Stop moving the sodding goalposts!

This is what we’ve written about the Vange ¾ estate over the last few months as part of our commitment to supporting the work of the Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/

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/

Basildon & Southend Housing Action – https://www.facebook.com/basacton/ – and now the Vange Hill Community Group have been bending over backwards in trying to encourage residents to put out their rubbish on the right day, correctly sorted and in the right location. Sounds easy doesn’t it? All that’s needed is for Basildon Council to come up with a clear set of guidelines for residents to follow and the problem of uncollected rubbish will be solved once and for all.

Cue manic laughter… FFS, getting blood out of a stone would be considerably easier that getting a straightforward, comprehensible rubbish collection protocol from Basildon Council that leaves residents and council operatives in no doubt as to what needs to be done! Seriously, how hard is it for council officers to come up with a rubbish collection protocol that residents and operatives can understand and implement? We’re not talking about anything complicated here – we’re talking about one of the basic functions that people expect their councils to be able execute efficiently and without any dramas.

It seems that every time Basildon Council have been contacted over this, the answers have been contradictory, evasive and misleading. They keep moving the sodding goalposts! The council need to bear in mind that they’re dealing with community groups who want to do the right thing and get the rubbish collection problems on the Vange ¾ estate resolved once and for all. Groups that would like to work with the council to make life better on the estate rather than having to battle them all of the time.

We don’t want to be pushed into a position where we have to name the council officers who we think need to pull their weight but the time has come… James Hendry, please give the Vange Hill Community Group a) a clear, understandable rubbish collection policy that residents and council operatives can implement and b) give the Vange Hill Community Group the respect they deserve for trying their hardest to make their estate a better place to live…

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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…

Please show some solidarity…

From the United Voices Of The World Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/events/295822924157524/

The cleaners at HR Owen’s Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in South Kensingon have just voted 100% in favour of strike action.

Join this protest in solidarity with them in the build up to the start of their strike.

For the last 5 years the cleaners – originally from Ecuador – 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 called Templewood where they are condemned, like millions of other workers, to the indignity and impoverishment of the minimum wage.

Furthermore, they have been for years 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 the cleaners asked UVW to ballot them for strike action.

Following a 100% Yes vote a strike will commence in October.

Please also consider making a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

Falling apart…an update:(

In the latest print edition of the Stirrer, the main feature is about how our local authorities are failing us, the people they’re supposed to serve. The never ending government imposed austerity agenda is one major factor in this. However, there are other factors such as toxic internal cultures which serve to exacerbate external pressures such as austerity. No two local authorities are the same and they all respond in different ways to external pressures. It has to be said that on the anecdotal evidence we’ve heard, Basildon Council has an internal culture that is toxic – this is manifested in the shit way they treat their residents and high levels of staff turnover.

You only have to look back through this blog and you’ll find a fair number of posts where we’re taking Basildon Council to task. Don’t just take our word for it – if you want to read what people at the grassroots are saying about the way Basildon Council are treating them, we recommend that you check out the Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ and Basildon & Southend Housing Actionhttps://www.facebook.com/basacton/

We heard a story of a Basildon resident who worked for the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham but changed jobs and started working at Basildon Council so they could cut down on the commuting. Within a matter of weeks they were on the phone to Barking & Dagenham begging for their old job back because the culture at Basildon was so dysfunctional they couldn’t take any more! We’ve heard another story from the Recovery section at Basildon Council where people are leaving in their droves because they can’t deal with the toxic work environment there and the pressures on them to treat residents like shit.

With a combination of high staff turnover, an all too often hostile attitude towards residents and services such as rubbish collection which on estates such as the ¾ in Vange that can only be described as piss poor, the evidence is mounting up that Basildon Council is falling apart. In the previous post: Admit it…you need us!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/admit-it-you-need-us/ we listed some of the ways community groups are having to step in and fill the breach while holding the council to account at the same time. Without being over-dramatic, Basildon Council is giving every impression they’re falling apart…

When the state fails to deliver, whether that’s at a national or local level, it has to be seen as an opportunity for grassroots campaigners to step in, not just to hold up failing services but to change the balance of power so we have a considerably bigger say in how our estates and neighbourhoods are managed and develop in the future. Let’s start to take that opportunity, not just in Basildon but anywhere where the state is failing, get power down to the grassroots and start to bring about some real change…

Admit it…you need us!

In an age of seemingly never ending austerity, council services are under ever growing strain and in a growing number of instances, they’re failing. Working with groups such as Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), it’s all too clear that services such as rubbish collection and estate maintenance are in crisis. On a fair few occasions, BASHA and VHCG have had to step into the breach to undertake activities such as neighbourhood clean ups, educating residents on rubbish disposal (nigh on impossible when Basildon Council don’t have a rubbish disposal protocol!) and setting up community gardens.

BASHA, and now VHCG, are not stepping into the breach just to cover the failings of Basildon Council – they’re doing it because they care passionately about their communities. Recent clean ups they’ve undertaken include Gambleside on the ¾ estate in Vange: 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/ and the Pattocks on the Red Brick Estate: Cleaning up the Pattockshttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/cleaning-up-the-pattocks/

Interestingly, in the case of the Pattocks clean up, BASHA were invited by the estate manager to come along to offer their expertise to the clean up she initiated. If that level of co-operation between council officers who know they don’t have the resources to do the job they need to do and community groups could spread, it really would make a world of difference. This wouldn’t just be to the physical appearance of the estates but also the empowerment of community action groups who want to make a meaningful contribution to the running and maintenance of their neighbourhoods.

Sadly, as things stand at the moment, far from co-operation and a constructive working relationship, BASHA and VHCG find they’re dealing with council officers who all too often, are less than helpful. The ongoing saga of dealing with a dysfunctional rubbish collection ‘service’ on the ¾ estate is just one example of where it feels that council officers are hampering efforts to clean up the estate and educate residents on rubbish disposal protocol. BASHA’s efforts to effectively carry out clean up days have been frustrated by issues with permissions to dispose of what they’ve collected at Essex County Council waste disposal facilities.

On the surface, Basildon Council’s new Pride Teams sound like a constructive idea to start to turn round issues with the neglect of estates and public spaces: Pride Teams start transforming neighbourhoodshttp://www.basildonstandard.co.uk/news/15515108.Pride_Teams_start_transforming_neighbourhoods/ The problem is we’ve heard it on good authority that the Pride Teams know they’re overstretched and cannot do the job they’ve been set up to do with the limited resources they’ve got. This could be the perfect opportunity for them to reach out to community groups and work in partnership with them to start to turn the estates around.

However, this will mean Basildon Council admitting they can’t do the job themselves and relinquishing a degree of control. From BASHA’s previous dealings with the council, it’s abundantly clear that the one thing they hate doing is relinquishing control. So we have a bit of an impasse…for the moment… The point is that as community groups step into the breach more and more to deal with the failures of local government, it return for this, they have to be given a meaningful say in how their estates and neighbourhoods are managed and developed for the future. Nothing less than that is acceptable…