Tories say NO to Westwood Avenue 20mph limit

Westwood avenue replaced signFor the last couple of years, we have been working with residents to get a 20mph zone implemented.  We had done all the surveys, met all the criteria and we were looking forward to its implementation.

I am appalled and astonished, frankly, to tell you that Tory councillor Rodney Bass (the same fella who turned off your street lights and won’t fix our potholes) has rejected the scheme, giving no good reason.  This has also been backed up by Tory Cllr Ann Naylor who said, in an email to David Kendall that she would not even allow it to be discussed on Brentwood’s Local Highways Panel (on which we both sit!).

David said of this news: “I am stunned and very disappointed to hear this news. We were under the impression the 20mph zone was going to be installed before Christmas so to hear now at this late stage it has been rejected by the Cabinet Member Cllr Rodney Bass is a kick in the teeth to me my Borough Council colleagues and local residents”

We have a few options here and we need to show support for the scheme.  David has asked for a meeting with Cllr Bass for an explanation and I intend to raise the matter at the next full council meeting in September,

I have also set up a petition HERE that I need you to sign to show the public support for this.

It may also be worth writing to Cllr Rodney Bass yourself.  Unfortunately,Cllr Bass has a tendency to throw resident letters in the bin I would suggest you use this facility to ensure your email is logged by officers.

The Great Tory Unsaving of Brentwood

034I can’t be the only one concerned, following the Tory sell of of The Old House last month, that other things that were agreed under The Accord last year are going to be unpicked by the Conservative administration that Brentwood has entrusted to run the town?

I am worried that this is just the first in a long line of things that will be undone.

What’s next?

  • Will the Town Hall be sold off, as the originally intended?

  • Will the William Hunter Way development return to the ugly development that they wanted?

  • Are thousands of homes in West Horndon back on the agenda?

Keep watching…..,

The Inner Chamber benefit

foxy ricky gervais

Up until 8th May, there had been Lib Dems in national government for five years and a Lib Dem led administration in Brentwood.  Then, along came the general election, the politics of fear and we are almost wiped out in government (although we are busy rebuilding with 18,000 new members and, as of Thursday, a new leader – who I hope will be Tim Farron) and Brentwood goes blue.  Again.

But what that has left me with is, not just a sense of pride that we did good things in government and at Brentwood Council, but also a knowledge – from my year as part of a council administration – that things can be done differently.

This hit home to me this week as the Brentwood Tories gaily sold off The Old House, backtracking on the Accord’s rescue plan.  Our plan generated ongoing income to the council over the years after all, we will be bankrupt in about five years if we don’t start generating income.  This is what Cllr Louise McKinlay said, as quoted in the Brentwood Gazette as she talked of the Conservatives’ poor record over ten of the previous eleven years:

“Did we do anything around income generation. No.”

Conservative Leader of Brentwood Council, Cllr Louise McKinlay…whom is entrusted with your money…”

But of course, it doesn’t stop at this.

  • Ward budgets and community funding have been slashed

  • More good officers will be losing their jobs

  • The borough bulletin will be scrapped

  • There will be no robust programme for apprentices

  • Free food recycling bags will not be distributed

….and I don’t suspect this will be the end of it.

Which brings me on to Cllr McKinlay’s pal David Cameron and his pal George Osborne.  If you are poor or in need – or just a hard working single parent – then don’t expect to do well out of this.  I already know that one hardworking, single mum who is going to be a whopping £1,600 a year worse off thanks to Dave and George.  This would not have happened if the Lib Dems were still holding them back in government.

Sounds like THIS is coming true…..

true tory

But again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Fox hunting will make a return to our countryside soon…..there’s nothing more British than having hundreds of toffs on horseback with hounds chasing after a fox to rip limb from limb is there?  Appalling behaviour.
So, as I look back on my (almost) ten years in politics and all its ups and downs, I am comfortable with the fights I have fought.  One thing that always worried me was whether I/we would do anything different if we were in control and it certainly is of comfort to look back and conclude that yes, it can be done differently and for the benefit of the people you represent.
There’s more to come in the next few weeks, I have at least two more exposes to reveal but as my term of office comes to an end in ten months it is time for me to consider whether I have had enough of local politics of whether it is time to walk away.
I have considered both options very carefully and have come to a conclusion.  Is this fight worth it?  Keep this sort of fox-hunting, people-hurting, democracy destroying politics at bay?
YOU BET IT IS!
Thursday 5th May 2016 – LET’S DO THIS!
Be part of my campaign – email me at brentwoodwest.libdems@gmail.com

 

 

REFUSED: 45 FLATS IN ST JAMES ROAD WITH JUST 27 PARKING SPACES

brunel house

Cllr John Newberry, my superb ward colleague, was awesome last week when he spoke on the above planning application on behalf of Brentwood West, as was the exceptionally good speaker Laura Ngo, who spoke on residents’ behalf.

Another 45 flats here would be, as he said, squeezing a quart into a pint pot and the committee listened and voted AGAINST!

Time and time again,we tell developers that we can’t fit any more large numbers of people in to this area – although there were some parking spaces – one for every two flats – this doesn’t take into account the fact that these residents would have shopping delivered, medical visitors and, oh yes, friends and family.

