A FEW WEEKS ago, YT went to a Neighbourhood Action Panel meeting on a cold and windy night in Belhus. Among the participants was councillor Sue Gray. Sue was taking the minutes. Sue is also the chair of the South Ockendon Residents Association and has been the councillor for the ward for four years.
On any given Tuesday or Saturday morning, Sue holds surgeries at a variety of locations in the ward. Sue also sits on a number of committees on the council.
Sue’s critics will say that there seems to be a confusion as to what cllr Gray prioritises. Others say, Sue is a councillor who doesn’t work hard enough.
We spoke to Sue earlier in the week over a coffee in a garden centre. Sue believes she can balance all the roles and can fulfil them.
There has been an awful lot of fuss in the South Ockendon Residents Association (SORA) which is of no interest to the voters whatsoever. But people do reflect on how cllr Mike Stone runs the Orchards Community Forum seamlessly whereas SORA seems to be eight people in a hall falling out and failing to impart their information to 8000 residents.
To be fair to Sue, she is deeply concerned about the issues in her ward and has told YT that matters such as the “Granny Tax”, meals on wheels provision are of deep concern to the voters.
In our conversation, Sue also expressed concern at the M25 noise issue, the Belhus Skate Park problem and a host of other issues.
There is also a real concern regarding crime. Not anti-social behaviour but crime. It cannot be a co-incidence that a court reporter out of Grays and now Basildon magistrates can name the South Ockendon recidivists at the drop of a hat.
These are the issues that count: not the internecine disputes but the day to day issues that effect and/or blight people’s lives.
You have the feeling that Sue is on a last chance with the Labour leaders. If this was Basildon or Harlow, she would have been de-selected. The leaders will expect no SORA fuss and a lot more casework.
Last year, cllr Charlie Curtis received a lot of criticism from a number of quarters over his handling of matters to do with the Howard Tenens issue. At the election, his vote went up from 645 in 2007 to a whopping 1034 in 2011. He may have been wrong about one issue but the local people believed in him and backed him.
People may not like the sound of it but the collapse of the BNP sees a lot of voters returning to Labour. The 727 votes gained by the BNP in 2010 (no candidate now) may well continue to go to Labour.
The Tories only lost by 231 votes back in 2008. Billy Taylor ran a cracking campaign in 2007 and lost by 27. That should not have changed to 641 by 2011. They may need to find a local person who will stick at this ward for a few years.
Prediction: Labour hold: Maj 500
UK Independence Party