Cleaning up the Pattocks

Pattocks is a sheltered housing complex run by Basildon Council. By definition it houses elderly, vulnerable, people many with mobility problems. One would have thought that anyone with a responsibility for the pathways would prioritise maintaining those around sheltered housing. The paths around Pattocks are broken, cracked, and overgrown, with weeds coming up in abundance. There is also rubbish dumped around the site and broken walls. The paths are not fit for purpose – they are clearly a health hazard.

Thumbs up to the estate manager who was not content to keep reporting broken paths and dumped rubbish around a sheltered housing complex with no result. She got in touch with the local councillor and a clear up was organised. Basildon & Southend Housing Action were there to lend a hand and share experiences of how to get things done. A few local people came out, either from the complex who expressed their gratitude or who came along to help. The “Pride Team” from Basildon Council were there to do the heavy stuff and take away the rubbish that had been collected. The result was a great improvement but needs to be kept up. There was cake and tea as a reward!

Yet again, it’s down to volunteers to undertake basic cleaning and maintenance on an estate in Basildon. If volunteers from the community are having to put in more of their time and effort to bring their estates up to an acceptable level, it has to be said that it’s not an unreasonable demand for those at the grassroots to have a real, meaningful say in how their neighbourhoods are run…

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Don’t let them suck you in!

Local councils hate gobby, pushy pressure groups. This is because local councils hate being held to account for their failings and having the truth about how they operate being told to all and sundry. The same applies to pretty much most housing associations who have forgotten their roots and have morphed into vast, unaccountable corporate entities.

Local councillors and housing associations will come up with any convenient excuse they can to avoid having to deal with a grassroots, community based pressure group. This is simply because they will not deal with any group they can’t exercise a degree of control over. This leaves your gobby, pushy pressure group with a dilemma. Do they continue to operate in a way that maintains their independence giving councils and housing associations an excuse to continue to ignore them or do they go down the route of forming a properly constituted residents association that will get a degree of recognition from the authorities?

A word of warning… As soon as you have started to move your gobby, pushy pressure group towards a properly constituted residents association, you’re being sucked into their system. Why else would a local authority freely publish a template constitution for a residents association if they didn’t think they are the kind of groups they can co-opt? Take a look at this example and see what you think – www.highland.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/3145/sample_constitution.pdf Think of the amount of time that will have have be spent on discussing procedural points in a formally constituted residents association instead of what could be done to challenge the authorities by a more nimble, flexible and responsive pressure group.

When your ward councillor suggests that forming a residents association is the only way that the authorities will listen to and work with you, alarm bells need to start ringing very loudly. When a councillor suggests such a format, what they’re trying to do is nudge you towards forming something they can put constraints upon and exercise a degree of influence over. What they’re also trying to do is get you to work with a system of local governance that exists to deliver the government’s austerity agenda. Not only that, they’re trying to get you to work with a system that we all know from bitter experience is dysfunctional and broken. Read the latest print edition of the Stirrer to see what we mean – https://www.dropbox.com/s/x5ixljqiomcwkx5/STIRRER_No_2.pdf?dl=0

Obviously, even a gobby, pushy pressure group has to have some kind of structure in place to ensure that decision making is based on consensus and that it’s not dominated by a small cabal of activists. The point is, there are many ways of achieving this that fall outside the template of a residents association that’s favoured by the authorities. Seeds for Change has a lot of useful information on setting up and running grassroots groups that can offer them the autonomy they need to offer the alternatives / resistance to the shite that comes from local councils and housing associations – https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/

So, if you’re a gobby, pushy grassroots group that’s finding itself getting nudged by your local councillors into forming a formally constituted residents association, resist that pressure. If your group is about empowering your local community to start running its own affairs, why would you want to be sucked into to working with a system of local governance that’s dysfunctional and broken and whose agenda is about control rather than serving the people?

Stirrer No.2 back from the printer

The second print edition of the Stirrer has come back from the printer – distribution will be starting soon. As we can only afford a limited print run, we’ve made this paper available as a downloadable PDF: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x5ixljqiomcwkx5/STIRRER_No_2.pdf?dl=0

As ever, any help with distribution will be appreciated. As the content of the paper is fairly generic and unlikely to date unless there are some seismic political and social shifts coming that we haven’t picked up on, distribution will be spread out over the couple of months or so. We will be keeping back a bundle for distribution at the London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place on Saturday October 28th.

