comments section, where I will post the answer at 8:00pm this evening.

This is not a game. The skill you gain here could help you determine just who is trying to manipulate your opinion when you join those online threads…

first time i have been on this site as a resident on canvey island the people canvey have voted for canvey island independent party because they dont trust the others .the torys are just in it for there selves and the likes of owners of thorney bay and every other developer who wants to rape canvey. labour have just lost the plot .without a good oppisition canvey would of been finnished victims of corruption and greed . ted its seems you must be a tory at heart as you give the most disgaced tory coucillor bill sharp lots of space

Dave Blackwell's comment

hi, well colin mc tory mclean says his website is a community website why does he stop anyone who is not a tory from making a comment .it is just a properganda website funded by rebbeca harris tory candidate for the genaral election ,with tory boy mclean and tory boy parkin the front men ,canvey people will see through them like a clear glass window .

i think the whole tory party localy are running scared you just cant trust anything they say .they say they beleive in high standards in local goverment took 3 months to suspend one of there councillors who was found gulity of bullying .then rebbeca harris is seen socialsing with the councillor at one of theses secrect society function .if rebeca harris wants people to trust her she going a funny way about it

… I think we can all agree who the actual correspondent is; but the question is: ‘Can I produce sufficient evidence to prevent a libel claim (without relying on ISP servers)?’

CLUE: It will all be revealed in the end .

… (27/03/2010) – Silly Season Is Here

‘There’s no shame in resigning a political party to serve you better, Churchill did it twice’

AS ALWAYS, Bob Spink, our local MP, chooses to associate his particular brand of politics with renowned historical figures. But what his sound-bite does not say is that it took Winston Churchill a lifetime to achieve that distinction.

On the other hand, it has taken Bob just eighteen months to set a new record for changing parties six times.

The headline is a quote from today’s Yellow Advertiser advert, foretold in Bob’s email to his ‘independent’ colleagues last week – and overcoming any possible doubts that readers might have had in that letter’s authenticity.

The advert also confirms independent sources’ information that Gail Boland, with whom Bob lives on Canvey, is sponsoring the Independent Save Our Green Belt Party that Bob, after many attempts to find a suitable title, finally launched last week.

The advert might have been composed by Luke Akehurst. Spink is portrayed on the left hand page sporting the new Save Our Green Belt logo; but his positioning of the word ‘Independent’ is carefully placed below his name. (Unlike the opposing local candidate page which sees the same word reduced in size and positioned as the foundation of the logo).

This may indicate that Bob has yet to decide whether to officially adopt the new fledgling party for his campaign – or whether, if the press is unfavourable, he might retain the simple ‘independent’ label.

Hansard has yet to recognise Bob as an Independent Save Our Green Belt Party member.

Also notable in the advert is that Bob has distanced himself from his partner, Gail Boland. Bob’s sponsor is the same ex head-teacher of King Johns who was financially rewarded for acting as his agent in the 2005 campaign – Ian Yeoman.

At that time, Bob received over £15,000 for his campaign from the local Conservative Association.

Where his funding is coming from this time remains a mystery, because the new ISOGBP party, registered in April 2009, has yet to publish any accounts.

Notably missing from the advert is any detailed manifesto – or any allusion to one. Readers are presented only with a short list of issues, which few would not support. It is a pretention to being a party that anyone can safely vote for; but, at some distance from the ‘policies,’ Bob’s page also proclaims: ‘We are true independents. We will never take orders from a political party or vested interests.’

In other words, no groups with a common interest will be able to persuade the ISOGBP members to change their minds; and no promise is made to the electorate to follow any of the policies listed on the page.

Some may think I am being unduly harsh in my analysis of this advert’s wording – particularly because all readers like to read what they wish to see. But that is precisely the way this advertisement has been designed. It has been purposely constructed to mislead.

At the bottom of Spink’s page is inset thumbnails of five posters that actually tell their own story.

The first shows Bob’s total lack of respect for the Fallen’s War Memorial by saluting with a bare head, and dressed in civilian clothes.

The second is a poster campaigning to save our Post Offices, which had nothing to do with Spink. It was the Tory led Essex County Council that saved hundreds of post offices from closure across this county and brought back more.

The remaining three: ‘Save the Chase,’ ‘Stop the Gas Plant’ and ‘Save Our Greenbelt’ campaigns were begun by residents – and quickly taken over by Spink to ensure local press headlines and further the lie that he is ‘Britain’s hardest working MP.’

Spink even makes clear his contempt for the Democratic process itself by choosing to promote the following in his sub-header:-

‘We are registered with the Electoral Commission simply to meet election laws.’

This is reflected in the fact that his new party has filed no financial accounts. Legally, of course, he does not have to – yet. But all responsible parties are careful to make their financial dependencies public on their Websites in an effort to ensure transparency.

There is, as yet, no official ISOGBP website – and nowhere the electorate can go to discover anything about that party’s constitution; its financial backers; its position on national matters; or what it would seek to do for local residents.

It is nothing more than a Canvey Island Independent Party clone – and residents have already experienced that party’s particular brand of negative, nimby politics designed to halt any type of progress on this island.

It is your vote. Use it wisely this year…

… (20/02/2010) – Castle Point Or Passport To Pimlico?

BA Faces Prospect Of Crippling Strikes As Talks Break Down

(Independent) – BRITISH AIRWAYS is facing the prospect of crippling strikes by its cabin crew after talks aimed at resolving a bitter row over cost-cutting broke down last night.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the long running dispute collapsed when marathon talks ended without agreement.

Officials from Unite will meet today to decide their next move, and are set to announce strike dates.

The union’s 12,500 cabin crew members have voted twice hugely in favour of industrial action, but a planned walkout over Christmas was halted after a successful legal challenge from BA.

The union has ruled out striking over Easter, but a walkout could come as early as March 18.

Unite will have to give BA seven days’ notice, but the scene is now set for a bitter confrontation.

The two sides were embroiled in negotiations under the chairmanship of TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, which broke up tonight without agreement.

Mr Barber said: “Despite a prolonged period of negotiations it has not been possible to reach agreement between BA and Unite.

“Both parties will be reflecting on the position and the TUC will be keeping in touch but at this stage no further negotiations are planned.”

Unite said: “Talks with British Airways concluded today without agreement being reached. Management’s offer went nowhere near addressing our members’ concerns over crew numbers and service levels.

“Today’s talks were further impeded by gratuitously provocative statements by senior BA managers not involved in the negotiations, once more calling into question the company’s interest in reaching an agreement.

“Unite representatives will be meeting tomorrow to discuss the consequences of this breakdown. Should BA wish to make an improved offer, they have time to do so.”

BA said it remained available for further negotiations but hopes of resurrecting talks were slim.

Earlier, Unite put forward a 10-page document it said contained possible savings of almost £63 million, including a one year pay freeze, followed by a pay cut of 2.6 per cent.

BA said its package would save £62.5 million a year and would not reduce the pay of existing crew.

The airline said the union’s proposals fell “significantly short” of this level of savings and would lead to pay cuts of between £1,000 and £2,700 for crew, figures the union disputed.

… (Guardian, 12/03/2010) – How the strike affects you

… (Guardian, 15/03/2010) – Gordon Brown intervenes in BA strike