Southend Conservatives knifed by national party over “spy cars”


southend spy car

You have to, on some level, feel for Southend Conservatives. Not only have they been roundly rejected by the Southend electorate, lost control of the council for the first time in fourteen years, but they do keep getting kicked by their national counterparts.

The efforts of James Duddridge to single-handedly alienate every Conservative activist and voter in his half of the borough are laudable, but you can’t fault the work of the  national party as a whole who seem intent on taking their local policy positions apart from the top downwards.

From Duddridge’s declaration that the sea wall was clearly a terrible idea — conveniently coming just after Tory councillors had lost their seats over it — to the recent decision by Eric Pickles to ban the use of so-called “spy cars” to enforce parking regulations, you wonder if there will be anything left of the local Conservative platform at all.

The spy car was, of course, championed by former councillor Tony Cox in his former role as portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste and Transport. This is a portfolio now held by the leader of the Independent Party Group — though not the leader of the Indie-led joint administration, get your head around that — Martin Terry. So we can expect that the spy car would have been scrapped in the near future anyway.

Knowing Martin, we’d probably have found out via the Echo.

There is also the slightly confusing issue that the former Parking Enforcement Manager for the council — and thus the person in charge of the spy cars — is now a councillor for Southchurch sitting with the, er, Independent Party Group. Not sure how that one will play out…

I’m not adverse to the use of CCTV vehicles for parking enforcement per se. Southend is a busy town, with lots of cars and less than idea parking arrangements. In order for the system to function, regulations do have to be enforced.

Where the whole ship beaches itself slightly is some of the absurd cases which have been coming to light. People fined for pausing momentarily to drop someone off, and a host of other bizarrely officious decisions.

Perhaps there was a place for spy cars in the traffic management regime, used more flexibly and sensibly. We won’t find out, now that champion of “localism” Eric Pickles has unilaterally decided that their use is to be banned. But after staunchly defending their use for years, the Conseratives in Southend have been once again betrayed by those their counterparts Westminster. I’m sure it’s doing wonders for their morale.

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