As per usual, if any of you want to take a bundle of papers to hand out to friends, neighbours, family or colleagues, get in touch and we’ll sort out a way of getting them to you. Also if you run or frequent a venue where you think the patrons would like to read the Stirrer, let us know where it is and we’ll bring a bundle along. As well as the above, we’re also planning some door-to-door distribution in selected areas and at some point, we’ll be handing them out on a high street – we’re just not sure which one yet!

As well as this edition of the Stirrer, we’ve also produced a special edition just for the London Anarchist Bookfair. However, as this is embargoed until the day of the bookfair, there’s no downloadable PDF available until after the event. Trust us, there are sound political reasons for this embargo which we’ll be more than happy to share with you at the bookfair…

Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)

A short while back, we posted up this piece on the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange, which is on the southern fringes of Basildon: The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/ As well as hassling ward councillors, council officers, county council officers and various housing associations, as you can see from the above image, part of that fightback is residents getting out and cleaning up the estate themselves. The above was done by the Vange Hill Community Group and was facilitated by help from our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action.

It’s only a small section of the estate but…it sets an example to residents in other areas that a little bit of unilateral people power action will get a result when it comes to cleaning the place up. In the absence of any signs of Basildon Council / Essex County Council getting off of their arses to pay the ¾ estate a visit and do the job they’re paid to do in maintaining it, the only way things are going to get done is by the residents getting out and doing it for themselves. Hopefully, these kind of actions are the first steps towards residents taking control of their estates and bringing power right down to the grassroots…

Stirrer No.2 has gone to the printer

The second print edition of the Stirrer has been sent to our friends at Oxford GreenPrint for printing and will be getting distributed from the end of this month onwards. Given that we can only afford a very limited print run, we’ve made it available as a downloadable PDF from here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x5ixljqiomcwkx5/STIRRER_No_2.pdf?dl=0

We’ve also produced a special edition of the Stirrer for distribution at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday October 28th. As this paper tells a few home truths, it’s embargoed until the bookfair so sorry, no PDF for this one!

Evading responsibility

We had an e-mail from one of the activists in the Vange Hill Community Group the other day which shows the frustrations they’re experiencing in holding the authorities to account for the conditions on the ¾ estate. Basically, it’s buck passing with no one willing to stand up and say ‘this issue is my responsibility and I’ll see that it gets sorted’.

This extract concerning the requested removal of a dumped armchair on Gambleside and dumped wood on Vange Hill Drive illustrates the way various sections of Basildon Council try to bounce responsibility for clearing up items off each other rather than getting the job done: Today spoke to men sent to clear armchair dumped between 12-14 Gambleside and they were only going to pick up chair. I said that I was fed up as I always put out various other rubbish so they should collect everything there. Apparently told by James Hendry not their job as that is dustmen’s job (Ha Ha) as we all know they do not collect it. Street sweeper has said same, told not to collect things as not his job. Basically told that it is enforcement’s job and to leave.

This e-mail was also copied to the local ward councillor, Melissa McGeorge, who by now should be in no doubt as to the frustrations felt by residents who cannot get a straight answer from the council for love nor money: I think Melissa it is about time the heads of these sections stopped acting like children guarding their marbles and get on and sort out how to do their jobs properly. This is not acceptable at all, they are paid to provide a service and they are not…Lets be clear here, the council is failing in its duty here and is also being obstructive in providing information allowing our group to keep these sections on its toes regarding health and safety [for residents] and the environment, all areas I personally have experience in. I am dismayed that the council are so indifferent to peoples need to live in a clean and safe area.

There’s one interesting nugget of information that has come to light courtesy of a helpful unnamed source at Essex County Council (ECC) – all roads, parking areas, paths and steps on the ¾ estate are their responsibility. On paper that is… Take a walk round the estate and it’s pretty clear these only get looked at once in a blue moon! So ECC, cheers for admitting these areas are your responsibility – the residents of the ¾ estate are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your operatives to sort out the potholed roads, broken kerbs, uneven paths and wonky steps… Knowledge is power and this map gives the residents a fair bit of that as they now know who to badger in order to get a problem fixed. Here’s the map…

Regardless of whether it’s Basildon Council, Essex County Council, Circle Housing or Swan Housing, the frustrating experiences of the Vange Hill Community Group (and in previous years, Basildon & Southend Housing Action) in trying to get straight answers from them and do the job they’re paid to do proves one thing beyond doubt – they’re dysfunctional. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that none of them are fit for purpose as they continue to treat the resident of the ¾ estate in Vange with contempt.

