At the risk of endlessly repeating ourselves…

We’d like to draw the attention of the relevant Basildon Council officers and the ward councillors for the area covering the ¾ estate in Vange to this list of posts we’ve written about the issues on the estate and the frustrations the residents are experiencing in trying to resolve them:

Stop moving the sodding goalposts!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/stop-moving-the-sodding-goalposts/
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/

For a blog that has only been going since February and which covers an area stretching from Southend in the east to Dagenham in the west, this is a heck of a lot of posts about one estate! We shouldn’t have to be writing these posts. If Basildon Council officers, the local ward councillors, Essex County Council and both the Circle and Swan housing associations were doing their jobs properly, the ¾ estate wouldn’t be experiencing anything like the problems it has.

To all of the agencies and the ward councillors involved, we ask you to listen to the residents and don’t dismiss their concerns, fob them off with excuses, give them the runaround or treat them with contempt. Remember, you’re supposed to be the servants of the people, not their masters.

When things do eventually get done on the ¾ estate, all too often it’s been after persistent nagging and pressure that creates mistrust and bad blood between residents on the one hand and council officers, councillors and housing association staff on the other. It shouldn’t have to be like this. We know that both the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action would prefer a co-operative working relationship with Basildon Council, Essex County Council and the relevant ward councillors.

The offer is on the table… Forget about what’s gone on in the past, get round a table, talk the issues through face to face, show residents you’re serious about working in partnership with them and let’s make a new start with a clean slate. It shouldn’t be that hard should it?

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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…

Cleaning up the Pattocks

Pattocks is a sheltered housing complex run by Basildon Council. By definition it houses elderly, vulnerable, people many with mobility problems. One would have thought that anyone with a responsibility for the pathways would prioritise maintaining those around sheltered housing. The paths around Pattocks are broken, cracked, and overgrown, with weeds coming up in abundance. There is also rubbish dumped around the site and broken walls. The paths are not fit for purpose – they are clearly a health hazard.

Thumbs up to the estate manager who was not content to keep reporting broken paths and dumped rubbish around a sheltered housing complex with no result. She got in touch with the local councillor and a clear up was organised. Basildon & Southend Housing Action were there to lend a hand and share experiences of how to get things done. A few local people came out, either from the complex who expressed their gratitude or who came along to help. The “Pride Team” from Basildon Council were there to do the heavy stuff and take away the rubbish that had been collected. The result was a great improvement but needs to be kept up. There was cake and tea as a reward!

Yet again, it’s down to volunteers to undertake basic cleaning and maintenance on an estate in Basildon. If volunteers from the community are having to put in more of their time and effort to bring their estates up to an acceptable level, it has to be said that it’s not an unreasonable demand for those at the grassroots to have a real, meaningful say in how their neighbourhoods are run…

Evading responsibility

We had an e-mail from one of the activists in the Vange Hill Community Group the other day which shows the frustrations they’re experiencing in holding the authorities to account for the conditions on the ¾ estate. Basically, it’s buck passing with no one willing to stand up and say ‘this issue is my responsibility and I’ll see that it gets sorted’.

This extract concerning the requested removal of a dumped armchair on Gambleside and dumped wood on Vange Hill Drive illustrates the way various sections of Basildon Council try to bounce responsibility for clearing up items off each other rather than getting the job done: Today spoke to men sent to clear armchair dumped between 12-14 Gambleside and they were only going to pick up chair. I said that I was fed up as I always put out various other rubbish so they should collect everything there. Apparently told by James Hendry not their job as that is dustmen’s job (Ha Ha) as we all know they do not collect it. Street sweeper has said same, told not to collect things as not his job. Basically told that it is enforcement’s job and to leave.

This e-mail was also copied to the local ward councillor, Melissa McGeorge, who by now should be in no doubt as to the frustrations felt by residents who cannot get a straight answer from the council for love nor money: I think Melissa it is about time the heads of these sections stopped acting like children guarding their marbles and get on and sort out how to do their jobs properly. This is not acceptable at all, they are paid to provide a service and they are not…Lets be clear here, the council is failing in its duty here and is also being obstructive in providing information allowing our group to keep these sections on its toes regarding health and safety [for residents] and the environment, all areas I personally have experience in. I am dismayed that the council are so indifferent to peoples need to live in a clean and safe area.

