housing

Victory for Victoria?


victoria avenue

When Ash and I moved to (or back to, in her case) Southend almost a year ago, we moved into Victoria ward, practically in the centre of town (Milton ward, I would say, has the honour of being right in the centre). This is a town centre area, hugely convenient for my own commute into London, and with all the incumbant advantages for a young professional couple who could do without the expense of a car.

It being a town centre area, though,it is not without its own issues. One of the big ones is Victoria Avenue.

This dual carriageway runs down towards the high street, and past the Civic Center, and is lined along one side with a great many empty office blocks. It is, honestly, not a good look. From the window of my flat’s front room I can see one great derelict hulk, all dark and broken windows like black eyes. And the letters FTP graffitied¬†at the top (if the meaning is unclear, I will mention only that it sits opposite the police station).

It’s a sad state for the gateway to Southend town centre, and one which I understand has stood neglected for a long time even as people have pushed and pushed to get a plan in place.

Read on…

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Mark Flewitt, lapdog to attack dog?


mark flewitt and jonathan hodge

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.

Read on…

Why Not to Trust Tory Promises


The Conservatives have broken so many promises, in Wokingham and nationally; how can they be trusted now?

As 3rd May, polling day in the local elections, draws every closer, reasons not to trust the promises that the Conservatives make seem paramount. Just how many of them have they broken? They must be competing with Nick Clegg about now.

So far, we’ve seen:

  • A massive, widescale reform of the NHS, despite a promise that there would be no more top-down reforms.
  • An attempt to sell off the country’s forests to the highest bidder, having promising to care better for the countryside.
  • Despite pr0mising to fix the economy and cut the deficit, they’re borrowing more and the country is back in recession.
  • A promise to be the “greenest government ever” met by…well, nothing.
  • Scrapping EMA for poorer students, despite promises not to before the election from both David Cameron and Michael Gove.

And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

Additionally, those who read the Conservatives’ 2010 manifesto might remember this line:

…we will not allow the poorest people in Britain to pay an unfair price for the mistakes of some of the richest.

And yet since being in government, they have hiked VAT (which hits the poorest hardest), and increased tax on pensioners to fund a tax break for millionaires. That seems like a broken promise to me.

Of course, this being a local election local issues will be rightfully taking centre stage. But to think that the Conservatives in Wokingham borough are more trustworthy would be a mistake.

This blog, from November 2010, by local resident Richard Peat shows up just how conniving they are. Essentially, they promised in advance of the 2010 general election that a Tory government would reduce housing quotas, allowing the council to reduce the number that they would be building. The Tories got votes, as a result, in both national and local elections, and unsurprisingly the quota reduction didn’t happen.

So essentially, they lied in order to win votes at election time. Not exactly shocking, you may be tempted to think.

Look, also, at the library privatisation plan. It was announced last May, conspicuously just after a local election in which a third of councillors faced the public vote. So you’d expect it to have been a major issue in the campaign for that election.

But you’d be wrong. No mention was made, and the idea was not put to the public. A cynic might suggest that this was because the Conservatives knew it would be a vote loser, and decided that it was easier for them to subvert the democratic process and do it in secret. But I’ll let you make up your own mind.

My point is this: the Conservatives cannot be trusted to stand by their campaign pledges. They promise that they’ll iron out the “teething problems” with the new rubbish collection scheme, but you weren’t asked or consulted with about it. They promise the libraries are safe, but they’ve broken their promises many times before. And how can we know that Monday 7th May won’t see the announcement of some new policy we’ve heard nothing about before?