Wasting millions again

SKIPP Press release (18-10-17)

So the cat’s out of the bag, Southend Council are to waste millions more of tax payer’s money in a vain attempt to rehash their long dead plan to devastate our sea front with a huge carbuncle that no one wants or will visit.

They have announced that they have employed yet another architect to design the dead donkey £80m plus cliff museum. Why the redesign? Well that’s simple, the planning permission for the original plan that cost our town millions in the first place, has now run out because no one in power or with money can be found to fund it despite all the council’s efforts

So here we go again, our social services are being cut, our roads are devolving into potholed farm tracks, our schools are crying out for money, but the Council has found millions to try an prop up their favourite vanity project. Well if we look at it from their point of view, it’s better to waste huge wads of cash rather than admit to the people they were wrong.

For 14 years our town’s greatest historic asset, the burial treasures of King Saebert has remained buried under council stupidity and arrogance, hidden away from the public and the millions of visitors that could already be coming to see them. For ten years the same stupidity has prevented them from even considering any other proposal, let alone SKIPP’s cost effective and highly popular proposal for a Saxon Great Hall Museum and educational experience on the brown field land in Priory Park just a few hundred feet from the burial site on Priory Crescent. This could have been earning the town serious money for all these years.

Let us hope that when the planning application comes up for consideration next year those councillors who sit on the Development and Control Committee have the guts to listen to the people and stand up to the Cabinet by refusing the planning permission and finally dropping the dead donkey.

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At the risk of endlessly repeating ourselves…

We’d like to draw the attention of the relevant Basildon Council officers and the ward councillors for the area covering the ¾ estate in Vange to this list of posts we’ve written about the issues on the estate and the frustrations the residents are experiencing in trying to resolve them:

Stop moving the sodding goalposts!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/stop-moving-the-sodding-goalposts/
Falling apart…an update:(https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/falling-apart-2/
Admit it…you need us!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/admit-it-you-need-us/
Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/doing-it-for-ourselves-because-no-one-else-will/
Evading responsibilityhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/evading-responsibility/
The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/

For a blog that has only been going since February and which covers an area stretching from Southend in the east to Dagenham in the west, this is a heck of a lot of posts about one estate! We shouldn’t have to be writing these posts. If Basildon Council officers, the local ward councillors, Essex County Council and both the Circle and Swan housing associations were doing their jobs properly, the ¾ estate wouldn’t be experiencing anything like the problems it has.

To all of the agencies and the ward councillors involved, we ask you to listen to the residents and don’t dismiss their concerns, fob them off with excuses, give them the runaround or treat them with contempt. Remember, you’re supposed to be the servants of the people, not their masters.

When things do eventually get done on the ¾ estate, all too often it’s been after persistent nagging and pressure that creates mistrust and bad blood between residents on the one hand and council officers, councillors and housing association staff on the other. It shouldn’t have to be like this. We know that both the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action would prefer a co-operative working relationship with Basildon Council, Essex County Council and the relevant ward councillors.

The offer is on the table… Forget about what’s gone on in the past, get round a table, talk the issues through face to face, show residents you’re serious about working in partnership with them and let’s make a new start with a clean slate. It shouldn’t be that hard should it?

Will the sorry saga of Orchard Village ever end?

This is the latest episode in the sorry saga of the botched, cheapskate Orchard Village development in South Hornchurch: ‘Planned maintenance’ means troubled Rainham estate will be without water again for six hours on Thursdayhttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/planned-maintenance-means-troubled-rainham-estate-will-be-without-water-again-for-six-hours-on-thursday-1-5240367

This is down to the estate’s water supply being pumped into an energy centre which also controls the estate’s power and heat – if this loses power, then everyone on the estate loses their drinking water. This particular energy centre is unreliable and keeps breaking down. Also, according to a study commissioned by Leeds University and Fuel Poverty Action, this is a seriously expensive heating system.

So, on top of all the other issues with Orchard Village: Building the slums of the futurehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/building-the-slums-of-the-future/ – we have a totally unreliable heating system which a) costs residents a fortune and b) leaves them without water when it’s being maintained. The distress caused to medically vulnerable residents without water and heating for hours on end doesn’t bear thinking about.

To add insult to injury, complaints from residents about power and water outages are met by Circle Housing, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Essex and Suffolk Water all claiming they’re not responsible. As the experiences of our friends at Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action have shown, Circle Housing have plenty of form when it comes to denying responsibility for a problem on one of their estates.

Seriously, you couldn’t make this up if you tried! The scary part is that with 3,500 new homes (mainly flats) proposed for the Romford Housing Zone in locations in or close to the town centre, if they’re built to the same crap standard as Orchard Village, we’re looking at a housing disaster. As we’ve stated many times before, the planning and provision of new housing has to be made fully accountable to local residents to a) ensure that what’s provided is genuinely affordable and b) it’s built to a high standard. However, as we have also stated before, it’s going to take a major political, social and economic change before this will be possible…

Independence for Canvey Island!

The Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) is pushing ahead with plans to break away from Castle Point Council. The CIIP holds 14 out of the island’s 17 seats on Castle Point Council yet feel the concerns and aspirations of the islanders are being ignored by the Tory controlled authority. See here for the full story in the Independent: Canvey Island pushes ahead with Catalonia-style bid for independencehttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/canvey-island-independence-bid-essex-thames-push-ahead-catalonia-a8002866.html

Not a moment too soon we say… Canvey Island has just one main road leading off the island – the A130 Canvey Way leading up to the Saddlers Farm junction on the A13. There’s also the B1014 that crosses East Haven Creek and winds its way up through suburban Benfleet to the A13 at Thundersley. That’s it, just two roads off an island that’s currently home to 38,000 people. An island that’s below sea level at high tide and is home to a petro-chemical storage facility. In the event of tidal flooding or/and an incident at the storage facility that would necessitate evacuation of the island, it’s these two roads that would have to carry all off the traffic. These roads would not cope and there would be chaos…

This post from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign: Continued Development Necessary, for Canvey Island to Thrive Economically and Socially, despite the Hazards!https://canveygb.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/continued-development-necessary-for-canvey-island-to-thrive-economically-and-socially-despite-the-hazards/ eloquently deals in detail with the risks briefly mentioned above and argues that Canvey Island cannot take any more development. Now were not NIMBYs and realise that people have to live somewhere. However, it should be common sense to realise that when it comes to housing, Canvey Island is full up.

Yet despite the reasoned, thoroughly researched and eloquent arguments from the Canvey Green Belt Campaign, Castle Point Council continue to press for more housing development on the island. Presumably the Tories have done the maths and feel pretty confident they’ll continue to hang onto power, therefore they can get away with dumping on Canvey Island while ensuring the leafy heights of Benfleet, Hadleigh and Thundersley continue to stay that way.

There’s an honourable history of Canvey Island people standing up to the big oil companies to stop them building refineries on the island as this piece from The Canvey Community Archive relates: The Oil Refinery fight on Canvey Island in the 1970shttp://www.canveyisland.org/page/the_oil_refinery_resistance_group Spoiler – the people of Canvey Island won their fight. As a bit of an aside, Wilko Johnson was on one of the demos and there’s footage of him doing this on the Julian Temple film, Oil City Confidential.

As anarchists, we support any initiative that’ll bring power closer to the grassroots and this one ticks enough boxes for us. Okay, it might not have the glamour of the Catalonian bid for independence (which is a matter of debate in anarchist circles) but as Canvey Island is on our doorstep, it would be rude of us to not offer our moral support to the CIIP.

Fours years on the street and the struggle goes on

A comprehensive update from our friends at Focus E15 on various activities and initiatives. Pay particular attention to the section about Newham Council and how they’ve run down the Carpenters Estate in Stratford so they can offload it to a developer and trouser the cash. Also good to see a few Focus E15 people at the Clapton FC game at the Old Spotted Dog – reinforcing the kind of links that need to be made to build a real movement for change…

Focus E15 Campaign

Saturday 7 October was a busy day for Focus E15 campaign as we celebrate four years of campaigning for social housing and against social cleansing. 

On our lively weekly stall on the Broadway in Stratford, Focus E15 campaign was joined by members of the Renters Power Project and the London Renters Union, along with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Then we had our monthly campaign meeting (first Saturday of the month, 2.30-4.30pm Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, E15 4DN). The meeting had updates on people working with the campaign and their current housing situation, including the racism of detention and threatened deportation, the isolation of families socially cleansed from Newham when they run into local difficulties, and the threats of people being separated from their children in desperate housing situations despite Section 17 of the Children’s Act regarding keeping children and parents together.

During the campaign meeting we…

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Another ‘church and king’ mob?

The second appearance of the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) on the streets of London on Saturday 7th October is causing a fair amount of head scratching on our end of the political spectrum as people are working towards an understanding of where they’re coming from. The FLA march, numbered in the tens of thousands, was called in response to recent terror attacks in Britain. It took place when there was a break in the Premier League and Championship fixtures to accommodate the qualifying matches for the next World Cup, although Leagues One and Two and all of non league football went ahead as normal on the day.

Unlike the EDL in 2010, the two FLA marches that have been called so far have been completely devoid of national flags – all that has been seen have been club crests and insignia and wreaths in memory of those killed by terror attacks in Britain. It would seem that the organisers in the FLA are doing what they can to avoid their movement being accused of having fascist tendencies by discouraging displays of flags or political insignia associated with the far right. It’s this seemingly disciplined appearance that has got some people on our side wondering if there’s something new emerging that may be worth engaging with.

