Running Brentwood: a privilege not a right

Karen and BarryBarry leader elect

Last year, when we ousted the Tories from power with our Labour, Brentwood First and independent colleagues, I was ecstatic.  From 2006, I had been fighting back against their dogmatic control ever since, just before I agreed to stand as a Lib Dem candidate, I saw the awful development they wanted to plonk in to our town centre and consoled a poor woman from North Road Avenue at the so-called “public consultation”.

After that momentous day in 2014, I finally arose from a couple of hours sleep and went up to the Town Hall when something terrifying dawned on me….what if I was wrong? What if they weren’t keeping secrets from the public? What if they really were doing the best for Brentwood?

Well, after spending about five minutes there and being made aware of the “long list” of things that the Tories had buried or not made decisions on, I was soon assured that I hadn’t been fighting in vain!  Phew!

We uncovered the mess they had made of William Hunter Way, the £20,000 they had spent on a report that they buried when it rubbished the idea they had put £1.6M aside for,they had clearly neglected the Town Hall, Old House, given away tens of thousands in hush money to departed senior officers and, most appallingly not valued the staff who deliver our services.

I am proud to be part of The Accord because in one year we:

  • Implemented new Christmas lights in Shenfield and Brentwood and provided free Christmas trees to Ingatestone as well as lighting the Brentwood station area with a tree and lights to welcome people to the town during the festive period.
  • Made Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Iris Close Amenity Green and the William Hunter Way Disabled Car Park community assets, meaning they can not be sold without notice to the council and protecting them for six months.
  • Sold Warley Training Centre (derelict for 10 years) for multi-millions whilst a) providing much needed housing b) much needed social housing and c) to not only put a chunk of capital in the bank but also, IMPORTANTLY, a permanent revenue stream based on retaining 5 residential units for rental.
  • Sold Bellmead for much needed housing and, again, social housing.
  • Agreed £42,000 of community bid funding for local projects and allocated the underspend of £8,000 to ward budgets, giving each councillor £1380 (an extra £380 each) to spend in their wards.
  • Saved Old House from Tory disposal. Retaining a much loved heritage asset, returning it to its former glory after the Tories left to to rot and, once again, providing more much needed housing.
  • Town Hall: The project to save it and improve it and make it work for the tax-payer continues
  • Westbury Rd considered for homes and for retail space in order to a) revitalise the west end of the high street and b) to provide subsidised independent shops. This is another piece of prime real estate that the Tories forgot about.
  • Multi-Storey Car Park. Falling apart and stinks. Being clever about this could bring the town centre a better parking facility AND homes AND shops AND possibly a leisure use too.
  • William Hunter Way. After 9 years of Tory farce and £300k of tax payers’ money wasted, we’ve overseen the council’s most successful and engaging public consultation ever and actually listened to our residents. The steer from them is yes to a cinema (but no need to be gigantic) and yes to a better choice of shops. A huge capital and revenue gain opportunity and a means to keep Brentwood folk in Brentwood shopping rather than them going elsewhere.
  • Property acquisition fund: £10m to be set aside for property acquisitions to actually fulfil our vision of entrepreneurialism and to keep Eric Pickles’ cuts at bay.
  • Hutton Community Centre. Rescuing it from the clutches of bankruptcy by seeking community  bids to run it infinitum for the benefit of the community.
  • Cemetery Lodges: Refurbishing ‘dead’ properties and earning an income from them.
  • Asset register: Actually identifying land that the council own so that we can do stuff with it.
  • Affordable Housing Sites: Identifying small parcels of land (Fielding Way, Hutton Drive) that can be developed into social housing sites and that have been ‘hidden’ for years.
  • Hallsford Bridge: Been on the market for 10 years without a sniff. Brought it to committee, listened to ward members on their wish to develop as housing but was unable to do so and therefore sold to a local business for an additional £450k that, once again, otherwise we would not have had.
  • Total approximate value of prospective CAPITAL monies gained through the Asset Panel: £5m.
  •  Approximate forthcoming capital value of William Hunter Way, MSCP, Westbury Rd outcomes: £12m
  • Total approximate value of prospective REVENUE monies through the Asset Panel’s work so far: £500k per annum
  • Ensured that all residents are communicated with via a borough-wide bulletin.
  • Started a plan of action on potholes that begins with meeting with the Tory leadership at Essex County Council.
  • Started the process to give food waste bags to all residents for FREE and for a textile waste collection.
  • Discovered that the Tory administration refurbished the Hutton Community Centre despite £100,000 worth of repair work is needed to the roof…and have now ordered an emergency safety investigation…
  • Re-couped £16,000 of public money that the Conservatives failed to claim on billboard advertising revenue
  • Made sensible decisions on managing public assets to put tax payers’ money back in the bank
  • Opened up council workings in a properly transparent way removing the need for Freedom of Information requests
  • Introduced a “complaints amnesty” for staff to present current complaints for proper investigation, allowing the council to learn from mistakes made without the fear of retribution for staff
  • Restored democracy and focused decision making to the council chamber
  • Advanced the Town Hall transformation project
  • Identified multiple affordable and social housing schemes
  • Introduced a new parking scheme that is better value for residents and shoppers
  • Introduced a three month night time car parking charge to balance the night and day parking charges
  • Launched investigations into monies that have been mis-spent by the previous administration
  • Begun an entrepreneurial approach to council resources to provide much needed funds for front line services
  • Informed all the staff to call Accord members by the first names rather than their official titles and opened up the door of the Leader & Deputy Leader’s office for an open and transparent way of working
  • Introduced a six-monthly staff satisfaction survey to inform the leadership of how the staff feel their contribution is recognised and how they are delivering for the people of Brentwood
  • Introduced committees that are focused on specific areas of the council meaning you get the right people making the right decisions
  • Appointed appropriate councillors (usually ward councillors) to working groups on William Hunter Way, Crossrail, Member/Officer Communications/ Members Casework, the Local Council Tax Support Scheme, IT Resilience and Business Continuity, Budget Scrutiny and the Community Safety Partnership Annual Review
  • Re-structured the senior management team to provide Brentwood with a Chief Executive once again
  • Introduced a cross-party front bench of councillors, giving you the best of everyone and the worst of no one.

