Advance notice – March of the towers!

We’ll be going along to this to show our solidarity with housing struggles in East London: March of the towers!

Date: Saturday August 12th

Join us for a march and speak out to demand safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

The flats of Ferrier Point and Tanner Point are both tower blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. Carpenters Estate in Stratford is marked for demolition by Newham Labour council.

Let us meet to raise the issues of secure housing in our local community and demand that the council provides suitable housing for residents.

Meet 12 midday: Ferrier Point, Forty Acre Lane, Canning Town E16 and/or 1pm: Tanner Point, Pelly Road, Plaistow E13.

From there we will be marching to the Carpenters Estate, Stratford E15.

And from 2.30pm we will be having a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event and speak out with residents to organise resistance to decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

Take action to defend people’s right to homes and safety.

Join us at Midday, bring your banners and your voices and your hearts!

As we’ve written and said more times than we care to remember, what happens in London with social cleansing as a consequence of ‘regeneration’ in the service of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich and their money has a direct impact on us out here along the estuary. This is why we show solidarity with housing activists in London fighting this tide of social cleansing from the capital – as far as we’re concerned, the housing struggle, regardless of where it takes place, is one struggle.


Advance notice – we’ve got a stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair

With our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we’ll be jointly running a stall at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place on Saturday 28th October running from 10am – 7pm. The venue is Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR. This is what the London Anarchist Bookfair collective have to say about the event:

Bookfairs provide a space where like-minded people can come together to re-affirm old friendships, make new ones, discuss all things anarchist and anti-capitalist and start planning the future revolution. They’re also one of the public faces of anarchism. Anyone unfamiliar with the ideas or wanting to know more about the politics can come along, look through books, sit in or get involved in meetings, workshops and discussions or just chat to the groups and organisations having stalls there.

It is also a space where we counter the rubbish talked about anarchism by sections of the media and our opponents. Bookfairs are one small element of making anarchism a threat to the present political system.

There’s more information about the bookfair here:

Why are we going? Firstly to talk to people about our community focused politics and actions, and the need to work from the grassroots upwards in our neighbourhoods if we’re serious about fundamental change. Secondly to boost the audience for all of the South Essex Radical Media blogs and publications, and hopefully get some donations to help with the cost of running and producing them:) Thirdly, to build alliances with any like-minded groups who share our approach and tactics in building a movement for change.

Work on the next Stirrer paper is underway

At long last work on the next Stirrer paper is underway. The aim is to have it written, laid out and off to the printer by the latter part of August ready for distribution from mid September onwards. We will be getting more copies than normal printed as we’ll be distributing the paper at the London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place in north London on Saturday 28th October – We’ve got the tricky balancing act of producing a paper that people out here on the estuary will want to read while also appealing to the very different audience who attend the bookfair. You’ll find out how we resolved that tricky little issue when the papers come back from the printer!

We we’re going to bring out the Stirrer paper fairly soon after the general election. However, with all the uncertainty that followed the election and continues to be a feature of political life, we held off producing one as we didn’t want to be saddled with loads of papers rendered redundant by fast changing events! This is why the next paper will have more of a generic feel to it that will reflect that uncertainty and draw attention to the opportunities that provides for those of us of a radical persuasion.

As ever, any help with distributing the paper will be more than welcome. If you want to take a bundle to hand out to friends, neighbours, family, colleagues and comrades, let us know and we’ll work out a way of getting them to you. If you run or know of a venue sympathetic to our politics who are willing to take a small bundle for their patrons, please feel free to get in touch with the details. Lastly, we want to undertake a few high street distributions during the latter part of September running into October. If you’d like to join us in one of these, let us know and we’ll take it from there.

