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.

Can We Have A Free Local Press For The General Election?

LAST WEEK I was ‘doing a Julian,’ musing on the possibility that the onset of Spring had been accompanied by a general reluctance by the Echo to publish Spink’s questionable newsletters. But, just two days later, the ‘newspaper’ went to press with another bandwagon piece regarding eight island children being refused places at their secondary school of choice.

Instead of accompanying their friends to Castle View school, the poor youngsters will have to endure the hardship of trekking all the way to Cornelius Vermuyden instead.

Characteristically, Bob Spink, our local MP, vented his anger at the Tory led Essex County Council for marking Furtherwick Park school for closure.

‘Canvey has yet again been betrayed by the council,’ the Echo quoted Spink as saying.

It seems that even the onset of Spring has no effect on Bob.

The next day, Spink actually made it into the Nationals; although not in the way he had intended. Fran Abrams, at the Guardian, wrote an insight piece on children with behavioural problems and chose Bob Hall and Canvey’s Continuum School to illustrate what can be achieved by dedicated people – and the opposition that such schools face from hard-line nimbys and bigots.

She chose Spink to represent the latter.

As if at their master’s command, the Echo decided to re-visit their Continuum School coverage on Thursday. The piece was devoid of any news; but obviously written to gauge public opinion for Bob’s campaign in the wake of the Guardian’s feature.

Despite obtaining resident opinion that concurred with Fran’s article, Sarah Calkin wrote determinedly about the school remaining as some form of community threat to measure those negative attitudes that the Echo had so carefully fostered last year. But her readers remained silent. The only feedback she obtained was from ‘upset, Canvey’ bringing readers’ attention to the fact that, despite all Bob’s bluster, he had achieved nothing.

Spink must have been very disappointed.

Paul Offord, at the Echo, chose midday on Friday to report Wednesday evening’s residents’ meeting regarding Canvey’s Concord pool. Spink was not mentioned, of course, since Bob has distanced himself from this particular campaign and handed it over to the Echo.

Bob does not want to be seen as leader of this protest so close to a general election (when he might be criticised for stoking-up public anger for political ends). Moreover, should the protest fail, he does not want to be personally associated with its downfall.

Why Paul should wait so long to file his report is perhaps explained by this blog’s coverage of Spink’s campaign letter,on Wednesday. Quickly placing it into the public domain forced Spink to bring forward his plans and cut-short public speculation. Early Friday morning, the Echo was forced to announce that Bob was setting-up a new national political organisation: the Independent Save Our Greenbelt party.

This was a scoop for the Echo (as you would expect for anything to do with Bob); but the strange thing is that they, and the Yellow Advertiser, had both been given Bob’s letter hinting at the fact long before I had received a copy.

Neither chose to publish it – or even mention its existence (despite the fact that this was its source’s avowed intention).

So, once again, it falls to a small local blog to reveal the truth about Spink. This time regarding his relationship with the Canvey Island Independent Party.

Neither the Echo, nor it seems, the Yellow Advertiser, deem such information to be in the public interest.

A free local press for the general election?..

I very much doubt it.

… (Echo, 14/03/2010) – Eight join MP in bid to save greenbelt