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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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.

The consequences of a planning disaster

Back in the early part of September, there was an assault on and an attempted robbery of a man by two teenagers under the flyover where the A13 passes by the Tesco superstore in Pitsea: Plea for CCTV after knifepoint attack in subway by Tesco and Pitsea train stationhttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15574869.Plea_for_CCTV_after_knifepoint_attack_in_subway/

We’ve commented in previous posts on here and on our predecessor, the Heckler, about the breakdown in community cohesion and solidarity that leads to an anti-social element feeling they can carry out these kind of assaults with impunity. We think the Independent Working Class Association pretty much nailed it on people like this with this piece: Dealing with the renegadeshttp://www.iwca.info/?p=10134 There have been calls for CCTV around Pitsea and other underpasses around Basildon in a bid to deter such opportunistic crimes. Sadly, until there’s a major social transformation, crimes like this will be a feature of an increasingly atomised society – more CCTV is merely putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.

As well as this crime yet again throwing a light on the fractured state of society, it also shows the folly of past planning decisions that have unintentionally planned opportunities for crime into the infrastructure of new towns such as Basildon. These places were conceived in more optimistic times when separating pedestrians and traffic seemed like a good idea. They were also conceived in a period that not only celebrated the motor car but also demanded that our towns and cities be planned around it.

Well, the result of that is the planning disaster that has separated Pitsea raliway station from pretty much every residential district in Pitsea apart from the affluent enclave of Brackendale. Pedestrians going to and from the station have the unenviable choice of walking under the A13 flyover as it passes by the Tesco superstore or negotiating the series of underpasses leading to the town centre. That can be a grim enough walk in daylight – after dark it can be downright scary!

Again, it’s going to take a major social and political transformation before we can have a planning and urban development process that puts people first and would avoid planning disasters such as the underpasses under the Pitsea flyover. However, while we’re working towards such a transformation, we would gladly welcome any initiative that creates a safer and more pleasant environment for pedestrians to get to and from Pitsea station…

Residents organise against regeneration in Southend. 30 Sept.

Originally posted on the Genesis Residents Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/genesis-residents/residents-organise-against-regeneration-in-southend-30-sept/478760239153169/

Residents of Genesis held their own Resident’s Meeting on Saturday 30th September – a stone’s throw from Roots Hall, the ground of Southend United Football Club.

Whilst the meeting lacked the ‘finesse’ of similar meetings held by Genesis H.A. there was a distinct lack of ‘spin’ and a complete departure from the half truths/prevarication that Genesis is so well versed in.

40 people attended this first meeting. Glyn Robbins from UNITE and Tim Baster from Genesis Residents spoke about regeneration, the policies of Genesis and the proposed merger between Genesis and Notting Hill Housing. Residents discussed the proposed plans to ‘regenerate’ the area.

There is no doubt that Genesis are making an attempt to grab the land that the Queen’s Estate in Baxter Avenue is built on. The Estate – built and maintained by Springboard H.A. in the early 1980’s until the merger with Genesis – was a pleasant, well designed small estate in the centre of Southend. Genesis with their heavy handed approach, including contempt for the residents are systematically decimating the area, with a view to ‘re-generating’ it.

Estate ‘regeneration’ has without exception resulted in a net loss of social housing and the dispersal of the community that lived there. It is clear that the emphasis from Genesis is ‘social cleansing’.

At the meeting residents voiced their ongoing frustration with regard to poor maintenance/non-existent communication/increased service charges (a double whammy here, as although the service charges have been increased, the services, if they are delivered, are inconsistent at best.) There was a strong sense of the growing dis-satisfaction with Genesis that appears to have misplaced its moral compass.

The residents are now fully aware that this is not just about us, in Southend, it is about every tenant in Social Housing.

A message to Genesis: We are not going away!

Unions take note…this is how you take action!

The previous post on here was about the struggle of two striking cleaners, Angelica and Fredy, at the HR Owen luxury motor dealership in South Kensington: Please show some solidarity…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/please-show-some-solidarity/ They weren’t directly employed by HR Owen – their roles were outsourced to Templewood. Like many outsourced cleaners, they’ve had to endure crap pay and working conditions. Well, they’ve had enough and with the support of the United Voices of the World (UVW) union, they’re taking action… Please consider making a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

The first public manifestation of that action came with a protest in South Kensington yesterday (Saturday 30.9). Around sixty people assembled outside the tube station and then started marching, first to the offices of HR Owen just round the corner and then down the Old Brompton Road to their swanky showroom.