In the meantime, we’ve produced another paper to complement our sister blog, The Estuary ALTERNATIVE – Unlike the Stirrer which is ‘in yer face’, this paper and blog celebrates and promotes positive alternatives and the building of a new world in the crumbling shell of the dystopian one we currently endure. Distribution of the ALTERNATIVE is proceeding at a steady pace and if we get a positive response, we’ll be bringing out future issues. So the way it’s potentially shaping up is two issues of the Stirrer and two issues of the ALTERNATIVE a year.

Are Thurrock Council really interested in your views?

At this week’s meeting of Thurrock Council, the proposals for the Lower Thames Crossing were up for discussion for the first time since Highways England announced they would opt for Route C, running just west of Orsett, skirting round Chadwell St Mary to cross the river between Tilbury and East Tilbury. Feelings were running high at the meeting as campaigners against the crossing in the public gallery were prevented from asking questions and speaking: Thurrock Council meeting suspended after Lower Thames Crossing campaigners express their outrage

The Tory leader of the council, Cllr. Rob Gledhill, presented a report setting out the authority’s next moves and creating a Lower Thames Crossing task force to lead their response. The council claim they want to listen to the views of residents on the crossing, however when George Abbott, the leader of the Thames Crossing Action Group requested to speak to the meeting, he was denied permission. The action group has over 9000 members on its Facebook page so it should have been considered influential enough to be allowed a voice at the meeting. The council didn’t see it that way and for reasons beyond us mere mortals, saw fit to deny George Abbott and other members of the action group a voice.

As you can see from the video clip in the Gazette piece, George Abbott was understandably not best pleased at being denied the right to speak to the meeting. Let’s just take a step back here and look at what Thurrock Council did… Despite claiming they want to listen to the views of residents about the crossing, they denied the leader of the action group the right to address the council. When George Abbott questioned that, the council meeting was suspended and security were called in to escort supporters of the action group out of the meeting.

To our eyes, this is the council wanting to control the narrative right down to the last full stop and comma and silence anyone asking difficult questions. This episode is not the first instance of Thurrock Council’s tendency to be control freaks. This is what we had to say a few weeks back about a proposal by the council to decide which news outlets could or couldn’t report on their proceedings: Thurrock Council in control freak mode

We can’t help coming to the conclusion that Thurrock Council’s objections to the river crossing are mere window dressing and that they’re coming under pressure from central government and the Tory MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price, to not rock the boat. After the fiasco at these week’s council meeting our advice to the anti-crossing campaigners would be to not trust Thurrock Council as far as they could throw them…

Newham Council…it’s just got personal…

I took part in a protest organised by Focus E15 today (Monday 24th July) outside the Newham Council housing office at Bridge House, Stratford. The protest was called to offer solidarity to Chantelle who’s facing eviction and possible relocation out of Newham this week and also for Elina who has been re-located by Local Space Stratford to Pitsea miles away from her family and support network. We support protests like this because what happens in London as people are socially cleansed as part of the project of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich has direct consequences for our communities out here along the estuary: Booted out of London…

Along with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, we’re doing what we can to support Elina, working closely with Focus E15 in the process. We know that as far as Newham Council and Local Space Stratford are concerned, once their residents have been re-located out of the borough, they have effectively washed their hands of any meaningful responsibility for their welfare. Not only that, communication between the likes of Newham Council and the local authorities receiving their former residents are pretty much non-existent. When people being booted out of London are dumped on estates in Basildon that already have more than their fair share of problems, it exacerbates existing tensions…

This is why we’ve produced the above flyer to explain to locals in Basildon what the situation is, to not blame the people being relocated out here but instead, aim their anger at the authorities in London complicit in social cleansing. We know there are divide and rule merchants out here who will exploit this situation to promote their own reactionary agenda – we’ve no intention of letting these bigots get away with it. The actions of the likes of Newham Council in dumping people out here make our lives as activists more difficult as we have to deal with the consequences. Outside Bridge House today when I took the mic for a few minutes, I let Newham Council know in no uncertain terms that as a result of their actions, they will have to deal with us and Basildon & Southend Housing Action as well as Focus E15 and their allies. To put it bluntly, it’s now got personal…

