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Full meeting of Thurrock Council
This live event has finished
- Full meeting of Thurrock Council begins at 7pm
- The council is due to agree its budget tonight
- Questions are also due to be asked on free schools, the junction at Wharf Road in Stanford-le-Hope and what is being done to encourage more cycling in Thurrock
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A nice way to end this full council meeting, with plenty of praise for Treetops school.
Cllr John Kent describes Mr Smith, the headteacher as "remarkable" and as having high expectations of pupils, regardless of their learning difficulties.
People move from other parts of the country to attend Treetops school, council members say.
Cllr Worrall decribes Treetops as an "amazing" school.
He wants the council to show its support for the headteacher Paul Smith and the chair of governors Alan Peaford.
He says it is nationally recognised but is not mentioned enough in the council chamber.
Cllr Terry Hipsey is now proposing a motion, extolling the virtues of Treetops School.
The Conservatives have just accused portfolio holder for public protection Angie Gaywood of acting as a barrier to making Corringham police station a base for police. Cllr Gaywood said she would love for the former station - now occupied by the Thurrock Youth Offending Service - to be of more use to the police, but the police are saying it cannot happen.
Councillor Tolson says the council is not responding quickly enough to pot holes being reported. It could end up costing more money through claims.
Cllr Smith says the council repairs pot holes as quickly as it can.
A question now about the disparity in the quality of some of Thurrock's roads.
Cllr Smith said the council use a machine to test road quality.
The council is holding more than £341,000 in planning gain money from four schools in Thurrock. That money will be transferred to schools as and when they need it.
Those questions are here
Still here folks. We're now onto questions from councillors to their fellow councillors...
You can read her report here
That report is passed, too.
Only Cllr Aaron Kiely voted against the proposals.
Now Bukky Okunade, the portfolio holder for children and social care, is giving an annual report on her portfolio.
The council is set to agree a five per cent rise in council housing rent. But consensus is there is still lots to do to bring the council's housing stock up to scratch.
But the budget has passed.
Now discussion moves onto this. Housing Base Estimates, Rents and Services Charges 2014/15.
Apologies for the recent silence. The council are voting on the budget now.
But it's taking ages. It's like a school register...
Cllr Victoria Holloway said that she is shocked at how blasé the Conservatives are. She said the financial situation is dire and "the opposition just want to make jokes about sausage sandwiches".
Now Cllr Lynn Carr, a Conservative councillor in Ockendon, Cllr Kiely's ward:
"If this is about saving money, maybe Cllr Kiely would like to hand back his allowances."
Never a dull moment. We're back talking about the budget now...
Now Cllr Sue Little asks where Cllr Kiely has been and why he doesn't attend meetings. Cllr Kiely shouts back "It's not what you do at meetings that makes a difference" and "It stops you lot running the council."
First direct response to Cllr Kiely's speech from Cllr Mike Revel: "I quite enjoyed that view of the Marxist way of life."
In the meantime, the portfolio holder for regeneration, Andy Smith, asks why more isn't being made by the opposition to the borough's regeneration plans.
Now Cllr Kiely. And he's going for it here.
He says he will be voting against this budget. His party's own budget.
He says the central government (the Conservatives) are responsible for a cost of living crisis.
He claims the Conservatives are a disgrace. And that here in Thurrock, the Conservatives are failing to stand up for their residents.
He gets a round of applause from his own members.
He says he will not be supporting this budget as it isn't detailed enough. But he claims he will support the tax freeze.
Now the deputy leader of the Conservative party is now speaking.
He responds to Cllr Kent's claims that the Thurrock Conservatives never froze council tax, prior to 2010, by saying the then Labour-run central government never offered a tax freeze.
Cllr Rice says the cuts are required because of the Conservative government's austerity measures, despite growing pressures on services.
Cllr Barbara Rice, the deputy leader of the council, has called this a "truly amazing" budget. Lots of talk of "balance" and "breakeven".
A round of applause for Cllr Kent's response from the Labour party here. He says this is a good, balanced budget - that freezes council tax - in very trying times.
Cllr Kent now adds that the detail on this budget was agreed last year.
The council has made £50million of cuts in four years, says Mr Kent, as he responds to Cllr Anderson's claims that the Labour-run council "ducks the big decisions".
Cllr Anderson said this budget report is not detailed enough and amounts to the council saying "trust us it will be ok".
Worth pointing out that a two year budget was agreed this time last year.
Cllr Phil Anderson is responding to Cllr Kent's introduction of the budget. He said he is confused at why the council have decided to accept a government grant to freeze council tax, when it was rejected last year.
But he said despite that: Council tax has been frozen to the lowest rates in Essex, reserves stocked up for the future, a council ready for the financial challenges of the future and the "most exciting regeneration plan" in the country.
The council leader is now outlining the further cuts needed - £40million in the next four years. That's a third of the council's whole budget...
The general fund budget report is here for your reading, should you wish.
In fact, the leader is now outlining how the council has made its savings.
The leader claims the council has saved £1000 a day by "better management of its assets".
Now John Kent is introducing the report on this year's budget. Council tax is set to be frozen, but the police have decided to put their part of the tax up by two per cent.
We're now discussing the fees and charges report. Should you be so inclined to look at that, you can, here.
The Conservatives are unhappy that they are being asked to vote on the price of a sausage sandwich at the Culver Centre cafe. Cllr Phil Anderson, the Tory leader in Thurrock, argues this sort of thing should not be voted on. He said this is too bureaucratic.
The details of the "Gloriana" scheme can be found here.
The amendment proposed by the Conservatives is kicked out (all the Labour councillors are here).
Cllr Kent said: "We simply need more affordable housing in Thurrock."
There is some debate now over Gloriana, a scheme the council is trying to set up to build new homes in Thurrock.
The Conservatives are saying this should be debated before the council agrees for that money (£160million) to be borrowed and paid back at a cost.
Cllr Mike Revel, a Tory, says: "This is a bit sketchy in my mind to be convincing our residents we'll be giving value for money."
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A member of the public has just asked that the £611,000 granted to Essex County Council and Thurrock Council to manage the Mardyke Way has been "spent for the purpose intended".
To which Mr Kent has responded that he is satisfied this money was spent - as intended - between 2005 and 2008.
Council leader John Kent is just making a statement about Ofsted's visit to schools in Thurrock.
The government watchdog will visit seven schools this week and hold telephone conferences with 10 others. Mr Kent welcomes the visit and expects a "no punches held" report.
He adds: "I wish they had done it a year ago."
The Mayor, Anthony Fish, tells members that he will have racked up more than 300 engagements since becoming Mayor last May.
Rev. Darren Barlow of the Grays Thurrock Ministry is talking about how Thurrock plans to commemorate International Commonwealth Day. On Monday, March 10 at 9.45am there will be a flag-raising ceremony outside the council offices.
Anyway, the mayor is here and we're underway.
The first thing to report tonight from Civic Offices in Grays is that Aaron Kiely is here. The Ockendon Labour councillor isn't often at these meetings as regular readers of the Gazette will know well. But he's here tonight as the council prepares to agree its budget.
This time last year, Kiely turned up - one of the last meetings he attended - and voted against his party's own budget.
Good evening and welcome to tonight's meeting of Thurrock Council!