There’s also quite real concerns about the limited access to properties in St James Road and Rollason Way.

My colleagues also spoke in some detail about the problems that carers have parking there and placing them in danger, supporting the residents and the sustainability of Brentwood.

It’s worth watching THIS bit of video, if not simply to see who is standing up for you but also for the classic piece of Tory living-in-a-fantasy world-nonsense spouted by new Tory councillor William Trump – apparently you should all just get on your bikes (not listening to the points made about visiting health professionals made by Cllr Morrissey!)

We will keep on fighting!

The only way is up!

Well, I’ve had better election weekends (2007, 2012 and 2014) and I have had worse ones (2008 and, oh goodness, 2011) but, here I still am…fighting for what’s right, fighting for fairness and fighting for Brentwood West residents.

Alison FulcherSo, we don’t have Alison Fulcher as new Brentwood West councillor, that’s a terrible shame.  This lady is superb and she WILL make an excellent councillor and we will get her elected.  I would like to pay tribute to her wonderful campaign and her almost 1,100 votes that, in any other year, would see her elected!

Don’t underestimate this lady – she will be a councillor in Brentwood some time soon!

Although, Brentwood West, it won’t be here I am afraid, you’ve missed out on Alison.  It’s me next year and, yes, I fully intend to defend my seat on 5th May 2016!

So, with a big Tory turn out at the general election, the Tories took 11/12 seats – the only one we held was that of super popular Mayor Vicky Davies who will serve Pilgrims Hatch for another four years.  Well done Vicky!

Aside from that, the three former Brentwood First seats went Tory, Labour’s Brentwood South seat went Tory and, the most crushing blow of all, we lost Brentwood North by 32 votes and were deprived of Gavin Dadbridge as a new councillor.  I hope he will be back next year.

What’s worse, is that now the Tories have the control of Brentwood now.  So, expect:

  • Old House to go back up for sale
  • All the work we have done on the William Hunter Way development – where we finally got something residents wanted – to be thrown away and a return to a nasty development the Tories want
  • Community funding and ward budgets to be slashed (this past year, Holly Trees School, Chichester House, Victoria Court, Kings Chase Church and South Weald Parish Hall benefitted)
  • Cemetery lodges to remain out of use and empty
  • Overdevelopment and back garden grabbing
  • Resident communication to cease and an end to transparency
  • Good council staff to leave and some to be paid off….

Lucky us!

I would like to thank the 1,088 people who did come out and vote Lib Dem for Alison and, of course, John, David and I will continue to work hard for you as your local councillors.

We really did feel it was a privilege to run our town, not a right, and we will continue to represent the people to the council, not the other way around.

 

 

TWO VOTES – use them wisely!

#BrentwoodWest – you have two completely separate votes on Thursday – one for a Brentwood West councillor and one for the MP who will represent Brentwood and Ongar.  This is how it works:

– You have ONE vote to choose your MP.  It’s a white paper which lists six candidates.  They are listed here. Some of them even live in Brentwood!  I’m sure I can leave it to every news channel in the country to keep you informed about that one.

Alison Fulcher– You have ONE vote to choose your councillor to serve you from 2015 – 2019.  I would thoroughly recommend you vote for Alison FULCHER!  All the candidates are listed here and this will be the GREEN paper you receive.  If you really want to keep the Tories away from running Brentwood, then be aware it is a two-horse race, and ticking the box next to the name Alison Elizabeth FULCHER is the way forward!

If you’re thinking of voting UKIP, they couldn’t even find a candidate.

If you’re thinking of voting Labour then that would be a waste in Brentwood West and could let a Tory in.  Labour came a poor fourth last time (2014) and, tactically, if you are a Labour supporter then you have a better chance of keeping Labour in the Brentwood administration if you vote for Alison Fulcher, Lib Dem candidate.

2014 results

John NewberryNEWBERRY, Alfred John – Liberal Democrat – 624 Elected

Conservatives – 562

UKIP – 415

Labour – 217 (nowhere near with 12% of the vote!!!)

tim

Let’s be completely honest – Labour have their best chance in Brentwood South where the super clever Dr Tim Barrett is hoping to take the seat vacated by Cllr Mike Le Surf and join his extremely intelligent & jolly decent brother Cllr Gareth Barrett on Brentwood Council.  Now I do hope that Tim wins, because if he doesn’t we will get another Tory.  It also means that there’s a fairly good chance of keeping the combined non-Tory parties in power and halt their plans that would have bankrupted the council.

Plus, if Tim is as funny as Gareth, then webcasts will be worth a view!

Last year, we made a historic agreement with Labour, Brentwood First and the Independent candidate Cllr Roger Keeble. in order to take power after ten years of the Tories.  In my view, it means you get the best of all parties and the worst of none because we work together for the best of Brentwood and we modify each other’s extremes.  Although, to be fair, there’s been little disagreement and nothing really extreme at all!  For this to continue, we need Tim so, encourage your friends that live in Brentwood South to think tactically and in Brentwood West….well can I suggest you do the same if you are a Labour supporter and vote Lib Dem?  It’s your best chance to get a Labour voice in running Brentwood, overall.

