The highest stakes with our money!

SKIPP press release (15-01-18)

Has Southend Council got a gambling addiction? After years of gambling with millions of tax payers money on the proposed seafront museum, they are staying in for yet another hand with a high stakes bet of £1.3 million on new architects for the proposed carbuncle; which has no backers from wherever they have looked for them. Now this! £750,000 for the Queensway proposal where again there is no assurance that any more money will be forthcoming from whatever sources. Trouble is they are gambling with OUR money.

And who wants to get rid of the Porters Grange roundabout anyway? Tony Cox says he has listened to complaints about it but these involve the underpass and the lack of safe pedestrian crossing. No one wants another fouled up junction like Victoria Gateway!

Well maybe John Lamb and the council do. It has also been noted that traffic to the east will no longer be going through Queensway putting unacceptable and unnecessary pressure on Priory Crescent. Is this another attempt to dual Priory Crescent? This was and always will be a rejected idea of astronomical cost because another railway bridge would be compulsory. If Victoria Gateway worked properly these foolish ideas would not arise.

From Saxon King In Priory Park


Newham council we are watching you

Our friends from Focus E15 getting 2018 off to a flying start by challenging Newham Council on their turf over their appalling record on housing and social cleansing from the borough… Looking forward to getting out on the streets with Focus E15 during 2018:)

Focus E15 Campaign

Focus E15 campaigners started the new year as we mean to go on, as thorns in the side of Newham Labour Council. This is because Newham council continue to prevaricate about dangerous cladding, keeps hundreds of homes empty on the Carpenters Estate and continues to move people out of the borough and out of London, with no regard for the health and well being of adults or children.

On Thursday 11 January, Mayoral Proceedings were held at East Ham Town Hall. Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, due to contest his seat in May this year, opened by saying what a fair place Newham borough is, giving an example that all children, rich and poor, receive free school meals. He didn’t mention that 1 in 25 people in Newham are classified as homeless and many poor, vulnerable and immigrant families are being sent out of Newham and out of London for housing – which is not fair…

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What’s the difference?

On the left is a spread from the Basildon Council free rag, the Borough Diary, showing what their Pride team has managed to achieve during last year. On the right are a couple of images shot on the community clean up facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) on the ¾ estate in Vange back in December.

We’re not knocking the Pride team because when they go on to the estates to tidy things up, they do a pretty good job. However, the team only has limited resources and we’ve heard anecdotal evidence from people in the know that they’re stretched to the limit and can only do so much. That means that however hard the Pride team work, there any many areas in Basildon that will remain untouched by their hands for some time to come.

BASHA are a community based action group. A key part of their remit is empowering and facilitating groups on the estates to start taking an active role in making their neighbourhoods better places to live. Which is why on December 2nd, they found themselves alongside members of the Vange Hill Community Group facilitating some tidying up and gardening on parts of the estate: Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vange

BASHA are not in competition with the Pride team from Basildon Council and in no way want to deprive any of them of a job. All BASHA want to do is work in partnership with the Pride team to help residents who want to improve conditions on their estates. As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, attempts to deal with the hierarchy at Basildon Council when it comes to building an effective working partnership have generally been re-buffed. This is in total contrast to the council teams on the ground who genuinely appreciate what BASHA does and have always helped them out on clean ups by taking rubbish and cuttings away.

Tenant and resident led initiatives on the estates aimed at improving conditions on the estates through activities such as clean ups should be getting the full support of the council instead of having obstacles constantly thrown in their way. Resident involvement in running and maintaining their estates should be hard wired into the council’s thinking and planning. The problem is that there are elements in the hierarchy of Basildon Council who cannot even begin to contemplate letting go of their control…

So, once again, BASHA would like to offer the powers that be at Basildon Council the opportunity to have a rethink, relinquish a bit of control and let tenants and residents at the grassroots get involved in making their neighbourhoods better places to live. It’s a new year – let’s have a new start from the council and some positive thinking for a change!

