Is It Your Intention To Continue Misleading The Public, Tom?

I SUPPOSE that no one wishes to spend all that money on producing Concord Pool flyers – only to find that the issue has gone away. And if you are a wannabe online publisher, it is difficult to ditch a story that has thrown your site into the limelight. But Tom Jea still has not updated his Concord pool ‘coverage’ to incorporate the joint statement released by the Borough and Town Councils regarding their discussions.

Instead his site continues to blast the furious message:-

Canvey Island Town Council are asking for Islander’s[sic] support, in a letterwriting[sic] and emailing campaign to local papers (with copies to the Borough Council’s Chief Executive, and peoples’ Councillors[sic].

The page then drops into savaging the Borough Council’s cabinet in a report about a Town Council meeting a month ago – on 25th March.

What Jea is failing to do (for the benefit of all those extra visitors his site is getting on the back of those flyers) is to inform readers that the Town Council will apparently be taking-over the responsibility for Canvey’s Sea Pool, and that both sides have agreed to seek advice about how this might best be managed.

The Borough Council actually distributed the following Press Release on 23 April; but perhaps Tom does not qualify for a copy – or is too busy to monitor their Website. (Notably, the Echo has not carried it – and the Town Council’s Website has not mentioned it either.)

The following Statement is issued on behalf of the Castle Point Borough Council and the Canvey Island Town Council.

‘The Deputy Leader of Castle Point Borough Council – Councillor Jeffrey Stanley and the Chairman of Canvey Island Town Council Town Councillor Nick Harvey said:-

“The first meeting of the Canvey Island Sea Water Pools Working Party took place Wednesday evening  (21st April).

“The meeting was useful. Councillors from both Councils have agreed to commission specialist advice to assist the discussion regarding the Town Council’s wish to take over responsibility for the Canvey Sea Water Pool on Canvey Sea Front.”’

So the Concord pool is apparently about to be taken over by the Town Council, and its precept used to repair, maintain and insure the pool. What is not yet known is just how much precious reserves will be ploughed into the venture. As previously reported, the Town Council will spend in excess of £200,000 more than is raised by islanders’ Council Tax Levy this year, leaving just £160,000 in its coffers for emergencies and schemes like this.

What is your opinion on this issue?..

… (22/02/2010) – If You Are Listening, Ray: Rebecca Has An Idea…

Lies From Spink; Lies From The CIIP – And Now Lies From Canvey’s ‘Save Our Pool Campaign Group’

THE LEAFLET SAIDPrinted At Below Cost By DESIGN 4 PRINT’ – and it immediately had my attention. After all, that is the local firm that prints the vast majority of Spink’s campaign literature (as revealed in his expenses claims). But the leaflet did not purport to be from Spink or either of his parties. The rhetoric was consistent, the phraseology the same; but it would appear that the person behind this is Tom Jea, producer of the Concord pool protesters’ Website. (The leaflet does not actually provide that linked address; rather it just mentions the site’s homepage – in order to ramp-up the hits).

‘How strange that I should find this in my letterbox now,’ I thought – as I removed it from the batch of political flyers with which it had been folded. And how strange that a group that professes to be non-political and ‘not for or against any party’ should not protest against the Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, Dave Blackwell, for agreeing with the Cabinet’s decision, on safety grounds, to close the Concord pool.

But then this issue is not, as it should be, about public safety or the Council’s liability for any accident that may occur to an unsupervised child. It is all about taking a current local issue and trying to turn it into the type of mass protest once seen on the island over Calor Gas’ plans. And residents should also remember that the only reason this issue is ‘current’ is because the Canvey Island Independence Party, in the shape of the Town Council, have consistently been unable to attend meetings with Borough councillors to solve it.

Spink and his parties are unable to present one idea for this borough – and their only recourse is to create a local political issue that might enable them to harvest some protest votes.

So perhaps Spink really did need that £16,000 for ‘his’ election campaign. As Julian Ware-Lane pointed-out, on his blog, Spink would be breaking the rules if he spent that amount of money. But perhaps Bob did not need it all for his own campaign…

Oh yes; what lie?..

