News and Events
A senior Billericay councillor is urging residents to blow the whistle on their neighbours in the fight against tax and benefit cheats.
Phil Turner, Basildon Council’s member for finance, is calling on residents to report suspected cheats by using the council’s 24-hour fraud hotline.
More than 300 whistleblowers have already tipped off investigators this year as residents join the council’s fight against fraudsters.
Information gathered through the number is helping to track down residents making false claims, contributing to a wave of prosecutions and clawing back thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
“People who commit tax and benefit fraud are not stealing from the council, they’re stealing from all of us,” said Councillor Turner.
“Tax and benefit cheats pocket money from the public purse that could be used for improving vital services.
“I urge anyone who knows someone they suspect is defrauding the taxpayer to call us free and in confidence on the 24-hour hotline.”
A major clampdown on council tax and benefit fraud is already underway in the district.
The council revealed earlier this year that an average of 900 people each month are being hit with court summonses for refusing to pay their council tax. Around £385,000 each year is also being clawed back from benefit cheats.
“The high volume of calls we are already taking proves residents will not turn their heads away while others pick their pockets.
“It sends out a stark warning to anyone who is cheating the system. If we don’t catch you, your friends, neighbours and work colleagues will.”
More than 550 residents called the fraud hotline last year.
The fraud hotline number is 0800 085 1653.
TRAINING FOR COUNCILLORS, THE KEY TO BETTER GOVERNMENT
More than 120 people attended the Towngate Theatre in Basildon Basildon to launch a unique training scheme for councillors, believed to be the first of its kind in south Essex.It came after the three authorities, Basildon, Castle Point, and Rochford, linked up to create a training package to boost the skills of local councillors and provide a forum for them to exchange their experiences.
A small cross party working group spearheaded the three council initiative and the range of learning opportunities has already increased beyond what any single council would have been able to do alone.
Last night’s (28 June) cabinet meeting agreed to authorise Councillor Phil Turner, cabinet member for Resources, to sign the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) Member Development Charter.
The EERA Charter sets out examples of good practice which member councils should follow and is a first step in making Basildon a leading council in training and development.
Training sessions are open to all councillors and the first will cover community leadership, regulations, monitoring, overview and scrutiny and working in partnership.
“Councillors are ordinary members of the public dealing with very complicated and challenging issues,” said Councillor Phil Turner.
“We hope the training will provide councillors with the right skills to meet these challenges and help them to represent their local communities more effectively.
“By setting up a joint training programme, we aim to set an example other councils throughout the county can follow.”
The sessions are being held in all three districts and will include training in providing community leadership, using council resources effectively, developing questioning and analytical skills and building partnerships with voluntary and community groups.
"Councillors are just members of the public but they need a wide range of skills and this training will help them acquire those they need to better serve their residents.
“Training is important to ensure that we enhance our knowledge and skills, help us make the right decisions and share experiences. This will eventually enable us to add more value to the work we already do and put us in an even better position to deliver high quality, value for money services to local people," added Councillor Turner.
The work in this field is seen as breaking new ground and it is expected to be keenly watched by neighbouring councils anxious to raise their standards too.
COUNCIL ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR FIRST EVER SCULPTURE PARK IN ESSEX
A Viking boat made from willow, jelly babies the size of small children and giant sound pods that can detect a whisper 30 metres away.This may sound like a shortlist for the Turner Prize but visitors to Wat Tyler could soon be admiring these artworks, and other contemporary designs, when Basildon Council opens the first ever sculpture park in Essex.
Around 12 sculptures, funded by lottery cash, could be dotted around the District's largest country park after hundreds of artists nationwide were invited to submit their ideas.
Working with the artists, children from selected schools will help to design, build and install the sculptures in a series of out of hours educational workshops.
Many of the sculptures will be linked to the heritage of the local area, portraying historical events that have shaped Basildon and the surrounding towns.
Designs on the final list include enormous timber carvings depicting marchers in the peasants’ revolt and a Viking boat constructed out of willow.
A wartime innovation designed to detect the noise of incoming enemy bombers has inspired another of the sculptures.
Two sound mirrors, facing one another and shaped like giant saucers stood on end, will transmit visitors' whispers across half the length of a football pitch with crystal clear quality.
Alongside these artworks the Council is planning to stretch visitors’ imaginations with a collection of even more extraordinary ideas.
Plans for a hollow metal bug tattooed inside with the students’ own designs and a huddle of four feet high jelly-babies cast in coloured concrete are among the more abstract ideas.
“This is a unique concept that could really put Basildon on the cultural map of Essex and won’t cost local taxpayers a penny,” said Cllr Anthony Hedley, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Open Spaces.
“It’s just not art for arts sake. The project has educational value for the students involved and real cultural importance for Basildon.
“There are very few other sculpture parks in the country which is why we hope this, when it opens later this year, will attract more visitors to Wat Tyler and the District as a whole,” he added.