By Deputy Mayor, cllr Yash Gupta
“This is a short report on those activities and events where I have been involved with the work of the Council and local communities for the month of September 2011.”
1.Thurrock Community Chest
On 1st September 2011, I attended this meeting at The Park Inn Hotel where I represented the Mayor of Thurrock. A number of issues relating to this voluntary organisation were discussed by this Committee; review of last years’ chest draw; appointment of hon. Treasurer and the tickets organiser; list of events for raising funds, etc.
2.Celebrate Older People’s Day – Civic Hall, Grays
On 1st September 2011, I was invited by Thurrock Over Fifty Forum to join in the celebrations of Older People’s Day at the Civic Hall. A number of organisations put up their stalls. Age Concern, Thurrock MIND, engage, TRUST, Thurrock Dementia Forum; NHS Services for Older People, Thurrock Council Services for Older People. The event was attended by nearly 250 people. The Mayor opened the event. It was a good day for everyone.
3.Farewell-get-together for Council’s Director of Community Well-Being
Along with other Councillors, I attended this farewell-get-together on 2nd September 2011 from 12.45 to 2.30pm at the Council offices. After serving 4½ years on this very important job, Lorna Payne decided to leave Thurrock Council. The Chief Executive outlined a number of her achievements. Under her leadership Adult Social Care achieved a number of accolades from Central Government. She was a very dedicated and committed officer. I was pleased to attend this farewell function.
4.Citizen’s Ceremony – Grays Registrar’s Office
In the absence of the Mayor, I attended this ceremony as a Deputy Mayor on 3rd September 2011 when I handed over a Certificate of British Citizenship to 25 local residents. All of these naturalised citizens were happy with their newly achieved status as a British citizen. I welcomed them to Thurrock on behalf of Thurrock Council.
5. Grays Councillor’s Surgery
On 3rd September 2011, along with two other Councillor colleagues, I attended this monthly surgery at the Thameside Complex. We saw a few residents and helped them to find solutions to their local problems.
6. Visit to the Council offices
To discuss a number of individual cases from local residents, I went to see some council officers on 5th September 2011. Short meetings took place with the officers from the Housing, Democratic Services and transport.
7. Meeting of the Executive Committee of Constituency Labour Party
On 5th September 2011 as a member of this committee, I attended a meeting from 7.30 to 9.00pm at the labour office in Tilbury where we discussed a number of local issues including the selection of candidates for the next Parliamentary election.
8.Launch of Saxton Park, Bridge Road, Grays
Along with a few other Councillors including the Mayor of Thurrock, I attended this event on 6th September 2011 from 6 to 8pm. The Weston Homes Plc are building 92 housing units on this site which was the home of Grays Athletic Club. There will be a mix of houses and some flats, some two and three bedroom houses. There will be 20 affordable social houses in this complex. Nearly 100 people participated in this event including Arsenal and England footballer Ray Parlour and star of The Only Way is Essex, Lucy Mecklenburgh. An interesting event.
9. Local Government – Research Focus Group Meeting
On 8th September 2011, along with two other Thurrock Councillors, I attended this meeting of Councillors at the Mick Jagger Centre, Dartford. Seven Councillors came to this meeting from this region. The main topics discussed were, the reputation of local government; public perceptions of local authorities; different methods of engaging with residents. It was two hours session where we learnt a few positive things about other local authorities especially on enhancing the image of Councillors and the local government.
10. Seminar on Choice Homes – Allocation of Council houses
Along with four other councillors and officers, I attended this seminar in the Council on Friday, 9th September 2011 from 1pm to 4pm. As a Councillor I deal with a number of residents with housing problems including Housing Allocation. This was a good opportunity to understand the Council’s policy on Housing Allocation and the bidding system. How to get on a priority list? How does the bidding system work? Medical assessments for housing priority list was explained by the Occupational Therapist. It was a good learning experience for me as a Ward Councillor.
11. Local Elections May 2012
On Saturday 10th September 2011, a selection meeting of Ward Labour Party Members and the Executive Committee Members of the Constituency Labour Party was held at Headon Hall, Stifford Clays, Grays. I am pleased to inform you that I was selected as a Labour Candidate to fight the Council election for Grays Thurrock Ward in May 2012. It will be my seventh Council election since 1996.
