Don’t dump on your fellow Travellers!

Different groups of Travellers have visited Muddies near St. Nicholas Lane in Laindon over the years – the site has been used as a stopping off point by them for some considerable time. Some have kept the area tidy and bagged up their rubbish ready for collection by Basildon Council before moving on – because of their regular use, they’ve generally treated the place with a bit of respect. Muddies is now no longer a community asset, it’s a building site. Basildon Council and developers Redrow have trashed a lovely natural space and children’s playground, for profit. Travellers can no longer use the space, nor can the local children.

A group of Travellers moved on to a field surrounded by trees across the road from Muddies, fly tipped loads of rubbish in the area and then moved on. This is a sad reflection on their lack of respect for a beautiful space and for themselves. It’s also a reflection of the problems caused by the hike in the cost of using legal tips and recycling which has lead to a rise in fly tipping. Now instead of having a proper public service for the control of rubbish we have privatised companies offering the cheapest service which is run as if the main aim was to leave rubbish lying around and limit the use of recycling centres and to make money partly by fining people who carry out cleaning work for their communities.

On housing estates, as we’ve written previously: Show some pride and have some respect for your neighbours! it only takes a minority of dysfunctional households to drag a neighbourhood down. It’s the same with Travellers – it only takes a minority to tarnish the reputation of the whole community. A situation exacerbated by Basildon Council and the Echo newspaper demonising Gypsies and Travellers which encourages the racist few longing for an excuse to find a group of people to pick on and feel superior to.

Fly tipping is a rotten, antisocial thing to do. The rabid racists who jump on the bandwagon to make racist remarks on social media such as “bomb them” and “disgusting animals” are also guilty of spreading filth. Gypsies and Travellers are one of the few last groups not yet properly defended from racist abuse. Many deny them being an ethnic group at the same time as being happy to discriminate against all of them on the basis of the actions of a few.

When we condemn the rogue elements living in our estates for their actions, we do so on the basis that the majority of people treat their neighbourhood and each other with due respect. We’re not being censorious curtain twitchers when we do this – it’s because we recognise that these elements are bad for community morale and solidarity.

It’s with this in mind that we condemn the Travellers who turned up and decided to treat St. Nicholas Lane as their own personal rubbish tip with total disregard for residents in the area and their fellow Travellers who do treat the sites they visit with due respect. This group must have been aware of the grief that the Travelling community gets yet they took a course of action which will ensure that the hate and persecution are cranked up to an even higher level. Basically, whoever is responsible for this flytipping has stabbed their fellow Travellers in the back, and the non Traveller racists and haters make all of us non Travellers look bad. We all need to look after one another and care for the environment we live in and are dependent on.


Show some pride and have some respect for your neighbours!

When we used to do door to door distribution of the (now defunct) South Essex Heckler and also when we’ve worked on neighbourhood clean ups, it has to be said that we’ve seen some sights. Some of those sights involving overgrown, rubbish strewn gardens are an indicator of dysfunctional households in a neighbourhood who are dragging it right down. The kind of places where if (for whatever reason) you do decide to venture to the front door, you really do need to watch where you put your feet in case there’s a festering pile of dog shit lurking in wait!

We’re not sociologists but we do recognise there are a variety of reasons why some households become dysfunctional and why there are obvious physical manifestations of that in the form of neglected gardens strewn with rubbish. Sometimes it may be that the residents have difficulties in coping which need professional intervention but sadly have fallen through the net…

In cases like this, while it’s not providing the full solution that’s needed, could it be the case that neighbours rallying round to help with keeping the garden under control will be a start in turning things round? In an age of permanent austerity, more and more people are going to fall through the net and like it or not, it’s down to us to recognise that and offer what help we can. As neighbours, we’re likely to have a fair inkling as to whether it’s a case of people who simply can’t cope on the one hand or scumbags on the other hand…

Then there are the scumbags – the renegades within that we’ve already written about. People who don’t have any issues other than they don’t have any self respect or consideration for their neighbours. In cases like this, it’s only varying forms of community devised and implemented sanctions that are going to have any chance of getting the message across that the household in question needs to get its act together pronto…

The saddest sights of all are the gardens of the elderly and infirm where there are indications that in happier, healthier days, the garden was their pride and joy. Again, could it be the case that neighbours rally round to offer an hour every week or so to help get the garden back under control, helping to boost the morale of the elderly and infirm residents?

Basically, what we’re talking about are some small steps that can be taken to maintain morale and start to build a sense of community solidarity. It only takes a few households where there are problems that have a physical manifestation such as neglected gardens to drag the morale of a neighbourhood right down. What we’ve tried to do above is very briefly outline what we think the problems may be and offer some suggestions for solutions appropriate to the circumstances.

