A13 closed to enable major improvements

I am sure that Essex and the contractors are doing their best to get this junction open with as little disruption as possible. It’s a difficult situation (I know) so lets not all pile in with criticism but find alternative ways and allow extra time, there is never a good time to shut a major road.

THE A13 has been closed for 48 hours between Pitsea and Sadlers Farm.

The road shut at 5am this morning and will remain closed until 5am on Monday while a bridge is demolished as part of the £65million Sadlers Farm junction scheme.

Contractors are spending the weekend taking down the old Church Road Bridge, which passes over the A13 in Pitsea, linking Church Road with London Road.

Essex County Council Website for more details

Echo Article


Benefit fraudster receives suspended sentence

A woman from Westcliff-on-Sea is now paying the price for working while dishonestly claiming benefit.

Joanna Needs, 28, of Fairview Drive, admitted seven counts of making dishonest statements to obtain Housing and Council Tax benefit between 2008 and 2011 when she appeared before magistrates in Southend on April 18.

She was given a six-month suspended sentence, ordered to wear an electronic tag to ensure she complies with a 6pm to 6am curfew order and told to pay £100 towards prosecution costs in addition to repaying the wrongly claimed cash.

The court heard that Mrs Needs began claiming Housing and Council Tax Benefit from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in August 2008 after stating that she and her partner were not working and were in financial difficulties. During the time she was claiming for the benefits she continued to maintain that the couple’s financial situation was poor.

However, a data matching exercise later revealed that she was receiving an income from KPMG Ltd. Checks established that she had been employed by the company from 2001 to 2011 with a monthly salary paid straight into her bank account.

By failing to declare this extra income Mrs Needs received £11,786.01p of Housing Benefit and £1,345.53p of Council Tax Benefit she was not entitled to.

“If you have any suspicions over a person’s entitlement to benefit you can call the Corporate Fraud Investigation Team directly on 01702-215254 or e-mail counterfraud@southend.gov.uk.

“All information received is treated in the strictest confidence.”

That Labour’s local manifesto is un-costed is obvious, so why don’t they just admit it.

As is the way of things Julian* has responded to my post of yesterday where I pointed out the hypocrisy in his criticising another party for failing to cost policies when at the same time Labour are parading their own entirely un-costed manifesto.

If I was wrong in the substance of my comments he could easily have silenced me – by identifying the cost of Labour’s proposals and in turn what he would cut, or how much council tax would rise. He didn’t (I suspect that should read: couldn’t) do this, and so instead chose to obfuscate. Not surprising from the party that ‘couldn’t be bothered’ to put together an alternative budget.

So what does Julian have to say, well…

Firstly he denies ever proposing to purchase properties in Victoria Avenue. Well maybe He personally didn’t say that, but the labour manifesto does commit the party to

take tough action on derelict properties, including those on Victoria Avenue which are a hazard and an eyesore”

The way that councils would be able to achieve that outcome would be to (compulsorily) buy up the properties. Of course you could try talking to landlords (done that) or alternatively giving some sort of planning permission that creates an incentive for development (eg. high rise flats). The problem is the first solution has been tried (repeatedly) and failed, while the second would bring with it plenty of objections from local residents and labour supporters.

Secondly he refers to Labour’s un-costed proposal for an additional primary school. The conservatives are already providing a new primary in Shoebury, to replace Hinguar school and create more space for pupils. We have completely costed and resourced that scheme which is already under-way. If Labour are claiming to be able to provide an additional school over and above that which the Conservatives are proposing then they need to provide the details for where it will be funded from, if they are not proposing anything beyond the Conservatives then they must make that clear in their manifesto.

Thirdly he says, in essence, that other Labour spending pledges are of very small value and therefore don’t need costing. Remember the money involved in supporting Gay pride events, alley gating and street lighting were just a couple of examples of Labour’s unfunded spending plans. Put those together with other examples and it is by no means quite the small fry Julian imagines.

Compared to the £400+ million budget the council enjoys it may not seem much, but discretionary spending is a far smaller portion of that amount. It seems awfully lazy (and maybe a bit odd?) to go around criticising others for not costing pledges and then say that their own spending plans are so marginal they don’t need to bother working out the expense.

Fourthly Julian mentions trees. Let me be clear, Southend currently plants a lot of trees. Mostly these are not that expensive, while a few are rather pricey. Planting large tree’s (irrespective of origin) is unfortunately expensive. I think the Palm tree’s have been quite a success and recall that back when we originally discussed putting in trees along the seafront people were really keen on having Palm trees. If Labour plans to plant more tree’s then I’d like to know what trees, where and at what cost.

Julian then complains about litter and fly tipping in Southend. I agree litter and fly tipping is wrong, it is a blight and that is why we have to put a stop to it. We already have a team of street inspectors and are one of the cleanest towns in the country, but of course more could be done. I was a councillor for 10 years and didn’t hear a single idea from Julian, or any Labour councillor, on additional things we should do about this. Rather than moaning why don’t they actually put forward their suggestions.