12.Veteran’s Charter – Scrutiny Panel Meeting
As a member of the Scrutiny Panel, I attended this meeting in the Council offices on 12th September 2011 from 6pm onwards. Four local groups who support veterans were invited to attend this meeting. It was very interesting and informative to hear the views of these voluntary organisation. It was agreed to go ahead with the survey questions which would help to identify local veterans and their needs for accessing Council Services. The next meeting of the Group will look at the survey results. We will also be collecting information from all departments of the Council about their policies giving priority to veterans. I am looking forward to get a Council’s Veterans Charter finalised as quickly as possible.
13. Citizens Advice Service – Annual Conference
I have been a Trustee of Thurrock CAB for the last sixteen years. The Trustee Board nominated me as one of the Trustees to attend the Annual Conference at the University of York from Tuesday 13th September to Thursday 15th September 2011. Along with the Chair, Vice Chair and the manager, I attended this conference for the first time. There were 1500 delegates who came to this annual event. They represented 28,000 CAB’s and 21,000 volunteers who serve local people in England and Wales. A large number of national organisations set up their stalls. The “theme” of the conference was Empower Communities and to Empower Consumers. It was very interesting conference where we picked up a number of new ideas for improving local services for our clients. Hopefully we will discuss these ideas in our next Board Meeting.
14. Grays Councillor’s Surgery
On 17th September 2011, I attended Grays Councillors surgery with three other Councillors at the St Thomas Church Hall from 10 to 12 noon. We saw a few residents and did our best to resolve their problems. All six Grays Councillors hold regular surgeries twice a month and I hardly ever miss these surgeries. These surgeries bring us closer to our local residents.
15. Castlepoint Borough Council Civic Service
Deputy Mayoress and myself attended this service on behalf of the Mayor on Sunday 18th September 2011 from 10.15 to 1pm. A number of other Mayors and their consorts were in attendance along with local dignitaries and church goers. It was a very pleasant spiritual experience.
16. Annual General Meeting of Thurrock Asian Association
On 18th September 2011, I attended a meeting of this voluntary organisation at the Associations Resource Centre at 35 Clarence Road, Grays from 6 to 8 pm. Forty local residents came to participate in this meeting. Being a President of this Association, I chaired the meeting and also presented the annual report which was approved by the audience. Next years committee was elected. There was a general increase in the membership and also 6400 visits were recorded with the Centre’s Visitors Book. Everyone present appreciated the work of the Association for local communities.
17.Thurrock CVS Trustee Board Meeting
As a trustee of Thurrock CVS, I attended this meeting on 19 September 2011 from 3 to 5pm. A number of issues relating to this voluntary organisation were discussed and some positive decisions were made. It was reassuring to hear that the new CEO is well settled in her job and finances are improving.
18. Residents Meeting – Attlee Court Complex
As a Ward Councillor, I regularly attend these meetings with the Senior Estates Officer and the Sheltered Housing Officer for discussing problems which the residents experience. On 20 September 2011, I attended this meeting at 10am at the Attlee Court Complex. Thirteen residents were in attendance along with the Council’s Housing officers. A number of issues were discussed.
Change of bus route of 200 bus; yellow lines at the crossing of Thurloe Walk and Hathaway Road, replacement of old water tanks; problems with fire doors; clearing of dustbins and recycling issues. The solution to most of the problems were discussed. It was a good meeting. I will be contacting Council officers on some of these issues.
19.Meeting with Wallace Road, residents
The Grays Housing Manager arranged this meeting on 20th September 2011 at 6.30pm at the Dexter Close complex to discuss the implications of transferring a problem family from Lodge Lane to Wallace Road, Grays. I attended as a ward councillor and also chaired this meeting. Seventy two local residents came to this meeting from Wallace Road, Russell Road and Hathaway Road. A number of officers from the Council and two police officers were in attendance. It was a highly charged and emotional meeting. All those present were against moving this family into Wallace Road. The Housing manager explained the Council’s statutory duty to provide proper housing to this family. It was agreed that the housing manager will re-consider his decision and the residents are to sign a petition opposing rehousing this family in Wallace Road.
20. Mayors Briefing for Full Council Meeting
As a Deputy Mayor, I participated in this briefing session on 21st September 2011 from 12 to 1.30pm with the Mayor and officers of the Council. The officers went through the Agenda for the full Council and gave directions to the Mayor on various agenda items. For smooth running of the full council meeting, this briefing meeting plays a vital role.
21. Thurrock CAB Annual General Meeting
As a trustee of Thurrock Citizens Advice Bureau, I attended this meeting on 21st September 2011 from 4.30 to 6pm. Twenty five people came to this meeting including five Councillors and representatives of other voluntary organisations. Thurrock Council’s CEO, Mr Farrant, spoke about the work of local voluntary sector including the CAB. He emphasised the partnership working between the Council and the voluntary sector. I was again elected to the Board of Trustees for another year.
