A house in Vange owned by…Local Space Stratford

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that we’ve posted a lot on the issue of social cleansing from London and how it has an impact on the housing situation out here along the Thames estuary. They will also be aware that we have a working relationship with Focus E15 who are a housing action group operating in the London Borough of Newham. When we can, we support actions undertaken by Focus E15: Newham Council…it’s just got personal…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/newham-council-its-just-got-personal/ As a result of this, we take a keen interest in what Newham Council and their close associates at the Local Space Stratford housing association get up to out here in Essex.

When we were out and about on a community clean up in Vange today (Saturday 17.2) one of the activists from the Vange Hill Community Action Group pointed out this house which came into the possession of Local Space Stratford at the end of March 2017. After ten months of the property being left empty, work has only just started on bringing it back to (what Local Space Stratford would regard as) a habitable condition. Okay, it’s nothing compared with the years that Newham Council have been emptying the Carpenters Estate in Stratford while they await the right offer from a developer so they can trouser the dosh but…leaving properties empty for a long while seems to be a ‘thing’ with any organisation involved in housing in Newham!

Now we know for a fact this is definitely not the only property Local Space Stratford own and manage in Basildon. We suspect that they have quite a few in their portfolio, mainly acquired from private sellers. We are going to start to try and build up a picture of just how many properties they (and other London based housing associations) have on their books in Basildon but it’s not going to be an easy task.

After all, shoving tenants out of neighbourhoods in London where they have friends, family and a support network to isolated, deprived estates in Essex is admitting you’re aiding and abetting the cruel process of social cleansing from the capital – and that could be a bit embarrassing for a housing association claiming to do the best for their tenants! So we suspect that the likes of Local Space Stratford and their mates at Newham Council will be a little bit coy about the properties they own and manage out here. We also suspect that Basildon Council won’t be able to provide any answers because Local Space Stratford and Newham Council are quite possibly not keeping them in the loop.

We know that London boroughs socially cleansing their tenants and effectively dumping them in the more deprived and marginalised estates out here in Essex causes tensions. Which is why last summer, we produced the leaflet below which we distributed on a few selected estates. The aim was to explain to people angry about the housing situation out here where the roots of the problem were and to direct their anger at the right target. So, rather than re-hash the arguments, here’s the leaflet…

Advertisements

Action?

On the evening of Wednesday 2nd August, activists from the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) plus the ward councillors took part in a walk about on the ¾ estate to get a fuller picture of the problems afflicting the area. This is what we wrote about it pretty much as soon as we got home: The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/ On the walk, we stopped by the broken ‘temporary’ fence just off Swanstead shown above where concerns were expressed about its visual impact and safety. We distinctly remember one of the ward councillors, Cllr. Block, taking a picture of the offending fence on her phone and telling us she would be contacting the relevant departments at Basildon Council to get it sorted out.

We have to assume that Cllr. Block did inform the relevant people at the council the next day. If that’s the case, can someone please explain to VHCG, BASHA and all of the residents on the ¾ estate who feel they’ve been forgotten about, why is it that five and a half months after being told that action would be taken to fix this fence, sod all appears to have been done about it? Can they also explain why there appears to have been no liaison between the ward councillor and the council officers on the one hand and VHCG, BASHA and the residents on the other on what should be the simple matter of getting this fence sorted out?

BASHA, this blog and VHCG have acquired a bit of a reputation for putting the boot into Basildon Council. We don’t do this because we’re vindictive or we like bullying people. We do this because the council are supposed to be the servants of the people and when it comes to the ¾ estate in Vange (and many other estates across Basildon), people feel like they’re being let down, ignored and belittled by them every time they raise legitimate concerns. We have to put the pressure on Basildon Council simply to get them to do their sodding job!

When turnouts at local elections hover around the thirty percent mark, you would have thought that councillors and council officers would have the humility to take a hard look at themselves and ask why people have little or no faith in them. It’s constant shite like the five and a half months of inaction over a dodgy fence that leads people to rightly conclude that the council doesn’t give a toss about them so they don’t bother to go out and vote. A little word of advice to councillors and council officers alike from those on the estates who have their fingers on the pulse – people are not just fed up, they’re getting angry now!

We got our hands dirty…

Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and supported by a number of residents got their teeth into the community clean up on the ¾ estate today (Saturday 17.2). The main areas of focus were Oldwyk and the top end of Dewsgreen at the top end of the estate and Gambleside and Sturrocks at the bottom end.

These are areas where VHCG and BASHA have an active presence and are working to establish what are effectively ‘zones of control’ where we can move forwards from fire fighting with rubbish clearance onto enhancements such as pocket community gardens. The idea of establishing these zones is to set an example of what can be achieved by residents working together which will hopefully inspire other people across the estate to do the same. This is already working as we were able to expand operations down into Sturrocks with residents coming out to clean up their close. The long term aim is to start linking these zones up and to start really transforming the estate.


