james courtenay

Calm down, dear

southend civic centre
As a rule, meetings of the council’s scrutiny committees are duller than ditchwater. Pastimes for the topical subject enthusiasts and political obsessives (I.e. you -Ed).

But with all rules, there are exceptions. And the Monday night meeting of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Place Scrutiny Committee was just such an exception.

There was actually a bloke sat behind me in the unusually full public gallery, muttering to Cllr Aylen about how boring the meeting was. I’m not sure how he knew this, mind, since he seemed to talk all the way through it.

But I digress. It did start of rather boringly, but it didn’t stay that way. In fact, for an observer, it was unusually exciting and nearly ended up coming to blows.

Read on…

In the aftermath of a failed Southend Conservative coup

Southend Tories we don't have a clue small

Yesterday I blogged the list of the Conservative shadow cabinet on Southend Borough Council, and left it deliberately without comment.

I spent last year rather confused as to who was in the shadow cabinet, and what they were doing (Bugger all being the standard response to that particular question -Ed). So this year I made a special effort to find out who these people were, and the result was posted up for the whole world to see.

Now, there are some observations to be made about the names on that list. There are more pertinent observations, perhaps, to be made about the names which aren’t on that list. For one thing, after he managed to get re-elected, poor Derek Jarvis is out on his ear. More perplexing, though, is that having gotten the heavyweight they sorely needed back on the Tory benches in the form of Tony Cox, he’s been given…err, diddley squat.

This, I suspect, is the aftermath of an attempted coup at the top of the Conservative Party in Southend.

Read on…

The Tory shadow cabinet on Southend Borough Council

southend civic centre

Tory Ward Brief Shadowing
John Lamb West Leigh Leader of the Opposition Cllr Woodley
Ann Holland Southchurch Community and Organisational Development Cllr Gilbert
Nigel Folkard Chalkwell Children and Learning Cllr Jones
Steven Habermel Chalkwell Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development Cllr Longley
Mark Flewitt St Laurence Housing, Planning and Regulatory Control Cllr Norman
James Courtenay Blenheim Park Public Protection, Waste and Transport Cllr Terry
Lesley Salter Belfairs Health and Adult Social Care Cllr Moyies

Blenheim Park OutOfTouch

blenheim park in touch

I don’t think it would be considered election-time fluff for me to make the claim that in Blenheim Park ward, only myself and James Courtenay are actually making a proper effort at campaigning. Lib Dem, UKIP and Green; candidates from each are standing in the ward. But aside from some generally unimpressive literature, nobody I’ve spoken to in the ward has heard from yellow, green or purple.

So with three weeks left to go, it‘s fairly apparent who is actually working for Blenheim Park.

James’ latest leaflet is going out now — see above, and he kindly donated a copy to me for the purposes of this blog (A word to the wise: my little birds will bring me copies of leaflets. At least the donated ones are in good nick -Ed)

Read on…

Cllr Courtenay’s Record

blenheim record

So it looks like the identikit “Record” series of A5 leaflets from Southend Conservatives have reached Blenheim Park ward at last.

Or Blenheim ward, at least, with Cllr James Courtenay apparently suffering the same lack of geographical awareness as the Liberal Democrat candidate (And, given that the Green Party made the self-same mistake in their candidate announcement, we’re just waiting for UKIP to decide if they’re bothering this year, and we’ll have a full house -Ed).

These have been going out across Southend, presumably as they’re cheap and easily to produce, requiring only a change in the ward name on the front page and contact details on the back. I haven’t actually scrutinised one of these leaflets in any great depth yet, and now that I do, I’m not desperately impressed. Someone pass me a red pen.

Read on…

45 Days Out: the view from Blenheim Park

matt dent for blenheim park

It was another busy weekend for Blenheim Park Labour, campaigning hard across the ward by taking the novel step of, err, actually talking to people. I remain heartened by the responses I receive when I knock on doors. There are, of course, the few who are not interested, whether in Labour or in politicians in general.

Most, though, are receptive, with their own perspectives on Blenheim Park, Southend, and the country. The number of times that my hand has been warmly clasped as soon as the door opens, with words to the effect of “You’ve got my vote”, outnumbers the times that I’ve had an instant go away. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who has been called upon by any of the other parties — which, at this stage, is disappointing. And the fact that none of the residents I’ve spoken to have been able to name any of their local councillors is even more disappointing.

I did bump into Tory Cllr Lesley Salter, who was delivering leaflets for James Courtenay. A perfectly pleasant woman, and we had a cheerful conversation despite the cold wind, but I can’t help but wonder what it says about the resources of Southend Conservatives if Cllr Salter, up for re-election in her own Belfairs ward, is being drafted in to help James leaflet.

And whilst UKIP PPC Brian Otridge seems confident to the point of arrogance that his party will win a second Blenheim Park seat (They might like to select a candidate, before they start measuring for curtains -Ed), the one person I spoke to who specifically mentioned UKIP was less than glowing.

Well, I had thought about voting UKIP, but around here they’re just a bunch of clowns, aren’t they?

You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment…

Blenheim Park in 2015 is a two-horse race: Labour or Conservative

two horse race

There are 79 days to go until the local elections in Southend-on-Sea, 79 days left for the candidates from the various parties to sell their pitches to the voters, and lay out their vision for the future of the town and the wards which it comprises.

The curious thing is, though there are only 11 weeks left, in Blenheim Park it is a two-horse race.


The only candidates so far declared are myself and sitting Conservative councillor James Courtenay. Other parties are giving every impression of not being bothered.

Read on…

Sore loo-sers?

southend public toilets

Well, everyone else was punning…

So the Southend Tories have done a George W. Bush and declared mission accomplished in their long and bitter war against the closure of toilets. They can now presumably go back to their long and bitter struggle to close Priory House care home.

On a serious note, I was never particularly pleased with the proposal to close public toilets, its presence marring what I think is generally a pretty good budget, Southend’s £11 million Tory cut considered. I spoke out against it in the Labour group meeting, and hoped that it wouldn’t be part of the final passed budget.

Now, of course, we know that it won’t.

The Conservatives are, of course, claiming credit, but I have to say that I think a large share belongs to a Labour voice: Julian Ware-Lane.

Read on…

Southend Tories admit fortnightly waste collection scaremongering

rubbish bags

Back when it was first announced that Cory Environmental had not been short-listed for the new waste collection contract, senior Conservatives in Southend (the few of them who are left) unexpectedly went to bat for the private company.

It was a travesty! they cried. It would lead to the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together!

Or, more specifically, that under the new provider waste would only be collected once every two weeks rather than weekly, as it is presently. This was the great bogeyman which, according to the blue corner, Southend had brought on itself by daring to vote for anyone but the Conservatives.

It’s not true, of course. There are no plans under the joint administration to change to a fortnightly schedule, nor have there ever been.

Read on…

Why are Southend Tories against saving £825k on waste collection?

rubbish bags
When the news first emerged that Cory Environmental had lost the contract for Southend Borough Council’s waste collection service, I thought it odd that the local Conservatives decided to position it as the lynch-pin of their opposition campaign.

For one thing, they are the party of privatisation. I wouldn’t describe myself as a completely implacable opponent of private sector involvement in public services but…well, let’s say I’m sceptical.

This, though, is surely the model of how it should work? A contract comes up for renewal, and all comers are invited to bid. They are whittled down to the best offers, and then a choice made between them.

So why were the Tories so against Cory losing the contract? And why are they now so against the £800k saving as a result of changing provider?

Read on…