Keeping Havering Special?

The Tory administration at Havering Council being taken to task for their housing and planning policies. We’re pleased to see the Havering Special blog emerging on the scene – the more local blogs like this that spring up, the happier we’ll be:)

HAVERING SPECIAL

‘Keep Havering Special’ was the slogan that the local Conservatives used whilst campaigning here in Havering; they may claim it helped them pick up votes but in reality it was the Non-Voters Party who won.  The overall turnout was as low as ever – with a paltry 26.6% of eligible voters going to the polls in Gooshsays;  Upminster ward had the highest turnout, but even there the turnout was a not-very-impressive 45.47%. The reasons for this pitiful turnout may be discussed in a future post on this blog, but going back to the Tory slogan – what DOES it actually mean?

According to them, it means preserving the borough’s green spaces, avoiding over-development of (albeit much-needed) housing, and generally preventing the borough from looking like inner-city London – “letting Romford become a concrete jungle is something I will fight to stop!” as Romford MP Andrew Rosindell wrote in…

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#SaveSouthendNHS statement on STP consultation

The Mid and South Essex STP (Sustainability & Transformation Partnership a.k.a. Slash, Trash & Privatise) public consultation report was released this week. Below is the #SaveSouthendNHS campaign statement issued to the Echo by their secretary Mike Fieldhouse. Here’s the link to the full consultation report. The #SaveSouthendNHS will be meeting to plan the next steps of their fight to stop the destruction of our local NHS services.

“Anyone who attended either of the STP’s public consultation meetings in Southend would have to be completely deluded to claim, as this report does, that he public were “broadly backing the STP’s plans”. It is quite evident that the main purpose behind this proposed reorganisation is to cut costs and plug holes in services created by chronic underfunding, including a worsening staffing crisis in the NHS. Instead of tackling the root causes, these are desperate measures attempting to patch things up that will ultimately put patient safety at risk. Despite all the denials, much of the reorganisation indicates that increased privatisation of NHS services is not far off.

The STP have failed to achieve meaningful consultation with mid & south Essex’s population and even their claim of engaging 4,000 is questionable, as they have undoubtedly counted many people twice if not more. Even if their figure were to be believed, the fact that only 0.3% of the area’s 1.3 million population took part in this consultation suggests that the vast majority of people are unaware of their plans to completely overhaul our local NHS . Without the massive efforts of the Save Southend NHS campaign in raising public awareness of this issue, we expect that consultation responses would have been significantly lower than they were.

As Professor Mike Bewick, independent chair of the joint committee of the five clinical commissioning groups in mid and south Essex has been keen to point out – this is not a referendum and any changes to the STP’s plan following this consultation are likely to amount to nothing more than a little bit of tinkering around the edges.

This whole process has been a complete charade from start to finish. Anyone who filled in the STP’s questionnaire will know that it was constructed in such a way as to only allow for positive responses to their questions.

The people of #Southend have a great affection for their NHS and value it immensely. With their backing, Save Southend NHS will fight on to protect and preserve it. We hope that our local politicians who were so eager in the run up to elections earlier this month to tell us how much they cared for the NHS will remember their commitments and not allow these plans to be rubber stamped through our Council.”

Tesco Workers Strike at Dagenham Distribution Centre

This is a really thorough analysis from NOTES FROM BELOW about the strike at the Tesco distribution facility in Dagenham, the conditions workers have to endure and the potential for disruption if workers across the sector decide to get really militant.

By Achille Marotta

Warehouse operatives, drivers, and office workers at Tesco’s distribution centre in Dagenham were on strike for 24 hours from Thursday the 17th to Friday the 18th of May. The workers, organised in USDAW, are demanding a 15% pay increase against the company’s offer of 3%. Reps claim that the strike has had an effect on Tesco’s finances, as the warehouse is a central point in the distribution network of an enormous amount of necessary commodities. While the company could easily afford to give into the demanded £1.39 pay rise, it preferred to lose money re-organising its distribution network to prevent the Dagenham strike from becoming a beacon of struggle to its half a million employees. What is really at stake is the potential for a new movement in the modern centers of working class concentration.