However, there is a problem.

Five Accord councillors stood down at the end of their terms – for various personal reasons – so we need to make some gains and hold the seats vacated.  Between us, Accord parties are defending a number of seats but we need to replace those who have departed and these – including Brentwood West – are very close indeed!  Cllr John Newberry only won by 63 votes last year but as you know, this seat is nearly always a close thing between us and the Tories.

So, what we need you to do is to come out on 7th May and vote for our excellent candidate Alison – you can read more about her here.

Trust me, we can do it – the numbers stack up – and we have some great candidates as well as Alison.  Just look at who is fighting your seat (that’s not a Tory) and you don’t need to be Einstein to work out what to do.  But here in my beloved Brentwood West, it’s Alison or another Tory, doing their Tory thing……

Alison FulcherPlease, don’t let the Tories back in on 7th May – vote Alison Fulcher in Brentwood West in order that The Accord can continue to deliver for Brentwood.

After all, we consider leading our town as a privilege whilst the Tories think it is their right to rule you.

Vote for Alison Fulcher because….

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  • she will fight against back garden development and protect our green belt
  • if in a position to do so, she will keep the council tax as low as possible and cut waste and bureaucracy
  • work with others to get our street lights switched back on between 1am and 5am and support moves to get LED lighting introduced
  • keep the weekly black bag bin collection
  • fight to get some fast trains to London from Brentwood station
  • demand that Essex County Council speed up pothole and pavement repairs
  • try to get further reductions in the cost of day time parking
  • get more investment in our local parks and play areas
  • support local businesses.

Planning recommendations week ending 24th April 2015


In #Brentwoodwest this week there is a recommendation in Manor Way:

Please note THIS IS NOT yet a decision – I am able to refer to planning committee now.