Vulnerable to disruption…

We’ve written a few pieces about the situation at the Amazon distribution facility at Tilbury where atrocious working conditions were exposed by an undercover reporter from the Mirror back in the autumn. Here they are:
Are Amazon digging a hole for themselves at Tilbury?
Amazon workers are fighting back
Dark, Satanic warehouses…

The southern part of Essex is a major logistics hub with facilities clustered around West Thurrock, Tilbury, London Gateway and along the northern fringes of Basildon by the A127. Although we’ve focused on Amazon so far, it has to be acknowledged that there are worse employers in the region. Bearing all of this in mind, it was with great interest that we read this piece from The Conversation: Modern capitalism has opened a major new front for strike action – logistics

At the moment, given the weakness of the mainstream union movement, the immediate prospect of disruptive strike action in the logistics sector is not likely. As we’ve written before, employers in the logistics industry have relied on the fact that there are always people desperate enough for a job to replace those who quit because they won’t put up with the conditions or are sacked because they can’t keep up with the relentless pressure.

As the piece from The Conversation points out, many of these logistics facilities are seeing concentrations of large numbers of workers. Concentrations that business leaders have sought to avoid because of the risks of disruption by militant unions. It would seem that in the current climate, major employers in logistics and distribution are taking a punt on the workers in these places not being unionised and therefore not in a position to put on the pressure in a bid to improve pay and conditions. The fact that many of these workers are agency workers employed on precarious short term or zero hours contracts also provides a disincentive against any militant action.

However, with the expose about working conditions at Amazon’s Tilbury facility towards the end of last year, the truth about working conditions can no longer be swept under the carpet by employers. A few more exposes about working conditions and the tide could start to turn. The pages of this blog are always open to any workers who want to anonymously report on the shite treatment they’re getting.

While the mainstream unions may, for whatever reason, be reluctant to force confrontations with employers and agencies in the logistics and distribution sector, the smaller, nimbler so called ‘fringe’ unions are waiting in the wings: Unions take note…this is how you take action! There is only so much people are willing to take before something snaps and they realise they have no option but to take on those who are ruthlessly exploiting them. There’s everything to play for…

Another quango making decisions about our lives

Yet another quango has come into existence to make decisions about economic and housing growth along the Thames estuary: Thames Estuary Growth set to be discussed by Thurrock Council Don’t be taken in by the headline – sure, Thurrock Council will be discussing the priorities of the Thames Estuary 2010 Growth Commission but any conclusions they come to will be advisory at the best.

This appears to be a re-heated version of the Thames Gateway initiative which was being discussed ten or more years ago. The Thames Gateway initiative made a token nod to public consultation but most of the decisions were made behind closed doors before it disappeared into the ether. We strongly suspect that it will be the same with the Thames Estuary 2010 Growth Commission – a token nod to asking us plebs what we think with the big decisions being made well away from any scrutiny or public accountability.

The ‘consultations’ about the Lower Thames Crossing have been a joke in that all we’ve been asked to comment upon are variants of the proposal – there is no possibility that the need for the crossing will ever be allowed to be questioned and challenged. Whatever the Thames Estuary 2010 Growth Commission lay out in front of us mere mortals will most likely be a series of proposals with slight variations between them which we’ll be asked to comment upon.

Look at where we are now with the only employment growth coming from massive distribution facilities such as Amazon at Tilbury with shite employment practices, ever increasing traffic and pollution levels, housing being stuffed into every available corner with the infrastructure needed to support it lagging way behind… If people had been asked if this was what they wanted for the future development of the region, the answer most likely would have been a resounding no!

We suspect that what we will be getting is more new roads carving up what little green space is left, more housing to absorb the overflow from London as the project of social cleansing from the capital intensifies and more precarious ’employment opportunities’ in logistics and distribution that operate 24/7. In other words, we get what suits big business rather than a more sustainable and liveable future that most people in the region, if they had the chance to really think things through, would much prefer.

Yet again, we have a planning initiative where major developments that suit the interests of big business are imposed upon a population that has no say in the matter whatsoever. Seriously, what else can we expect from a political and economic system in thrall to the doctrine of neo-liberalism? We’re not going to get bottom up participation in shaping planning decisions for the benefit of the people who live here until there’s a serious challenge to a political and economic system that regards us plebs as little more than interchangeable and ultimately, disposable work units.

Another report from the NHS frontline…

This is from the Save Southend NHS Facebook page – We make no apology for posting up these reports as the message that the NHS is being run into the ground and as a result, patients lives are at risk needs to be got across ahead of the march and rally on Saturday 27th January.

