TC Mismanagement Gives Way To More Adizone Stories This Week

Cllr Peter Burch exercising at Canvey's Adizone

AS IF IN AN EFFORT to quickly change the subject, the Echo, this week, decided not to follow-up this Blog’s revelations regarding Canvey Island Town Council’s financial mismanagement. 

Max Orbach, presumably stung into action by a Canvey Island Independent Party source, was, I am told, querying my interpretation of the Town Council’s latest budget; but dispensed with trying to contact me after looking at the actual figures

Interestingly though, the Echo did not run a similar article. Instead it reverted to rehashing an old piece on Kismet Park’s Adizone – with a twist. 

Instead of padding its allegations of yobbish behaviour with comments drawn from CIIP councillors, it introduced the island’s latest local celebrity, Colin Letchford, as the unhappy residents’ spokesman. And Colin, true to form, gave his own inconsistent take on why the public gym should be removed. 

Whenever I go past there are children as young as eight playing on it, even though a sign clearly states it is only meant for 12 years and over. 

It is dangerous for them, but they use it because the neighbouring playground for younger children is so run down. 

Shouldn’t the council have some form of security to ensure younger children are not injured using it? 

This is the same Colin Letchford who, when speaking to Rebecca Harris, in my presence, completely sided with her view (regarding Canvey’s Concord pool) that the Labour Government’s onerous Health and Safety Legislation needed to be rolled-back and a more sensible approach adopted to public facilities. And the same Colin Letchford (whose own report on the Concord pool highlighted its dangers to youngsters) who took the view that those dangers were acceptable and the council need only erect a sign saying that the facility is used at the public’s own risk to avoid any possible prosecution. 

So, having a youngster injure a limb through jamming it in dangerous rock crevices, or falling 1.8 metres from a slippery foothold is acceptable to Colin; but having the same child use the Adizone’s equipment as a climbing frame is not. 

The Echo does not make clear which council Colin is referring to in his statement. Logically, it is the Town Council (TC) to whom residents should first make their complaints; but it seems that the TC, rather than taking responsibility for the island’s yobbery alluded to in the article, would rather remain silent and pass the buck onto the local Borough Council, via Colin, in an effort to gain political points. (The Echo willingly conspired with this strategy later in the week by again raising the Concord pool topic – and quoting more Letchford comments). 

Refreshingly though, Matthew Stanton at the Yellow Advertiser, decided to adopt an objective approach to the Kismet park story. Moreover, he actually chased down Lee Barrett for a comment and succeeded in getting behind the real reason for CIIP-led residents’ protests. Despite the numerous press articles on the Adizone facility’s proposed location; coverage of its installation; announcements of its opening and, some time beforehand, having been informed by CPBC letter of the decision to erect it in Kismet Park, it seems that some 40 residents do not check their letter-box or read the local papers. 

Lee Barrett was reported as saying:- 

… The residents who want the equipment moved feel they were not consulted properly and only knew about the work when it was happening. 

I had a few calls from confused residents asking what was going on but it was too late to do anything about it. 

Meanwhile, on the subject of the Town Council and my Freedom Of Information (FOI) Act requests, the TC has not even acknowledged my last FOI’s receipt. Nor has it deemed to provide any further information regarding my first. It seems that, like denying residents their right to an Annual Town Meeting this year, the Town Council is determined not to release details of the companies and individuals whom have benefitted from their enormous expenditure over the past three years.

At Last, Some Co-Operative Local Politics

YESTERDAY EVENING’S Cabinet meeting had two surprises in store: an admission by a Canvey Island Independent Party member that the borough has a housing problem, and the reported support of Canvey Island Town Council (CITC) for a cabinet proposal to introduce a borough-wide dog fouling scheme. (The Town Council has, of course, been endlessly debating its own costly proposals regarding dog fouling on the island, which have been heavily criticised).

Unlike the Town Council’s proposals, however, Castle Point will enforce its scheme using current personnel and introducing maximum fines.

Cllr Peter Burch

The plan was put to cabinet by Cllr Peter Burch, the cabinet member for Leisure and Environment, who recommended that:-

  1. The Cabinet endorses the proposal to make a borough- wide Dog Control Order which would make failure to remove dog faeces on all open land to which the public have access, an offence;
  2. The Cabinet endorses the proposal to set the fixed penalty fine at the maximum allowable, i.e. £80 and to prosecute persistent offenders (maximum fine £1000); and
  3. Officers undertake the necessary consultation and report back their findings prior to Cabinet determining whether to recommend to Council to proceed with the making of the Dog Control Order.

Castle Point Borough Council (CPBC) is obliged to consult with CITC on its plans.

Cabinet member and Town Councillor, Ray Howard, spoke of the Town Council’s strong support for the measures proposed, which were carried unanimously.

Cllr Jeffrey Stanley

Cllr Jeffrey Stanley, cabinet member for Corporate Policy Resources and Performance, provided a detailed assessment of the important Housing Revenue Account reforms, enacted by the previous Labour government and now under consultation.