At the moment the Vange Hill Community Group facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action are trying to hold the line by holding the authorities to account. At some point in the not too distant future, looking at ways of taking responsibility for the estate away from the authorities and giving it to the residents has to be on the agenda. Bitter experience has shown that the authorities have failed the people and that the point is coming where the people will have to take over…

The state of the estates


Broken pavements with weeds sprouting up everywhere and the possibility of new life forms evolving in the stagnant puddle of water by the drains


It’s not clear whether this is a result of Basildon Council’s Kafkaesque rubbish collection policy or one of the residents behaving like a scumbag but leaving trash bags in an area where kids play is bang out of order

The other evening, along with a comrade from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we distributed our housing flyers across the estate on the south side of Wickford Avenue in Pitsea. As you can see from the above images, the place has seen better days. While it’s not as bad as the ¾ estate in Vange (yet), it’s clear that it has seen better days.

Across the estate, it was a story of broken kerbs, cracked and uneven paved areas complete with a range of weeds sprouting from the cracks and a lot of unkempt gardens. The neglect of the public areas on estates seems to be pretty much endemic across Laindon, Basildon and Pitsea. The only times we’ve seen public areas kept clean has been down to direct intervention by pissed off residents taking matters into their own hands and doing the job themselves.

As for the neglected gardens, more often than not the cause is down to the growing number of buy to lets on the estates, too many of which appear to be owned by scumbag landlords who’ll cram as many tenants into a property as possible to maximise their revenue. A lot of these are on short term leases so with the churn of tenants, community cohesion is going to start taking a hit.

In addition there are the properties owned by London based housing associations where they dump tenants who have been booted out of the capital as a result of social cleansing in the name of so called ‘regeneration’. This is something we’ve already written about here: Newham Council…it’s just got personal…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/newham-council-its-just-got-personal/

Longstanding residents understandably get concerned when they see the estate they’ve lived on for a few decades start to rapidly decline. It’s these concerns that get picked up by the knuckledraggers on the right and far right to be exploited for their own divisive, hateful purposes. Which is why we’ve produced the housing flyer shown above to a) make sure people’s anger gets directed at the right targets and b) to offer BASHA’s assistance to any residents willing to group together and start to turn their estates around.

Thankfully, we’re not alone in this task… The recently formed Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ are doing some sterling work in starting to turn the ¾ estate around and we’ll do what we can to facilitate that. Then there’s Focus E15 who are putting Newham Council – one of the worst offenders in turfing their tenants out of London – under intense pressure. We’re always happy to stand in solidarity with Focus E15 as their fight is our fight…

Marching from tower to tower

Photo by Peter Marshall

On Saturday 12th August, as part of our ongoing strategy of linking up with grassroots housing activists, I attended the March of the towers: Resistance in the East End! protest organised by Focus E15https://www.facebook.com/focuse15/ – and supported by a healthy range of groups and individuals. The march started at Ferrier Point in Canning Town, went on from there to Tanner Point in Plaistow and finished up at the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Both Ferrier Point and Tanner Point have cladding similar to that used at Grenfell Tower – understandably, residents of both blocks are fearful about what could happen and frustrated at being messed around by Newham Council. The Carpenters Estate is being depopulated by the same council in a cynical bid to offload it and trouser a huge wedge from a developer.

It wasn’t the biggest march (in terms of numbers) I’ve been on this year but certainly the most passionate and for it’s size, pretty damn loud as well. It was visually impressive with the banners and the smoke flares, particularly as we were coming into Stratford. Loads of flyers were handed out to the people we passed by to let them know what was going on and why we were marching. This should be standard practice on marches but sadly it ain’t – credit to Focus E15 for doing this and spreading the message.

It was great to be not marching alongside the usual suspects but with feisty working class people for a change. It was also good to see Movement For Justice – https://www.facebook.com/movementforjustice/ – and East End Sisters Uncut – https://www.facebook.com/eastendsistersuncut/ – amongst others coming along to support the march. This shows that a diverse range of groups can effectively work together as and when the need arises. This fits in with our support for making alliances as and when the need arises without getting hung up about ideological purity.

Also, there were no cops intervening at any point…brilliant! ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ actually had some serious meaning yesterday…

All in all, it was a good day where alliances were formed and strengthened and morale raised. We’re more than happy to continue to continue to offer our solidarity to Focus E15 and the other groups who stand alongside them…

Dave (the editor)

An explanation…

We’d like to apologise for the dearth of posts on this blog since the start of the month. This is down to us being busy, writing, laying out, reviewing and then scrapping and starting all over again the process of producing the next Stirrer paper. It’s not been an easy process in any way, shape or form!