With great sadness, #SaveSouthend bring to you yet another in a long line of devastating reports from the coalface of emergency care. The following is written by a local frontline nurse and one with a considerable amount of skill, knowledge and experience. Is this REALLY what modern healthcare should look like in a first world country? #NHSCrisis #Southend #STP

“I leave shifts feeling at once decimated by the fact I can’t deliver the standard of care I feel I could and should to my patients because you are constantly running from case to case to keep on top of the workload – but at the same time elated by the standard of care we DO deliver under impossible burdens… AND we have newly qualified nursing staff that are working alongside the more experienced staff – their hearts and souls go into their care and they will all make excellent emergency nurses – assuming they don’t burn out first.

Then there are the doctors who work with us – ranging from some very junior to very experienced individuals who generally feel the same way – frustrated we can’t keep on top of the workload as we get exit block from the department.

We feel guilty that patients have to wait in the department for so long, we feel guilty that the ambulance crews can’t unload and head off to the next job – whose relative is left laying on the floor after a fall for hours because the crews can’t unload? Who is deteriorating and will then come to us sicker because of a delay in care?

And the support staff that help us juggle patients and keep the department afloat – porters, domestics, reception and clerical – we couldn’t do half of what we do without them. Your A&E has an amazing team that struggles daily to deliver high quality care – yet no other healthcare system in the world is trying to deliver the quality and quantity the NHS does on the level of funding it does…

The UK has 2.7 hospital beds per 1000 people – compared to 4.5 average in the rest of the EU. We have 2.8 doctors per 1000 people – EU average is 3.8. We have 8.2 nurses per 1000, EU average 9.4. The UK spends on average E3000 per person on healthcare – the EU average is E3304, though Germany, the Netherlands, France and Sweden all spend over E4000

If the Danes, Swedes, French and Germans can spend more on health care without apparently bankrupting the rest of their economy, why can’t we?”.

The team at #SaveSouthendNHS once again want thank and praise all of our NHS staff for the amazing care they deliver despite these most trying times. March with us on Saturday 27th January 2018 12pm assembly at Pier Hill for #OurNHS – the Government sanctioned Mid and South Essex STP are set to slash £30 million annually from Southend’s budget. Our voices MUST be heard. The NHS belongs to the people. Southend on sea requires a GENERAL HOSPITAL able to fully meet the needs of the local population.


It’s rail fare increase day: Rail fare increase: Are Thurrock commuters being “priced out of getting to work?” It’s the first day back at work for a fair number of people after the festive break and they’re being greeted by the biggest rail fare increase in five years…

One of the big drivers of the population increase across the south of Essex is people being priced out of London because they can’t afford to rent or buy a home. So they have to pile onto an already overstretched rail network to commute to their jobs in the capital. Whatever they may have saved in housing costs by moving out of London is steadily being eroded away by above inflation increases in rail fares. Bear in mind that this is happening at a time when pay levels for an increasing number of people are stagnating or declining. Disposable income to spend on the things that make life worth living is disappearing as more money has to go towards paying for the essentials in life.

This is down to a myopic ‘user must pay’ mindset that both the Tories and their Labour predecessors have adopted as they seek to reduce the taxpayer subsidy to the rail network year after year. Those of us who don’t drive pay for the road network through our taxes because it’s considered to be a vital part of the infrastructure. Rail is also a vital part of the infrastructure yet somehow, a different set of rules seems to apply in that the user is expected to bear an increasing burden of the cost of rail travel and the investment in upgrading and expanding the network.

It’s all very well for motorists who’ve never set foot on a train in their lives to moan about their taxes paying to subsidise rail users. Somehow we suspect that if just for one day, every rail user who had access to a car decided to travel to and from work by road for just one day, the resulting gridlock would make the motorists reconsider their views on rail users and the subsidy they get! If there’s a desire to reduce traffic congestion and levels of air pollution by encouraging more people to switch to public transport, where’s the logic in penalising them with massive above inflation fare increases?

The ‘user must pay’ mindset is a reflection of how neo-liberal values have permeated society as the idea of collective responsibility for each other is relentlessly attacked and is replaced by a ‘me first and ***k everyone else’ attitude. Public transport is an integral part of the infrastructure of a civilised society and should be regarded as an asset to be held in common for the benefit of everyone. That is only going to come about once we start to challenge and push back the dog eat dog mentality that’s a feature of an increasingly atomised, individualised and dysfunctional society…