Bridge House, where the protest was held, is just round the corner from the Carpenters Estate with its iconic tower blocks surrounded by low rise housing. In its heyday, the estate had a reputation for being a thriving community where people got along regardless of who they were or where they came from. The tower blocks are now empty and Newham Council are now putting pressure on the remaining residents in the low rise housing to leave. This is so the council can flog off the estate to developers and trouser the cash. In their greed and hubris, they’ve killed off a community. Newham Council along with all the other London councils engaging in social cleansing need to be told that breaking up communities and decanting residents right out of the capital has consequences and they will be made to pay for them…

Dave (the editor)

Falling apart…

Back in March, we wrote about the complex planning chain involving the housing development at Dry Street, the re-location of the Basildon campus of South Essex College to the current site of Basildon Market and the re-location of the market to St. Martin’s Square: A breakdown in the chain? Well, evidence is growing that there really is a break in the chain, one that centres around the fate of the Basildon campus of South Essex College…

We noted with interest this comment on the GAG2011 Facebook page:
Are South Essex College actually quitting Basildon leaving behind a mess? They were the key factor in the Nethermayne /Dry Street development. The plan to sell the current college land and relocate to the town centre was essential for the development to go ahead. Basildon Council agreed to move the market and allow a new college to be built. Basildon Council were so committed they even got Essex CC to give them more money when they ran out of cash relocating the market. Phase 2 of the development which involves demolition of the college has now been granted but there is no sign of a new one and now the college is in special measures. So are the young people of Basildon going to lose the college altogether? We want to know!
Now in a previous guise, we’ve had our differences with GAG2011 over tactics but what we like about them is that they are pretty thorough when it comes to researching stuff and backing up statements with facts. So their comment above has to be taken seriously. Whether Basildon Council (and South Essex College for that matter) will ever come up with a straight answer is however, another matter…

South Essex College are currently in special measures –….pdf With Phase Two of the housing development at Dry Street having received detailed planning permission, logically the demolition of the current site of the college should be getting underway at some point. However, work on the re-location of the market is proceeding at a snail’s pace and there’s no sign of any progress being made on re-locating the college to the town centre. There’s growing speculation that there may be no long term future for South Essex College in Basildon…

It’s well worth reading the comments below the post quoted above on the GAG2011 Facebook page as they reveal a total breakdown of trust in the planning system and a considerable degree of cynicism about the integrity of local government. A growing number of people are coming to the realisation that Basildon Council have pulled the wool over people’s eyes regarding this planning chain that has resulted in the destruction of much loved open space at Dry Street and the desecration of St. Martin’s Square. It looks as though the council (and the college) could well deservedly become victims of their own hubris…

Out of sight, out of mind…

That has up until now, generally been the attitude of Thurrock Council when it comes to dealing with the growing problem of flytipping down alleyways across the borough. The attitude was that if it can’t be seen from the road, it’s not a problem, even though the lives of residents have been blighted by the alleyways behind their houses being blocked by flytipped trash. Well, according to this piece on Your Thurrock, the council may be having a change of mind about this: Thurrock Council pledge to undertake fly-tipping review Mind you, it’s only a review so let’s not get too excited that we might be moving towards a solution on this…

