Sunday, 24 February 2013

Potholes...time to send in the troops?

Potholes...time to send in the troops?

Here at Tory-run Brentwood Council, not so long ago, it was decided to jettison our Highways responsibility, to the Planet ECC.

A neighbouring satellite geographically, but light years away in terms of accountability, responsiveness and action.
The frustration felt by Brentwood dwellers and drivers is mounting as damage to cars and tyres through potholes increases.
Meanwhile, the administration continues with the rhetoric that 'highways is a County issue' and stands by whilst Brentwood residents and drivers struggle on.
Conscientious councillors continually refer the issue of potholes through 'the members portal' but the response is slow.
Members have also tried to raise it at Highways meetings but are silenced by the chair and red tape.
Now, an ever growing band of Opposition 'freedom fighters' is set to raise this issue in ever more creative & inventive ways.
I took my camera out into my ward (Brentwood South) & utilised my enthusiasm for photography & art in order to raise the issue of potholes in Brentwood.
Taking inspiration from an artist called Slinkachu who specialises in tiny art installations, I decided that this could be an effective way of raising the plight of 'the little people'; that is all of us who are affected on a daily basis by the ever-increasing and deepening potholes all across Brentwood.
Whilst out taking these images, I was stopped countless times as residents asked what I was doing. Once I explained, they were fully supportive without exception and delighted to see these potholes, that cause so much damage and unnecessary worry, are being reported, if only by the Labour Opposition on Brentwood Council.                                                       
                                                                                                                                                       Can you spot the Storm Trooper?


If you are affected by potholes in Brentwood and are at your wits end, like me, contact me via my council email and I will make sure that your pothole issue is reported to Essex County Council, as well as making sure that Brentwood Borough Council know just how many people are affected.

Check out the artist Slinkachu & his blogs
 Slinkachu blogs:

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Vintage Year for Brentwood Politics?

Brentwood & Ongar Labour Party met last week for the first meeting of 2013 and it was our best attended yet; not just in numbers (although we were nearing 30 on a cold and wet Thursday evening) but also in diversity, enthusiasm, wisdom and intellect.

I suppose inevitably,  people at the meeting last week included charity workers, ex-local councillors (one of 40 year service) NHS staff and ex-nurses, doctors, IT whizzes, teachers and a college lecturer and the breadth of knowledge and political savvy in that tiny little hall gave me great hope for the future.

The range of people and our varying ages makes for lively and interesting debate. We had a half hour discussion about localism, which was supposed to last 10 minutes and could have gone on all night, followed by a fascinating update from 2 of our members who used to work in the health service and were keen that we were fully briefed on the new Health and Well Being Boards that will be in position very soon. The sense of team was powerful stuff

Of course, we have been known to sweat the small stuff and can get entirely hooked up on the position of a bus stop or the toilet in Stratford Station; this is part of what is important to everyday people living everyday lives.  
But we also get our teeth into campaigns and policy.

We made some great plans for 2013 at last week’s meeting – some great social plans and some great campaigning plans.

You should come along to our next meeting – I think 2013 is going to be a vintage year in Brentwood’s local politics.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

HMS Brentwood Ahoy!

When I was elected to be a Councillor on Brentwood Council in May last year, I’d envisaged boarding an ocean bound liner, The HMS Brentwood, steered by members heading for interesting and sometimes adverse destinations – with platforms for debate, rooms for flexibility, vast pools of knowledge and expertise; with space for listening and an enthusiastic, motivated crew. An exciting vessel full of ideas that make it an attractive and vibrant place to be and work with, enabling partnerships and transoceanic trade.

Instead I find myself on board the vast container ship ‘Uninspiring’ sailing, with questionable seaworthiness, along the straightest of Straits headed up by a crew of members who seem to be making it up as they go along. Their main concern is the bottom (plimsoll) line, keeping a lid on every container and flexing the Whip. It has windowless cabins with no vision.

To keep it afloat there have been many casualties; tenants have been left high and dry; arts and culture, sports and health have been offloaded; the place is overrun with rats as the rat catcher was made to walk the plank and the gangways are rotting because the highways department was traded. The only thing left for staff to do is to collect up the rubbish, weekly, and announce it on the ships tannoy, over and over and over.
But! Splice the mainbrace!......there is hope on the horizon. Fortunately others aboard this grey vessel also speak of that visionary, ocean bound liner.

There’s mutiny afoot and I know where I’m nailing my flag – HMS Brentwood AHOY!


Friday, 18 January 2013

Five Year Fixed Term Tenancies - a short sighted policy for long term agony

Brentwood authority wants to bring in Fixed-Term Tenancies (for future tenants only) in a bid to stamp out antisocial behaviour among its social housing tenants – I’d laugh if it wasn’t so serious.

Doesn’t this Council already have policies in place to deal with anti social behaviours such as 'too much rubbish’ or ‘playing music too loud'?
Well, yes it does.

Have we had no recourse until this new, draconian measure was dreamt up?
Well, yes we have.

So, what is this really? This is ghettoisation, in shabby sheeps clothing. Disgraceful.
We don't really believe that it's all about anti-social behaviour, do we?

The flat-cap wearing, pigeon-fancying, whippet racing working classes get another dose of classic Tory medicine.