The pocket community garden on Oldwyk


Gambleside looking a lot better as a result of active resident involvement

More work was undertaken on the small community garden that’s been created at the top of Oldwyk and there was bulb planting, strimming and tidying undertaken on Gambleside and Sturrocks. As you can see from the images below, a lot of rubbish was collected. A heck of a lot of rubbish considering the small area we were operating in…

There was an agreement with Basildon Council to pick up the rubbish we had collected. The Oldwyk pile was eventually collected. At the time of writing, the pile at the end of Gambleside hadn’t been collected. To say this is disappointing is an understatement as it makes a mockery of all the hard graft that was put in today. VHCG are already chasing up Basildon Council to ensure that the pile at Gambleside is collected as early as possible on Monday.


The rubbish collected from Oldwyk and Dewsgreen


The rubbish collected from Gambleside and Sturrocks

All in all, it was a reasonably successful day. However, it was just one day in a long campaign to start to turn round the fortunes of an estate that has more than its fair share of problems. A campaign that will only succeed when residents really start to turn out in numbers on clean up days and in between, do what they can to keep the estate maintained. That means a combination of doing it themselves and working with VHCG to put pressure on Basildon Council to do their job. We will be back to support the work of VHCG and BASHA as and when required in the months to come.

More views on the 8th February Sustainability & Transformation Partnership ‘consultation’

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveSouthendNHS/

Campaigners Slam Flawed Consultation

Local health service campaigners who attended a consultation event organised by the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership in Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion on 8th February about the future of regional NHS services condemned NHS leaders for failing to give credible answers over their plans.

The changes are designed to plug a predicted £500 million funding gap across the area. Critical services, including stroke, emergency orthopaedic surgery and others, are to be removed from Southend Hospital and relocated to either Basildon Hospital or Chelmsford’s Broomfield Hospital. The plans assume that it will be possible to keep patients away from hospital by using unspecified technology to develop ‘self service’ and allowing people other than GPs to deliver ‘primary’ healthcare.

Hundreds of critically-ill patients who can no longer be treated locally will have to be transported to other hospitals across the road network.

Transport plans ‘meaningless’

Senior managers who presented the plans were repeatedly asked to explain how their grand scheme could be delivered given a stunning lack of detail in their proposals.

One member of the public asked if a study of the traffic issues involved in transport across busy roads including the A13, A127 and A130 had been undertaken. Ronan Fenton, speaking for the STP claimed that it had, but could not explain what it said or why he had not presented it to the meeting.

Campaigners believe this makes a mockery of ‘consultation’ when the problem of being able to transport seriously ill people across the area is clearly a critical issue. If an appropriate transport service is not delivered then patients will quite simply be at risk and the overall STP plan may fail. It was pointed out that the East of England Ambulance Service were not even represented at the event. We wonder how the public can be asked to give a considered opinion when they were given no evidence to go on?

Despite repeated questions, no concrete proposals were made about who would provide transport or how this could be done safely given that the Ambulance Service is already severely overstretched and struggling to recruit and retain paramedics.
Where are staff to come from?

Health staff and public all asked how the STP could guarantee that new staff with specialist skills can be recruited when there is a crisis in recruitment across the NHS. Speakers simply said that ‘it will be tough’ and ‘it will be a challenge’.

The experience of recent changes to NHS services is that they can have a negative effect on staff. For instance, in the ‘Pathology First’ service, which took microbiology skills away from Southend Hospital, there has recently been a mass resignation of ten staff. This hotly-contested change was also supposed to be a ‘centralisation’ and ‘specialisation’ of health services which has utterly failed to deliver an improvement and which has actually led to the recent scandal over incorrect cervical cancer tests.

‘Pie in the sky’ assumptions

The current proposals will have a massive impact on the shape of NHS services across Mid and South Essex. We were told that without them there would be a catastrophic gap in funding. However, the solutions proposed all depend on plans which have little substance.

There is a crisis in social care, cuts to Public Health budgets and a chronic shortage of GPs but the STP assumes that local government and ‘community’ services will improve social and primary care to keep patients away from A&E in order for the new hospital configuration to work!

Once patients are in hospital, the STP then assumes that ‘bed blocking’ can be dealt with. However we are in a climate where in Southend, a residential care home can be closed in favour of a boutique hotel and where serious consideration has been given to using “Air B’n’B” style services to discharge patients.

We believe it is clear that even where proposals may be welcome, such as the specialist stroke facility to be provided at Basildon, outcomes for patients may be worse unless adequate services are provided locally. The specialists at the meeting were clear that without the ability to assess patients thoroughly 24/7 at a local hospital, all a central facility might mean was that vital life-saving time would be lost in transferring vulnerable stroke patients to Basildon.

