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?..