The allowance that Cllr Brian Ayling (IND – St Luke’s) thinks has been unfairly cut is paid to him for chairing one of the Appeals committees. As things were, he received £4,000 yearly for this service. And given that the committee met only four times in the last year, that equates to £1,000 for every meeting. He clearly thinks that is fine. In an era of austerity, I disagree.
Cllr Ayling also claims in a that no Labour councillor had their allowance cut. Worryingly, this suggests that he has neither read the report he was so critical of, nor paid attention to the debate. Cllr Robinson (LAB – Westborough) is the chair of the Standards Committee, and Cllr Borton (LAB – Victoria) the vice-chair of Appeals. Their allowances were also cut on the grounds of a reduced number of meetings. Unlike Cllr Ayling’s grubby behaviour, Cllrs Robinson and Borton welcomed these cuts as the right thing in the current climate.
If Cllrs Robinson and Borton are who Cllr Ayling is referring to when he calls me a “typical Labour politician”, then I am flattered by the comparison. And I would suggest that residents of St Luke’s ward deserve more than a councillor whose main interest is his pay cheque, and who cannot get his facts right.
Avenue Road, Westcliff-on-Sea
Having watched some of council meeting last Thursday, I saw the debate on councillors allowances, and I have to say I am deeply disappointed.
In an year which has seen Southend’s budget slashed by the government by £11m, how unedifying to see councillor after councillor to stand up to defend their own allowances and benefits.
I cannot decide what was worse. Perhaps the Conservative Group voting nearly on mass to hold onto their taxpayer-funded printers, rather than travel in to the Civic Centre for their free printing. Or perhaps Independent councillors Mike Stafford and Brian Ayling fighting to keep their allowances as committee chairs, equivalent to some £1,000 per meeting.
If only they fought as hard for their constituents.
On the other hand, credit is due to the Labour group for voting as a whole not to reward themselves as Southend residents suffer cuts to vital services; and to the cabinet for rejecting a wholly inappropriate 5% rise in their own allowances.
I would urge all voters in Southend to watch the webcast, and see how their representatives respond when asked to make sacrifices themselves. The truth is very revealing.
I was entirely unsurprised to hear from attendees that the Shoeburyness ward local election debate organised by Cllr Anne Chalk was a stage-managed farce. Those readers with long memories may recall that at the one she organised last year I was supposed to be representing the Labour Party, until she cut me out last minute and tried to claim Labour had not turned up.
This time Cllr Chalk managed surpass herself, employing one of her friends and allies as a thoroughly biased chair. Almost all of the questions were offered to Cllr Chalk, who, apparently was best placed to answer as sitting councillor. Aside from the bias this shows to the incumbent, I have seen no other debate where questions were not answered by all candidates at the debate, in favour of one obviously preferred contender.
The result was the Conservative candidate Roger Hadley being asked a lot of questions about how awful his party is, and Labour’s Maggie Kelly being cut out of the debate almost entirely. The Green and Liberal Democrat candidates did not make an appearance. It says something that Cllr Chalk is so worried about being found wanting, that she has to stack the deck against her opponents.
I think Cllr Chalk should apologise for this abuse of democracy, and assure us that it will not be repeated.
Avenue Road, Westcliff-on-Sea
The Green Party, it’s candidates persist in telling us, is the only party standing up for the arts. It’s a nice sentiment, but sadly it’s not borne out by their actual policies.
According to the policy section of their national website, the Green Party of England and Wales want to reduce the length of copyright protection from, at present, 70 years after the death of the creator, to “a usual maximum of 14 years” from the point of creation. Under this, JK Rowling would already have lost her rights to the first four books of the Harry Potter series, and anyone producing any creative work would only truly be able to call it theirs until 2029.
This sort of on-the-hoof policy making sounds very fluffy and nice, but in practice it will run the creative industries in the UK into the ground, as those who produce works of art in whatever medium are routinely robbed of any rights to their creations.
It seems, to this writer, a funny way to support the arts, by picking the pockets of artists themselves. Why should anyone trying to earn a living in the creative industries vote for the Greens, when they are pursuing disastrous ideas like this?
Labour Party candidate for Blenheim Park ward, Southend-on-Sea
I was interested to read that UKIP Cllr Floyd Waterworth only occasionally met his departing UKIP colleague Cllr Burling at council meetings. These would, presumably, be the few council meetings which Cllr Waterworth has actually bothered to show up to?
Labour candidate for Blenheim Park ward
(Sent to the Southend Echo 31st March)