For the rest of the article, see here.

Don’t believe the weasel words of the developers!

The letter to the Echo reproduced above concerns the ongoing re-development of the Laindon Centre – a shopping precinct that opened in 1969 and has been plagued by problems pretty much ever since. It’s instructive to read this piece from the Laindon & District Community ArchiveLaindon Shopping Centre – The Decline  – which not only discusses the decline of the centre but also offers a history of what the High Road was like before Basildon New Town was built. Spoiler alert – it was thriving! What is clear from this piece is that back in the late 1960s, the Laindon Centre was imposed upon the community with no consultation as part of the grand plan for the new town.

Well, when it comes to taking into consideration the views of the community, it would appear that Swan, the developers responsible for replacing the Laindon Centre, haven’t learned the lessons of history. When the re-development of the centre was finally given the go ahead, from what we can gather, residents were generally in favour of the scheme. That was with the implied proviso that during the course of the re-development, Swan would make every effort to keep as many shops as possible open. Shops that people in the community rely upon, particularly those who don’t drive. It would appear from the letter reproduced above that Swan have issued eviction notices to the shops which could be taken as breaching their commitment to keeping as many of them as possible open. Understandably, there are now concerns about the continuity of the Health Centre.

Even though there was a consultation about the re-development of the Laindon Centre and promises were made to make every effort to keep as many shops open as possible, at the end of the day, Swan appear to be ignoring the wishes of residents and their own promises! As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, the planning system we have isn’t fit for the purpose of providing residents with what they want and deserve – it exists to serve the needs of the developers and that’s it. A planning system that serves the needs of the developers and rides roughshod over the concerns and aspirations of residents is symptomatic of a system of local governance that is not fit for purpose. Both are top down systems imposed upon residents. Looking at the letter reproduced above, that’s something many residents instinctively understand. At some point, that instinctive understanding has to move towards a movement that will bring about a truly participatory system where decisions about the way our communities are run and how they will grow and develop into the future are made right at the grassroots.

In the meantime we would like to offer this piece of advice to any residents dealing with the ‘consultation’ processes that accompany major developments – don’t believe the weasel words of the developers!

A question for Thurrock Council: Are you serious?

In an age of permanent austerity when council spending is being squeezed as funding from central government goes down, Thurrock Council somehow seem to have found a magic money tree that they can spend on tarting up their offices in Grays. See the full story on Your Thurrock: Thurrock Council looking for architect for £7 million “overhaul” of civic offices.

Coming so soon after local elections that have effectively delivered a ‘no overall control’ scenario, we do wonder who made the decision to start looking for an architect. If this is a decision driven by senior officers at the council, where’s the democratic oversight for this decision? If a number of councillors are in on this decision, we and a lot of other people would like to know who they are so we could ask them a few pertinent questions about accountability to the people of Thurrock. People who judging by comments on social media think that the council have got their priorities wrong.

Social care is a service that’s under increasing pressure – we’re pretty certain those at the sharp end of providing those services could use that £7 million a lot more effectively. Then there’s the backlog of repairs on social housing, some of which involve the removal of mould that poses a serious health hazard to tenants. Potholes – when you’re on a bicycle or a motorbike, hitting one at speed could result in serious injury or death. Yet potholes never seem to get repaired. Flytipping is the curse of the borough. In particular, the massive pile of illegally dumped tyres at Blackshots that was set on fire a few times during last week forcing nearby residents indoors and having to shut their windows to avoid breathing in toxic fumes. The list of unresolved issues that have a negative impact on the lives of residents in Thurrock goes on but hey, the council would rather prioritise blowing £7 million on tarting up their offices that dealing with them!

