Fluent in Flewitt: decoding Mark’s budget views


mark flewitt

St Laurence ward’s Cllr Mark Flewitt is an enthusiastic blogger, I’ll give him that. Trouble is…well, he’s not terribly good at it.

(Not to overuse the Mandy Rice-Davies quote, but you would say that, wouldn’t you? -Ed)

When it is deciperhable without prior knowledge what exactly he is actually talking about, he meanders around from subject to subject without much regard for his audience’s ability to keep up

(Again, you can talk -Ed)

His latest blog, for example, starts off claiming that Labour activists have been instructed not to talk about the economy on the doorstep. For the record, we haven’t: I had many such conversations at the weekend with Blenheim Park residents, particularly about how George Osborne’s recovery for the few has seen their wages shrink and their living costs rise.

He then goes on to give his thoughts on the draft local budget for Southend Borough Council. Credit to him, Mark is the first opposition councillor to actually venture an opinion on the budget, but his approach is a little scattergun.

Mark opens his critique thusly:

With Labour now backing local Budget changes that would celebrate an increase in council tax and the increase in rents…

Leaving aside for a moment that the joint administration consists also of Independent and Liberal Democract councillors, nobody is celebrating council tax and rents increasing. If Cllr Flewitt is angry about this rises — as indeed I am — then I would point him towards the Conservative-led government in Westminster who saw fit to cut some £11m of Southend’s funding, a subject on which Mark has yet to grace us with his views.

In fact, I note that the Conservatives were planning, long before the £11m cut was announced, to raise council tax themselves by 1.5%. And whilst I would have much rather frozen council rents, they are still going up by less than the Tories intended to raise them.

So even in these difficult times, Southenders are better off with Labour.

…it is perverse that the public realm in its basic but essential form, toilets, are to see 4 close but another one in an Administration ward, be refurbished…

Ah the toilets.

I’m not pleased about this one, I’ll admit, but it isn’t quite as black and white as the opposition have tried to portray. The closure of public toilets is not something which I want to see, but as mentioned above the council have £11m less to work with thanks to Cllr Flewitt’s national colleagues.

The £190,000 to refurbish the toilets in Thorpe ward is a large sum of money but actually part of a heritage project by the Tram Stop Shelter charity, which have invested significant money and community time into the project. Whether you think that it’s a good use of council money or not is up for debate, but I don’t think it’s as simple as toilets elsewhere in the borough being sacrificed for Cllrs Terry and Woodley’s voters.

Though I agree it doesn’t look especially brilliant, and would not perhaps have been my choice.

The Priory is seen as the jewel in the Budget but what of course is missing is why the Portfolio Holder voted for its closure and now backs a temporary 3 year reprieve and some complex and costly special commissioning to develop a Dementia Unit but why not get on with this now and not spend £225k on refurbishing a building without en-suite facilities…

And here we get to it. The salvation of Priory House. I will point out that Cllr David Norman received a deserved round of applause from the families of the home’s residents when he informed them of the decision. I will also point out that Flewitt’s colleague Cllr Salter denounced the review of the previous administration’s decision to close the home as having an “emotional cost” for residents.

As far as David’s change of heart on the home goes, I refer Cllr Flewitt to a quote which David has recited to me often: “When the facts change, I change my mind”.

And why not get on with the Dementia Unit and the Care Campus which is planned now? Because, as I may have mentioned before, the Conservatives in government have cut £11m from Southend’s budget.

Mark closes by describing this as a “fingers crossed” budget. Which is, frankly, unfair. The plans bequeathed to the joint administration by the Tories included closing Priory House, no paid staff in libraries, and who knows what other services being cut. On top of that, council tax would have gone up by almost the same amount and rents by more.

If we have our fingers crossed, it is only for a change of government in May, and that no more is taken from the pockets of the people of Southend by unfair Conservative cuts.

I find it odd that, despite being so eager to criticise, Mark’s critique of the blog is a whistlestop tour of analysis-free naysaying, condensed into a single paragraph. Frankly, Southend deserves better, and more coherent, opposition than this.

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2 comments

  1. Two things you have forgotten to mention Matt. We have the misfortune to have Liberals in govrnment as well as Tories at the moment so don’t forget to remind them that the cuts in local government funding are down to them.
    Secondly it was Gordon Browns Labour who got us in this mess and left a note for the incoming chancellor saying something along the line of ‘there is no money good luck’

    1. True about the Liberals, Pauline, but at the moment it isn’t they picking incoherent faults.

      I would remind you that Osborne inherited a growing economy, and put us back into recession, and that far from cutting the national debt as your leader has claimed, it’s grown more under the Conservatives than it ever did under Gordon Brown.

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