I know of Brentwood West Labour members who will vote Lib Dem tactically and I know that more than one Brentwood South Lib Dem member voted for Cllr Mike Le Surf in 2007 when he was first elected to council and won by a majority of ELEVEN so it really can make a difference.

Finally, if you want to know WHY it is important for the combined Lib/Lab/Indies to run Brentwood read THIS but as a quick recap…this is what we did in TEN MONTHS – don’t let the Tories take us backwards….vote Alison in West…..and tell your friends!

  • 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.

 

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.

Thanks for upsetting my residents Mr Pickles

Westwood avenue replaced signWestwood Avenue residents have their current MP Eric Pickles and his communities department to thank for dumping TWELVE houses in their back gardens after a five year fight came to a crushing end a couple of weeks ago.

For five years or more, I have fought with residents to stop this development and have halted a number of inappropriate developments of three, four, five houses and these have all been refused and upheld.  But TWELVE well, that’s fine, according to Mr Pickles’ jolly old team!

We know that this will be a nightmare for residents in Westwood Avenue, Elm Way, Manor Way, west Park Hill and Westway as well as those in Kavanaghs Road that will have it to view from their back windows too.  The additional cars, the proximity to the railway and the sheer over-development is going to cause problems…we have seen it all before.

It’s unbelievable that the Tories have today put out an election leaflet claiming to be against over-development but look at this, Rollason Way, Clements Park and Highwood Hospital….all on their watch and see who is really protecting our town.

Parking Fees reduced!

 

 

one hour successParking charges to go down under the Accord Administration!

With the Lib Dems, I can’t remember a time when we weren’t fighting to make parking fees more reasonable!  Now we have done it – and the Tories voted AGAINST our plans!

We pulled this off by being fair – we introduced an overnight parking charge of £2 to capitalise on the TOWIE visitors.  This has yielded around £60,000 in income which has meant we can do the following:

  • Reduce the all day car parking fee from £10.50 to £8.00

  • Introduce a new Saturday workers fee of £4 in Westbury Road Car Park

  • Introduce a new £30 weekly charge in the William Hunter Way Car Park

This will take around ten weeks to introduce once it is advertised and consulted upon.

It is unbelievable that the Tories voted against on the basis that we hadn’t reduced it enough, despite them voting for a 117% increase in the one hour charge in 2012 (and that includes current Brentwood West Tory Cllr Will Russell, who’s up for re-election in May).

It’s also interesting to see that another Tory scaremongering activity didn’t come true.  Back in 2011, two days before I lost my seat, they put out a leaflet in Brentwood West saying that, should a night time charge be introduced then people would be forced in to the side streets to park and, therefore, we would all be wading around in “rivers of vomit”.  Yes, they put that on a leaflet and people believed it!  So, watch what they say when it comes to May’s elections!  It turns out not to be the case, so just as well no one opened up a Wellies Shop in anticipation.

 

Hardworking, conscientious council officer cares for sick father whilst continuing to diligently perform key role…

…not quite the Daily Mail headline – but then that wouldn’t sell papers would it?

A statement from Lib Dem Deputy Leader on Jo-Anne Ireland and her current working arrangements:

Dear Resident,

Today, The Mail on Sunday published an article about Brentwood Council’s Acting CEO, Jo-Anne Ireland. You may already have seen it in the newspaper. If not, you can read it here

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2963332/Town-hall-chief-makes-105k-running-council-Essex-Cyprus-home-2-000-miles-away.html

If you read the quote from William Lloyd (Deputy Leader) before the rest of the article (it’s buried right at the end), you might see that there are two sides to this story. Miss Ireland is paying all her own expenses, so there is no additional cost to the taxpayer. As the article itself says, she has spent 8 days in Brentwood this month and 10 days in January. That works out as 50% of her time spent in the office. I can vouch for the fact that she is easily contactable via email and/or phone for the rest of the week and indeed, into the evenings and weekends.

Looking at this situation another way, we’re in a period of transition, with a new CEO starting in March. We, the Accord Administration, decided that we didn’t want to lose our most senior officer in the run up to the new CEO starting. Allowing Miss Ireland to work part of the time from Cyprus was a management decision taken to retain her essential experience and make sure we had continuity during the transition to the new CEO. This is also the time when we set the budget and, as the most senior finance officer, losing Miss Ireland would have caused a number of problems.
Miss Ireland would have stayed in Brentwood until after May this year and the transition to a new officer would have been smooth and not at all newsworthy. Unfortunately, her father had a stroke late last year. He lives on Cyprus, so her plans to move there had to be accelerated. We are fortunate that Miss Ireland has been so willing to work with us at this time. She could have resigned with immediate effect and we would then have had to recruit interim staff at a much higher cost while looking for a permanent replacement.
I hope that this gives you a different perspective on the Mail article. We were only contacted at 5pm on Friday for our comments and we rapidly came to the conclusion that the journalists were working to someone else’s agenda and weren’t interested in the broader story. Please forward this to your friends so that the other side of this story can be told.
Best wishes
Cllr Graeme Clark
on behalf of the Accord Administration