If nothing else, you have to admire the tenacity of St Laurence’s councillor Mark Flewitt. Since the elections — where he stewarded a campaign which saw the supremely smug Tory candidate Jonathan Hodge spectacularly lose to UKIP — he has filled his time by posting sarcastic blogs about the new joint administration.
Nothing particularly surprising or out of order there, though his picking around the edges contrasts poorly with the more cerebral analyses of other Tory bloggers, such as Nigel Holdcroft, Tony Cox and even Mark’s fellow councillor James Courtenay. I can’t, however, claim that all of my blogs are about deeply substantive issues.
But Mark’s latest hobby horse has a problem; it doesn’t strictly speaking seem to be, er, true.
Unlike the Tory MP for Rochford and Southend East, James Duddridge, Mark at least had the good sense not to come out against the announcement of much needed new housing the other week. He welcomed it with the curious phrasing “I’m pleased to see work done under the previous Conservative administration is coming to fruition”. He’s right, that the work — a report on available space for new housing — was done under the previous administration; by the Labour opposition, in the form of Cllr David Norman.
Mark has, though, now found a way to attack the housebuilding policy. He has claimed that residents at a sheltered accommodation block, Bishop House, face losing their communal garden to make way for housing. It’s a nice move, getting a big picture of the good councillor into the paper, and he gets to effect outrage. But looking at his blog, the problems with this claim becomes apparent:
“Are the new Lil Council about to take this sheltered units garden for bungalows? The recently published paper lists this location as one of the sites…yet at the time of publication the residents of Bishop House and the St Laurence councillors had not been told informally or otherwise. Cllr Mark Flewitt says, “This was very clumsy and a wicked move on the Lil Administrations part, to in effect grab their garden” The official response and clarification is yet to be made.“
So, it opens with a question: is this the case? The fact that, as Mark says, the residents have heard nothing about it suggest not, but it’s a legitimate question. Trouble is, Mark goes on to say it “was” a clumsy and wicked move. Wrong tense, Mark; but then “this could be a clumsy and wicked move” has a lot less impact, doesn’t it?
So what are the facts on Bishop House? Well…
- The site is on the list of potential housing sites.
- However, it is has yet to be agreed and as it would be part of phase two of the housebuilding plans, any decision is a long way off.
- It is, I am reliably informed, one of the more “optimistic” of sites, as it has a number of potential issues as a housing location which would need to be adequately resolved first.
- Were any decision to be made to build housing on the site, it would only be on part of the garden — there are absolutely no plans to simply take it away from Bishop House residents — and only after extensive consultation. Not listening to residents was the move of the former Conservative administration, Mark.
- No decision has been made on this issue. What precisely are Bishop House residents supposed to have been informed of, when nothing has been agreed or discussed?
Mark apparently wants to set himself up as an attack dog for Southend Conservatives. An improvement, I suppose, on a lapdog under the last administration, but on this evidence he has been weighed, measured and found wanting. He’s going to need rather more than “witty” acronyms, faux outrage, and windmill tilting, I’m afraid.