After lengthy conversations with our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), towards the end of last year we wrote this piece: A few thoughts on local councillors… – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/a-few-thoughts-on-local-councillors/ We understand that if a councillor is going to do their job properly in serving the ward they represent, it will mean a heavy workload. This is something that should be made perfectly clear to anyone considering standing as a candidate in local elections.
It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say we’ve heard anecdotal evidence from various sources indicating that the two ward councillors for Vange, Cllr. Block (Lab) and Cllr. McGeorge (Lab) are falling a fair way short in what residents can reasonably expect from their local councillors. Life has a nasty habit of going wrong when you don’t want it and can seriously impact your ability to discharge a responsibility. We don’t know what the circumstances are with Cllrs. Block and McGeorge but if external factors are impacting on their ability to effectively discharge their responsibilities as councillors and that’s likely to be the case for some months to come, then in our opinion, they need to consider their positions.
We’ve seen the work that community activists in Vange have been putting in to make the area a better place to live in. They and the residents they’re working for deserve better than they’re getting at the moment. The next elections for the Vange ward are not due until 2019 and in our opinion, that’s too long to let things drift on as they are.
The image above shows the bins by the blocks of flats on the ¾ estate in Vange (located on the southern fringes of Basildon). Even though there are a few bits of uncollected rubbish lying around, believe it or not, what you can see is a vast improvement on what it has been like. Anecdotal reports from a number of sources seem to indicate that the situation is being turned around.
It’s starting to look as though the pressure being applied by the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), helped by Clean Up Basildon and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) is starting to pay off. That’s pressure on Basildon Council, educating residents on the protocol for rubbish disposal and encouraging them to take pride in the estate, and last but by no means least, starting to put pressure on some of the landlords to clean their act up.
A couple of points need to be made: a) the estate still has to reach the level of cleanliness that residents have a right to expect as the norm and b) the aggravation that VHCG and BASHA have had when trying to work constructively with Basildon Council officers beggars belief. Community activists are putting themselves through the mill simply to achieve a level of cleanliness and maintenance that should be the basic duty of a local authority to provide for their residents.
The attempts to deal constructively with Basildon Council, which all too often have been rebuffed, only serve to prove that the system of local governance we have is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. Which is why in the long term, the only meaningful solution to the problems on the ¾ estate is going to have to come from the residents having more of a say and taking more of a responsibility in how it’s run. We’ll do whatever we can to facilitate that…
Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of the issues our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) have had in dealing with the authorities who are supposed to be responsible for the ¾ estate in Vange which is located on the southern fringes of Basildon. Both BASHA and VHCG are fed up with the wrangling over which authority is responsible for (not) clearing the trash properly, (not) trimming back out of control undergrowth and (not) maintaining footpaths and steps to a decent, safe standard.
There’s only so much banging your head against a brick wall you can take in dealing with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of local authorities and housing associations and trying to contact ward councillors conspicuous by their absence. At a recent meeting we (the Stirrer) and BASHA decided to do something about this with a day of therapeutic community cleaning where we can see a definite result at the end of a day’s hard graft.
Any of our supporters are more than welcome to join us on the day – please wear suitable footwear and clothing you don’t mind getting mucky. Tools will be provided, but if you can bring along anything you think will be useful, you’re welcome to do so…
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 Group – https://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 responsibility – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/evading-responsibility/
The fightback starts now – https://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…
A short while back, we posted up this piece on the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange, which is on the southern fringes of Basildon: The fightback starts now – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/ As well as hassling ward councillors, council officers, county council officers and various housing associations, as you can see from the above image, part of that fightback is residents getting out and cleaning up the estate themselves. The above was done by the Vange Hill Community Group and was facilitated by help from our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action.
It’s only a small section of the estate but…it sets an example to residents in other areas that a little bit of unilateral people power action will get a result when it comes to cleaning the place up. In the absence of any signs of Basildon Council / Essex County Council getting off of their arses to pay the ¾ estate a visit and do the job they’re paid to do in maintaining it, the only way things are going to get done is by the residents getting out and doing it for themselves. Hopefully, these kind of actions are the first steps towards residents taking control of their estates and bringing power right down to the grassroots…
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 Vange – https://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…