The truth is Labour’s manifesto is poorly conceived, filled with griping about issues which bear no relation to local government, demonstrates a poor understanding of how the council operates and in the rare occasions it does make tangible proposals fails to explain where the funding will come from.

- While writing this is an idea did occur to me. To kill two birds with one stone perhaps we could support a free school in purchasing a property in Victoria Avenue, improving the street and increasing the number of primary places at a stroke. This would definitely need some thought, consideration and before being proposed in a manifesto – some costings!

  • I am sorry that I spelled your name wrong and that I forgot to link to you. That wasn’t done on purpose and I will update the post to reflect that. In truth yours is perhaps one of the more reasoned opposition blogs that I read, which is why I chose to respond (Of course given some of the competition you might not feel that is too much of a compliment).

When The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

There is an interesting post on the blog of Julian Ware-Lane, Julian’s Musings. Julian is a Labour Candidate in the upcoming elections and blogs regularly on many issues.

Today, however, he has chosen to take a pop at a Green Party Candidate for uncosted pledges.  He states-

‘Competence is critical, and unfunded promises are not a sign of competence.

To increase safe cycle paths, to want cheap and available public transport, to introduce more traffic calming, to provide low cost loans for insulation – these must all be paid for. I am afraid the Green reputation for pie-in-the-sky politics will not be dispelled by this leaflet.’

Well I suggest that you should take a look at the local  Labour manifesto with fresh eyes Julian.

Here are just few of the uncosted policies-

‘The council needs to take tough action on derelict properties, including those on Victoria Avenue which are a hazard and an eyesore. We will use powers to clean up properties left in a poor state.’

A great pledge but buying up Victoria Ave is costly and the Council already has an enviable record around smaller derelict properties

‘We have been calling for a new primary school for a number of years.’

Very expensive and what’s that that is being built in Shoebury….why, it’s a new primary school!

‘If the local gay community would like a Pride event then we will support this.’

‘We will seek to improve street lighting and support council funding for alley-gating.’

‘We also support the provision of more public toilets and benches.’

All these need money so where will it come from or will council Tax go up ?

‘We want a greener town and are committed to preserving our green spaces. We will plant more native trees and look to plant pollinator-friendly plants in the display beds and borders.’

Southend already plants many trees many of which are native, where will the money come from for more…..Council Tax increases?

‘We want Southend to have cleaner streets.’

Who doesn’t?  It’s a bit like apple pie and mother hood as is much of the rest of the manifesto, much of it uncosted and costly.

It’s a Purple Flag for Southend !

Great news another flag for Southend and it’s the first purple flag in Essex. Well Done the Police and Town Centre Partnership.

Southend has a new flag to add to its impressive haul of five blue and four green ones – a PURPLE flag.

Purple Flag is a new accreditation scheme which recognises excellence in the management of town and city centres at night. just as Blue Flags are a guarantee of good beaches, Purple Flags act as an indicator of where to go for a good night out.

The standard is only awarded to entertainment areas which are judged to have met a strict set of criteria.

To date only 25 Purple Flags have been awarded but today (Wednesday 25th April) the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) has announced five new recipients.

They include Southend’s High Street and Sea Front, the first area in Essex to have its night-time economy recognised.

In awarding the Purple Flag the ATCM rated Southend as ‘above standard’ in two of the five judging criteria – ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘A Broad Appeal’.

When an Idependent is not so Independent

So the ‘I’m a Conservative really’ line that Ron Woodley spins on the doorstep of Thorpe is now laid bare- he is actively supporting the LibDems and Ukip.

How can an Independent who claims to eshew all things political give his support to Cllr Longley, probably the most political Cllr on Southend and accept that a UKIP candidate if elected will be an ‘Independent’? This is nonsense and shows that the badge of Independence and the rhetoric that goes with it is nothing more than a front to denegrate conservative candidates and get themselves elected. Incidentally did not Cllr Woodley sign the nomintion papers of G Longley LibDem when he stood against James Duddridge for the Rochford and Southend East seat?  Shame on you Cllrs Woodley and Terry.

In my opinion Cllr Longley must be very nervous in Blenheim and perhaps he is right to be!

West Shoebury UKIP Leaflet

At the same time the Independents are listing the ex Conservative Cllr Aylen as one of them! Cllr Aylen was deselected by his ward as he was not up to the job, Cllr Velmurugen (Independent) was heard to say to Cllr Aylen that he would support him – astounding since Cllr Velmurugen is a practising doctor and Cllr Ayen has openly stated that he cared not if smokers died of cancer!

