Category Archives: politics

This Week at Worthing Borough Council (16th-22nd July 2012)

Meetings:

July 17th Full Council

6.00 p.m.; Town Hall, Worthing

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/NAPntH

 

 

Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions

Leader of the Council:

Mayoral Support – Budget for staff overtime payments: decision due after July 12th

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:

Portland House/Town Hall Car Park – Marketing Brief: decision due July 2nd

 

Cabinet Member for Resources:

Irrecoverable Debts – Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates: decision due after July 6th

 

Cabinet Member for Customer Services:

none

(last decision 17/8/11)

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:

none

(last decision 16/5/11)

 

Cabinet Member for Environment:

none

(last decision 31/5/12)

 

Joint Cabinet Decisions with Adur:

none

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This Week at West Sussex County Council (2nd-8th July 2012)

Committee Meetings:

 

July 2nd Governance Committee

2.15 p.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/KT2PO1

– Sussex Police and Crime Panel Draft Constitution; sadly the link within the document to the actual constitution doesn’t work, but there does seem to be provision for public involvement; political balance has not been addressed, however.

July 3rd Cabinet

10.30 a.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/N0fqxG

July 3rd East Crawley County Local Committee

7 p.m.; Crawley Library, Southgate Avenue, Crawley, RH10 6HG

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/O2pA27

July 4th Health & Adult Social Care Select Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/LaqdI5

  • Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust Update on Service Redesign
  • Future Model of Services for the Frail Elderly

July 4th Chanctonbury County Local Committee

7 p.m.; Henfield Leisure Centre, Henfield, BN5 9QB

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/OOGe7U

July 5th Policy & Resources Select Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MIUJag

July 6th Chichester Harbour Conservancy

2.15 p.m.

This is the correct date for the meeting I published in error last week (based on the WSCC meeting calendar); however, there’s a problem with the Conservancy website and they haven’t been able to upload the agenda. I have been sent a copy however!

 

Forward Plan Decisions (July-October FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/MIqoYa

[Note: decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]

 

Leader

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Decisions made last week:

Review of fees and charges for public rights of way; call-in deadline 9th July

Review of fees and charges for trade waste at Waste Transfer Stations and Strategic Planning; call-in deadline 9th July

 

Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Decisions made last week:

Procurement of a framework of providers for children’s residential and foster care (call-in deadline 5th July.

 

Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Outstanding from May:

Preparing for an Ageing Population (has now slipped to July)

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Outstanding from May:

Review of on-street parking charges (slipped to September)

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Decisions made last week:

none

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This Week at Worthing Borough Council (2nd-8th July 2012)

Committee Meetings:

None

 

Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions

Leader of the Council:

None

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:

None

 

Cabinet Member for Resources:

Irrecoverable Debts – Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates: report 28th June, decision due after 6th July.

Council tax writeoffs total £14,156.63

Non-Domestic Rates writeoffs total £29,691.53; this doesn’t actually cost the council anything as NDR go into the national pool, and these writeoffs are deducted from our contribution, but it does serve as a local economic indicator of sorts.

 

Cabinet Member for Customer Services:

none

(last decision 17/8/11)

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:

none

(last decision 16/5/11)

 

Cabinet Member for Environment:

none

(last decision 31/5/12)

 

Joint Cabinet Decisions with Adur:

none

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Councillors: Self-Important Social Media Addicts?

There was an article on the Worthing Journal Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/MnLrl1) last week that I wanted to write about, but couldn’t at the time because of lack of time. I can’t figure out how to do a direct link now, but it was on June 20th, so it’s quite easily findable, if you want to read the article and the ensuing comments.

There were two things I wanted to express my thoughts on: the use of social media by councillors, and the cynical attitude to councillors, who according to many of the commenters are ‘in it for themselves’, ‘for self-gain’, and so on.

To take the second point first.

I’ve been involved in local politics in Worthing since 1993, and have seen an awful lot of councillors and political activists from across the political spectrum; some I’ve liked and some not, some I’ve agreed with and some not. But regardless of where they fit within those categories, my overriding impression has been of people who are working for their community through a sense of duty, responsibility and service; these are individuals who have a pride in their town, or a passion to create a town to be proud of. On one side of the council chamber, I’ve sat through countless group meetings, campaign meetings, committee meetings and council meetings, reading thousands of pages a year of reports, with those councillors, and no doubt it has been the same throughout for those elected on the other side of the chamber. Taken all in all, for anyone who is in it for themselves, they have to put up with a lot of tedium and bureaucracy to get their reward, if there is any reward to be had.

