southend echo

Southend’s Conservative MPs hold the town and its people in contempt

amess woodley duddridge

The problem with living in a so-called “safe” seat is that there’s not a great deal of reason for your MP to feel they have to work for their constituents. That’s by no means true of all MPs in safe seats, but if re-election is all but assured, the danger is that these MPs are more bothered about the interests of their parties or themselves than the places that they represent.

The two present Southend parliamentary constituencies — Southend West and Rochford & Southend East — have never returned anything but Conservative MPs. Indeed, for anything different you have to go back to 1945, when the seat of South East Essex covered part of Southend and returned Labour’s Ray Gunter.

So given that it has been 70 years since anything but a Tory MP represented any part of Southend, and present MPs Sir David Amess and James Duddridge both sit on hefty majorities (14,021 and 9,476, respectively), it seems fairly clear to me that both constituencies are Conservative safe seats.

Like I said, that doesn’t mean that MPs have to be disinterested in the town. Which makes it all the more disappointing that they apparently are.

Read on…

Letter to the Editor: Cllr Ayling needs to get his facts straight


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.

Matt Dent

Avenue Road, Westcliff-on-Sea

Southend Tory Councillor Mark Flewitt cries wolf (again)

mark flewitt

This is becoming a habit, Mark.

Last week, the Echo printed an article fronted by Tory Cllr Mark Flewitt, complaining that the Joint Administration was supposedly considering closing down sheltered accommodation across Southend.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this isn’t a particularly unfamiliar occurrence. An (Alleged -Ed) serial-leaker and (Somewhat more concrete -Ed) serial-scaremongerer, Mark has cried wolf a number of times, and has yet to be proven correct.

Still, I’m sure he’ll find a campaign hook eventually. Not this time, though.

Read on…

Southend Tory MP goes massively off-message on EU renegotiation

james duddridge

Last night the Southend Echo hosted the first in a series of general election hustings for the area, this one for my own constituency of Rochford & Southend East.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it there myself, but my impression from watching the online coverage — and the Echo’s rolling liveblog of the evening is still online should anyone wish to read it — was of a good, if uneventful, evening attended by all five candidates.

One point did catch my interest, tweeted by local radio journalist Tim Gillett, was Tory incumbent James Duddridge’s position on EU membership:

Read on…

Letter to the Editor: When Cllr Waterworth bothers to show up


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?

Matt Dent

Labour candidate for Blenheim Park ward

(Sent to the Southend Echo 31st March)

“Are essential services at breaking point?” asks the Southend Echo

echo services at breaking point

If they aren’t, then they are getting far too close for comfort, or safety...

Neither Southend, Essex, nor Britain can take another five years of ideological Tory cuts and mismanagement. Use your vote on May 7th. Kick Cameron and his incompetent mob out.

The Southend Tory MP, the expenses claims, and £11k of taking the p*ss

james duddridge

Yesterday’s Echo carried a story about Conservative MP for Rochford & Southend East claiming over £11,000 in accommodation expenses for 2013/14. I don’t usually quote wholesale large chunks of news stories, but here it feels appropriate:

A TORY MP has come under fire after for claiming £11,348 of taxpayers’ money, mostly on London hotels – despite having two homes in the capital.

In the latest round of MPs expenses for 2013/14, Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge claimed the bulk of the cash on overnight accommodation in the city, from April to December.

The rest of his claims were made up from renting a property in the city until March 2014.

According to his financial declarations, the MP owns two properties in London, which he rents out.

Interesting, no? He owns two homes in London, rents out another, and still manages to stay in hotels. Meanwhile he lives and represents a constituency which is less than an hour from London away by train. I know this because I make that same journey. Every day. To work. As James Duddridge apparently doesn’t.

Bear in mind that this all dates from before he was made a junior minister at the Foreign Office. I fully expect that the amount of expenses he claims will have, similarly to his salary, risen since his promotion.

In light of this, I’m not going to add a whole lot of ranting, because I do think it’s unnecessary. What I am going to do is leave these facts here, without comment, for you to contemplate.

  • James Duddridge has voted “moderately for” the bedroom tax, according the The Public Whip — including voting against an exemption for disabled persons or in cases where there is no alternative smaller accommodation available.
  • James Duddridge has voted “strongly for” reducing spending on welfare — including voting for the benefit cap to limit the amount that those on lower incomes can claim for, er, accomodation.
  • An annual season ticket from Thorpe Bay (James Duddridge’s local train station) to London Fenchurch Street, including travel card, costs £4,640.00. The journey from Thorpe Bay station to Westminster takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • The salary of a Member of Parliament is £66,060. The salary of a junior minister (such as, for example, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) is £68,710.
  • The average salary in the UK is £26,000. A full-time job on the minumum wage amounts to £13,124.
  • James Duddridge is up for re-election on 7th May 2015. His majority in 2010 was 11,050

N.B I make a great effort not to swear very often on this blog, and during the writing of this particular post that has been f**king difficult . I have plainly not succeeded, and for that I can only apologise.

James Duddridge is wrong to oppose new council housing for Southend

james duddridge

Regular readers will know that I’ve highlighted plenty of stupid things that James Duddridge has said or done in the last year or so. From his aspirations for irresponsibly expanded gambling in Southend, to his bizarre decision to run a “Halifax customers only” constituency surgery, it is safe to say that his judgement hasn’t been fantastic.

And, as Labour’s Cllr Ian Gilbert commented, since the change in administration on the council, he seems to have a lot more to say about what the council is doing. The combination of the two is probably going to lead to predictable results, including this little gem:

In response to the council’s decision announced yesterday, to launch the biggest new council house building programme Southend has seen in decades, James Duddridge is dead set against it.

Read on…

Labour delivering for Southend — new social housing to be built!

echo housing story

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.

Read on…

UKIP councillor to stay in Southend (but doesn’t want to be scrutinised)

lawrence davies ukip

A few weeks back I blogged about one of UKIP’s five new councillors on Southend Borough Council. Lawrence Davies, representing Kursaal ward, had said in April that he would be moving back to Cambridge this August. This, as I said at the time, was a matter of concern because it would either leave Kursaal with an absentee councillor, or the Southend taxpayer a £14,000 bill for a by-election.

Cllr Davies has, now, responded by way of the local paper, to clarify that he isn’t, in fact, going to be leaving Southend. Which is fair enough. But he also seems to have taken offence at the question ever having been asked in the first place.

Read on…