Yet another Accolade for Southend

The Low Carbon Business Programme – paid for by the European Regional Development Fund and involving nine partners across Thames Gateway including Southend-on-Sea Borough Council – has been named Britain’s top New Energy Champion of the Year.

This innovative programme helps small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) reduce their carbon footprint thereby making them more competitive.

The scheme has so far assisted 92 such businesses in Southend, and given them the funds to hire a total of 60 apprentices.

This scheme is yet another example of how the Conservative led Council is using all options to improve Southend. It follows on from other EU funding grants such as the match funding for North Road Chapel renovations, the recently announced EU funding to improve local homes, the improved access to the Victorias are but a few examples.

Southend Pier

Southend Pier is ready to be fully opened in Time for the Easter Break!
The repairs following the boat collision are now complete and the Pier will re-open

Don’t forget that shortly the new Pier Pavilion will be lifted onto the decking so now is a good time to take a stroll down the Pier (or even the train) to see where it will go.

Warm and Well-on-Sea

Vulnerable residents have been helped to tackle the health risks of winter, thanks to £85,000 of extra Government funding.
The Warm and Well-on-Sea project was designed to boost work already being undertaken by many voluntary groups and organisations in the borough.
These extra funds and resources helped them target their efforts as widely possible to help vulnerable people protect themselves against the dangers of cold weather.
The Department of Health grant was awarded to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, in collaboration with South Essex Primary Care Trust, Southend Association of Voluntary Services, Homeless Action Resource Project (HARP), Papworth Trust and Southend Citizens Advice Bureau.
Managed by Southend Association of Voluntary Services, the project is being directed at ways to lessen the health impacts of winter up until Saturday 31st March.
This included producing an information booklet on how vulnerable households can improve the efficiency of their properties as well as look after their health.
A group of volunteers from SAVS and Southend Youth Council have helped prepare letters and leaflets for distribution.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Adult Social Care, Health and Housing, Councillor Lesley Salter said: “This funding has a huge boost to build on the very important work already being undertaken in this area. Deprived areas of Southend have significant health inequalities which we are doing our utmost to deal with.

“In addition there could be more than 5,000 households classified as being in Fuel Poverty – having to spend more than ten per cent of their income on heating.
“The exceptionally cold weather and snow earlier this month, once again highlighted the need for the most vulnerable in Southend on Sea to have access to the services already in place to assist them. We are very grateful indeed to the volunteers and to Southend Youth Council for helping with the mailing.”
The information booklet is now being sent to more than 12,000 homes, and also distributed through other avenues and agencies.
Louise McIver from SAVS said: “We are pleased to be part of this community project and be a partner in reaching these vulnerable families. We have recruited existing volunteers from community based organisations to carry out the Home Checks and these dedicated volunteers have been doing a great job. They are coping admirably with the positive response received during the early phases of the project and are well prepared for the further numbers we expect.”

Let’s celebrate Southend on Sea – it’s a great place to be!

There’s a lot being said about the future of high streets and even more about why they are in decline etc. However, if the customer finds the supermarket or the out of town shopping centre more to their liking they will shop there. To get them back to the high street it has to offer something better and very few do- it has to reinvent itself.

So do we need more shops? Personally I think we need more shops like we need a hole in our heads! We have plenty across the town: in the town centre, in areas like Leigh, Thorpe Bay, Westcliff and Shoebury as well as along many of our main roads like the London Road, Sutton Road and Southchurch Road and in numerous smaller parades of shops. What we need is to see some rationalisation of the retail offer and some improvements to what is left in certain areas.

To keep our retail offer vibrant, and we have been very lucky so far, I tender the following, I’ve kept it simple and so should the Council!

  • Reduce parking charges in off road car parks. Lets say £1.00 for 3 hours and more car parks to be converted to pay on foot. No loss of parking spaces either. Dedicate one car park for workers- say Seaway and on Monday to Friday offer special rate permit parking, all other users pay the standard prices.
  • Revisit the High Street, it’s about 10 years since the top end was done and there are a few areas that are showing their age-namely the square cobbled bits and the street seating. I am not suggesting an expensive make over, just replace the cobbles with paving to match the existing slabs, tidy up the broken paviours that have been filled with bitumen and over the next 3 years replace the seating.
  • Regenerate the side streets off the High Street, Clifftown and Elmer have been done, now in the same style get on with Warrior Sq Road, the stub end of York Road, Queens Road and Whitegate. Keep it simple, use the SBC palette of materials and use SBC officers to oversee this work so no need for consultants.
  • London Road / Broadway, the plans were all agreed, as soon as the Football Club S106 money becomes available this must be a priority, but not via expensive consultants and contractors, use SBC officers and simplify the design using the same palette of materials as are currently in use in the town centre.
  • Create more interesting areas in the High Street, do a simple make over of Victoria Circus, use the natural slope to create an ‘amphitheatre’ effect, plant some trees and perhaps consider an large awning in the bowl of the ‘amphitheatre’ keep it simple but effective. It can always be revisited when funds are more abundant.
  • Use lighting where ever possible to create spectacular night time effects ask for lighting as part of all planning consents.
  • Consider matching the area outside the new library ‘Elmer Square’ to Victoria Circus, simple palette, clean lines, fantastic lighting and lots of trees!
  • Accept that shopping habits are changing, allow more cafés, services etc. Allow the loss of retail in agreed sectors along the major roads, indeed actively encourage it.
  • Look at a few minor improvements in the out of town centre shopping areas- repainting, de cluttering etc.