The lie that: ‘Just 8 people had the power to decide this [the closure of the Concord pool].’ That was the number of Cabinet members; but what about the power invested in members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC), chaired by Blackwell (but too busy to attend the meeting) whom called the cabinet’s decision in?..

On this blog, Neville Watson said that the OSC had no powers, because the Conservatives have a majority on the committee. (Well, what do you know: maybe that is because the Council has a Tory majority).

Spink and his parties would have you believe that the opposition is impotent because the Conservatives employ a 24hour whip; but the truth of the matter is: the opposition is incompetent – unable to muster a logical argument against any Conservative proposals – and, when they have the opportunity to defeat them, they simply sit back and let the proposal through (to give themselves something to campaign about).

They have been adopting the same tired tactics, for the past six years – because they have seen that it provides them seats. And they will be adopting exactly the same tactics in this campaign; because it is the only way they will achieve any votes.

The borough’s Green Campaigners have been quick to distance themselves from Spink and his cohorts, highlighting, on the Echo’s Website, how they have been used.

It is about time that the Concord pool protesters did the same…

… (26/04/2010) – Is It Your Intention To Continue Misleading The Public, Tom?

Over £291,000 In Its Coffers And Still Playing Party Politics

HAVING PROCRASTINATED with the Borough Council about being able to meet them regarding Canvey’s Concord Pool, Canvey Island Town Council were finally pressed into agreeing a meeting for 17th March.

The two sides later released a joint press statement regarding their discussion; but, it seems, neither the Echo, nor the protesters’ Website, have deemed it of sufficient local interest to publish.

For the record, here is that statement, made by Councillor Pam Challis OBE (Leader of Castle Point Borough Council) and Nick Harvey (Chairman of Canvey Island Town Council):-

A useful meeting took place last night between Castle Point Borough Council and the Canvey Island Town Council.

Both Councils fully discussed the safety concerns regarding the sea pool and agreed to set up a small working party to explore all avenues and to continue discussions.

No further action will be taken on the decision to remove the sea water pool while these talks are taking place.

No. It is not particularly newsworthy; but it does highlight one important fact: the pool, in its present condition, is unsafe.

At the meeting, Castle Point Borough Council provided Town Councillors with the full Cabinet Report, upon which their decision to remove the pool was based, and the two 2008 background papers regarding the pool’s ROSPA inspection and option appraisal.

The 2008 reports, previously published on the CPBC site and this blog, are damning – and the Cabinet Report, consisting of some 23 detailed A4 pages, examines the council’s options in depth; but readers will not find these options, or safety issues, being addressed by Town Councillors or the protest group, which now appears, from its Website, to be actively supporting Bob Spink and his CIIP groupies as leading the ‘non-political’ Save Our Pool campaign.

YourLocalTownTalk is actively campaigning for the protest, now apparently led by Canvey’s Town Council, to be stepped-up. In its ‘coverage’ of the 25th March Town Council meeting, it does not once mention the meeting on 17th March or the central issue of public safety. Once again, as with the Calor Gas campaign, the CIIP and its covert leader, Bob Spink, is purposely refusing to resolve a genuine local issue in favour of using it to bolster their political campaign – and their supporting ‘press’ purposely ommits reporting half the story.

The issue could have been easily resolved at that 17th March meeting. The Town Council, elected to represent islanders and with over £291,000 of unallocated funds in its financial coffers, could have offered to finance the pool’s refurbishment for the residents of this island. After all, it is island taxpayers who have provided its £291,000 slush fund and CPBC needs a damned good reason to provide such funding from its own limited resources. But this option is not even mentioned in the YourLocalTownTalk piece, which might have been written by Spink himself. All relevant facts have been omitted and the writer’s ‘he-said, she-said’ piece reeks of political bias. To read it one would think there is no concerns over safety or finance at all – just an unfounded decision to close a perfectly safe pool to upset islanders.