22. Full Council Meeting
On 21st September 2011, along with other Councillors I attended the full council meeting from 6.45 to 9.45pm. The Chief Constable of Essex, which includes Thurrock, spoke about the impact of budget cuts imposed by the Home Office. There will be overall reduction of nearly 1100 people from the work force including nearly 400 policemen. The Councillors praised the work of the local police and unanimously passed a motion on this issue. Some concerns were expressed about closing the reception desks at a few police stations. There were some strong feelings against the front line cuts of policemen. Cllr Andy Smith presented his portfolio report and answered questions from members.
23. Ward Walkabouts
I spent nearly two hours walking around a few streets in Grays Thurrock ward. There was a problem with housing a problematic family in Wallace Road, Grays. I went to visit Wallace Road, Russell Road and Ireton Close on 22nd September from 4 to 6pm and met a number of residents and discussed with them some of the local issues.
24. Audit Committee Meeting
On 22nd September 2011, I attended the Council’s Audit Committee meeting with other Councillors and Independent members from 7 to 9pm. We listened to the External Auditors who recently were doing audit of Council’s Annual accounts. They pointed out a number of issues relating to these accounts which were discussed by the Committee members.
25.Civic Event at Epping Forest Council
The Mayor of Epping Forest Council held this event on 23rd September 2011 where I represented the Mayor of Thurrock. With the Deputy Mayoress, I attended this event at the Epping Forest from 11.30 to 4pm. A number of Mayors and Deputy Mayors from surrounding Boroughs attended this well organised event. It was a beautiful day for walking tour of this historic forest. The Mayor of Epping Forest collected £300 for his charity.
On behalf of the Mayor, I attended this event at the Grays Registrar’s office on Saturday 24th September 2011 from 9.45 to 11am. Twenty two local residents received their certificates of British nationality from the Home Office. I had an opportunity to welcome them to Thurrock and exchange views with them over a cup of tea.
27. Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre – Gun Firing Event
On Sunday 25th September 2011, I attended this event from 10.45 to 1.15 on behalf of the Mayor. The Heritage Centre celebrated 250th anniversary of the Military Garrison in Purfleet with the gun firing. A number of local residents including the Member of Parliament participated in these historic celebrations.
28. Thurrock Interfaith Group Meeting
Being a member of this voluntary group, I attended its meeting on 26th September 2011 from 10 to 12 noon at the St Peters & St Pauls Cathedral Grays Rev. Darren Barlow chaired this meeting which was also attended by two managers from the Council. The Community Development manager indicated that a grant of £25,000 is available to progress the work of this important Community Group. It was also decided to hold a conference on 24th November 2011 inviting all faith groups in the Borough.
29. Councillor’s Training – Local Government Finance & Procurement
Along with two other councillors, I attended this training session on 28th September 2011 from 12 to 2pm at the Council offices. Council’s Corporate Director of Finance discussed Council’s budget; role of Section 151 officer; budget pressures; reserves etc. From Vertex Council’s Procurement Manager explained legal framework for all types of procurement. It was a good learning experience.
30. Initial Assessment Sub Committee Meeting
Being a member of the Council’s Standards Committee, I was asked to serve on this sub-committee on 29th September 2011 from 7pm onwards. Two complaints against two councillors were received by the Standards Committee which are discussed by this sub-committee consisting of two Councillors – one each from two main political parties and two independent members. It was a difficult meeting.
31. Planning Committee Meeting
Along with Councillor Cathy Kent and a few residents from Palmers Avenue, I attended planning committee on 29th September 2011 where planning application Ref 11/00575/FUL relating to 31 Palmers Avenue, Grays was discussed. The application related to change of use from residential dwelling to Private Day Nursery. Forty residents signed a petition and a number of local residents including myself sent individual letters opposing this application. I am pleased to report that the Planning Committee rejected this planning application to the relief of local residents. I would like to thank everyone who supported me in this campaign.
32. Civic Awards Presentation Ceremony
I attended this ceremony along with some other Councillors and local residents on 30th September 2011 from 6.30pm onwards. It is a great event in the Council’s calendar when local residents are given awards for their unique services to the local communities. There were seven categories of awards, Citizen of the Year; Young Citizen of Thurrock; Rachel Middleton Memorial Award; Sports Award; Leisure & Culture Award; The Mayors Award; Business Award & Lifetime Achievement Award. It was a very enjoyable evening.