Introducing the new make-up of the Cabinet on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council:
Cllr Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe) — Leader of the Council
Cllr Ian Gilbert (LAB – Victoria) — Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Councillor for Community and Organisational Development
Cllr Graham Longley (LD – Blenheim Park) — Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development
Cllr Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) — Executive Councillor for Public Protection, Waste and Transport Cllr David Norman (LAB – Victoria) — Executive Councillor for Housing, Planning and Regulatory Control
Cllr Anne Jones (LAB – Kursaal) — Executive Councillor for Children and Learning
Cllr James Moyies (SIG – West Shoebury) — Executive Councillor for Health and Adult Social Care
That makes 3 Labour councillors, 2 Independent councillors, 1 Liberal Democrat councillor, and 1 Southend Independence Group councillor.
I’ll leave it up to readers to decide who they think is driving this administration’s agenda…
Only last night I was talking to a member of the Labour Party in Southend about housing in the borough. Fourteen years of Conservative rule saw not a single new council house built — and all the while the housing crisis grew worse. Since the Thatcher government sold off social housing stock on mass and foolishly failed to invest the proceeds in new housing to replace what was lost.
I’m not going to pretend that the new social housing secured by Labour after only a few weeks in power in Southend well since the problem alone, but I remain convinced that it signals a chance in attitude. Under the new joint administration, steered by Cllrs Ian Gilbert and David Norman, Southend Borough Council is taking housing provision seriously.
And this is extending to the private sector too. The announcement of a plan by developers Randall Watts to build 27 houses on a disused brownfield site — 100% of which to be affordable, housing association homes.
The plan goes before the Development Control (“Planning”) Committee tomorrow, so it’s not a done deal. But it is a good sign, there’s no escaping that. The solution has to be a combination of outgoing of public and private, and the public has been neglected for too long. The fact, though, that the private sector too is recognising the need for homes that people can afford to live in.
In May, Labour promised we would build housing. In July those promises are already being delivered.
It has been a point of some personal annoyance with myself, that the press coverage of Southend Borough Council’s joint administration — the first non-Conservative administration in the town for fourteen years has been dominated thusfar by Martin Terry’s non-announcements. Now, though, we have one of the first hard policy announcements: the building of the first new housing in the borough in some twenty years.
This was something that Labour campaigned heavily on, and in opposition Victoria’s Cllr David Norman led a review of potential sites for housebuilding. David is, of course, now the portfolio holder for Adult Social Care & Housing, and it is entirely because of the hard work that he put in that the administration can move so quickly on this.
Prior to the local elections this May, Southend Independent Party Group leader Martin Terry was one of the loudest voices shouting about the lack of scrutiny, and the undemocratic way in which the ruling Tories ran Southend. He wasn’t wrong, exactly, though arguably a little prone to hyperbole.
One would expect, then, Martin to be encouraging alternative points of view now that he sits at the cabinet table. He would surely welcome honest, forthright and democractic scrutiny of himself, as a part of a healthy local government.
Except, the new portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste and Transport seems to have developed a rather thin skin of late.