On the subject of solutions, we’re reproducing in full a comment left after the Your Thurrock piece which makes some very useful practical suggestions but also expresses the poster’s utter frustration in dealing with the council:
1. Fire gates either end with keys distributed to all households. 2. Organising residents who wish to maintain the alleyways. 3. Up north most alleyways are now small communal gardens made by the residents. 4. Clean, organised alleyways deter dumping as tippers know they’re being watched. It also deters residents from dumping out their back gate. 5. Making the resident responsible for their allotted area of alleyway also helps. 6. Lighting would be good too as this seems to deter the drug users. Some councils have employed solar lighting to deter these and fly tippers. 7. Portable CCTV can be employed, again tippers never know if the cameras are live or not. Most people who live with alleyways behind their properties are sick of all the dumping and fly tipping. We live on one that when we moved in in 2000 was a lovely little alley, well kept and maintained. We have motorcycles that we store in the back of the garden and it was easy to get them out. Now it’s impossible to even walk down these alleys. We have contacted the council on numerous occasions telling of the needles from drug use in the alley, but they said they sent someone to a look, bit of a lie, as I was around when the inspector viewed it and he stood at the top of the alley then got in his car and drove off. I was told he even picked up some discarded needles. Oh no he didn’t. We, the neighbours have removed the needles ourselves. We even had a cat come home with one stuck in his paw. The trouble with this council is the attitude of “If it cannot be seen from the road, we do nothing”. That was exactly the words used when we complained over two years ago. As for our councillors, I have mailed all of them and had no reply. One was too busy being Mayor (Cathy Kent as mentioned in this article), the other (her husband) running for MP, and the third I don’t even know who he is. Waste of space if you ask me. Well, there you go. You want comments, now you hear it from the streets affected. I bet I’m not the only one that’s so angry with the “Clean up the Town and forget the outskirts” mentality of the council. Oh, and by the way, Mrs Kent. we now have spilled oil, welding gas canister, 3 bed frames plus mattresses, a couple of fridges, a washing machine and a sofa. There will be a TV next week, we’ll have all we need to set up home right there in the back alley. Coming round for tea? No, I thought not.

Looking at the tenure of properties in areas affected by flytipping may also be an idea. From when we’ve been doing door-to-door deliveries of the Stirrer paper, it seems that there are some areas with a lot of buy to let properties with a fair few being rented out on short term leases. Add in an element of landlords who cut corners and get away with the bare minimum they’re obliged to do with some blatantly flouting the rules, then you may well have an explanation for where at least some of the flytipping is coming from. Whether Thurrock Council are prepared to spend time and resources chasing up rogue landlords is however, another matter.

As we’ve written before, a large number of buy to let properties in a neighbourhood is going to cause problems, particularly if a fair number of them are on short term leases: Where the new town dream has died… With people constantly moving in and out, there’s no community spirit or sense of belonging which is why flytipping becomes a major issue because the flytippers sense that no one cares and that they can get away with it. It goes back to the long term project of trying to rebuild community solidarity and addressing issues of tenure to introduce an element of stability back into neighbourhoods affected by these issues. That however, is unlikely to happen this side of a major political, social and economic change…

Keeping up appearances

We noted with interest this piece on Your Thurrock on how Thurrock Council are preparing themselves for the future as funding from central government continues to be slashed year on year: Thurrock Council finance boss looks to a future of “not a penny from the government” Obviously a Tory run council isn’t going to be challenging the narrative from a Tory government about continuing austerity and will be more than happy to implement an agenda of cuts…

In a period where Thurrock Council make no secret of the measures they’re having to take to bring expenditure down while building up their cash reserves, it’s not surprising that people are starting to ask some searching questions about spending priorities. Where we live in Stanford-le-Hope, we can’t help noticing that the council appear to have gone into overdrive (resources permitting) on their cleaning and greening agenda with verges getting regularly cut and Ruskin Road Park looking better than it has done for a long time. The people we know in the area have picked up on this and half jokingly have been asking ‘when is the royal visit happening?’

When the talk a couple of years back was about handing over pretty much every public space for resident led groups to run (as has happened at Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope) in a bid to save as much money as possible, it now seems that the money is there for them to be maintained to a reasonable standard. The answer to that is that it’s about surface appearances. What residents and visitors to the area see are the pavements, verges and parks and that goes a fair way to forming their impression of what Thurrock is like as a place to live and work. Hence the effort and money that’s being spent on what to all intents and purposes, is keeping up appearances.