Recommended for APPROVAL

If you have any issues with the above officer recommendation then please get in touch with me as soon as possible. The deadline for referral is midday on Tuesday 5 May 2015 to refer the above item to the Planning Committee for further discussion.

For more information on the planning process, please see my advice here.

Rollason Way stabbing


Many of you would have heard about the stabbing in Rollason Way this week.  Obviously this is quite disturbing but it is also something that could as easily happen in the private estates of Hutton Mount.

It is now clear that it was a targeted attack from people known to each other, so we can be confident that there is not a random spate of crime here.  What’s more, there has also been an arrest.

I know that’s not ideal, but I hope that puts things in context.

Photo and story from Brentwood Gazette:


Ashford Avenue – request for inspection

Walking down Ashford Avenue last night, my heart sinks when I see potholes I reported in over a year ago still crying out for repair.  In fact, with so many holes in this road I have today requested an urgent site visit from Essex County Council to get the entire footway re-surfaced.

It takes years for County to do this usually, but our candidate Alison Fulcher, is making faster road repairs one of her priorities.

Chips get the chop next to Warley Hill Tesco

 Russell Quirk, Cllr Jill Hubbard, Nigel Clarke and Cllr Karen Chilvers with (front) L-R: Lilly, Kaia and Rosie Quirk

Delighted to see that the proposed fish and chip shop next to Tesco on Warley Hill has been refused – this would have been a nightmare for residents in the area who are already having their daily lives blighted by the traffic chaos Tesco has caused.

Photo courtesy of the Brentwood Gazette with the full story here.

Planning recommendations week ending 17th April 2015


In #Brentwoodwest this week there is a recommendation in Downsland Drive:

Please note THIS IS NOT yet a decision – I am able to refer to planning committee now.


Recommended for REFUSAL

If you have any issues with the above officer recommendation then please get in touch with me as soon as possible. The deadline for referral is midday on Monday 27 April 2015 to refer the above item to the Planning Committee for further discussion.

For more information on the planning process, please see my advice here.

Kings Road HMO application refused!

I am pleased to report that this application was refused on Tuesday, unanimously, and you can see me protecting Brentwood West here.

But after the meeting, things took an unexpected turn when I spoke to the beleaguered, and most pleasant, applicant and his agent.  You see, my main objection to this one were the proposed living conditions but it seems that they were pushed in to this type of application by officers.  I’m not happy with this and have suggested we meet before they put in another application so we can look at what is right for the area.  They were warm to this idea and I hope to hear from them soon so we can get this building back in to use, to complement the area around Brentwood station.

Unless I had been actively looking at what is proposed in my ward, this would have just gone through – see I don’t wait for residents to call me, I am there working on your behalf and protecting your interests wherever I can.

Kings Road – House* of Multi-Occupancy application

Tomorrow, I hope to be at Planning to speak on the application to squeeze thirteen “living spaces” above the shops in Kings Road in former office space.  This is a nasty application and this is my referral:

I am not satisfied that this meets the parking guidelines or that this will offer acceptable living accommodation for those who could potentially reside there. No bath facilities are offered – only showers – and this does not seem appropriate. I also feel that this is an application that will give rise to further accommodation conversions from office accommodation in an area that is already over-subscribed in terms of residential and will see a continual loss of office accommodation in the area around Brentwood station. No provision has been made for parking or visitor parking – as well as no provision made for deliveries, health visitors, relatives in an area that currently has serious parking availability issues. No provision has been made for recycling or communal bin areas. I am dubious about the increase in sewer provision given the increase in toilet provision. It states in the report that the property has been marketed since 2009, but in the application that the office use only ceased in 2012. It also states no increase in residential units when this is an application to add 11 units?

This is about protecting the area around Brentwood station as well as being about living conditions.  To cram this many people in a floor like this is inhumane to me – I would be relaxed about 5-6 but 13, just too many people in too small a place with not even decent access to the outside….horrible.

I will be urging members to refuse this application.

* also, it’s not even a house!