Don’t ask Thurrock Council difficult questions!

In a blog post on Your Thurrock, the leader of the Thurrock Independents, Cllr. Luke Spillman, has taken Thurrock Council to task over the chilling impact of their media strategy: Blogpost: Thurrock Independents leader calls for council to “rethink press strategy”. Thurrock Council released this ‘media strategy’ document in the summer of 2017 – it pretty much demands a right of reply to any media coverage it thinks will be damaging to its reputation.

Reading between the lines, it’s as though the council just want the local media outlets to reproduce, word for word, the anodyne contents of their press releases. Given the parlous state of local journalism and the chronic under-staffing that characterises it, that’s pretty much what many local media outlets are reduced to doing anyway. What the council’s media strategy does is to reinforce that trend by discouraging the few journalists left who do ask difficult questions from doing so for fear of being all but ‘blacklisted’. In other words, the council want to control the narrative.

This defensive and aggressive posture from Thurrock Council towards journalists who rightly persist in asking them difficult questions has a number of parallels with the experience of residents who’ve had less than satisfactory dealings with them. We’ve written this before in relation to other local authorities in the area but it looks as though we’re doomed to repeat it until the message starts to sink in. We may be naïvely idealistic but the role of a local council, officers and councillors alike, is to serve all of the residents in the area they cover. If a council are to be the servants of the people, nothing less than complete and open transparency and accountability is required. That also means being open to criticism from the local media and responding to that in a constructive manner by learning lessons and improving performance.

Alas, we live in a world that’s far from ideal. All this crap from Thurrock Council about their ‘media strategy’ does is reinforce the view we hold that the system of local and national governance we endure is not fit for purpose because it doesn’t serve our interests. While we welcome the pressure the Thurrock Independents have brought upon the council to agree to editors from the local media being able to speak at the upcoming Corporate Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 4th September, with the best will in the world, this may be akin to trying to put a small sticking plaster over a gaping wound. If we are ever going to have a more just, open and accountable way of running our affairs at a local level, fundamental political, economic and social change will be the only way to achieve this.

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The Boro: Romford Return

Watching Premier League football is unaffordable for an increasing number of people. Non league football in an ideal world would be an attractive, alternative option. However, as any astute observers of the non league scene will be aware, too many clubs at this level are experiencing problems. This includes my home town club, Romford, who have been living a nomadic existence for too many seasons. So, the news that at long last they could be returning to Romford is very welcome.

Dave (the editor)

HAVERING SPECIAL

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In an era when many top-tier players get paid more in one day than a full-time minimum-wage worker takes home in a year, it is easy to be cynical and dismissive about modern football.  But in reality the Premier League is only one part of the footballing world – not that you would realise that if you go by the mainstream media’s coverage of the beautiful game.  In most cases lower division and non-league clubs are an important and cherished part of their local neighbourhood, helping towns develop and maintain a sense of community in these increasingly atomised times – as well as giving a boost to the local economy on matchdays.  With this in mind, it is great to hear that Romford FC could be soon returning to Havering.

Since the club’s re-founding in 1992 they have not had a permanent home, and at one point a bizarre…

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Redrow need to learn some manners!

The controversial development by Redrow Homes on former open fields at Dry Street of an estate of executive homes that will do nothing to solve the housing crisis in Basildon continues to gather controversy. They were working yesterday (Saturday 9th June) and as you can see from the screen grab from the GAG2011 Facebook group, they failed to stop noisy works at 1pm and carried on working right through the St. Luke’s Hospice Fete taking place almost next door. Which in our view and those of many right thinking people, is just plain bad manners.

As there were a good few hundred people in attendance, if they weren’t aware of the contemptuous attitude Redrow Homes have towards the people of Basildon, they sure as heck are now. Forget about all of the glossy PR bullshit Redrow and their ilk come out with when they plonk one of their developments on a community – yesterday (and most likely, numerous other occasions) showed them up for what they are which is greedy profiteers motivated solely by the figure on the bottom line.