YourLocalTownTalk, it seems, is keen to promote the island’s far-right political agenda. Not content with ‘covering’ the sea pool protest, it has now taken to promoting Colin Letchworth’s petition for an elected Castle Point Mayor – under the banner ‘Colin’s Campaign For A Fairer Democracy.’

Oh, boy… How misleading can one article be?

The piece reads as if the majority had some choice regarding the adoption of a cabinet based council. Nowhere does it mention that the Labour Government enacted this requirement on 28 July 2000. Neither does it mention that an elected Mayoral system is also based on the same cabinet system. The only difference is that an elected mayor appoints his or her own cabinet; whereas, under the present system in Castle Point, full council elects a leader from amongst its own number to do the same. The latter system is far more democratic and representative of local opinion than a personality based election can ever hope to be.

Such is the accuracy of YourLocalTownTalk’s reporting that it is perhaps fortunate that it chooses to publish its content in .jpgs (rather than text) which the internet search engines cannot index. Those using Google or other providers are therefore unlikely to be misled by its mischievous content.

Council To Go-Ahead With Concord Pool Demolition

IN AN UPDATE on the council’s website today, Castle Point Borough Council confirmed its intentions of demolishing the old Concord Pool on Canvey’s seafront:-

The [Overview and Scrutiny] Committee on Wednesday re-examined a Cabinet decision to agree to the demolition of the Old Sea Water Paddling Pool at Concord Beach, Canvey Island as part of the improvement programme [to overhaul and upgrade leisure facilities in the Borough].

Councillors dismissed claims that Cabinet had not considered the impact on seafront traders and tourism and that the pool provided a safe alternative to swimming in the sea.

A Council review of the Borough’s leisure facilities found that the 1930s built Old Sea Water Paddling Pool would require council spending of £96,000 on repairs and maintenance in order to make it safe for public use.

It found that the facility had suffered severe tidal damage and that there was a risk to the public from old debris at the site and recommended that for safety reasons it should be demolished and replaced by a new beach area.

In providing the two reports upon which its decision was based, it is clear the council had no choice in the matter…

If You Are Listening, Ray: Rebecca Has An Idea…

Rebecca Harris (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party)

(Rebecca Harris) – I WAS DISMAYED by the proposal to close the older and more historic of Canvey’s tidal pools. 

We have already lost too much of our heritage and local character, and I would deeply regret losing any more – even if this wasn’t such a well used resource. Nor does the fact that we have a newer pool, which the Borough Council say they will improve with a crabbing area, lead me to think: “Oh; that’s alright then.” 

I also have a gut reaction against the words “Health and Safety”. (Although, as a mother, I don’t want to put my toddler at genuine risk however bloody-minded I might feel about the Nanny State). 

My personal view is that we should do everything we can to keep the pool operating as a part of Canvey’s history, somewhere young families can have a cheap day out, and a much-loved aspect of our sea-side. 

I have spoken to the councillors involved in the decision to try to understand what they were thinking. They all clearly came to the decision with real reluctance; several even became nostalgic about their own childhood memories of using the pool or having taken their children or grandchildren there. 

I think they were motivated by two factors, risk and future maintenance costs. I can understand that once councillors, or anyone else put in the same position, are told they may be responsible for serious risk to life – and in this case children’s lives – they  feel very reluctant to second guess expert findings and want to move fast to eliminate the danger. 

I can understand that. 

Due to the state of the public finances, councils are anticipating as much as a 10% funding cut from the current government. So they’re looking to make some tough decisions. Having decided the priority was refurbishing the Paddocks and Waterside and keeping them to a safe standard in future years, they thought they couldn’t afford two tidal pools too, with all the supposed legal risks attached. However, I still think this decision was short-sighted and rushed. 

They failed to make an assessment of the views of local residents and traders – or look into all the possible options. The electorate are no less capable of grasping the issues and deciding if this is something they care about enough to justify the costs to them, the taxpayer. 

