On May 3rd, the local authority elections took place. You may had noticed the flyers coming through your door. You may had been doorstepped by enthusiastic candidates promising to do all they can for you while forgetting the constraints councillors operate under. If your local councillor was up for re-election, you may had noticed them being more solicitous and efficient than normal. On this basis, you may well have gone out and voted.
Here are some hard truths. The role of local authorities in an age of seemingly permanent austerity is to implement the government’s agenda by making painful decisions about which services to cut or scrap. No matter how enthusiastic and committed your local councillor is, even if they belong to the party that’s in power on the council, they’re obliged to deliver the government’s austerity agenda. There’s no getting away from it – your local councillor is the one who has a role in deciding where the axe is going to fall.
If you recognise the constraints your local councillor operates under but still voted, that’s fine. As anarchists, we’re supposed to hold a strict line on voting not changing anything. Voting under the system we have will never deliver the radical change we desire. However, we recognise there are merits in voting for the least worst option or for a councillor who is acutely aware of the constraints they operate under but who will still pull out the stops for you.
Whether you voted or not, bear in mind that real change will only come from grassroots community action by residents committed to making a difference in their neighbourhoods. In the case of the ¾ estate in Vange, that change has come from work by the Vange Hill Community Group facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action. This has involved community clean ups, guerilla gardening and constant lobbying of the council officers involved in providing the services the estate relies upon. The two ward councillors have proved themselves to be less than effective and they’re simply bypassed.
In the case of Brooke House Residents (Brooke House is the iconic block in the middle of Basildon town centre) they do have a ward councillor who is pro-active and fully in support of their efforts. He’ll do what he can to lobby for improvements in the block but is also acutely aware of the constraints he faces; one being the long term aim of the council using a policy of managed decline to force residents to seek alternative accommodation so the block can be flogged off to a developer.
Bringing about real, radical change doesn’t come from putting a voting slip in a ballot box every now and again. It comes from residents recognising that it’s only through their collective efforts that things will start to change and then getting together to start to bring that about. We at South Essex Working Class Action are here to help facilitate the work of any residents who want to bring about change at the grassroots in their neighbourhoods.