Andrew is seeking re-election for the third time
I hope you will support me on Thursday 5th May.
Nearly 9 years ago, the voters of Billericay East did me a tremendous honour by electing me to represent them as one of their three Basildon borough councillors. The by-election in June 2013 was triggered by the death of the indomitable Anthony Archer, who had represented Billericay East for nearly 30 years. He was first elected in 1982 (the year I was born) and, while I did not know Tony personally, I found on the doorstep that he was well-known and widely respected in the ward. He rightly held a reputation as a fierce advocate for the town and was a diligent ward councillor. He had served an incredible six terms in office, including serving as Leader of Basildon Council on two occasions. My two ward colleagues, David Dadds and Stuart Sullivan, are both veterans of the 2002 intake and have served the ward now for 20 years. So I still feel very much like 'the new kid on the block' and am conscious that I stand on the shoulders of giants.
"It has been a tumultous four years since you last re-elected me in 2018."
It has been a tumultous four years since you last re-elected me in 2018. The Council went from a Labour/UKIP coalition to Conservative-control, back to another Labour-led alliance and back to Conservative again, causing great political instability. The important thing for our town, however, has been that every time the Labour Party have been able to take control, they have proceeded to strip investment and funding out of Billericay and redirect it to their marginal wards, treating our town like a cash cow, that exists only to fund vainglorious pet projects and expensive fripperies, like the former Labour Leader's crackpot idea for a massive sports stadium in Basildon Town Centre and the cash-guzzling 'Youth Zone'. It was an era of brazen pork barrel politics in Basildon and that's before we even get into all the money that was wasted on pointless naval-gazing internal reorganisations at Basildon Council, sabre-rattling over unitary status and the thousands that was spent erecting Maoist-style portraits of the Leader at the Council offices.
When we briefly regained administration in 2018, I was appointed to my first frontbench post as Chairman of Economic Development & Growth. I enjoyed the portfolio, particularly my regular meetings with local businesses and entrepreneurs and my tours of our industrial estates and commercial premises. I was amazed at the vitality and innovation across the Borough. I also relaunched the Pathways to Success Panel, looking at apprenticeships and training, and set up The Advice Store in Basildon Town Centre, of which I remain enormously proud.
On an estate walkabout with some of my Housing & Property Services officers
Since taking power again last year, I have been Chairman of Housing & Estate Renewal. Nothing could have prepared me for the challenges of this portfolio but I have derived a great deal of satisfaction from dealing with those challenges. I have been piloting through the Conservative's flagship Safe & Sound programme, which is an exciting long-term plan to invest £40m in estate improvements across the borough. I have also presided over this Administration's ambitious social housing programme and am proud that we have delivered 125 new high quality homes for social rent, including the 94 new homes I viewed at Acorn House - which was a fascinating experience, as years ago I actually worked there! I have added an additional 200 homes to the Council's house-build programme over the next 2 years and Sempra, the Council's wholly-owned company, has also delivered 43 new homes in Billericay, Basildon and Wickford and has a programme of 255 new homes currently in the works; part of an overall pipeline of 1,100 new homes.
Our new sheltered scheme at Affletts Court (close to my heart, as my late grandmother used to live there) is going to achieve the extremely high energy efficient Passivhaus standard and will be used as a demonstration project for the energy efficiency we will be able to achieve on future schemes. All these new homes are designed to be generally accessible to people with mobility disabilities and some are specifically designed to be suitable for wheelchair users.
Another particular focus for me this year has been homelessness. The pandemic brought many unforeseen challenges and the Government responded very positively with the Everyone In campaign. As a Council, we are looking at what else we can do to ensure we tackling homelessness. To that end, we successfully bid for a grant from Homes England and have been awarded £415,000 to support the conversion of a disused building in Pitsea to deliver nearly 20 new homes. It is actually a rather handsome 1920s building and was previously the Nevendon County Primary School (the building still has two entrances at either end, one with 'Boys' written above it and the other with 'Girls and Infants', which we are going to keep). I have named it 'Nevendon Place', as a nod to the old school, and the facility will be used as temporary housing for former rough sleepers, working in partnership with Peabody and the Salvation Army. The construction work has commenced and the scheme will be operational later this year.
"Serving you is still my first duty and my greatest pleasure and I hope you will re-elect me so that I can go on serving you."
It has been a hugely enjoyable and rewarding four years. As someone who grew up in Billericay and whose family have lived here for six generations, it has been an enormous privilege to serve this community. My role as a councillor has brought me many responsibilities but my favourite part of the role remains the casework I take up on behalf of my constituents in Billericay East. Serving you is still my first duty and my greatest pleasure and I hope you will re-elect me so that I can go on serving you.