Most of Britain’s old tidal pools have closed already over Health and Safety fears, which makes this 80 year old example even more special and valuable an asset for the Island. And anyone familiar with the pools will know that the older one is in fact by far the better of the two. If we could only have one, that would actually be the one to defend! 

I only got in to the Special Town Council Meeting on the pool late (there was a space problem), but I was glad I made it. I was put forward to speak by campaign leader Liz Swann, who knew I was against the closure. I’d emailed the Chairman earlier; but clearly too late for the message to reach the meeting that I’d obtained an assurance from Castle Point Council that they wouldn’t decommission the pool before allowing time for everyone to explore the options. 

This gives everyone a decent window of opportunity to get a “Second Opinion”. The facts can be fully reviewed. We need a proper understanding of the relative costs of maintaining the pool to what’s considered a modern safe standard, to check the quoted costs are accurate, and weigh them against the needs of Canvey as a tourist venue and the finances of our councils. 

Crucially, we can also look at other avenues for money such as Heritage Lottery Funding, which has helped some of Britain’s 1930’s lidos. There might be other ways to reduce the annual insurance costs in these litigious times too. 

The Borough Council have committed themselves to spending £50,000 to remove the pool and improve the beach. On their reckoning it would be only another eight thousand more to put it in good order in the first year, so it’s clearly not an immediate worry about money. But these works would be one-off capital expenditure; the worry is surely how they can find new money each year from a shrinking government grant, to prove to insurers that the pool is “safe”. 

Part of the original plans for the regeneration of Canvey were for the CoastWatch hut to be moved around from its current position near the Port of London Authority jetty to somewhere that they can also observe the beaches; but, as government cash has dried up, this plan is stuck on hold. 

But what if we could get grant money to make this happen again? With volunteers able to view the pool in daylight hours – and all year round – the ongoing insurance costs for both pools would be certain to fall dramatically. There would still be some annual physical maintenance costs to cope with (sea damage etc) but it could make the burden on council tax-payers much more manageable for either the Town or Borough Council. There is even an old lifeguard lookout on top of the Concord Cafe which might be used in the short-term if CoastWatch agreed. This would make the whole of Canvey seafront safer too. 

It still won’t spare local council tax-payers the risk of some drunken idiot breaking his neck there one night and suing us for £3 million, but insurance is about levels of risk and it might make that insurance risk more manageable. 

Maybe Ray Howard can do his usual conjuring trick of finding a pool of capital grant money from somewhere for CoastWatch? 

It might not solve the problem; but it must be worth a try…

Canvey Coastguard Calls For Rock-Pool To Be Saved

(Yellow Advertiser) – CANVEY COASTGUARD has called upon council bosses to scrap plans to demolish a Canvey rock pool – through fears youngsters could get trapped on surrounding mud flats.

Mick Allwood, station officer for Canvey Coastguard, has represented the organisation in a number of Castle Point Council meetings, calling for Concord Pool, in Eastern Esplanade, to stay.

The father-of-four fears young people will go out to sea when the tide is out and risk getting stuck in the mud before waters starting rising again.

He said: “The pool, for us, is containment. We do not encourage anyone to go onto the mudflats, especially children.

“The rock pool is safe, in my view. Take it away and there will be rescues and that itself is very expensive.

“All councillors need to do is look at the situation with Southend and all the calls they get to the Coastguard.”

Mr Allwood first voiced his concerns at Castle Point Council’s Overview and Scrutiny meeting last month, however, councillors agreed to push forward with the plans.

The Coastguard also attended a packed Canvey Town Council meeting on Tuesday night and repeated their call.

A council review found that the 1930s-built pool would require council spending of £96,000 on repairs and maintenance in order to make it safe for public use. They believe the facility had suffered severe tidal damage and that there was a risk to the public from old debris at the site.

If the council decides to continue with the work, Concord Pool will be replaced by a new beach area while a crabbing site will be built at the new rock pool site, built two years ago.

… (19/02/2010) – Why Does It Take A 62-Year-Old Islander To Point-Out Tory Council Mistakes?