There’s one interesting nugget of information that has come to light courtesy of a helpful unnamed source at Essex County Council (ECC) – all roads, parking areas, paths and steps on the ¾ estate are their responsibility. On paper that is… Take a walk round the estate and it’s pretty clear these only get looked at once in a blue moon! So ECC, cheers for admitting these areas are your responsibility – the residents of the ¾ estate are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your operatives to sort out the potholed roads, broken kerbs, uneven paths and wonky steps… Knowledge is power and this map gives the residents a fair bit of that as they now know who to badger in order to get a problem fixed. Here’s the map…

Regardless of whether it’s Basildon Council, Essex County Council, Circle Housing or Swan Housing, the frustrating experiences of the Vange Hill Community Group (and in previous years, Basildon & Southend Housing Action) in trying to get straight answers from them and do the job they’re paid to do proves one thing beyond doubt – they’re dysfunctional. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that none of them are fit for purpose as they continue to treat the resident of the ¾ estate in Vange with contempt.

At the moment the Vange Hill Community Group facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action are trying to hold the line by holding the authorities to account. At some point in the not too distant future, looking at ways of taking responsibility for the estate away from the authorities and giving it to the residents has to be on the agenda. Bitter experience has shown that the authorities have failed the people and that the point is coming where the people will have to take over…

The state of the estates


Broken pavements with weeds sprouting up everywhere and the possibility of new life forms evolving in the stagnant puddle of water by the drains


It’s not clear whether this is a result of Basildon Council’s Kafkaesque rubbish collection policy or one of the residents behaving like a scumbag but leaving trash bags in an area where kids play is bang out of order

The other evening, along with a comrade from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we distributed our housing flyers across the estate on the south side of Wickford Avenue in Pitsea. As you can see from the above images, the place has seen better days. While it’s not as bad as the ¾ estate in Vange (yet), it’s clear that it has seen better days.

Across the estate, it was a story of broken kerbs, cracked and uneven paved areas complete with a range of weeds sprouting from the cracks and a lot of unkempt gardens. The neglect of the public areas on estates seems to be pretty much endemic across Laindon, Basildon and Pitsea. The only times we’ve seen public areas kept clean has been down to direct intervention by pissed off residents taking matters into their own hands and doing the job themselves.

As for the neglected gardens, more often than not the cause is down to the growing number of buy to lets on the estates, too many of which appear to be owned by scumbag landlords who’ll cram as many tenants into a property as possible to maximise their revenue. A lot of these are on short term leases so with the churn of tenants, community cohesion is going to start taking a hit.

In addition there are the properties owned by London based housing associations where they dump tenants who have been booted out of the capital as a result of social cleansing in the name of so called ‘regeneration’. This is something we’ve already written about here: Newham Council…it’s just got personal…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/newham-council-its-just-got-personal/

Longstanding residents understandably get concerned when they see the estate they’ve lived on for a few decades start to rapidly decline. It’s these concerns that get picked up by the knuckledraggers on the right and far right to be exploited for their own divisive, hateful purposes. Which is why we’ve produced the housing flyer shown above to a) make sure people’s anger gets directed at the right targets and b) to offer BASHA’s assistance to any residents willing to group together and start to turn their estates around.

Thankfully, we’re not alone in this task… The recently formed Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ are doing some sterling work in starting to turn the ¾ estate around and we’ll do what we can to facilitate that. Then there’s Focus E15 who are putting Newham Council – one of the worst offenders in turfing their tenants out of London – under intense pressure. We’re always happy to stand in solidarity with Focus E15 as their fight is our fight…

The fightback starts now

Just under a month ago, we undertook a distribution of a Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) flyer on the ¾ estate in Vange on the southern fringes of Basildon – this was our write up of what we found: Where the new town dream has died…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/where-the-new-town-dream-has-died/ Since that low point, there have been a number of encouraging developments: Positive developments in Vangehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/positive-developments-in-vange/

On the evening of Wednesday 2nd August, along with our comrades from BASHA, we met up with representatives from the Vange Hill Community Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ – and two of the ward councillors for a walk around the estate to get a fuller picture of what the issues were and start to work out an action strategy to deal with them.

