Hi Ted…

Brian Wood

HAVE YOU seen that C.C. Brian Wood has been welcomed back into the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP)?

Dave Blackwell says, in the Echo, it’s great to have a County Councillor in the Party.

That’s not what was said when he wanted to stand for election as a CIIP county councillor!

I wonder what has changed?..

Jim Robbins

Never Mind The Cost To Residents, Just Keep Voting For An Increase

YESTERDAY’S REVELATIONS regarding the Town Council’s finances exposes the myth behind the Canvey Island Independent Party’s slogan, ‘Canvey for Canvey.’ If residents want to separate Canvey Island from Castle Point: it is going to cost them – big time.

With Bob Spink temporarily removed from the local picture, this week’s Echo coverage was the first, since this Blog’s inception, not to include any reports about protests on Canvey. Despite angling their Castle Point stories from protester viewpoints, the paper’s coverage has only been of Borough Councillors quietly getting on with the job of debating local matters and implementing their promises under the public’s eye.

Nothing has changed in the Council chamber – residents have just not been confronted with Spink and Dave Blackwell posing for the Echo’s cameras and dispensing their stream of lies.

Dave Blackwell, it seems – despite being an avid reader of this Blog – is back in hiding. When questions are raised here, he chooses not to answer – just as his party chooses not to be open about its separatist aims, or to be truthful about how much those ambitions would cost. But readers now know why the CIIP led Town Council has failed to publish an Annual Report on its Website since its first year in 2007/08 – to have done so would have revealed the extent to which pursuing un-costed policies have led to a pumped-up Parish Council’s imminent insolvency.

But Blackwell and the Town Council’s chairman, Nick Harvey, are not concerned with bankruptcy; because, unlike any private organisation, they can simply vote for islanders to contribute more. They know that, next year, they can simply tell the Borough Council to increase Canvey’s Town Council levy by 84% – and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. (If you refuse to pay: you will simply be pursued through the courts and face possible imprisonment).

It is a win-win situation for the CIIP – and one from which they have chosen to spend some three-and-a-half percent of the TC’s precept (over a quarter-of-a-million pounds) on their own remuneration.

The Town Council ploughs on. Posted today, on its Website, is the Spring 2010 newsletter, finally announcing the Armed Forces Day Parade on 26th June and stating their intention to take-over the management of Canvey’s seaside pool from the Borough Council. Moreover, a statement by the new Town Clerk, John Burridge, hints at further plans by the Town Council: ‘to provide ever improving services to our residents.’

At the moment, the Town Council provides no services – they are all provided by CPBC – but it is clear that the TC has that ambition. Furthermore, it is becoming frighteningly clear that neither the CIIP, nor the Town Council, have any idea of how much their ambitions will cost.

Islanders are being forced to write a blank cheque to a financially incompetent administration…

Has Canvey’s Armed Forces’ Day Been Abandoned?

JUST LAST MONTH Bob Spink was announcing to residents that, through his efforts, Canvey Island would again be celebrating Armed Forces’ Day on Saturday, 26th June. Indeed, the recently filed accounts for Bob’s Independent Save Our Green Belt Party, financed by himself for some £2,500, uses an A4 reproduction of the event’s promotion poster – inviting anyone who has not received a Veteran’s Badge to contact him directly. But the only event promoted on the Town Council’s Website, for the 26th June, is its previously reported Night of Nostalgia (being sold for a limited audience at £7.50 per ticket).

It seems that the Canvey Island independent Party (CIIP) has withdrawn into silent retreat regarding its ‘Fantastic Projects’ announced on its Blog in March. Despite promising further details, none have ever been forthcoming – just as promises regarding further information, made by Neville Watson, to contributors on the party’s message board have never been fulfilled.

‘They only come out at election time,’ was the criticism laid at the local Labour Party by the CIIP during the election campaign; but the latter’s Blog has only lasted the duration of the long campaign, beginning in March and ending on May 7th. There have been no further posts, nor any fulfilment of the party’s promise to keep residents ‘updated with our latest news right here on our blog.’

Following Spink’s defeat in the polls, the CIIP appears to be in some disarray. Unconfirmed sources suggest that the public claims of support declared by Watson and Anne Wood for Dave Blackwell are not shared by all the party’s councillors. And it also appears that some were dismayed over Wood’s handling of the Adizone matter last week. If the reports are true, Bob Spink may no longer be posing for photographs alongside CIIP councillors as the party tries to distance itself from the once MP.

It is understood that an announcement regarding Canvey’s Armed Forces Day will be made once the organisers decide if Spink will be a welcome participant or not.

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…

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?.. 

Dave Still Hasn’t Quite Got The Picture

Dave Blackwell's grey policy

Did you know that Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Island Independent Party; leader of the borough’s opposition; and chairman of Canvey Island Wildlife and Conservation Group, is actually a budding wildlife photographer? Furthermore, it must be said, he demonstrates some talent too; but, like his politics, Dave prefers grey images that obscure their more colourful details.

Dave makes no mention of his political views (what’s to mention?) on his image site – and he is keen to protect his copyright, which is displayed at the foot of every page. Nonetheless, visitors are permitted to browse his galleries of wildlife pictures, which, it seems, have all been taken on Canvey Island.

His site is well worth a visit.

You have a raw talent Dave – not too dissimilar from the talent you show for politics. You have no problem focussing on a particular subject; but you are reluctant to use the bold blacks and whites, which would bring your image to life.

That is a pity; from the point-of-view of your site’s visitors – and this island’s voters…

Making a statement

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?..