But worse, some tenants have pointed out that it might not stop there; the wording of the proposal does not rule out the possibility that present tenants may be affected if they move house, within the service.

Some members at the Town Hall have been getting a bit shirty when residents, and Ward Councillors opposing this proposal, have asked questions about the morality of Fixed Term Tenancy - huffing and puffing; snapping and becoming impatient.

All this impatience feels designed to put people off but to keep quiet means sleepwalking into a housing disaster.

These questions need asking. Brentwood Conservative Councillors in favour of this proposal must think again. Tenants must complete those questionaires and people must continue to voice their concerns and, if that means some huffing and puffing well, so be it. Because annoying the policy makers by asking the questions they would rather not answer is true democracy and the way that policies are shaped.

Irritations, like the grain of sand in an oyster, can shape something that is preferable to all.

Here’s hoping for a pearl.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wooded area gets a New Year Facelift

Following a brilliantly positive meeting last night with Newham officers and Brentwood residents, a small wooded corridor, sorely neglected for many years
will finally get the att

ention it deserves.
Following years of casework from the Labour Councillors for Brentwood South and repeated enquiries from local people, the little wooded walkway, at the rear of houses on Cherry Avenue and St Stephens Crescent, has finally been identified
as belonging to Newham Council and treework is set to begin
within the next 10 days or so (weather permitting).

Officers from Newham are keen to address the issue of overly tall Poplar trees, overcrowded tree growth, dumping and flytipping.
They also plan to remove unnecessary, largely broken fencing and open up the walkway to encourage appropriate use and enjoyment.

Interested residents met with officers from Newham last night (Monday January 12) and were delighted to hear of the plans for the wooded area.
They were reassured that wildlife will be taken into account and informed that the reason the work is taking place now is to get the trees reduced or removed before nesting starts.

One delighted resident ended the meeting by saying "I'd just like to say that it all sounds really good and I'd like to thank you for all the hard work".

Julie Morrissey, Labour Councillor for the area, Brentwood South said "This is just the perfect result at the end of years of enquiries and discussion. The meeting last night was incredibly positive. The officers from Newham came to the meeting with the sole intention of listening to local people and being flexible - this they did, and they were.
I am very much looking forward to monitoring the results, with residents, over the coming months"

Cllr Morrissey went on to say that there has been a great response to the competition for a name for this wooded area and the results will be made public at the end of the month.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Political Storms Ahead

Forecast Summary

Some bright or sunny spells but staying cold after a
widespread frost early on, and with some wintry
showers likely, particularly across parts of Norfolk.

Staying very cold. Gradually clouding over with snow
spreading from the northwest to all parts. This will
lead to some accumulations, especially later, also
some very icy conditions......

......and that’s my concern...”icy conditions” and Brentwood High Street – or the paving to be precise. I’m going to say it – IT’S SLIPPERY. The paving in Brentwood High Street is tricky to walk on and especially so when wet, snowy or icy. People slip over on the new paving. Not sure how much clearer I can be.
£7 million on a slippery High Street. It beggars belief.

"> I saw a tweet this morning from a Brentwood resident alerting Brentwood Council of the fact that she observed a ‘fit and able’ man slip over on the paving. No response or acknowledgement.

And when will there be an acknowledgement of the terrible state of the paving in Brentwood High Street. When will we see repairs?

I am a frequent pedestrian in Brentwood High Street, not least because the right hand (Post Office) side is part of my ward (Brentwood South). Clearly the paving needs serious attention. Yet I have not been made aware of any plans to address the cracked and uneven slabs, the chunks of paving stones missing and seesawing kerb stones – despite The Labour Group reporting these issues repeatedly. A walk along Brentwood High Street now requires such careful navigation that I would expect to have seen a regular repair team in place over the last few months. If you have building work done at home and the work begins to crack or chunks fall off – you would be within your rights to call the builders back to make good. Where are the High Street contractors? Why are they not putting it right?

I would also expect to see some sort of update from Essex and Brentwood Council - accepting the problem, warning people to take care especially in wet or icy conditions and informing residents about plans to address the issue.

Photo by Kai Tatsu at en.wikipedia

Quotas for Women or Just a Level Playing Field?

Spare me ‘the level playing field’ excuse or ‘getting there ‘on my own merits’.

This highly convenient slice of rhetoric suits the suits at the top. It aims to pluck at the guilt strings touting this myth that women must fight the good fight with no help or extra investment. So, do men receive no extra help or support to get to the top? Have we forgotten about ‘the old boys’ or The Freemasons network’? Not least the very fact that all women over 21 did not have the right to vote until 1928. Thereby ensuring that men have had all the political and powerful advantages for years before women achieved equality. In short, men have been enjoying ‘all me
n shortlists’ and ‘all men quotas’ allowing them to reach the upper echelons in business and government.

Unlike the Tory leader of Brentwood Council, I’m quite comfortable with the fact that now is my time to enjoy the same level of support and investment to ensure that I have the opportunity to achieve. I will not cow-tow to the idea that for me to eschew support, as men did not before 1928, would be a sign of weakness and inequality.

If you believe that quotas and all women shortlists are unnecessary then by default you must believe that men are better ‘at this sort of thing’ than women, as statistics show that there are more of them, in government and in the boardroom. You are then part of the problem.