Friday, June 03, 2011

John Baron MP welcomes Dale Farm eviction funding progress

MP says negotiations for the balance drawing to a close

John Baron MP has today confirmed that, after detailed negotiations, the Home Office is prepared to commit £4.65 million towards potential Essex Police costs arising from the Council’s clearance of the illegal Dale Farm traveller site. Essex Police estimate that approximately £9.5 million will cover a worst case scenario.

John said:
Negotiations with Government departments have not always gone smoothly. But after raising the issue both privately and publically with the Prime Minister, the Government has correctly come round to the view that it has a responsibility to ensure the site is cleared, otherwise we would all ask: what price law and order?

£4.65 million from the Home Office and £1.2 million from the Department for Communities and Local Government represents major progress. Negotiations continue regarding the remaining balance needed to cover all potential police costs, but I am hopeful we will have positive news next week.

I am determined that no one individual or group is above the law in the constituency. It is only fair and just that the law is enforced.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Conservatives level pegging Labour in new poll

These are the numbers on ComRes for the Independent:

CON 37%(+3), LAB 37%(nc), LDEM 12%(-3), Others 14%(nc)

There is a YouGov poll for the Sun that has Labour five points up, though the two polls have different methodologies. The point really is that the Conservatives are staying well in touch with Labour, this despite cuts and a contentious reform agenda from the government.

So, what it going on. Well, right now the Labour Party is in the throes of a very complicated policy review process, that has left their spokesmen and women with nothing to say on, well, anything. The idea that the Opposition can go off for two years to build a manifesto is a bit odd to say the least. A more sensible approach would be to develop some key themes early, otherwise you risk looking irrelevant.

The other factor is Ed Milliband, who is simply dismal. Modern politicians need some charisma at least and Ed is sadly bereft in that department. His speech-writer needs firing as well, unless he is accurately articulating what Ed thinks, in which case Ed needs firing.

Labour has no tradition of ditching poor performing leaders, but surely they must realise that they have picked the wrong one here.

Oh, hang on, they didn't pick him. The Unions did.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Save Our Gloucester Park Redux

Councillor Phil Rackley has posted a lengthy comment in response to my previous post on the Save Our Gloucester Park campaign. I think that it deserves a post all of its own.

For those that don't know, Cllr. Rackley is on the Labour front bench at Basildon Countil, and he is deeply in love with the Conservative Party and all of its works.
The point you seem to miss is that the various groups opposed to your administration's policy of selling off open space to fund the Sporting Village is that people value their open space and want to keep it.
I am very well aware that people value open space, especially open space adjacent to their homes. However, it is not engaging in grown-up politics to pretend that is the only issue. Most serious decisions in politics are a balance between a number of interests. What we haven't had from the Labour Party is what you would have done instead to deal with gradual decline of the Council's ability to offer sports facilities to residents. You are aware of course that just about every sporting organisation in Basildon Borough agrees with the Conservative Administration on this matter. Their voices count too you know.
As far as Gloucester Park is concerned you have already taken a big chunk of it for the Sporting Village and rather than compensating the people, and not only those living in the vicinity, by returning the area around the swimming pool to parkland you are intent in flogging that off.
The development at the Southern end of Gloucester Park is a similar balance. In this case between the use of the land, which is all brownfield by the way, or the gradual decline of Basildon Town Centre. Houses here will help fund much-needed infrastructure in both Gloucester Park and the Town Centre, as well as adding to footfall in the Town Centre which the businesses there desperately need. The Conservative Administration view is that allowing Basildon Town Centre to continue on a downward path would be bad for the Borough as a whole, but especially for those residents in central Basildon. These are your constituents by the way. Right now the only policy from Labour appears to be that we should do nothing about this. In fact, according to your Leader there is no actual problem at all, which suggests that a proliferation of closed or charity shops is a good thing. Do you agree with this by the way?
As far as the political allegiances of those supporting the campaign is concerned, I'm not privy to information about their political allegiances but one thing is clear they certainly don't support the plundering of community assets being undertaken by your administration.
The leading light of the Gloucester Park Campaign, the chap who copies you on his emails and you have repeated been photographed in the local press standing next to, stood for Labour for Wickford in a Council election just over a month ago. Yet you are seriously claiming that you didn't know he was a member of the Labour party? Please pull the other one, it's got bells on.