It was a lively, noisy and feisty crowd of UVW supporters, other cleaners showing solidarity and Class War amongst others. Not a single Trot paper seller in sight poncing off someone else’s struggle…just people committed to winning not just this fight but to improving working conditions for thousands upon thousands of low paid, exploited workers. It was militant…the showroom was shut down for the afternoon and the road was blocked for two hours.

While militant, it was also disciplined. The (possibly just above) minimum wage security guards lined up outside the showroom weren’t abused or threatened in any way shape or form. In fact, many of us felt sorry for them being put in the position they were in…looking at the facial expressions and body language, their hearts were definitely not in the task at hand and we suspect that most of them sympathised with the cause of the cleaners.

Actions like this aren’t sticking to the mainstream union rulebook but sticking to the rulebook doesn’t get results. The tactics of outsider unions such as the UVW, IWGB and others get results because they get in people’s faces and don’t back off. The action outside the HR Owen showroom was noisy, disruptive and got a lot of attention. FFS, it even got covered by the Mail of all publications! Mop-wielding protesters attack luxury car showroom after it ‘suspended husband-and-wife cleaners who went on strike in bid to win a £2.25 pay rise’http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4937128/Mop-wielding-protesters-attack-luxury-car-showroom.html We wouldn’t normally link to this rag but it shows that the tactics used get people’s attention and get the issue onto the agenda…

Some people out here along the estuary may well be asking why we had a presence at a protest in London in support of striking migrant workers. It’s called solidarity… Angelica and Fredy aren’t just striking for themselves or indeed other migrant workers…they’re striking for all workers enduring low pay and abusive, insecure working conditions. That’s why we offered our support to them because an injury to one worker is an injury to all of us and we will not let the divide and rule merchants get away with their attempts to split us along lines of nationality…

Fighting back

This is for the attention of those people under the illusion that migrant workers will happily undercut the wages of British workers – we’ve news for you, they won’t. In fact, they’re increasingly putting themselves on the front line in the fight for decent pay and conditions – something that will benefit all of us, regardless of where we’re from…

From the United Voices of the World Union – https://www.facebook.com/uvwunion/

CLEANERS TO START INDEFINITE STRIKE FOR A LIVING WAGE AT FERRARI & MASERATI CAR DEALERHIPS IN SOUTH KENSINGTON

Say hello to Freddy and Angelica, the inspiring husband and wife duo from Ecuador who, for the last 5 years, have been cleaning and polishing the Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in South Kensington run by H.R. Owen – Britain’s leading luxury motor dealer, and the world’s largest retailer in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Despite a turnover of around £400 million HR Owen chooses to outsource the cleaners to a company call Templewood where they are condemned, like millions of other workers, to the indignity and impoverishment of the minimum wage.

Furthermore, the cleaners have for years been systematically underpaid even the miserable wages they were owed which has led to legal proceedings being instigated against Templewood and HR Owen for unlawful deductions from wages and breach of minimum wage legislation.

Having finally decided enough was enough the cleaners joined UVW and asked for a wage increase from £7.50 per hour to the London Living Wage of £9.75 per hour. However, both Templewood and HR Owen have denied responsibility for setting the cleaners’ rate of pay. This is a common occurrence in the world of outsourcing where the Bermuda-like-triangle between the worker the client and the contractor swallows both employer’s responsibilities and workers’ rights.

Unwilling to entertain Templewood and HR Owen’s excuses or endure the indignity of the minimum wage for any longer, Freddy and Angelica asked UVW to ballot them for strike action.

Following a Yes vote an indefinite strike is expected to commence on 9th October.

Unlike at the LSE University where UVW recently organised over 70 cleaners to walk out on strike, making it then the largest cleaners’ strike in UK history, Freddy and Angelica work alone at HR Owen’s Ferrari and Maserati dealerships.

There being only two of them would lead many people to argue that there was nothing they could do about their situation, that the company will never listen or concede to them, especially as they are non-English speaking migrant cleaners.

Well, at UVW we don’t care if you have one colleague or a 100 colleagues. If you’re on the minimum wage or suffer from any other form of injustice and are fed up and up for a fight we’ll ballot and back you all the way.

Furthermore, when Freddy and Angelica win they will lift hundreds of other outsourced workers at HR Owen off the minimum wage and out of in-work poverty.

To support Freddy and Angelica please make a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/