Unlike the present situation, where the difference between rent income and maintenance costs disappears from the Borough to assist other local authorities with poor housing stock – and 75 percent of any revenue from tenant home-purchase is paid to central government – CPBC would be able to retain all those funds to build affordable housing of its own.

However, in order to ensure poor local authorities are not disadvantaged, the Borough would need to take-on a central government debt of £33.9 million – to be repaid over 30 years.

The proposals would not provide CPBC with the ability to meet its own housing needs; but would go a short way towards it – perhaps providing enough funds to build some six units per year. The vast majority of the borough’s affordable housing would still need to be met by local housing associations and private developers.

Cllr Lee Barrett

Surprisingly, Lee Barrett, of the CIIP, took time-out to attend the cabinet meeting and speak in favour of the proposal. He read a prepared statement in which he accepted the need for more affordable housing and, in his personal capacity as serving on the Audit Committee, provided his support.

It is the first time, to this author’s knowledge, that a CIIP member has ever formally accepted the need for additional housing in the borough – or address the financial issues involved.

It was agreed to note the report’s contents and approve the draft responses to the consultation.

Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers, Head of Regeneration and Homes, addressed the Coalition Government’s changes to PPS3 (its Planning Policy Statement regarding housing).

‘The government reissued its policy statement on 9 June,’ he said, ‘to give local authorities the opportunity to prevent overdevelopment and garden grabbing.’

Under the new PPS3, private residential gardens have been excluded from the definition of ‘previously developed land,’ and the national indicative minimum density of building 30 dwellings per hectare has been deleted.

However, he continued, local authorities are still expected to demonstrate the extent to which their existing plans identify and maintain a rolling five-year supply of deliverable land for housing. So it continues to be the case that CPBC needs to ensure that plans demonstrating a five year supply remain in place.

His explanation made clear the reasons why Cabinet was still obliged to present its Core Strategy for approval by the government inspector.

Cllr Pam Challis, OBE

In proposing: ‘That the Cabinet notes the commencement of the Examination of the Castle Point Core Strategy Development Plan Document on Tuesday 22nd June 2010, and agrees that the Chief Executive or the Head of Regeneration and Homes in consultation with the Leader of the Council may agree to minor amendments to the Core Strategy which the Inspector may suggest or recommend to the Council,’ the Leader of the Council, Pam Challis, highlighted:-

  • On 27 May 2010, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote to Council leaders highlighting the new Government’s commitment to rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and return decision-making powers on housing and planning (including housing supply and the provision of travellers sites) to local councils without the framework of regional numbers and plans.
  • Formal revocation of the RSS has not yet occurred and, in legal terms, the current RSS (East of England Plan) is still part of the development plan. National policy (including PPS12 & PPS3) also remains in force. Nevertheless, because the Government intends to abolish RSSs this becomes a material consideration in examining development plans. For this reason, it is necessary to defer, at the very least, the hearing session on housing (Matter 7) into the Castle Point Core Strategy until clarity is provided in a formal Ministerial statement.
  • It may also be necessary to revisit matters where the consequences of abolishing the RSS could have some effect although there is no intention to do so at the moment.
  • Should national or regional policy change, or the scope and nature of the examination alter as a result of new government statements, the agenda, nature and content of the matters and issues for examination may need to be further amended.
  • In light of these changes hearing statements on housing matters should not be submitted until indicated by the Inspector.

In addition, she noted that: ‘An additional question has been added to the opening session of the Examination (Matter 1) in order to provide all parties with the opportunity to comment on the changes now being proposed to the planning system.’

It remains to be seen how quickly the Coalition Government can act to prevent the previous government’s Regional Spatial Strategies from being adopted.

You Can Never Trust An Inde

Policy breakers - Lee Barrett and Anne Wood

IT WAS Anne Wood, the Deputy Leader of the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP), whom received the most reader attention this week.

In the matter of Kismet Park’s Adizone, Wood demonstrated just how reluctant she was to comply with her party’s policies – when she could instead gain some welcome local media attention by supporting a 41-weak resident petition to none other than Castle Point Borough Council’s Cabinet.

That is the same Cabinet that Wood and her CIIP colleagues, together with Colin Letchford and the Swann sisters, have continuously accused of being undemocratic; meeting behind closed doors; and taking all decisions in secret.

On Tuesday evening, the Cabinet met as usual in the Council Chambers – along with general members of the public and non-Cabinet members wishing to raise questions on their electors’ behalf. And, as in the case of all other Cabinet meetings, it was Webcast for the benefit of any resident unable to attend.

Following David Marchant’s presentation of the Adizone petition, a confused Lee Barrett (CIIP, East Ward) used his question to call upon Cabinet member Peter Burch to postpone any decisions over the Adizone equipment.

Peter Burch (Conservative, Cedar Ward) was forced to explain to him that it was impossible to postpone a decision that had already been taken and enacted.

That Barrett was so out-of-touch with political reality will come as no surprise to residents who will remember his vague proposals, made to council, regarding the provision of youth facilities in the Paddocks (which would have not received the cursory rejection it did, had he made any attempt to put forward a detailed proposal – rather than a nebulous idea).