On the Gloucester Park matter, how much do you think your proposed course of action would cost the Council? I would not imagine that you would be suggesting this without having some idea at least, and I think it would move the debate on if you would let us all know what your figure is?

There is a deal of hypocrisy in some of what else you say. For example, the last Labour administration gave Billericay Football Club planning permission for a stadium right where the Sporting Village is today. Arguments about loss of park space clearly did not matter when up against a privately-owned minority sporting interest. At least the current use is publicly-owned and caters to a huge amount of sports participation, as opposed to a few hundred spectators every other Saturday during the football season. For comparison, as of last Wednesday we had 25000 individuals, that is not counting repeat visits, at the Sporting Village. How may do you think would used Labour's alternative football stadium?

I am reminded in this whole thing about the new George Hurd Centre. This took up open space in order to provide a old age person's Day Centre and offices for charities helping the aged. We had a similar row backed by the Labour Party, until the facility was built when it was suddenly the best thing since sliced bread. What characterised that matter was a complete refusal on the part of Basildon Labour to even acknowledge that there was even another point of view. Then, like now, Labour essentially suggested that Conservative Councillors got out of bed one morning and then decided to do something evil before lunch.

Here we are again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Basildon Labour take a vow of silence

We had a Full Council meeting on the 26th of May. This was the Council AGM, where the administration, which is run by the Conservatives, sets out its priorities and plans for the coming year. There was, as you would expect, a lively debate. The thing is, that debate was entirely confined to the Conservative Group. Astonishingly, the Labour Group did not say a single word, not one, on any of the agenda items. They just sat there like trappist monks. Now, you could argue that with a large Conservative majority they are not going to win any votes so what is the point? Well, the point is to try and win the debate, to probe for weaknesses in your opposition and to gradually build the political momentum that will help to frame winning arguments at election time.

Or, you could do nothing at Council meetings and hope electoral victory arrives by magic without you having to do anything. Labour seem to have gone with option two.

Well, it is less work I suppose.

Save our Gloucester Park

We have a local campaign with the aim, from its Facebook site, as follows:
We aim to try and stop the building of 500 house's[sic] in Gloucester park at the location of the old swimming pool site and surrounding parts...
The key point is the 'old swimming pool site', to which should be added the 'old car park' and the 'old tennis courts'. Put simply this is a brownfield site, which has been identified for development since at least 2007 in the Basildon Town Centre Masterplan, if not before. The point of the development is to both build much-needed housing and to kick-start the redevelopment of Basildon Town Centre proper, which really, really needs it. Good quality housing close to the Town Centre will also serve to increase the footfall in the Town Centre, which is critical for local businesses.

Now these 'local campaigners' do have a plan, which is that all of the land should be turned into parkland. So, they want the Council to spend a small fortune on clearing the site, it's anything but grass at the moment, and also to forgo the income from the site, which is already factored into the public finances. The estimated cost for this little venture is a bit of a guess, but I'm going with a figure of around £8m. Our good friends in the Labour Party didn't factor this into their alternative budget, which they tabled at the Council's annual budget meeting earlier this year. Why is this important? Well, most of the support for the Facebook group 'Save our Gloucester Park' seems to come from card-carrying members of the Labour Party, judging from the postings on the group. The leading light, for example, stood as a Labour candidate in the recent elections and Labour Councillors are enthusiastic posters.

So, we don't seem to have a broad-based popular movement against developing the brownfield site on one edge of Gloucester Park. We seem to have a campaign got up by the Labour Party because, err, they don't like Conservatives? Who knows?

All in all I find it depressing that local Labour acts like a pressure group instead of a political party, though it actually works for the local Conservative Party in political terms.

They may want to think about that.