Doing a quick trawl through my political anorak’s archive of data, I find that in my time on the council, I’ve served alongside 112 other councillors – not a small number for 13 years of elected service. Looking through that list, there are maybe a dozen with whom I overlapped only marginally at the start or end of my time, and about whom I don’t really know enough to form a judgement, leaving, as near as may be, a round hundred of whom I can speak with some confidence; although this will, of course, be a subjective judgement rather than an objective analysis.

Laying aside the rather trivial issue of people who become councillors because they want to have ‘Councillor’ in front of their name – there are some, but not as many as you’d think, and it’s such an ephemeral reward that it hard bears inspection – I can only come up with four individuals who seemed to have ulterior motives for seeking election.

One wanted to be Mayor, and wanted it really badly. He achieved what he wanted, and went shortly afterwards, and that’s all there is to that.

Two councillors have seemed to me to have political ambitions beyond the Town Hall; interestingly, neither achieved what they seemed to want so much, but in the process of working towards that mirage, they both served the council and the town very well, in their different ways.

And finally, one councillor seemed to me to be truly in it for their own ends, to see the council as an opportunity for gain. Did any gain ever materialise? If I’d ever seen any evidence, I’d have shouted about it long ago. And whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

I think if any company could survey its employees and find that 96% turned up to work out of a sense of duty, and only 4% were there for themselves, that would count as a particularly pleasing result. It is perhaps, only because councillors actively seek election, and come to us asking for our support, and vote, to get elected, that we seek some ulterior motive for what they do. Most people wouldn’t want to do it – but instead of therefore suspecting it, it might be better to celebrate it.

Now, the first point.

The Worthing Journal article is really critical of the use of social media by an unnamed councillor during a council meeting. There is of course a certain irony in a representative of the Old Media using the New Media to criticise someone for, well, using New Media, but that’s of no real concern.

The Old Media – by which I mean primarily newspapers, but also radio (in a local context) and TV – evinces much less interest in politics than it once did. Continuous coverage of the day to day work of running a council or a country has largely vanished, replaced by a short attention span-based fascination with policy announcements rather than implementation, fiasco and failure rather than strategy and success, histrionics and spin rather than history and statistics. Most West Sussex County Council meetings are attended by a single journalist, and at Worthing Borough Council only the full council meetings regularly get attendance from the fourth estate, while committee meetings continue despite being ignored (this is, of course, an ironic state of affairs in an era when the full council meetings are empty charades, scripted and controlled, and committee meetings are when actual political debate and discussion do occasionally take place).

Alongside this abdication of their role by the fourth estate, or possibly because of it, a majority of the community take a cynical and distanced view of politics, and are generally disengaged from the process. It becomes ever harder to reach people with a direct message about what a policy or decision might mean for them, or to tell them about what an individual councillor might stand for, argue for, or be capable of.

Some time ago, I raised a question in council about an issue that had been brought to me by a constituent. The cabinet member concerned attempted to answer me, while simultaneously attempting not to answer it to any significant degree. It became apparent to me, and quite a few other councillors, I think, that not only had the cabinet member not really understood the decision he had made, he hadn’t really understood that he had made a decision about it, and had only the most tenuous grasp of the responsibilities within his portfolio. It was quite an outstanding display of incompetence, and if the same performance had taken place before the cameras and microphones of PMQs, or been reported in detail in the local press as in past decades, or even detailed in the meeting minutes (don’t expect to find details of what anyone says in council minutes, dear reader!) the public might have held a different view about electing said councillor. But none of that took place, and the councillor could sit down knowing he’d survive another day.

New media brings the immediacy of conversation and commentary to every council meeting. The ability to quote speeches directly and instantly, to record the arguments of one’s own side and the opposition, to hold people to account in the glare of publicity, is invaluable – as Louis Brandeis said, ‘Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.’ And who better to provide that sunlight and disinfectant thatn the councillors themselves? Of course, there will be partiality, and part-reporting, and propaganda; but once the sides are laid before the public, they will quickly be able to see who is spinning what, and decide accordingly. And the message will be unmediated – presented not by an intermediary journalist who may have their own axeto grind or wheel to spin, but directly from the elected to the elector.

New media also takes the politician out of their political shell. Over the past few weeks I’ve had great conversations with one Tory about education policy and another about wind farms; with constituents about street cleansing, street lights and car parking; and with the Deputy Youth Mayor about book recommendations. It’s also given a number of Labour and LibDem members the opportunity to castigate me for my change of political colours, which they might otherwise have been unable to do, or at least felt uncomfortable doing!”