Now for some more ambitious ideas/comments.

  • To produce a vibrant shopping area that can compete in part with Bluewater, Lakeside and now Stratford, the town needs to attract some ‘better’ shops to the Town Centre. All around the town centre are run down properties, bedsits and hostels. Single mums in bedsits, drug and alcohol addicts, the homeless and those on multiple benefits do not have cash to spend in shops, therefore, when a store looks at Southend it does not come, unless it is a pound shop or similar that is.
  • To redress the balance we need to build more dwellings that are of sufficient quality to attract those with a few bob in their pockets.
  • Completely overhaul the tower blocks in the NE quadrant of the town, use the land provided when Queensway House goes to kick start this renewal, put in a multi storey car park to release Warriors at a later date. Ensure the dwelling mix is 60% or more open market.
  • Deal with Victoria Ave, restore or rebuild, I don’t really care, but get the ground floors as active spaces and the upper floors into open market housing and/or commercial use. Landscape the entire street as a whole to allow full and easy passage around the all the buildings.
  • Purchase all the empty stores to north of Queens Road and relocate those that wish to remain in business from the south side. Demolish the then emptied sector between the WHS Bridge and Elmer Road, build new open market dwellings here.
  • Do whatever is needed to get the Prudential building back into use as commercial, dwellings and / or hotel rooms and if that means selling a few square metres of the highway to them- get on with it.
  • Stop the requirement for the provision of affordable dwellings (a misnomer if ever there was one) for development in the Town Centre that has 9 or more units, take the cash instead and buy up some of the worst properties in the surrounding streets, revamp them and hand them over to SEH or another decent social landlord.
  • Offer BHS a new site over Tylers or on Tylers if Seaway is turned into a multi storey. Demolish existing BHS, create a new open space and clad the north edge with small, very small shops. Possibly do something similar with the northern corner of Clifftown from the High Street through to the station.
  • If the Council must develop the Alexander and Clarence Street car parks and frankly I have never agreed with this idea, (why get rid of the most popular car park when replacing the spaces is nigh on impossible?) then they should put a multi storey on the Clarence site, comercial below if they wish, a large car park here will help the proposed museum too, and develop out the Alexander Street car park with smaller shops and flats, but do not do it piecemeal, deal with Market Place, use the old Cotgrove building to punch through to the High Street, deal with the old mortuary buildings, the old ABC cinema etc.

Now I hear you asking, that’s all very well but who will buy the new dwellings and where will the money come from?

Southend is a lively place to live, cheaper than London, it has award winning beaches, water sports, cinemas and theatres, sunshine, fantastic parks and sports facilities, there are 4 stations within the central area and the City of London is around an hour away or less. Council tax is low, we have national chains and in our suburbs (sorry but that word does sum up the areas) and side streets we have local shops, cafés, bars and restaurants a plenty. We have good schools, low pollution and great opportunities for entrepreneurs. What we lack is good local jobs so let’s do what Southend has done for years- attract the commuter and help rather than hinder access to the stations whether it be by bus, bike, car or even foot. Put Southend on the map for the right reasons, bring in younger people and the local jobs will follow.

Market what we offer fully, by using a bike at weekends or the trains and you don’t need the car to get from Shoebury, East Beach to Leigh. Within a few miles you are in green belt with some excellent equestrian facilities, country pubs and coastal walks, we have golf courses and now we have a working airport too!

Not many towns can offer all these on the doorstep of a world city- London

I could go on, but you get the picture. So we need all the local businesses, organisations and the local media and press on board and to go out and sell Southend, we need to stop the sniping and negativity of some habitual commentators who seem to take delight in knocking back all that is achieved or aspired to. Professionally market Southend far and wide and especially in London like it has never been done before.

More dwellings equals more council tax, more prosperity equals less dependancy. Talk to Boris, we do not want to become a dumping ground but a first choice for first time buyers and young families. The Government is offering grants- the Town Centre Partnership could apply for one. Talk to business, not just local, to get sponsorship for some of the projects- after all we have the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery so why not persuade Dubai Ports or Stobarts to sponsor a project. After all where there’s a will there’s a way!

Let’s celebrate Southend on Sea – its a great place to be!