But Barrett did not seek to raise any of the anti-social behaviour aspects, which would be later alleged by Wood. He addressed only the petition’s first point – that its signatories did not want it. ‘Our councillors were not consulted,’ the petition read. ‘We were not consulted and we do not want it [the Adizone].’

Wood used her question to paint a graphic picture of local unruly youths throwing stones, bricks and eggs at local resident’s houses; smashing bottles and urinating.

The Adizone, she said, had become a magnet for all the island’s unruly youth.

‘What action are the Cabinet going to take?’ she demanded.

A surprised Godfrey Isaacs (Conservative, St James) explained that he was unaware of any such problems. Nor was he aware of any increased level of complaints regarding anti-social behaviour to the local police. He would, he assured her, look into the matter and come-back with a proposal she might accept.

Neither Wood, nor Barrett, sought to highlight the petition’s concluding reason to have the Adizone removed: that, ‘There are no public parking and no public toilets.’

Had Wood and Barrett been paying attention to the wording of the petition they were supporting, a case might have been made for restoring part of the £60,000 budget savings (made by Council from installing the Adizone – and constantly criticised by the CIIP) to address the toilet issue. But neither co-operative, nor intelligent, politics, through which CIIP policies might be achieved and community lives and facilities improved, are part of the Indes’ strategy.

The CIIP would rather trash three of its seven policies, upon which it was duly elected, and disregard its responsibilities to residents in order to obtain some meagre column inches in the local press.

Throughout their local election campaign, the CIIP cried Freudulently from their Website: ‘You can never trust a Tory;’ but events this week illustrate that the exact opposite is true.

It is the Canvey Island Independent Party that cannot be trusted – and their actions this week have proved it…

Canvey Island’s Idiot Party

WHILE ISLANDERS ARE STILL SMARTING over the comprehensive defeat of their elected Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) councillors in the Council Chamber on Tuesday evening and blaming the defeat on being out-numbered by the ruling Conservative group, this is probably a good time to point-out that, in fact, the CIIP stood an excellent chance of defeating the Conservatives.

The fact is: the reason they were defeated was because they failed to convince just three waverers to support them.

Had the CIIP pressed home the attack begun by John Anderson, there is an extremely good chance that at least three of the ruling group would have voted with them.

There are those in the Conservative ranks whom agree that John Anderson raised a valid point, and could have been persuaded to exercise that view. But the CIIP did not even attempt to present a cohesive argument. They degenerated into an unseemly gaggle of geese, flapping their wings on a beach of sand that they alone had created.

Only Anderson took to graceful flight.

For those who remain unconvinced, and still blame the numbers, the facts are these:-

The Conservatives hold 25 seats; but three of those sent their apologies (which can be read as being against the motion and giving the others the nod that they stood a fighting chance). Two others disqualified themselves by declaring a prejudicial interest leaving a total of 20 for the ruling group.

On the other side remained 12 CIIP (two had disqualified themselves); one Labour and one Independent. A total of 14 members sharing a common view.

Had the CIIP used normal democratic argument and intelligent debate to pursue their cause, and convinced just three Conservatives to vote with them: the result would have been a tie (17:17). And, had their arguments been good enough to convince just one more: the CIIP would have won (16:18).

Tuesday evening’s spectacle of a number of arrogant, incompetent, narcicistic ‘politicians’ preening themselves before a largely uninformed audience was nothing more than a farce.

Islanders need to take a deep breath and think about what they have done to this island by electing a raft of well meaning; but inexperienced and totally unqualified individuals to represent them in matters of such importance. They need to take stock of what it means to elect individuals whom have no powers of political analysis or persuasion; no debating skills; no abilities to ‘make friends and influence people’; no political contacts in a position to get things done quickly; and no willingness to compromise.

Politics is not a game. It is not a job that ‘anyone can do.’ And it is not just some kind of job to take because you cannot find another. Politicians require people skills and a brain able enough to analyse situations and others to influence them in the way their constituents demand. Above all, politicians need the ability to distinguish between constituency desires and the common good. They need the metal to be able to vote against their constituent wishes when necessary, and be honourable enough to explain why.

Politics is not about pleasing most of the people all of the time. It is about doing right by one’s constituents (even if that means upsetting them from time to time). It is about age-old principles and honour. It is about serving the people and putting aside personal desire.

It is about Democracy. And that is something that those ill considered island votes have tested to the very limit here in Castle Point.

Canvey Islanders should consider themselves fortunate that they are part of Castle Point, and led by someone with stature, intelligence and political savvy in the shape of Pam Challis.

Democracy is not about parties. That is just the way it operates.

Democracy and politics is about people who can keep their promises and get things done.

Apologies to Dave Blackwell and Lee Barrett of the Canvey Island Independent Party

The reporter should be shot for not getting off his arse and attending the Council meeting. My sincere apologies go to Dave Blackwell and Lee Barrett of the Canvey Island Independent Party for having questioned their integrity in a previous version of this, and the previous, article. I withdraw, and have removed, my ill-considered remarks.

Please access the comments section on this article for full details of my errors.

… (05/10/2009) – Dear Sir,..