One of the problems on the ¾ estate is tenure… A lot of houses were brought by their tenants when the right to buy came in. Many of these properties have since been brought up by buy to let landlords…some of who are total scumbags. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tenancies on a fair number of the buy to let homes are on short leases. Many of these are ‘houses of multiple occupation’ that are seriously overcrowded. It feels that the sense of community that used to be found on the estate disappeared long ago as the number of people moving in and out on short term leases increased. Instead of neighbourliness and solidarity, there’s fear, suspicion and a collapse of morale…

Then there’s the neglect by Basildon Council, Circle Housing and Swan Housing – all have some responsibility for various parts of the estate but none seem to want to talk or co-operate with each other! There are issues with rubbish collection which have been going on for years and show no sign of ever being resolved. There are broken kerbs and potholes everywhere. As for the walkways and steps, apart from the fact that they appear to be going back to nature as the grass and weeds take over, there are numerous uneven and broken paving slabs that mean you need to keep your eye on where you’re walking to avoid tripping over…

Despite the teeming rain, the walkabout was a positive experience. Vange Hill Community Group are passionate about turning round the fortunes of the estate and members have already started clean ups in the immediate vicinity of their homes. We spent a long time talking to them about how we can support and facilitate what they’re doing and getting the outline of an action plan in place.

One aim is to lead by example… This will be when a small group of neighbours get together to clear up rubbish, strim out unwanted weeds, clear unsafe steps of leaves and weeds and where appropriate, set up a community flower bed. As well as making a physical difference, the process of doing this will start to rebuild the community solidarity and pride that the ¾ estate desperately needs. If this can start to happen at a few points on the estate and can be sustained, then it will hopefully set an example that others will want to emulate it so that the ‘reclaimed’ bits of the estate physically link up with each other.

However, as you can see from the images taken on the walkabout, we and Vange Hill Community Group are under no illusions about the scale of the task…it’s a good job we like a challenge!


A ‘house of multiple occupation’ with a front garden turned into a rubbish tip


Electricity and flood water are not a good mix!


One of the neglected paths and open areas on the estate


One of many flights of steps that appear to be getting left to go back to nature, making them hazardous for pedestrian use


Looks like someone’s had a clear out…

Eight weeks!

This story from the Echo pretty much sums up the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange: Rubbish left to fester for 8 weeks in bin shed as rats and maggots enjoy the messhttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15387717.Rubbish_left_to_fester_for_8_weeks_in_bin_shed_as_rats_and_maggots_enjoy_the_mess/ The rubbish has now been cleared but the fact it was left for eight weeks speaks volumes about the attitude of Basildon Council and Circle Anglia Housing (they ‘manage’ the social housing on the estate) to the residents of the ¾ estate. Basically, they don’t give a s**t!

Regarding the accumulation of rubbish that was left for eight weeks, this statement from Basildon Council is telling: “The bin shed is owned and operated by Circle Anglia Housing and it is for the managing agents of the properties to allow the council access to empty the bins. This includes the removal of dumped large items”. As ever, the problem is being batted back and forth between a council that doesn’t give a s**t and a housing association that’s not noted for its transparency and listening to their residents when they express concerns. If either of these two actually cared about the residents, they would have been on the case after the first report of a missed collection to work together to resolve the issue rather than pointing fingers at each other like two naughty kids in class trying to avoid being blamed by the teacher for misbehaviour!

So as well as working with residents to organise a community clean up, it looks as though our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) will need to be getting on the cases of both Basildon Council and Circle Anglia Housing to get them to pull their socks up. There is some good news however – residents have set up the Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ – in a bid to turn round the fortunes of the estate by lobbying the council, Circle Housing and re-building community spirit and morale. If you live on the ¾ estate and care about its future, join this group and help them to improve life in the area…