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Confelicity voted against all the policies I wanted for our local manifesto, and I'm happy - why?

Each month our party discusses all the issues that affect us in Southend. Each agenda is different, ranging from grammar schools to council tax increases.


We publish our minutes (see below) in accordance with our party’s constitution which seeks to provide openness and transparency.


The last meeting held on 7th February at the Camelia Hotel, debated the 15-minute city, the Council’s proposed 4.99% council tax increase, the 10% parking charge increase, and the protection of women’s single-sex spaces.


Due to our ‘Undivided Democratic’ voting system, we require all members to vote in favour or against a motion. If a motion does not get voted through any member may put it on a future agenda with the obligation to bring more information, evidence and facts to support their view.


It is important to note that a low percentage does not indicate members are necessarily against a motion in essence, but they may be against the specific question that is being raised, and/or they require more information before they feel confident to vote on the matter. As you will see in the minutes, the debate on women’s single-sex spaces opened up a much wider debate, which we will continue to debate in future meetings.


The result of 37% against, in my view, represents a long journey ahead as we aim to reach agreement on what has become a hugely complicated subject.


In the case of the 15-minute City, I myself am vehemently against the notion. I am pro-outstanding public services and facilities being within 15 minutes, but this will never happen given the evidence we see from the council meetings where we cannot even keep the street lights on, fix the potholes and cracked pavements, the pressure of changing to fortnightly bin collections, reducing cutting our grass verges to once a year, cancelling bus services across the city, and the long waiting times in our hospitals and the large school class sizes.


I am pro-clean air, but there is no movement to create a transport service that is fast, reliable, efficient and that will accommodate workers, families, and the elderly and so on. There is a notion that somehow we are all going to ride our bikes and that will work. This is a forlorn hope. Yes, make cycling easy and safe, but don’t rely on that as the saviour in lowering emissions.


I am pro-reducing traffic – what driver doesn’t want clear roads? But what I am against is their solution to tax us to death in the name of these perfectly acceptable goals, by fining us to drive through a new division of eight districts within Southend. The fines would range from £35 to £70, so if you wanted to drive from Shoebury to Leigh you might end up being fined sixteen times for one journey paying upwards of £500! Whoever comes up with this madness hasn’t figured out how people work.


Since the meeting I have met with the member that did not vote against the 15-minute city and they were also against the 15-minute city, but they were in favour of clean air, reduced traffic and having better facilities closer, so felt at the time that they could see enough in it to not dismiss it out of hand. And this is what our party is all about. As a member, they exercised their power of veto and prevented this policy going onto our manifesto.


It was up to both of us to get to the heart of the issue in our own time and since then we have reached agreement on the fundamentals. The key is whether we agree on the ambition to reduce traffic.


If it does not get voted through it is not a problem, I and all members are free to express themselves on these topics as they wish, and in the case of being elected as a Councillor, will be able to vote as their conscience dictates.


Moreover, remaining together under the premise of helping Southend is more important. Yes, it is easy to say that policy for us will take longer, but in the end, we will have policies that have been through a robustness that is needed to ensure we do not enact changes that would ruin people’s lives, as we all can vouch for with the current political process.


The party did not all against the tax increases and parking charge increases, which again, I wanted. But those that prevented this from going through had valid points. We do not know what impact that would have because we do not know the numbers. We are not privy to the detail of the Council’s accounts. All transactions under £500 are not publicly available and there is zero detail on the huge payments to various companies, which means we do not know whether savings could be made or not.


My view is that we are paying more tax than ever and getting less than ever for the money. I no longer trust those who are responsible for the pot of money we all put into and for now I want to take a step back so we can reconcile what is going on. Importantly, the last thing people need in the ‘Cost of living Emergency’, which the council themselves declared in a recent meeting, is another squeeze on people’s pockets.


Yet, I cannot help but think my party colleagues are right in this instance. What if we cut and it cost a carer or a teacher? If that is the risk, then yes, let’s wait until we know


It might be argued that the meeting was a waste of time because we did not vote anything through. But the way I see it is that every conversation takes us a step closer to where we need to be. Sometimes it will take one meeting, other times it may take a decade. In some cases, we will never agree. Either way, we will keep bringing these issues into the light in an atmosphere of respectful freedom of speech without alienation, ridicule and fear.


Our final manifesto meeting is on Wednesday, March 8th at the Bellhouse in Eastwood.

All Southend residents are welcome, regardless of political affiliation, who want to join us in our ambitions to actually make a practical change to Southend.


Results


- 94% voted against the 15-minute City and did not pass.

