Weekly Diary for Sptember 2012
Saturday 1 September
Another Saturday morning – another Saturday door knocking; this time in Pilgrims Hatch in the rain! My colleagues and I managed to speak to some 60 or so residents in the Hatch Road area and my borough ward of Pilgrims Hatch.
We discovered that a rat infestation was causing an awful lot of households distress. We were told that an old shed had been pulled down to the rear of the affected properties and since that time dozens of rats had been relocating into other potential nests. I asked one gentleman if he had been experiencing problems with rats and his reply was “No Barry, I’ve got no problem with rats, I’ve caught over a dozen”. Needless to say first thing Monday I was in touch with Brentwood Environmental Health for them to advise these residents as to the best course of action. Sadly, due to administrative decisions taken some two years ago, Brentwood no longer has a Pest Control function and the cost of controlling or eliminating this rat nuisance becomes the burden of the local householders. One lady informed me she had spent over £350 thus far on private pest control measures.
Monday 3 September
My morning was spent discussing ‘rat’ issues with Environmental Health, Planning Enforcement officers and also several housing problems arising from my Saturday morning walkabout.
7 pm: my Pilgrims Hatch ward colleague, Vicky Davies and I attended a briefing by Brentwood Borough Council Fraud Investigation officers on their work on our behalf. This I found very interesting and the examples they gave us of the lengths some people go to to defraud the borough is somewhat extraordinary. For obvious reasons I cannot disclose particular cases but an example I can give you is that the Housing Department were about to allocate accommodation to an individual who, on information that he had provided, qualified him for this property, but one of the officers was unhappy with a couple of items that, in her mind, did not ring true. The Fraud Investigators were informed, and they carried out an inter-Essex trawl of other councils’ housing offices, to discover that this same individual had council accommodation in three other districts. Needless to say, the individual did not get the property in Brentwood, the case was referred to the Courts, the individual was found guilty of attempted fraud and deception and actual fraud for the other properties, and received a suspended sentence and a paltry £350 fine.
My thoughts are that although the council was awarded costs, they barely covered the time spent by the officers investigating this case and the fine levied by the Court was hardly prohibitive. However, I did ask the question of the officer whether they saved the Council the cost of running their department and their salaries and the answer was – absolutely; they saved this amount and a lot more. All in all this was a valuable briefing session, which proved to me that even after 30 years as a local councillor, there are still things I am discovering and learning about local government.
Tuesday 4 September
9am: an early start for the day, with a Group Meeting at County Hall prior to Full Council.
1pm: I had a meeting with the Equal Opportunities Officer at County Hall to discuss my specific needs and requirements for fulfilling my role as a County Councillor and to discover all about a wonderful new innovation for County Members called E-Learning.
Wednesday 5 September
Due to a pre-arranged private appointment, I was unable to attend the scheduled meeting of the Essex Fire Authority at 10am, County Hall. My apologies were sent, but I did manage to arrive at County Hall later in the morning and meet up with colleagues, who updated me on the meeting and assured me that nothing untoward had happened and that I had not missed vital votes or discussions on that occasion.
2pm: still at County Hall, I attended a briefing for members on the newly set up Parking Partnerships. A full and frank discussion was had and this new way of administering parking enforcement within Essex was explained fully. I personally have my reservations as to how long the scheme will remain as I can see many problems in its implementation and representation. I then met with officers at County Hall to discuss various Highways matters relating to my County Division.
Friday 7 September
The afternoon saw me boarding a plane for a short break to Hong Kong, pictures of which you can find in the PHOTO ALBUM section of my website, not of me in swimming trunks thank goodness, but of the fantastic facilities and amazingly clean and tidy streets, buses and trains that quite frankly put this country to shame.
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong Underground||Hong Kong Underground|
Once upon a time, Hong Kong was a seething mass of people that had dirty littered streets but a series of innovative schemes, backed up by hefty fines and enforcement have resulted in a pristine and beautiful environment.
Saturday 15 September
Back home, and back on the doorsteps again! At 10.30am, I could be found walking down Park Road in Brentwood North ward meeting my residents there and discussing any issues they wished to raise. Thankfully, I was able to resolve/reassure them whilst on the doorstep in many cases, but as always, there were issues raised that I had to take away with me and report to the Council for investigation, with a promise to report back.
Tuesday 18 September
9am: I was attending a site meeting with residents and County Highway officers at Hall Lane, Shenfield. The issue here was one of speeding traffic and I took the opportunity of also showing the officers the badly eroded verge and highway edge, resulting in a 10 foot long ‘crater’ at the side of the road. When standing in it, the actual road level came way above my ankles, so I dread to think what would happen if a cyclist, or motorbike became caught in this defect. County Highways officers advised me that they would report immediately the maintenance issue, but we needed to investigate a longer term measure in protecting this particular verge/bank to prevent constant erosion from the weight of traffic.
7pm: at Brentwood Borough Council offices I attended an Environmental meeting, which discussed the newly conceived programme called ‘Street Scene’ which rolls all issues relating to our pavements / grassed areas / leafy lanes / highway furniture / litter / domestic waste collection into one organisational body, based at our depot at Warley.
The Pilgrims Hatch and Shenfield Environmental Partnerships were mentioned in a positive light as a means of assisting and engaging with the local community in providing an enhanced service in many parts of their areas. They were asked to co-ordinate a proposal, working together, to assist the Council in rolling out their programme of works.
Thursday 20 September
10am found me with my fellow members of the Economic and Highways Scrutiny Panel discussing many issues relating to that Agenda.
Friday 21 September
9am: and back at County Hall for a Group Meeting with my fellow Liberal Democrat members.
Monday 24 September
Late afternoon, at 5pm saw my fellow County Councillors and I at Brentwood Council meeting with the members of the Youth Strategy Group. Many issues were raised, one of which was the possibility of our Youth Counsellors attending a future meeting with selected members of Brentwood Borough Council and officers to discuss specifically issues surrounding litter within Brentwood and the way forward in evolving a policy to combat this anti-social problem.
Tuesday 25 September
1.30pm: I had a briefing meeting with senior officers at Brentwood in preparation for the forthcoming Overview and Scrutiny Meeting, of which I am Chairman.
Wednesday 26 September
10am saw me meeting with fire colleagues at Kelvedon Park, to attend the Policy and Co-ordinating Meeting. During the meeting I had several questions to put to the Finance Officer whilst the budgets section was under discussion. These were all answered to my satisfaction and it seems that the Fire Authority in Essex is in relatively good shape financially going forward. With these uncertain times this is reassuring news as the Government seeks, yet again to adjust the formula local Councils and Fire and Police authorities use to raise their revenue.
Following this meeting, I attended the Kelvedon Park Development Sub-Committee and it is good news that on 1 October the archaeological dig into our proposed new development site commences. This will take up to a month to complete. If nothing of significant historical importance is discovered, then the works will start on the1November for the first phase of the building works. If, however, there is a discovery such as Boudica’s lost golden hoard, the start date for the development will be put back up to nine months.
Either way, it’s good news!