Part of that is down to the fact that there’s so much we could write about, we honestly don’t know where to start! Another factor is that with the next edition of the Stirrer paper which is due to hit the streets in early September, we were writing it with the London Anarchist Bookfair (Saturday 28th October) in mind where we have a stall. That meant writing a paper for two different target audiences.

One of those audiences has had enough of the way things are going and wants some inspiration on how they can start to change things on their estate, in their neighbourhood or in their workplace. The other audience are the people who attend the London Anarchist Bookfair, some of who understand where we’re coming from and support what we’re trying to do at the grassroots and some who to be perfectly honest, we’re starting to have some real problems with…

As you can imagine, producing a paper to satisfy both of those audiences is nigh on impossible! So, we’re going to re-write the Stirrer paper so it’s pitched at our local audience but we will be getting extra copies printed for the bookfair so attendees can get an idea of what we think a grassroots paper should look like – this will be our usual four page format As well as that, we’re going to produce a two page newsletter aimed specifically at the bookfair audience explaining where we’re coming from politically and outlining some of our frustrations with the anarchist movement.

The two pager aimed at the London Anarchist Bookfair audience will be us living up to our name of the ‘Stirrer’. It may not win us a lot of friends and may even make us a few enemies but hey ho, sometimes you have to stick your head above the parapet, tell a few home truths and take the risk. Unlike the normal edition of the Stirrer, this paper will not being going up online as a PDF until after 28th October so if you want to see what we have to say, feel free to visit our stall at the bookfair.

EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose)

We’re entering a period of instability – all that’s solid seems to be melting into air. With an indecisive election and Brexit negotiations descending to the level of farce, our so called rulers look weaker and more divided than ever before. The faction ridden ruling elite of this country have embarked on the first stages of Brexit negotiations with no clear idea of what they want or how they’re going to get it. A fractured so called party of government seems to be more fixated on who’s going to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister and leader rather than getting it’s head around understanding exactly what Brexit entails.

A breakdown of trust

At local council level, councillors and council officers all too often are found to be self serving and incompetent. The Grenfell Tower disaster showed up the so called ruling elite at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea as arrogant, out of touch and uncaring – it was ordinary people on the ground who took over the initial relief and recovery effort while the authorities floundered around.

Across the south of Essex, we struggle to find anyone who has a good word to say about their local authorities. Southend Council are obsessed with pointless vanity projects such as the museum on the cliff top instead of addressing the homelessness crisis in the town. Basildon Council can’t even organise a weekly rubbish collection on estates such as the ¾ in Vange without leaving bags of uncollected rubbish strewn all over the place. Thurrock Council are in full control freak mode attempting to dictate which media outlets can and can’t report on their proceedings and refusing members of campaign groups the right to ask questions at council meetings. People are losing what little faith they had in local councils to do the job of serving the public…

Whether, it’s at national or local level, trust in governance is declining, yet nothing appears to be happening to bring about real change. Much of the left has been subsumed into the bizarre cult of Jeremy Corbyn, buying into the deluded notion that should he manage to form a government, everything will be all right. The Corbynistas need to take a look at the dismal record of London Labour councils when it comes to socially cleansing the working class from London in the name of ‘regeneration’ – maybe that would give them the reality check they need. Everyone else appears to be just hunkering down and getting on with things as best they can…

There has to be a challenge

While the powers that be are divided and appear to be blundering from one crisis to another without a clue as to where they’re going or what they’re doing, they’ll continue to get away with it until there’s a serious challenge from below. At the moment there appears to be no sense of an opposition that can pose a real threat to the status quo, let alone a desire to move beyond the dysfunctional world we have to endure and build a more just, equitable and sustainable one. While this state of affairs continues, the ruling class can stagger from one crisis to the next safe in the knowledge that in the form of the state, they have the monopoly on the force that’s needed to keep their grip on power, regardless of how tenuous that may seem to be.

While the majority of people are under the illusion that things will be all right and thinks that the third of society that’s suffering needs to get its act together, there will never be a serious challenge to the system. Should things go seriously wrong as a result of another financial crisis or the Brexit process leading to a black swan event, then a large proportion of the population will be screwed. If there’s no significant radical movement in place by that point, we’re in serious trouble.

With the ruling class as divided as it is now, we have the best opportunity there’s been for a long while to build a movement that will bring about fundamental change through collective struggle. That movement can only be built from the grassroots upwards – waiting for the messiah in the form of Jeremy Corbyn will not bring about the change that’s needed. As the title of this piece says, there’s everything to gain if we can get our act together and build that movement. If we can’t, then as the bracketed subtitle suggests, there’s everything to lose…