I feel that as many councillors as possible should be using new media to promote their messages and beliefs, to give the public the best possible opportunity – if they so wish – to learn about their elected representatives. Of the thirty-seven borough councillors in Worthing, twenty-one are on Twitter (the most direct and immedate form of social media). Some are fairly (or completely inactive), but others tweet very frequently and deserve to be heard as widely as possible; and there are a fair few who have a big enough following not to need my recommendation! In total they have over eight and half thousand followers – even allowing for duplications and mutual following, that’s already a significant presence.

In the interests of completeness, and with no regard to party alignment, here in alphabetical order are the twenty-one councillors on Twitter. Unlike the Worthing Journal, I will be happy to celebrate when that number is in the thirties, when every comment made at a council meeting is immediately tweeted by many of those, and it reaches a following numbered in the tens of thousands, many of whom will consider their votes based at least in part on what is said.

Councillor – Twitter name – Followers

  • Noel Atkins – @noelatkins – 11
  • Roy Barraclough – @roybarraclough – 45
  • Keith Bickers – @keithbickers – 4
  • David Chapman – @davidchapman3 – 39
  • Michael Cloake – @michaelcloake – 4109
  • Trevor England – @trevorengland7 – 28
  • Paul High – @highpaulo – 17
  • Dan Humphreys – @dan_humphreys – 283
  • Mary Lermitte – @mlermitte – 96
  • Alan Rice – @alanrice83 – 240 (Opposition leader)
  • Clive Roberts – @cbr5656 84
  • Bob Smytherman – @bsmytherman 1775
  • Keith Sunderland – @kdrsunderland 69
  • Victoria Taylor – @1victoriataylor 212
  • Hazel Thorpe – @hazel_thorpe – 59
  • Bryan Turner – @canadax – 101
  • Vicky Vaughan – @vickyvaughan – 877
  • Vino Vinojan – @vinoj1 – 55
  • Nicky Waight – @nicolawaight – 36
  • Steve Waight – @steve_waight – 199
  • Paul Yallop – @paulyallop – 202 (Council leader)

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This Week at West Sussex County Council (25th June-1st July 2012)

A little bit late this week: last night of the play on Saturday, after-play party, then football.  What can I say, except sorry.

 

Committee Meetings:

 June 25th Regulation, Audit & Accounts Committee

2.15 p.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MRGo7e

 

June 25th Chichester Harbour Planning Committee

11.15 a.m.; no venue or agenda available for this meeting. The website for Chichester Harbour Conservancy is at http://www.conservancy.co.uk

 

June 25th Chichester Harbour Conservancy

4.15 p.m.; no venue or agenda available for this meeting. The website for Chichester Harbour Conservancy is at http://www.conservancy.co.uk

 

June 25th North Horsham County Local Committee

7 p.m.; Goodwood Room, County Hall North, Horsham, RH12 1XA

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/L7gz4s

 

June 27th Standards Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Ls9QGS

 

June 28th Shadow West Sussex Health & Wellbeing Management Board

2.15 p.m.; County Hall North, Horsham, RH12 1XA

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/OeOjlU

 

June 28th GATCOM Steering Group

10.00 a.m.; no venue or agenda available for this meeting. The website for GATCOM is at http://www.ukaccs.info/gatwick/about.htm

 

June 28th West Crawley County Local Committee

7 p.m.; Longley Room, Crawley Library, Crawley, RH10 6HG

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MjJBzg

 

 

Forward Plan Decisions (June-September FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/JwqAuv

[Note: decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]

 

Leader

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Outstanding from May:

Chichester Harbour AONB Memorandum of Agreement

Decisions made last week:

URGENT ACTION – Execution of Deed to Secure the Relinquishment of the Option in favour of Biffa Waste Services Limited over “Site Ha” at Brookhurst Wood, Warnham.

