Election time is upon us, with Polling Day on Thursday 22nd May for Basildon Borough Council and also for the European Parliament. It has been nice getting out in Billericay East ward and getting to meet with and chat to many of you.
It has been a little under a year now since I won the Billericay East by-election last June, following the sad death of my predecessor, the late Tony Archer. I have hugely enjoyed my time as Councillor for Billericay East and would be thrilled and honoured if residents (or, as I prefer to think of them, ‘neighbours’) voted to allow me to go on representing them after May 22nd.
Since joining the Council, I have served on the Leisure and Community Services Scrutiny Committee, never having missed a meeting. The most rewarding part of my role as a councillor has, of course, been dealing with casework. I love helping people and have really enjoyed meeting and speaking to residents. I always seek to make myself readily available – not just through standard written, phone and e-mail communication and monthly surgeries at Billericay Library but also through social media (Facebook and Twitter, etc) and this website. I feel I have a fair claim to being one of the most accessible councillors in Billericay. I have also hugely enjoyed the business of the Council itself and am pleased and proud to support Tony Ball’s Conservative administration. It was particularly gratifying to vote for a Budget that froze the Council Tax – the fourth year running Basildon Tories have delivered a freeze or cut for local taxpayers.
I truly believe only a Tory administration is capable of the kind of prudent financial management that allows the Council Tax to be restrained and reserves kept at healthy levels whilst at the same time continuing to deliver vital investment for the Borough. This includes weekly refuse collection, recycling (now up to 53% of the Borough’s household waste), reopening the Towngate Theatre, delivering the Sporting Village, huge regeneration projects in Pitsea and Wickford, not to mention the investment that has gone in, here, in Billericay: block paving, CCTV, free weekend and Christmas parking in the High Street; new play equipment at Sun Corner (now protected with Queen Elizabeth II Playing Field status); money to revamp Billericay Swimming Pool; year-on-year improvements to local parks, including Lake Meadows and Norsey Woods, etc, etc, etc.
All of this is in stark contrast to Basildon Labour, who I am sorry to say are – as Terry-Thomas would say – “an absolute shower”. Previous Labour administrations ignored and neglected Billericay and would do so again. The antipathy to Billericay of many Labour councillors is palpable. I have sat in Council meetings and listened to them argue against investment; agitate against free parking, not to mention vote against the Council Tax freeze. They have never renounced the car crash economics of the last government and cannot be trusted with the Nation’s – or this Borough’s – finances. The sheer scope of their financial incompetence was revealed at the recent Budget meeting, when their Leader gave a speech making reckless spending commitments totalling more than £2 million, requiring a massive 14% hike in the Council Tax (much of it involving increasing Council worker salaries, setting up a ‘fairness’ quango, scrapping the benefit caps and giving taxpayer subsidised hot meals to Basildon’s over-50s).
UKIP are no better, as they are incapable of providing the leadership we need – neither nationally or in the European Parliament or the Basildon Council chamber. They cannot form an administration in Basildon, and the only UKIP councillor left the Budget meeting before the vote so he could go home early. The ‘Kippers’ only take seats from Tories and hand power to Labour. A vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour and a 14% tax hike and Billericay concreted over with social housing.
I should mention the Local Plan, which is a matter of huge concern to Billericay residents. You will all be aware the Council has just completed its consultation on the Local Plan Core Strategy and we, as Billericay councillors, are clear that Billericay cannot accommodate large-scale additional homes. The consultation has made this demonstrable and clear. Any large development would not be sustainable, as there are no funds for infrastructure upgrades. We are now confident this evidence will lead to a future draft of the Local Plan that removes valued Green Belt around Billericay. I am not a ‘NIMBY’ but, as a basic matter of principle, I oppose encroachments on Green Belt and believe we should do all we can to preserve green spaces.
Obviously, as well as the local borough elections, we are also electing our representatives to the European Parliament. I hope everyone will support the Conservative team for the East of England region. Only the Tories are committed to renegotiating the terms of our membership of the European Union and ONLY the Conservatives can and WILL deliver an In/Our Referendum in 2017. Labour and the LibDems won’t; UKIP can’t. David Cameron has staked his political future on this commitment and been absolutely clear he will seek a major repatriation of powers and competencies away from Brussels and back to Westminster. If that renegotiation falls on deaf ears, we are committed to holding an In/Out Referendum to give the British people their say.
The above is very much contingent on a Tory MAJORITY in 2015. So, whether it’s in these local and European elections this year, or the General Election next year, the sensible course is clear.