The STP’s plans gave no answers on key areas barring vague assurances and the Save Southend NHS campaign queries the realism of the assumptions they laid out.

Not democratic

Campaigners were dismayed to hear senior NHS staff say that any decision would not be ‘democratic’ and that the consultation was not ‘a referendum’. Indeed, when pressed as to why the merger of the three hospital trusts had not been consulted on, we were told that the NHS were consulting on the current STP proposals because they ‘had to’. This gives us no confidence that the STP see the consultation as anything but a ‘tick box’ exercise which does not give the public any real say in what happens to our services.

A spokesperson for the save Southend NHS Campaign commented:

“It seems frankly incredible that a consultation which makes such a big difference to our health services told us almost nothing concrete about how any changes would be achieved.

How dare the STP fail to even provide any evidence about the safety of something as basic as transporting critically-ill patients between hospitals?

Whether it was on staffing, on a transport service, on GP services or on the back up for the proposed specialist stroke unit, the STP just can’t tell us how services will be delivered or how they will achieve improvements for patients while saving vast amounts of money.

The presentation missed out the fact that £30 million a year has to be saved at each hospital and the senior NHS representatives tried to wriggle their way out of admitting that even the £118 million of capital funding they have trumpeted is not actually guaranteed at all!

We have warned all along that these changes are motivated by the need to make huge savings across the local NHS. We are urging people to attend their local consultation events and to ask questions about the impact of the plans, but we are very worried that the public consultation can’t be meaningful in any real way when the plans are so vague and when so much is left unexplained.

We think local councils and MPs need to stand up for their constituents’ interests and demand that that this process is halted. Let’s at least have a consultation based on some real information and with some proper evidence.

We’re worried that if the changes go forward as proposed, they will be a disaster for the NHS that we need and a threat to patient safety.”

Sign the petition HERE: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-mid-south-essex-stp-downgrading-southend-hospital#SaveSouthendNHS

A poor replacement

As you can see from the image above, before Barratt Homes took out a fair sized chunk of Gloucester Park for their housing development, there was a properly designed and constructed all weather playground. That has now gone, buried underneath new housing. Obviously, as part of the deal for going ahead with the development, Barratt Homes were obliged to put in a replacement playground which they duly did. However…





Seriously? Are Barratt Homes taking the piss? In wet winter weather, this is pretty much unusable unless parents are happy about their kids coming home soaking wet and covered in mud. Somehow, we don’t think many parents would be happy about that…

We’ve been informed that funding has been secured to put proper surfaces down and to replace the skate boarding park surface. £40,000 has also been secured to refurbish the hardball area in Gloucester Park. However, we’re sure you won’t be surprised that not a penny of this has come from Barrett Homes – all of this is funding from other sources.

If housing developers want to know why people no longer trust them, here’s one reason… It’s because when it comes to providing public infrastructure such as replacement playgrounds, pocket parks etc. as part of the deal for taking land for development, the developers are cheapskates. When you put that alongside the agenda of social engineering/cleansing because they skimp on providing genuinely affordable housing, the sham ‘consultations’ with residents and building quality issues, developers really shouldn’t be surprised that many people hold them in utter contempt.

When it comes to providing genuinely affordable housing built in a sustainable way along with the necessary infrastructure needed to support the extra population, the political, economic and social system we have cannot deliver it. Which points to the inescapable conclusion that fundamental change is needed sooner rather than later…

CAMPAIGNERS TO DEMONSTRATE IN CHELMSFORD HIGH STREET THIS SATURDAY

From the Defend Our NHS – Chelmsford, Mid-Essex Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/defendourae/

Midday (near Lloyds/Waterstones)

Health campaigners will be in the middle of Chelmsford High Street (near Lloyds/Waterstones) this Saturday (17th February) from midday to protest against plans to a cut a further £400 million from health budgets over the next few years, and a proposal as part of these plans to merge Broomfield Hospital with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon. The protest will be addressed by health campaigners, and passing members of the public will be asked to sign letters of protest for their local MPs. The protest comes during an ongoing consultation into proposed changes into health services locally.

‘Our NHS is not failing, but it is being failed by this government’s underfunding’, said Defend Our NHS Chelmsford campaign coordinator Andy Abbott. ‘We will be sending out a clear message on Saturday. No Cuts. No privatisation. No merger.’

‘After seven years of cuts our NHS is already bleeding and on its knees’ continued Mr Abbott. ‘It will not survive further cuts via the government’s so called Sustainability & Transformation Partnership [STP] programme. Despite all the spin, a look at the Mid & South Essex STP’s current consultation document reveals the truth, as it talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services. Even in their own words, and despite previous promises by the government to keep the NHS free from austerity, the proposed changes are driven by cuts.’