 

Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Outstanding from May:

Extension of Education Provision for 14-19 year olds in Area A Special Schools

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Decisions made last week:

Sidney Walter Centre, Worthing – Proposed Community Asset Transfer

The Beacon Centre, Hassocks – Proposed Community Asset Transfer

Former Ferring Rifers Youth and Community Centre, Ferring – Proposed Community Asset Transfer

Social Enterprise Fund – Funding Allocations

 

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Outstanding from May:

Preparing for an Ageing Population

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Outstanding from May:

Residents Parking Scheme for Pound Hill Crawley

Review of on-street parking charges

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

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This Week at Worthing Borough Council (25th June-1st July 2012)

Committee Meetings:

None

Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions

Leader of the Council:

Use of Borough Coat of Arms: well, now, the report for this is listed as being published on 8th June, but it certainly hasn’t been up on the website for 2 weeks. It appears to have gone up at the same time (20th June) as the decision, which is to allow Worthing Lions Club and Worthing & Adur Community Fund to use the Borough Arms, the former on memorabilia to celebrate the club’s diamond jubilee, and the latter as the Mayor is supporting the fund for his charities during his mayoral year. No controversy there, glad

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:

Marketing Brief for Town Hall Car Park: report 22nd June, decision due after 2nd July. This follows on from a decision in October 2011 to sell of part of the car park (the north west corner, at the junction of Stoke Abbott Road and Christchurch Road). The tenor of the brief is that a sale for residential or health/community facility is appropriate (although other uses would be considered). 54 car parking spaces would be lost according to the report, although a quick count on Google Earth indicates it’s 60 or 61 – I count around 132 spaces in the rest of the car park so it’s roughly 30% of the total car parking, and of the ground area. That’s going to have an impact on the council employees, and on visitors to the Assembly Hall.

The report recommends a maximum development height of 3 to 4 storeys; not unreasonable given the relationships to neighbouring houses and buildings, but I think we can take it as read that ‘3 to 4; will turn out to be ‘4’. The report also hints at high density flats for families, or sheltered accommodation for the elderly.

I’m concerned about the knock-on effects from reducing the car parking available (although it would be nice to see the Council to more to encourage cycling and other sustainable transport!), and also that essentially this is carrying forward the commercial part of the ‘Civic Hub’ plan of the Worthing Masterplan of a few years ago without any of the civic and cultural enhancements that were supposed to go with it.

It also seems really unfortunate that the council is beginning to progress this when they haven’t yet agreed their Community Infrastructure Levy policy, so any prospective developers may be available to pay to the council than they might have otherwise

Cabinet Member for Resources:

none

(last decision 1/5/12)

Cabinet Member for Customer Services:

none

(last decision 17/8/11)

Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:

none

(last decision 16/5/11 – 404 days and counting…)

Cabinet Member for Environment:

none

(last decision 31/5/12)

Still no word from WBC on why the Allotments Policy was not a key decision…

Joint Cabinet Decisions with Adur:

Joint Adur & Worthing Comments and Complaints Procedure Review: decision due after 19/6/12

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This Week at West Sussex County Council (18th-24th June 2012)

Committee Meetings:

 

June 19th Planning Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/KQLXlJ

The only item on the agenda for this meeting is the motion put forward at the last County Council meeting on ‘fracking’ – exploration for, and extraction of, oil by hydraulic fracturing.

 

June 20th Environmental and Community Services Select Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/L619Sj

  • Future of Mortuary Provision in West Sussex
  • West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service – proposals for efficiency savings: this follows on from the decision not to pursue the merger with East Sussex Fire & Rescue; West Sussex still need to find £2.5m savings by 2013/14. The report merely outlines the areas for scrutiny, and the proposals for consultation; more details in September…
  • Budget Monitoring & Performance Outturn 2011/12
  • Response to Thameslink Rail Franchise Consultation: comfirming that the Committee (and Council) see this as important to the county, and hence the committee will scrutinise the draft response once it is written.

 

June 19th North Chichester County Local Committee

7.00 p.m.; Rogate & Terwick Village Hall, North Street, Rogate, GU31 5BH

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/KEvF5R

 

 

Forward Plan Decisions (June-September FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/JwqAuv

[Note: decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]

 

Leader

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

Agreed to the Adult & Community Learning Service ‘New Company’ being confirmed as an outside body.

Appointed Mark Dunn (councillor) to Chichester Harbour Conservancy Board

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Outstanding from May:

Chichester Harbour AONB Memorandum of Agreement

Decisions made last week:

Agreed plans for temporary closure of 22 libraries to allow self-service terminals to be installed.

Appointed Peter Jones (councillor) to Board of of Action in Rural Sussex.

 

Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Outstanding from May:

Extension of Education Provision for 14-19 year olds in Area A Special Schools

Decisions made last week:

Appointed Diane Ashby (officer) as Officer Trustee to the Adult & Community Learning ‘New Company’

 

Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Outstanding from May:

Preparing for an Ageing Population

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Outstanding from May:

Residents Parking Scheme for Pound Hill Crawley

Review of on-street parking charges

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Outstanding from May:

none

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Notes

* Recurs every month

Joint decision between two or more cabinet members

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