At this point we would like to remind Thurrock Council – that’s councillors and officers alike – that they are supposed to be our servants, not our masters. We pay enough money in council tax and would like considerably more accountability than we’re getting at the moment. All this proves is that as we’ve said and written more times than we care to remember, the system of local governance we have is not fit for purpose.

Dagenham Tesco distribution staff to take strike action over pay

Usdaw press release

Workers in Tesco’s Dagenham distribution centre are to take 24 hour strike action commencing on Thursday 17 May 2018 and running into Friday, 18 May. The strike action is taking place as a result of a dispute over the 2017 Pay Review.

Usdaw hopes that the company will now bring forward a suitable offer so that industrial action can be averted to avoid disruption.

Dave McCrossen – Usdaw Divisional Officer says: “Usdaw has engaged positively with Tesco for over a year in an attempt to find a mutually acceptable settlement for the 2017 Pay Review. Unfortunately, the company have refused to improve upon their initial offer which was worth less than 3%.

“Industrial action is always a last resort and the decision to call a strike has not been taken lightly. Usdaw remains open to further discussions and hopes that the company can make an offer which is acceptable to the membership”

The formal strike ballot of 545 members was conducted by an independent scrutineer (Electoral Reform Services), which opened on Monday 26 March and closed at noon on Friday, 13 April. Turnout in the ballot was over 70% with 63% voting in favour of industrial action.

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

The con goes on and on

Some incisive commentary from SKIPP on the brain fart from Southend Borough Council we wrote about here: Southend Borough Council have lost the plot.

SKIPP press release (02-05-18)

And the con goes on and on, but just who are they really conning, the people or themselves? We are of course referring to Southend Council’s latest desperate attempt to convince everyone that they can find the money to build their seafront carbuncle masquerading as a museum.

They are now expect us to believe they can build their submarine carpark and use the revenue generated from the mooring fees to pay for the construction of their vanity project at a future date.

Excuse us, but we just need to take a minute at this point to stop laughing before we point out the obvious flaws in this ludicrous scheme.

For starters, where is the money coming from to build the car park? A fact which even they cannot deny is they don’t have any money to build the car park in the first place. They constantly tell us that the coffers are empty, that they can’t afford to repair the roads and all our services have to be cut and yet they think they can find tens of millions to build this underwater car park.

Furthermore, how long will it take to raise over £50m to build their giant edifice on top of the boat park? Given that the Seaway car park, which they are selling off for just £1 to developers, is roughly the same capacity as the proposed new car park and generates about £1m per year that means they will have to squirrel away money for over 50 years before they can afford to build their fantasy and that’s 50 years at current construction costs. Furthermore, are they really saying that they are prepared to sit on that for money for decades whilst all the time the town falls apart due to the lack of funds?

SKIPP has been pointing out for years the entire concept of a subterranean car park on the cliff site is fundamentally flawed on environmental grounds. The car park they are proposing will be below current sea level in an area which is already subjected to regular flooding from the sea and this is before the effects of sea level rise are taken into account. When this ill-conceived project was first proposed the council as per the legal requirement conducted a flood risk assessment as part of their options appraisal study. This flood risk assessment clearly showed that the risk of flooding in the area is currently very high and would over the proceeding decades rapidly increase due to sea level rise to a point where a major flooding incident will occur on an annual basis.

Obviously they could reduce that risk by building huge new flood defences along the seafront. But yet again they don’t have any money to build them. Furthermore their public documentation refuses to accept there is any risk in the first place. How can this be you may ask? Well it’s simple really, the risk figure that they are publicly using is the risk based on an average across the entire height of the cliffs. Or in other words they are quoting the flood risk at a height of about 30 foot above ground level. That’s three floors up! The funny thing is when we ask the then councillor in charge to justify this he said “it wasn’t an issue as nothing valuable would be kept on the lower floors anyway”. Not so great if your car is in the submarine car park though.

For god’s sake stop peddling this nonsense and insulting our intelligence and accept that it is time to ‘drop the dead donkey’.

The SKIPP Committee
Patsy Link
Sheena Walker
Mark Sharp