It’s about looking out for each other but also holding each other to account. Both of which are vital in building the community solidarity we so desperately need in the face of grinding austerity. It’s the building of community solidarity that’s needed as the first step to bringing about real, fundamental change from the grassroots upwards.

‘Self employment’ and piece rate exploitation

If you’re self employed, you’re not entitled to either the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage – There’s a well documented, steady ongoing rise in self employment – Not all of this self employment is the voluntary throwing off of the shackles of working for someone else and starting off a lucrative business doing the kind of work you love doing. A fair chunk of what’s described as self employment is workers who’ve been made redundant struggling in a difficult economic climate to find a decent, well paid full time job, being ‘encouraged’ by various Jobcentre goons to ‘start their own business’ with the ever present threat of sanctions hanging there in the background if they don’t. Which basically means working on jobs such as door to door leaflet distribution and the like…

In my experience of ‘self employment’ since being made redundant in my mid fifties, amongst a variety of jobs I’ve undertaken, door-to-door leaflet distribution has been one of them. Sometimes, you might be lucky and get a door-to-door leaflet distribution job that pays by the hour albeit at the minimum wage. More often than not, you’re paid by the number of deliveries you make. The current going rate is around £35 per 1000 leaflets. Which if you’re working in a high density area such as Chafford Hundred where it’s fairly easy to achieve a rate of 250 deliveries an hour, you’ll be getting more than the minimum wage. However, if you’re working in the leafy suburbs of Southend where it’s hard graft getting to 150 deliveries an hour as you have at least thirty feet to walk from the pavement to each sodding front door, you’ll be getting a fair bit less than the minimum wage. Don’t get me started on the householders who don’t let you know they don’t want any junk mail until you’ve walked the thirty feet to their front door find a partially concealed notice informing you of the fact!

Welcome to the flexible labour force where more and more tasks are outsourced to self employed contractors as and when needed with the core commissioning company effectively abandoning any responsibilities to the workers involved. In a parasitic economy like the one we have to endure, it’s no surprise that the number of self employed workers is on the rise. The companies outsourcing the work have zero obligations for the welfare of the workers they use and discard at will which means their overheads are reduced while their profits are secured. It’s the self employed who take on all of the risks in the form of insecurity, precarity and exploitation.

As ‘self employed’ workers, we’re all supposed to be in competition with each other so there’s little chance of us ever getting together to collectively organise and fight for our rights – this is the ultimate neo-liberal wet dream. The established union structure, such as it is, is struggling to adapt to the changes in the workforce and the rise of precarious self employment. As ‘self-employed’ workers, we all need to firmly reject the idea that we’re in competition with each other and start exploring ways we can combine and collectively work to secure our interests. That however, is only a precursor to getting rid of a system that exploits workers and build one that’s more equitable, just and sustainable…

A ‘regeneration’ scheme that needs to be watched…

Napier House and New Plymouth House in Rainham both scheduled for demolition

Havering Council have launched a £1billion Housing Regeneration Programme that will see 3,500 new homes built in the borough over the next 15 years: Borough’s homes set to undergo transformation as part of £1billion Regeneration Housing Programme

According to the above news item, the council have undertaken extensive consultation with tenants, leaseholders and freeholders in the areas scheduled for ‘regeneration’. Given the neglect of estates such as the one shown in the image above, it’s clear that action is needed but it has to be directed by the tenants and not the housing associations and private sector developers. A policy of neglect is always helpful for councils wanting to shed its obligations for providing social housing by forcing regeneration that always ends up breaking up communities and altering the demographics.

The two blocks shown above are what’s left of the Mardyke Estate, most of which was cleared away to make way for the troubled Orchard Village development: Building the slums of the future So troubled that the residents are calling for the subsidiary housing association managing the development, Old Ford, to be brought back under the control of Havering Council: Residents call for council control of Old Ford housing association after ‘avalanche’ of problems at Orchard Village, Rainham

While we fully sympathise with the plight of residents at Orchard Village, asking a council that’s only too keen on offloading its responsibilities onto housing association and private sector partners to take control of a housing development isn’t going to get them very far. When Havering Councils are using the services of Savills, a ‘global real estate services provider’ to help them find a suitable development partner, alarm bells should be starting to ring at a deafening volume.

