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……