A poster that says it all about pretensions:)

Leigh-on-Sea has a reputation of being a bit of a pricey place to live and somewhat pretentious as well. Pretensions cost money and these days, they’re financed by borrowing. This small series of posters going up around Leigh-on-Sea speaks volumes about the cost of those pretensions. Sometimes, the best social commentary can be visual:)

Guerilla gardening – just do it!

guerrilla gardening
the activity of growing plants without permission on land that belongs to someone else or on public land, with the aim of improving the environment or producing vegetables or flowers for people to use or enjoy

Starting a project to make a change in your neighbourhood can seem to be a daunting prospect. Yes, there are grassroots community projects that are complex and there are probably good reasons for that – changing the world is not an easy business and a degree of organisation is required. However, there are things you can do which don’t require a lot of organisation or hours writing funding applications. Guerilla gardening is one of those things you can do…

If there’s an awkward shaped smallish plot of land in your neighbourhood that’s been neglected and no one’s sure who owns or has responsibility for it, why not do a bit of guerilla gardening? Canvas opinion in the immediate neighbourhood to see how much support there is for the idea of transforming the plot from an eyesore into a community asset. Find out who’s willing to help you work on it and then work out a plan for what you want to do.

You could ask for permission if you want but if the land has been neglected for years, then whoever is responsible for it obviously doesn’t care about the impact of their neglect on your neighbourhood so…just get on with it! There’s a welcome, non-violent anti-authoritarian aspect to guerilla gardening that should be embraced. While at one level, it’s about making your neighbourhood a better place to live, at a more fundamental level, it’s asking questions about land ownership and control.

The other benefits are building a feeling of solidarity and cohesion in your neighbourhood as people get together to work on a common project. A project that as it matures will give people a sense of pride in and responsibility towards their neighbourhood and boost community morale. A confidence booster that can inspire people to take on bigger and more complex projects that will start to lead to real, meaningful change.

Start small, gain confidence, start to think bigger but above all…just do it!

Treating Vange Hill with contempt

A little vignette of life on the estates, way beyond the M25 and far, far away from some increasingly self obsessed activists in their own little bubble in London. Here’s one small but potentially dangerous example of how the various authorities supposedly responsible for the Vange Hill Estate in Basildon are negligent. This is an open drain covered by a wooden pallet – not exactly safety compliant is it? Fortunately, a resident has done what they can to stop the pallet from moving by placing a heavy paving slab over it. Investigations by the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) are underway to track down who’s responsible for this and get them to sort it out before there’s an accident. Knowing how tenacious VHCG are (think the Canadian Mounties always ‘getting their man’), we’re sure someone will be getting a rocket up their posterior at some point!

It’s the end for The Estuary Alternative…or is it?

The Estuary Alternative blog was set up just over a year ago after the Southend Radical Fair. The aim of the blog was to help bring together the numerous grassroots community action groups operating in the area. We hoped there would be a sharing of experiences, a buzz of ideas and a lot of groups and people contributing to a lively blog that would give a boost to grassroots activism in the southern half of Essex.

Sadly, we’ve not achieved this aim. Not only that, the viewing figures for The Estuary Alternative blog have been consistently disappointing. There are a complex variety of reasons for this which a) we still don’t fully understand if we’re being honest and b) if we did, it would probably take ages to explain! We’re not apportioning blame to any group or individual for this project not taking off – it’s just one of those things. Sometimes you have to try, fail and then learn what you can from the experience.

We’re not going to be deleting The Estuary Alternative. Although it was part of the South Essex Radical Media family which included this blog and On Uncertain Ground, The Estuary Alternative stands alone from them on a separate platform. Which means that if anyone who buys into the idea of a blog bringing grassroots community action groups and projects across southern Essex together wants to take over the running of The Estuary Alternative, it’s ready and waiting for you. Obviously we’ll want to meet you to check out that you genuinely want to take this project on – if you’re interested, we can be contacted here: seradicalmedia@protonmail.com