Some historical perspective is needed here… Type the phrase ‘church and king mob’ into any search engine and you’ll come up with plenty of pieces about reactionary mobs essentially doing the work of the ruling class in maintaining the established order and quelling dissent. Here’s one example of their manifestation: Priestly Riotshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestley_Riots Here’s a lengthy examination of plebeian reaction which should inform our analysis of where the FLA are coming from: Popular Loyalism and Public Violence in the North-West of England, 1790-1800https://www.jstor.org/stable/4285276?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

These examples come in the period before industrialism and what’s considered to be the formation of the working class. While the Industrial Revolution did lead to class conflict and working class militancy, it never had the edge that would push it towards full blown revolution. This is because the British ruling class have always conceded just enough in the way of reforms to keep uprisings at bay. As the 19th century progressed into the 20th, it was the spoils of empire that would be used to pay for these reforms and concessions. Allied with some pretty effective propaganda, the ruling class have managed to keep the lid on any meaningful dissent that would threaten their interests. This piece in the Telegraph by the conservative writer Charles Moore acknowledges the contribution of these factors into creating the kind of working class Toryism that could well be informing the strategy of the FLA: A vast, loyal band of working-class Conservativeshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7983677/A-vast-loyal-band-of-working-class-Conservatives.html

The FLA could be seen as a twenty first century manifestation of the traditional ‘church and king’ mob. This is what veteran anarchist, Martin Lux argues here: FOOTBALL LADS ALLIANCE “MARCH AGAINST TERRORISM”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fArtDmZS2RQ This is what was said about the English Defence League when they first emerged: The EDL: a “Church and King Mob”https://liveraf.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/the-edl-a-church-and-king-mob/ There are certainly fascists circling around the FLA looking for recruits to their cause and this has to be monitored. However, it could be said that the more patriotic, reactionary elements within the ranks of the FLA might find fascism a bit too ‘continental’ for their tastes and may well prefer a more historical form of reaction.

The FLA may like to think they’re countering the nihilistic, random terror inflicted by ISIS / Daesh. It has to be pointed out there there are people putting their lives on the line to fight ISIS / Daesh: War on Isis: Western fighters joining Kurds to fight terror group in Iraq and Syriahttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/western-fighters-joining-the-kurds-to-fight-isis-in-iraq-and-syria-a7041136.html while the likes of the FLA are merely posturing on the streets of London.

It could well be said that the FLA are unwittingly acting as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class. While protesting against the likes of ISIS / Daesh, they were seemingly happy to march past near empty apartment blocks bought as ‘investment opportunities’ on Park Lane and in nearby Mayfair without batting an eyelid. Whether this is through ignorance or an unhealthy level of deference to the super rich is a matter for debate. The fact is that the FLA are acting as a diversion from the real forces that are screwing us over. A diversion that the establishment must be privately celebrating as yet again, they get let off the hook.

How do we deal with the FLA? We haven’t got all the answers yet but we would like to offer a few suggestions. Calling them fascists is counter-productive – as stated earlier, fascism’s a bit too ‘continental’ for people who prefer a more traditional form of expression for their patriotism and reaction. A degree of historical understanding of reactionary elements within the working class in Britain is needed to inform any strategy that needs to be devised to counter the FLA – some of the links listed above are a tentative start to this process. Exposing the reactionary elements in the FLA as the ‘useful idiots’ of the ruling class is essential but that can only be done if we can successfully articulate our vision of what working class solidarity should be.

To say that the project of articulating a vision of working class solidarity has been undermined by the rise of identity politics is an understatement! However, that is an ongoing debate which we have touched on in previous posts in On Uncertain Ground and one we intend to return to in the future. To conclude, this post has to be seen as our initial reaction to the rise of the FLA and as a work in progress that will hopefully be part of a constructive debate on how we deal with this latest manifestation on the streets.

We’ll be at the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 28th October

With our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we’ll be jointly running a stall at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair. The venue is Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR and the bookfair runs from 10am – 7pm.

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 the project of building a movement for change. Finally, we also hope to be able to meet up with our supporters at the bookfair to plan and plot for the future…

We’re attending the bookfair because we try as much as we can to operate on anarchist principles. However, we can’t really say with our hands on our hearts that we really feel we’re part of the broader anarchist movement. That is partially down to our geographical isolation out on the Essex shore of the Thames estuary which means we can operate in a more flexible way if it means we get results and can build useful alliances.

Also, when we have been out on the streets during the course of this year, apart from a few outings with our friends from Class War, we’ve been out and about with a range of groups who don’t really see themselves as anarchists. United Voices of the World: Unions take note…this is how you take action!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/unions-take-note-this-is-how-you-take-action/ and Focus E15: Marching from tower to towerhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/marching-from-tower-to-tower/ are two of the groups we’ve been out with.

Basically, it’s showing solidarity with people who really are at the sharp end of what a dysfunctional society has to throw at them but who’ve no intention of taking it and fight back instead. In these circumstances, as far as we’re concerned, solidarity is considerably more important than ideological purity…

To conclude, the whole point of an anarchist bookfair is to have a space for constructive debate so we can all move forwards. We feel that a point has been reached where some serious soul searching is needed as to how we can make anarchism relevant to working class people…