- 72% voted against the 4.99% council tax increase

- 71% voted against the 10% parking charges

- 37% voted against women’s single-sex spaces



Manifesto 2023 Meeting


Tuesday, February 7th 2023

Camelia Hotel: 6.30pm to 9.30pm


Present:


Members:


James Miller, Jon Humphrys, Michael Arkas-Binder, Linzi Arkas-Binder, Simon Jones, Rob Cammidge, Lee Clark, Sim Spooner, Melissa Aylott, Deano Harris-Eckett, Connor Bines and Sian Evans-Jack


Guests:

Helen Miller, Carla Petrini, Lara Lawson, Chris Dickens, Lorraine Kellaway, Bianca and Ellen


Apologies for absence


Kayleigh Burgess, Dee Curtis, Nicky Gilbert, George Bejko—Cowlbeck, Scott Rose, Kevin Waller, Lizzie Smith, and Terry Fane


Contents



These were agreed and signed by the Chairperson.



Welcome from James to explain the process of the meeting, getting everyone’s views on all points, and we are open to all to say their thoughts and feelings. We are an open forum.

All are welcome to contact James Miller after the meeting if they wish for more information, and a cup of tea to discuss in more detail.

Jon explained the party voting system and undivided democracy.



- James Miller was elected to stand as the Confelicity Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West in the next General Election


- Jon Humphrys was elected to stand as the Confelicity Parliamentary Candidate for Rochford and Southend East in the next General Election


Both selections were uncontested.




Jon Humphrys was elected to stand as the Victoria Ward Candidate for the local elections on May 4th. Jon is a Senior Manager in the leisure and tourism industry.



A campaign meeting will be set up for the local elections with all candidates. A weekly zoom meeting will then follow to support candidates up to the election.


The target is to beat 1.8% vote share!




What is the 15 minute city?

Southend would be divided into 8 districts.

Each resident who owns a vehicle will be given a permit, which allows them 100 days travel by car within their district.

Residents are not permitted to drive through other districts otherwise they will incur a fine between £35 and £70.

The time these restrictions would be in place are from 7am to 7pm.

Traffic cameras will be set up across the city that will capture the number plate, and generate automatic fines to residents.

The purpose is to reduce traffic is high traffic areas to improve air quality, by building infrastructure within 15-minutes via active travel.

100 cities have supposedly signed up, including Southend.

It has already commenced in Oxford City, against the wishes of the residents there.


Comments:


- Mentioned that a permit would be needed to drive around which would cause issues on taking the children to school and doing multiple trips a day.

- Struggles moving past zones, one trip could be multiple zones.

- The worry is that this could stretch, extend and add further restrictions.

- Carol Maroney, on a post, initially stated it was ‘interesting’, however, she has subsequently said there is no drive towards on the council side of things.

- This allows safer areas for walkers.

Simon: doesn’t know enough about it to comment but the idea of facilities being 15 away would be nice but disagree with Cameras in areas to monitor us. Cannot comprehend it.

James: cannot even keep the lights on, cut the grass, struggling to maintain weekly bin collections, keep the hospital waiting lists down, get a GP appointment, so how they intend build suitable infrastructure does not seem to add up.

Mike: What about those visiting from outside? If it’s global why fight it?

Rob: Could not be more against it “if I tried.”

Sim: Without looking at the driving side of things, it could be good to build up areas to give more facilities but not to restrict us using other areas and being monitored.

Deano: Against it, just another way of fining people and taking money from people.

Linzi: mentioned that they are struggling to fund and staff areas as it is, especially medical areas. This would also limit visit places as would need to use your 100 visits wisely.

Connor: Pro building public facilities up but feel that it starts small and then will grow in restrictions. Wants to fight it. All it takes for evil to triumph when good people to do nothing! Feels it is draconian.

Melissa: Doesn’t feel it is needed and does not want to restrict people. Feel this will impact mental health and overall health.

Lee: this will lead to barriers.

Simon: Mention how children and young adults move districts for university and schools, this would restrict this.

Carla: Do not need to restrict us, still need to build up the areas. If it is due to the cars then other processes can be put in place including better busses. We should be able to go where we want.

It was mentioned that if enough of us take a stand then we can make a difference. The busses could be improved and not purchased from overseas. The current bus system takes 1.5 hours to get from Southend to Rayleigh. Restricts people visiting the seafront and ‘golden mile’. This would cause issues depending on the shops available on the issue. Taxi is costing too much due to petrol increase which is then taking a negative effect. Work and leisure will become an issue, resulting in people staying in. Need to reduce cars, Sutton road being closed is a nightmare.

Harper: shook head – no!