‘It is also worth noting at what the same consultation document says about merging Broomfield, Basildon, and Southend hospitals,’ Mr Abbott pointed to. ‘While it talks about a closer working relationship, it warns about “averting the disruption caused by a formal merger at this time”. So why have they changed their minds? And why so quickly? What has changed in just a few months? The proposed merger also makes something of a mockery of the current consultation process.’

Something has to change…

After lengthy conversations with our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), towards the end of last year we wrote this piece: A few thoughts on local councillors…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/a-few-thoughts-on-local-councillors/ We understand that if a councillor is going to do their job properly in serving the ward they represent, it will mean a heavy workload. This is something that should be made perfectly clear to anyone considering standing as a candidate in local elections.

It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say we’ve heard anecdotal evidence from various sources indicating that the two ward councillors for Vange, Cllr. Block (Lab) and Cllr. McGeorge (Lab) are falling a fair way short in what residents can reasonably expect from their local councillors. Life has a nasty habit of going wrong when you don’t want it and can seriously impact your ability to discharge a responsibility. We don’t know what the circumstances are with Cllrs. Block and McGeorge but if external factors are impacting on their ability to effectively discharge their responsibilities as councillors and that’s likely to be the case for some months to come, then in our opinion, they need to consider their positions.

We’ve seen the work that community activists in Vange have been putting in to make the area a better place to live in. They and the residents they’re working for deserve better than they’re getting at the moment. The next elections for the Vange ward are not due until 2019 and in our opinion, that’s too long to let things drift on as they are.

Doing the Lambeth Walk (through Southwark)

Saturday 24th February, 1pm at City Hall then off to The Shard

This isn’t your normal point A to point B housing activists march with mass produced placards and the usual speeches at the final rally before everyone dutifully goes home thinking they’ve done their bit. This is a Class War protest. It will be VISUAL! Let’s face it, have you ever seen a protest where everyone is doing the Lambeth Walk? No, of course you haven’t! Well, you’ll have a chance to not only see but be a part of a mass Lambeth Walk. It will be irreverent, taking the piss and with absolutely no respect for authority. Did the owners of The Shard (and all the other owners of ghost apartments across London) think that after we beat the odds and had our protest outside The Shard on Thursday 8th February, we’d just sit back on our laurels thinking it was job done? We’ve got news for them – the job is not done and won’t be done until housing provision is back in the control of ordinary Londoners and not the super rich parasites who’ve been poncing off the capital for far too long. Every pissed off Londoner and militant housing activist needs to be on this action – feel free to share this far and wide and let’s get the numbers out for this one…

Just to whet your appetite, here are the words (and chords) for the Lambeth Walk:)

LAMBETH WALK – UKE CHORDS Version
[C] Any [F] time you’re [C] Lambeth way,
Any [A7] evening, [Dm] Any day,
You’ll find us [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk [G7] Oi!
[C] Ev’ry [F] little [C] Lambeth gal,
With her [A7]little [Dm]Lambeth pal,
You’ll find ’em [Dm7] all [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] walk.[G7]
[Am7] Every thing [D7] free and [G] easy,
[D7] Do as you darn well [G] pleasey,
[Em] Why don’t you [A7] make your [G] way there,
[Am7] go [D7] there, [Dm7] stay [G7] there.
[C] Once you [F]get down [C] Lambeth way,
Ev’ry [A7]evening, [Dm]Ev’ry day,
You’ll find your[Dm]self [G7]
Doin’ the Lambeth [C] Walk.[G7] Oi!

Barred!

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveSouthendNHS/

#SaveSouthendNHS have been emailed this by a member of the public who was not allowed entry to the STP discussion event on Thursday 8th February.

We are posting this word for word.

I went along to Cliffs Pavilion on Thursday to attend the consultation meeting regarding plans for local hospitals I knew tickets had all been allocated for the evening but as they were free I knew from experience that not everyone would turn up so went along bearing in mind originally they said turn up on night. I arrived at venue where there was police presence and four bouncers! There was only about 4 or 5 people waiting outside doors to get in when I got there and was told there was no room. When I looked through I could see a few people standing and room behind them I mentioned this to one of the security guys and said as there were only 4 of us could they let us in as I was happy to stand He replied we were not allowed to stand. When I questioned the fact that there were people standing he said they were speakers and public were not allowed to stand I have been to music events there where the room is rammed and everyone stands. Bearing in mind the organisers knew this event was oversubscribed I question why they didn’t change the layout of room and not had the round tables I learnt later from friends that there were even a couple of spare seats.

Yet another demonstration of how badly run the whole public consultation has been.

You can sign our petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-mid-south-essex-stp-downgrading-southend-hospital