We’ve recently written a couple of posts laying into our local authority, Thurrock Council, for not being fit for purpose, particularly when it comes to overseeing and delivering infrastructure projects. This one – Dysfunctional 15.3.22 – started out looking at how delays in the A13 widening project have been inconveniencing local residents for what feels like an eternity before going into a general rant about the council’s numerous failings. Earlier this year, we wrote this post about the utter debacle that is the (supposed) redevelopment of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope: The sorry saga of Stanford-le-Hope railway station continues… 9.2.22.
The stream of stories about Thurrock Council’s abysmal record when it comes to delivering infrastructure projects on time and within budget continues to flow. Firstly there’s this about the much hyped and controversial extension to the Civic Offices in New Road, Grays: Thurrock Labour councillor slams new £10 million council building as a “botch job” 31.3.22. An extension that comes with a shiny new council chamber. One that’s smaller that the old one. One that hasn’t got enough seating to accommodate all 49 councillors. There are only 35 spaces available for councillors in the new chamber!
This project was controversial from the get to as many critics in the borough rightly saw it as a vanity project. Also, a number of businesses owned by people of migrant origin were swept away to make room for the extension to the Civic Offices. Businesses that were well used by the local community and people working in and visiting the council offices. Businesses that are missed. Given the controversy that has surrounded this project, you would have thought that Thurrock Council would be pulling out the stops to make sure the extension to their offices benefits the residents of the borough by making the council work in a more efficient way. That is NOT going to be achieved by not having enough room for all the councillors to meet! A project like this should have been under thorough scrutiny at every stage. Which begs the question of how the f**k does an undersized council chamber escape everyone’s attention until the sodding thing has been built? This is almost on the level of f**kwittery as sanctioning the demolition of many of the buildings at Stanford-le-Hope railway station without properly worked out and costed plans for the new station being anywhere near ready.
Then there’s the widening of the A13 between the Orsett Cock roundabout and the junction with the Manorway which leads down to the London Gateway superport. The aim of the widening is to improve traffic flows to and from the port. As local residents, trust us when we tell you that the port generates a heck of a lot of traffic! The project was supposed to have been completed almost two and a half years ago. It’s a major project and hitches are inevitable. The problem is that both Thurrock Council who are sponsoring the project and the contractors, Kier, have been very tight lipped about the delays to the project. In fact, there has pretty much been a communication breakdown between these two and increasingly pissed off local residents. One of the reasons we’re pissed off is the seemingly endless stream of weekend closures to allow for work on the widening project that would be impossible during the week. A consequence of these closures is a massive amount of traffic trundling down unofficial ‘alternative’ routes. One of them is right through the town centre of Stanford-le-Hope. As local residents, we’re fed up to the back teeth of having to suffer the environmental consequences of extra traffic pretty much every other weekend.
You don’t need us to tell you that there’s a pattern emerging. One of an inability to properly supervise and manage the senior officers charged with delivering these infrastructure projects. That’s compounded by a culture of secrecy and cover ups with residents constantly being fobbed off or blanked when it comes to seeking answers about just what the f**k is going on with these projects. Through our taxes, we pay the expenses and salaries of the ruling group councillors and the senior officers. At the very least, we’re entitled to an explanation of why there have been delays and budget overruns.
What are the issues here? Incompetence? Some people would say corruption but as the saying goes, ‘we couldn’t possibly comment’! Or is there some deeper malaise at work here? The lack of joined up thinking and being able to see the bigger picture suggests failings that could be traced back to an education system that’s not fit for purpose. The lack of contrition and the failure to adequately communicate with residents suggests there’s what could be described as a moral failing. In fact when you start to aggregate all of these failings together, you could be forgiven for thinking these are signs of system failure and possibly a harbinger of system collapse.
Whatever the issues are, both at the micro and macro level, what’s abundantly clear is that we cannot carry on like this. The system is essentially broken. It’s got to the point where we need to start off with a blank sheet of paper, ask what local government is for and then start to rebuild it. However, rebuilding it to genuinely serve the interests of all of the residents cannot happen this side of a major social and economic transformation…