Voting


1. James: 100

2. Linzi: 100

3. Michael: 100

4. Simon: 100

5. Rob: 100

6. Sim: 80

7. Melissa: 100

8. Helen: 100

9. Deano: 100

10. Lee: 100

11. Jon: 40

12. Connor: 100

13. Lorraine: 80

14. Bianca: 100

15. Lara: 100

16. Ellen: 100

17. Sian: 65

18. Chris: 100

19. Carla: 100


Result


94% of members voted to oppose this policy

93% mean average support for the opposition to this policy



Conclusion


Although the strength of the vote was strong at 93% and 94% of members voted to oppose this policy, it was not passed and will not currently form part of the manifesto.

It will be incumbent on members to continue to research this topic as it will likely be on the agenda for the next meeting.

James highlighted to the group that both individually and through Confelicity, members are free to publically voice their opinion. However, if that opinion is using the Confelicity platform, members must state clearly that this is the opinion of the author and not the official party line. Members are also permitted to publicise the result e.g. 94% of Confelicity members voted against this scheme.

Asked why Jon disagrees: wants to be able to have better facilities, safer, fewer cars, better transport. Walking will then be better, less busy means safer, and emissions will be reduced.



Comments


- James opened to say that there is a lack of trust on where current expenditure is going and wants transparency. Looking into the figures, there is a large number of funds being spent on agencies (£11m). There is a large sum that is redacted. All information can be seen online but no detail. Adult social care is £6m out of £20m monthly spend. Questions are as to why. What are the problems in this area?

- Simon: questioned what the money is spent on. Mentioned they give the impression of trying to confuse us and not give the full breakdown and facts. How do we force them for better services? Do not feel we will get better services with or without the increase. There has been ‘misspent money’ which is then not declared so looks as though it is being pocketed or spent incorrectly.

- Any payments below £500 are not stated.

- Council money is going towards Seaway – a failed scheme – and huge amounts could be lost in the Queensway project, given the financial instability of the developers.

- Michael: Schools and Hospitals need more funding. Gave an example of parents struggling to find schools that will assist their children with needs. Happy for money to go up, if the new developments and improvements are being made and making a difference, but he is ‘not feeling it’.

- Helen: thinks the questions that need to be asked and answered and simple, ‘what are you spending the money on?’ should be an easy answer.

- Lee: there is nothing visible that we can see where our money is going.

- Lara: Lack of care due to the changes not effecting them.

- Chris: discussed her friend that was part of the council and questioned things who was then removed.




Voting


1. James: 90

2. Linzi: 50

3. Michael: 80

4. Simon: 40

5. Rob: 60

6. Sim: 80

7. Melissa: 90

8. Helen: 70

9. Deano: 45

10. Lee: 100

11. Jon: 48

12. Connor: 85

13. Lorraine: 45

14. Bianca: 95

15. Lara: 100

16. Ellen: 100

17. Sian: 45 (pay more if used well)

18. Chris: 100

19. Carla: 90


Conclusion


72% of members voted against the 4.99% increase.

The strength of the vote was 74% in favour not to increase council tax.



Voting

- James: 100

- Lindzi: 30

- Michael: 100

- Simon: 40

- Rob: 30

- Sim: 40

- Melissa:

- Helen: 100 (no explanation as to why and what the money is being spent on)

- Deano: 100

- Lee: 100 (unless it is viable I do not want to pay more)

- Jon: 35

- Connor: 100

- Lorraine:

- Bianca: 100

- Lara: 75

- Ellen: 100 (trains are also going up, want to encourage people to visit)

- Sian: 100

- Chris: 100

- Carla: 100


Conclusion


71% of members voted against raising seafront parking charges by 10%, which means the policy did not pass.

The strength of the vote was 77%, indicating a strong preference not to increase parking charges.


Do you support protecting women’s single-sex spaces?


Voting


1. James: Abstained

2. Lindzi: 40

3. Michael: 49

4. Simon: Abstained

5. Rob: 49

6. Sim: 49

7. Melissa: 1

8. Deano: 20

9. Lee: 45

10. Jon: 20

11. Connor: Abstained

12. Lorraine: 100

13. Bianca: 100

14. Lara: 100

15. Ellen: 90

16. Sian: 70

17. Chris: 100

18. Carla: 70


Results


37% voted against this policy, so it did not pass.

The strength of the vote was 54%.


Conclusions


It should be made clear that members voted against the question at hand. This means that a member may be generally supportive of a particular subject, but there is something in the motion that they feel needs amending. This will go onto a future meeting for further discussion.



James and Jon will be setting up a meeting to discuss the plan for the campaign.



James concluded the meeting by commending the manner in which these emotive subjects were discussed. Although there were times where it was heated, it is important that Southend residents are taking the time to bring these topics into the open and trying to understand each other’s points of views.



Post the meeting, Sian Evans Jack has become the newest member of Confelicity and has been selected as the Blenheim Park ward candidate for the forthcoming local elections. We wish her the best of luck!

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