Monday, April 15, 2024

Council AGM: Thurrock First: Politics Second

Editorial Comment

THURROCK Council holds its annual meeting tomorrow. Usually, it is a simple ceremonial evening where the new mayor is installed, dates of meetings are detailed, members of committees are tabled and then everyone retires for the buffet.

But this is Thurrock and although we have had the maelstrom of a long general and local election campaign, we appear to be back where we started with the leader, Garry Hague holding onto power by his fingertips.

Little Thurrock councillor Stuart St-Clair Haslam has joined former leader Ann Cheale in a Gang of Two called the Independent Conservatives. Both have a major beef against Garry, feeling he is in the grip of the officers and felt that his perceived siding with officers on planning committee issues was the tipping point.

Whether they are right or wrong is for another time but needless to say it leads to more squabbling in the chamber.

By “rights” it should be Deputy Leader Eddie Hardiman who, fulfills a lifetime ambition and becomes mayor tomorrow but now we understand that he is wondering whether to advise family and friends to stay away lest they see Eddie humiliated as Labour back Ann Cheale for Mayor and she succeeds.

You could then end up with Ann Cheale as Mayor in charge of a Labour administration led by John Kent. Bizarre: absolutely but this is Thurrock.

Many wonder why Ann Cheale, ousted out of the Thurrock Tory group, has not been expelled from the Conservative Party. In many ways, that is either another vote of no confidence for Garry or due to the General Election, it is in Chairman Eric Pickles “Things to Do” list.

Would John Kent want power? One argument suggests that like David Miliband’s decision not to stand against Gordon Brown last year, it just isn’t time. Would he want to face or justify the £6 billion worth of cuts and does he have the team to do it. Say what you like about Carl Morris, he was the star of Labour and there were so many issues that his lesser colleagues are incapable of exploiting (Tilbury Ferry, Chadwell St Mary Primary, Corringham Car Parking etc etc).

As we have noted, the Tories may be breath-takingly passive but at least (and boy the bar is low) they turn up.

The Tories could survive tomorrow night but it appears just a matter of time before another issue comes up. Indeed the fundamental issues and controversies surrounding the planning committee are still there and there are many difficult issues and questions to deal with and answer.

If anyone is looking for the key reason why Stuart St Clair Haslam left, it may be traced to his comment on the 28th January when he said he would absent himself from the chamber should any planning matters involving Industrial Chemical Groups Limited/Titan Works in Hogg Lane arise.

No-one is imputing improper motives (just checking-legal department) here but the Tories would make their life a lot simpler if they took their HQ out of there. With Jackie Doyle Price now MP, it would make sense to rent out a shop front in Chafford Hundred or South Ockendon and promote the Big Society message and assist the electorate from there.

Garry Hague by his own admission is not a natural leader. The position was foisted upon him. The front six in the Tories look like a very capable team who over six years have grown into their roles. The trouble is, squabbling is wired into their DNA, even back to the 70’s. As one key observer said: “Even when there was just two of them, they would be split three ways.”

But the most important message is this:

The hurricane of cuts are coming. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people, in Thurrock, who are going to be terribly effected by them, whether they work for the voluntary sector, public sector or related services.

There are ordinary, hard working people, who work for the council, who are worrying for their job every day.

To all the councillors out there, think long and hard about what you are doing and how you are perceived.

So when the housing office closes, the play centres shut, the rape crisis, sanctuary centre, after school club. When the number of police decreases, youth offending rockets, levels of depression rises and divorces increase. Think long, as you sit there in the orange hue of the council chamber. What did my political feud do to help the good people of Thurrock?

Because what people would really like to see is just a little bit of humility and self awareness. A willingness to put the people, the borough and the future first. Think on.


  1. At last someone asying what most of us in Thurrock are thinking, lets start a new party The Thurrock First Party, its aims doing whats best for Thurrock and its people, who will join? any takers

  2. Completely agree with you Michael. I have watched with horror as the councillors have played their politcal games at the expense of thurrock residents and without regard to the consequences. In particular the childish antics of the planning committee, what a farce – personally I would like to see them all suspended. I am astounded that it’s been allowed to go on for so long. Lets hope the new administration has more sense (I doubt it though).

  3. Hey perhaps it would be good if we worked with Your Thurrock to get a Peoples Coalition together via this site to hold our councillors to account – maybe the new administration will commission Your Thurrock to film meetings live and we can all have our say via live messages on screen.

    Seriously if we want something different we have to make sure Thurrock’s electorate are engaged all year not just at election time. Michael Casey and Your Thurrock is the only communication I have in terms of whats going on in the borough. Lots of other boroughs meetings are put out live and Thurrock needs to get into the 21st Century too. Less money on consultant chief officers who cant even run an election and more money on engaging with us on what to cut and what not to cut…


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