I spend a considerable amount of time each year dealing with issues raised by constituents which fall under the responsibility of Essex County Council. School transport, education plans for young people with special educational needs and disabilities, school admissions, adult social care, buses and, of course, potholes all fall within the Council’s remit to provide services for the one and a half million people who live, and pay council tax, in Essex.
And so, after two years of online meetings, I was pleased to catch up in Chelmsford last week with Essex County Council Leader, Cllr Kevin Bentley, and three of his Cabinet Members – Cllr Lesley Wagland, Cllr Tony Ball and Cllr Lee Scott, who hold the briefs for Infrastructure, (including broadband), Education, and Highways respectively.
Cllr Bentley has been Leader of Essex since May last year so it was a pleasure to talk to him about his plans for our county and was pleased to hear that he is committed to help patch up our potholes. Some constituents – predominantly those in rural areas such as Fyfield – still suffer from unacceptably low internet speeds and I wanted to check in with Cllr Wagland about local and national government progress to deliver high connectivity. Likewise, I needed to talk to Cllr Scott about the ongoing and dangerous use of Ongar High Street by very large HGVs when traffic is bad – I was delighted that he was receptive to my ideas and look forward to working with him closely to make change happen. Finally, I wanted to share with Cllr Ball the experience of some constituents who have had to wrestle with assessments for their children’s special needs.
Afterwards I was very glad to have my first audience with the new Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Rev. Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani who took over last year when Stephen Cottrell became Archbishop of York. The Chelmsford diocese faces a number of challenges but I was deeply impressed by Bishop Guli’s thoughtful approach and have no doubt she will be a positive force for our local parish churches.