At the upcoming local elections, the stakes for Billericay will be high. Here are some of the key local issues for you to consider as you ponder your ballot paper.
CONSERVATIVES WITHDREW LABOUR'S FLAWED LOCAL PLAN
Conservative councillors voted to pull the flawed Local Plan drawn up and submitted by Labour and their (so-called) 'Independent' backers. In February, it was crunch time for the Submission Local Plan. We all knew that Labour had saddled us with a bad plan but, despite huge pressure and emboldened by the positive noises being made by Central Government, with renewed emphasis on the need to protect the Green Belt, Basildon Borough Conservatives listened to residents and voted to withdraw the Local Plan. We have been clear in our ongoing objections to inflated housing numbers, challenging this at the highest level, and we have consistently opposed the loss of Green Belt.
Basildon Labour and the Independents voted to keep their plan, which dumps on Billericay. If they regain control of the Council, be in no doubt, they will resurrect it. Conservatives are committed to producing a new Draft Local Plan, in consultation with local people, that works for them and delivers the critical infrastructure needed to make development sustainable.
ONLY A VOTE FOR THE CONSERVATIVES WILL PROTECT THE GREEN BELT AND KEEP LABOUR'S PLAN IN THE DUSTBIN.
I VOTED TO KEEP TAXES LOW
I know that times are hard. It was inevitable that, with the rising cost of Social Care and increased funding for policing, that the Essex County Council part of the Council Tax would be going up, along with the precept for the Police and the Fire Brigade. That is why I voted to FREEZE the Basildon Council precept. We are also freezing parking charges in all council-owned car parks, including the Main Car Park in Billericay High Street, to help boost our local retail sector, and we are also freezing charges for council-run community halls. Despite this, we have still been able to make significant investment in the essential local services we provide to residents.
ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES' PRUDENT FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT ALLOWS FOR FREEZES WHILST STILL INVESTING IN LOCAL SERVICES.
I AM PUSHING FOR MORE HIGHWAYS IMPROVEMENTS
I met with Cllr. Lee Scott, Essex Cabinet Member for Highways, right here in Billericay East. We all know that the state of our roads is not right and I appreciated Councillor Scott coming and seeing this for himself. We have since seen a marked increase in repairs locally. I enjoy an extremely close working relationship with my Essex counterpart, Cllr. Anthony Hedley, who represents Billericay on the County Council. Together, he and I continue to lobby Essex Highways for more to be done and we are proactive in reporting and highlighting repairs.
ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES CAN DELIVER MORE HIGHWAYS REPAIRS.
I AM DELIVERING MORE INVESTMENT IN PARKS AND OPEN SPACES
I, along with fellow Billericay councillors, have lobbied extensively for investment in the town's parks, play areas and open spaces - following plans under the last Labour Administration to close over 50 local play areas. Now, with a Conservative Administration in place, we have secured £120,000 of investment in numerous small residential play areas across the town. We have also secured nearly £89,000 for improved facilities at the much-loved Hannakins Farm community centre and there is to be significant investment in Lake Meadows, including provision of a new skate park. Specifically in Billericay East, £60,000 has been allocated for improvements to the Outwood Common Open Space.
ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES WILL INVEST IN BILLERICAY.
I AM FIGHTING CRIME AND ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
I know that residents are increasingly worried about crime and ASB in our town. I have consistently voted for more money to be spent on policing and, in the most recent Basildon budget, I voted in favour of the creation of a new team of Community Safety Wardens, who will operate in tandem with Essex Police and our existing Park Wardens to boost enforcement, tackle fly-tipping and disrupt illegal activity across Billericay. Nationally, we are also taking firm action on illegally immigration and curbing the outrageous activities of climate protesters. Unfortunately, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are consistently soft on crime and always on the side of the law-breakers rather than the hard-working law-abiding British public.
ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES ARE TOUGH ON LAW AND ORDER.
I AM SUPPORTING EFFORTS TO KEEP OUR TOWN TIDY
I voted through the funds to maintain the Pride Teams (which the previous Administration had only funded for a year). They are doing superb work across Billericay, fixing disrepair and cutting back overgrowth. More is needed, so I recently voted in favour of expanding the Pride Teams so that they can get to more parts of the town. This is in addition to the £40m programme of estate improvements I have piloted through as Chairman of Housing & Estate Renewal. We also brought the Highways Rangers into the Pride Teams to maximise their impact.
ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES WILL CLEAN UP BILLERICAY.