Unless you have an ill or elderly resident in need of a care package from social services, what is provided in this sector is hidden from a large section of the public. These are services that most people don’t pay much attention to until they’re in the unfortunate situation where they have to turn to them. When they do turn to what are increasingly outsourced social services, all too often they’re found to be inadequate. As most of this suffering takes place in private away from the public eye, it’s one area where cuts can be made and corners cut because by and large, the council can get away with it.

In a political, economic and social climate where people are judged by the contribution they make to the bottom line through work, anyone who for whatever reason isn’t working, is seen as a burden on society. When those out of work are forced to turn to social services for support, they are demonised as ‘scroungers’. With these attitudes, it’s not hard to see that the axe will fall on services being provided to people that elite elements in our dysfunctional, dystopian society see as ‘undeserving’. So when you see the trimmed verges and cleaner parks across Thurrock, don’t be deceived by appearances because there is a lot of hidden suffering under the surface…

One part of the problem…

Referring to the previous two posts about the state of the ¾ estate in Vange and our highlighting the large number of buy to lets being rented out on short term tenancies as being a contributory factor, this piece from Your Thurrock encapsulates the problem in a nutshell: Thurrock homeowner fined for dumping rubbish at front of house

Granted, the story is about a property in Grays but it illustrates the attitudes of too many landlords to the neighbourhoods they operate in – basically, they don’t give a s**t! In a case like this where the landlord lives in London E17 miles away from the property concerned in Grays, it’s easy to not give a s**t as they don’t have to deal with pissed off locals. To scumbags like this, their portfolios of property are seen as a tidy income stream and nothing more than that. If that income can be maximised by cutting every corner they can get away with, they will do so. In the case of this particular landlord, he took the piss once too often and was hauled before the court.

Taking landlords like this to court is like trying to put a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. It’s a token gesture which may make a few landlords look at how they operate and decide to pull their socks up but it does nothing to address the underlying problems. Prosecuting cases like this is being seen to be doing something while conveniently ignoring the attitude that sees housing as an investment vehicle as opposed to the basic human right it should in a civilised society.

Whether it’s slum landlords like the one in this case or developers building block after block of apartments in formerly working class areas of London that end up as investment vehicles which remain empty as they’re ‘flipped’ on the market, the attitude that housing is an investment prevails. As long as that thinking remains unchallenged, we’ll keep on seeing slum landlords like this operate in our neighbourhoods while at the same time, more working class areas of the capital are demolished to make way for more sleek, sterile apartment blocks. To get housing seen as a basic human right is going to require fundamental political, economic and social change…it can’t come soon enough!

Eight weeks!

This story from the Echo pretty much sums up the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange: Rubbish left to fester for 8 weeks in bin shed as rats and maggots enjoy the mess The rubbish has now been cleared but the fact it was left for eight weeks speaks volumes about the attitude of Basildon Council and Circle Anglia Housing (they ‘manage’ the social housing on the estate) to the residents of the ¾ estate. Basically, they don’t give a s**t!

Regarding the accumulation of rubbish that was left for eight weeks, this statement from Basildon Council is telling: “The bin shed is owned and operated by Circle Anglia Housing and it is for the managing agents of the properties to allow the council access to empty the bins. This includes the removal of dumped large items”. As ever, the problem is being batted back and forth between a council that doesn’t give a s**t and a housing association that’s not noted for its transparency and listening to their residents when they express concerns. If either of these two actually cared about the residents, they would have been on the case after the first report of a missed collection to work together to resolve the issue rather than pointing fingers at each other like two naughty kids in class trying to avoid being blamed by the teacher for misbehaviour!

So as well as working with residents to organise a community clean up, it looks as though our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) will need to be getting on the cases of both Basildon Council and Circle Anglia Housing to get them to pull their socks up. There is some good news however – residents have set up the Vange Hill Community Group – in a bid to turn round the fortunes of the estate by lobbying the council, Circle Housing and re-building community spirit and morale. If you live on the ¾ estate and care about its future, join this group and help them to improve life in the area…