Keith Bentley and Ian Roberts attended the meeting as did all our 6 City Councillors.
Keith asked the following question relating to Town Centre road cleaning:
"In this year's budget I put forward an amendment which highlighted the need for a better level of road cleaning service for South Woodham Ferrers. Consequently, the Leader of the Council and others agreed that there was cause for concern over the quality of work done by the contractor. I had understood that the contract was due for review this summer and that bringing the service back in-house would be considered. Could Council confirm that the contract will not be renewed and that the road cleaning service will be brought in-house?"
Cllr. Moore responded by saying a review had been carried out in April 2023 and this found that the level of service by the contractor was acceptable. There was a commitment to improve communication between CCC and the contractor to ensure delivery is maintained and that the contract has been extended for a year. The cost of keeping the contract was £17,000 whereas bringing it back in-house would be around £84,000.
In our view the review could not have properly considered consistent failures over the full contract period. We are also extremely dubious about the quote of £84,000 to bring the contract in-house given the contract specification and the proximity of the City Council's facilities at Saltcoats Park.
An audiovisual of the question and answer can be found at 8minutes and 40seconds into the recording found at: Full Council recording.
Ian asked the following question relating to the lack of SWF projects within the capital budget:
"I have noticed from the information provided in the report that there is only one item of capital expenditure for South Woodham Ferrers of £275,000, for replacing equipment at the swimming pool, this surely should properly fall under maintenance.
Clearly some of the £124+ million within the total figure is tied to Community Infrastructure Levy and S106 moneys. Could you please tell me what this percentage/figure is and why SWF, which makes up around 10% of the district's population, is receiving less than 1/4 of 1% of the capital spend?
Does the City Council have no future projects planned for our town which continues to pay one of the highest Council Tax rates in the district?"
Cllr. Robinson (Leader of the Council) responded by saying that the repairs to the swimming pool were not routine maintenance but rather a major investment to enable the pool to remain open. He said 40% of the Capital Budget was CIL and S106 allocated and that the remaining moneys were allocated according to the council's priorities. That SWF residents would enjoy the use of resources available elsewhere in the district e.g. the Crematorium. And finally that SWF residents were paying a higher Council Tax because of the Town Council's precept.
In our view the questions Ian put were evaded. There are no further projects and from what was said SWF clearly does not feature as part of the LibDem City Council's priorities. With a Capital Budget of £75 million not allocated by CIL and S106 money the percentage allocated to SWF becomes just over 1/3 of 1% of the remaining spend in the district. This amounts to a robbery of our residents to benefit mainly those who use the City Centre. It is certainly stretching a point to say our residents benefit from investment into Chelmsford as many use other nearby towns such as Maldon, Wickford and Basildon. In any case, why shouldn't we benefit from better investment in our own town?
The question and answer can be found at 11 minutes and 20 seconds into the recording.
Keith will join 2 other local councillors as a representative for Parish (and Town) Council(lor)s on the Governance Committee.
We want to continue asking difficult questions on behalf of the town whenever we can.