From the experience of the housing activists we know in London, the involvement of the likes of Savills in the ‘regeneration’ process never ends well. So, this scheme in Havering is one we’ll be keeping a close eye on…

Doing it for ourselves

Plans for Gobions Park in East Tilbury

A couple of months ago, we asked this question: What’s the future for our parks? This piece focused on what volunteers have been doing to turn round the fortunes of Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope. It was written in response to this news item: UK’s cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warn

What’s happening at Hardie Park is not a one off by any means. Other communities have been watching their local parks slide into decline as as result of the austerity imposed squeeze on local authority spending and rather than just sitting there moaning about it, they’ve done something about the situation. This is what residents in East Tilbury have been doing: Volunteers and building firm team up to put finishing touches to improved Gobions Park in East Tilbury

It could be said that all the volunteers at Hardie Park and Gobions Park – and the local businesses that have chipped in to support them – are doing is letting the council off the hook for their spending cuts. It could also be said that in an ideal world, under a more equitable economic system, there would be sufficient funding in place to ensure that every community had perfectly maintained parks. We don’t agree with either of these views…

In our view, what’s happening at Hardie Park and Gobions Park to name just two examples is that people are stepping up to the plate to start to take control of a community asset. From our own personal experience of volunteering at Hardie Park and that of the other volunteers, we can vouch that it’s an empowering experience helping to maintain and run the place. It’s a step towards having a say in what happens in our communities and starting to bring power down to the grassroots. This is where real change starts…let’s see how far it can go!

The Stirrer is back from the printer!

The first print edition of The South Essex Stirrer has come back from the printer and we’re now planning the distribution. As ever, many thanks to our friends at Oxford GreenPrint for a superb job. The Stirrer has a unique selling point for a political paper in these times – absolutely no election coverage! The papers were on their way pack to us when May announced the general election for June 8th. No worries as the articles in the paper on housing, Brexit and community control of parks are still relevant, election or no election…

Obviously, with the dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday 3rd May and the start of serious election campaigning, we want to shift the Stirrers as swiftly as possible to avoid getting caught up with all the crap coming through people’s letterboxes. So if you live anywhere across the southern part of Essex, broadly support our anarchist politics and want to take a bundle of papers to hand out to friends, neighbours, colleagues, family, etc. let us know and we’ll sort out a way of getting them to you. Alternatively, if you run or know of a venue that’s sympathetic to our politics and want to take a bundle of papers for the patrons, get in touch and we’ll get them to you.

After being put into a position where we had no option but to walk away from having anything to do with the Southend Radical Fair on May 6th and losing the South Essex Heckler in the process (the Heckler e-mail was on the flyers and posters promoting the fair!) we feel that we’re on our way back, albeit trading under a new name. The last few months haven’t been easy and a lot of lessons have been and are continuing to be learned. The thing is we’re back with a new, more focused, somewhat spikier paper and blog – hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards from here…

Lob a spanner in the works and let’s have some real change!

There has been a lot of speculation as to why May has done a massive U turn and called for a general election on June 8th. A fair few people think it may have something to do with the ongoing election expenses scandal that’s dogging the Tory Party: Claims May called an election to escape Tory expenses scandal The Crown Prosecution Service is currently investigating claims that up to 20 Tory MPs broke spending limits during the 2015 general election.

If these MPs were prosecuted and had to stand down thereby forcing by-elections, the government’s slim majority would have been made considerably slimmer or possibly even wiped out. Given that May is facing enough grief trying to negotiate a Brexit deal, the thinking is that she’s taking a gamble on a general election in the hope that the Tories will get a big enough majority to give her the support she needs. What May has done is a crass act of cynicism – no surprise there as she’s a politician.

The right wing element in the media have gone into overdrive with talk about ‘crushing opponents’ and the like. No surprise there either, that’s what rags like the Daily Mail do. The problem is that the predictable hype from the right wing gutter press has led to a level of hysteria among Labour supporters, particularly Momentum activists, who are pretty much implying that it’s our duty to vote Labour on June 8th. Even some people we thought were ‘comrades’ are falling for this, saying that we need to set aside our anarchist principles and cast a vote for Labour.

If you want to see examples of principles being abandoned, take a look at any Labour run council in London and the way they’re jumping on the re-generation gravy train, sucking up to the property developers and becoming complicit in socially cleansing the poor from the capital. This is just one example of what a Labour run London council is doing and how it impacts on the housing crisis out here on the estuary and beyond: The housing domino effect… Tamely going along to a polling station to cast a vote for Labour as the ‘lesser of two evils’ will do sod all to bring about change.

This is the best chance we’ve had in ages to send a message to the political class that we’re sick of their machinations and that we want power from the grassroots upwards. Actively campaigning for a boycott of the election or mass spoiling of ballot papers will, if we can get the numbers, send a chill up the spines of the political class. If the turnout drops towards the 50% level, that sends out a massive signal that people are losing faith in the system and that whatever government gets elected, they will have no meaningful legitimacy.

When you have a government with no real legitimacy, when the shite hits the fan as austerity tightens its grip, it’s only a few steps from this to starting to make the country ungovernable. When the country starts to become ungovernable as a government with no legitimacy starts to get ever more grief trying to push through austerity, that’s when we can start to get meaningful system change on to the agenda. Basically, there’s everything to play for… Now is the time to think creatively about how we can lob a sodding great spanner into the works!