Friday, July 19, 2024

Sunday Comment: The London borough of Thames Gateway?

TOWARDS the end of a health and well-being committee meeting last week, an item emerged that involved debate on matters in Barking and Dagenham. The deputy chair of the committee, cllr Mark Coxshall (Cons) questioned why, in a Thurrock committee, they were debating such matters. A Labour councillor agreed.

The matter revealed how watchful/concerned the Thurrock Conservatives are on the “shared services” agreement between Thurrock and Barking and Dagenham councils.

The Tories clearly smell a rat and question why Thurrock has not gone to share services with, say, Basildon or Havering? For them, the fact that both Basildon and Havering are Tory controlled, plays some part. At the moment, Thurrock Labour have an overall majority of 1. In the London borough of Thames Gateway, it could be 21.

The fact that there is no geographical connection is also a fair point. Some may point to Alaska or Kalingrad.

The comment comes in the week that those keen observers of senior council officers have noted them scurrying from room to room with large documents. These may be the same officers who are finding themselves driving up and down the A13 quite a lot.

But with regeneration comes the debate of perestroika or restructuring.

Students of history will look at how states changed to adapt or to protect or to enhance political and or economic circumstances. Whether it was Germany in the early 19th century or the United States of America.

Worst case or best case students can also envisage that Thurrock will end up with an Estuary Airport and another bridge crossing as part of the necessary transport structure to compliment the largest deep water port in the world at DP World in Stanford-le-Hope.

Economists argue that Thurrock needs as many economic allies as possible: whether that be as a member of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership or as part of joint initiatives such as the £20 million worth of funding gained by Thurrock and the Thames Gateway Kent partnership.

Economists will also point out to the amount of savings boroughs such as Thurrock and Barking have to make.

In the end there may not be a change in the unitary status of the borough and it will all be a series of treaties and pacts that can enhance Thurrock’s position on the stage both locally, regionally and nationally.

The Tories may smell a rat but it could be that they are looking at the mouse that roared?

9 COMMENTS

  1. Thurrock’s future may well be in the hands of pacts and agreements with neighbouring authorities but, from my experience of dealing with mental health issues across Essex, it seems as though Thurrock wants to become an independent nation in its own right with little interest in cross-border working. The fact that some cross-border stuff is being done now is a good sign regardless of who it’s with but Thurrock nationalism will continue to block any real progress.

  2. I do hope that no Conservative Councillors sat on any Committees and agreed and voted for the shared services with Barking and Dagenham Council.

    They would look a complete plonker if they did and now speak against what they had earlier voted for – wouldn’t they Councillor Anderson?

  3. I understand sharing services to keep costs down but surely it would make more sense to share services with a neighbouring authority regardless of politics or at least an authority within the same county.

  4. Watch this space, Thurrock will become a London Borough eventually, the Labour Party wanted this a while ago when Ken Livingstone was the London Mayor and our Mr Kent is just following the plans that were set out then.

  5. Bernard87 – You’re quite right about it being better to join forces with a neighbouring authority regardless of political affiliation; however, Thurrock had the chance to join forces on an Essex-wide HealthWatch and didn’t want to. This authority has something against being counted in with its closest neighbours and I’m surprised that the council haven’t erected a wall around Thurrock and asked for devolved powers such as Scotland and Wales have.

  6. Lambo – You could be right that this is all part of a plan to make Thurrock a London borough; however, an equally valid hypothesis is that Barking & Dagenham, from whence I came and still have family there (none of whom are Labour supporters, I may add), and Thurrock have the most similar problems compared with other authorities. If true, it would mean that B&D may have specific services that would be of most use to Thurrock and hence best to share expediture on in partnership.

  7. Valen, quite correct that B&D may have similar issues to Thurrock but then so does Basildon which Thurrock could have aligned itself with but chose a London Borough instead and not really a neighboring one either, they could have gone to Havering which is next door almost.

    I still think this is a plan to move towards becoming a London borough though, something that I believe that the majority of the local people would be dead set against, but when have the views of the local electorate ever mattered to politicians both local and nationally??

  8. Lambo – You’re right, Basildon does have similar problems but it’s part of Essex and Thurrock seems to have a disinterest in working with Essex. Perhaps B&D gave Thurrock a better deal?

    I think the idea that it’s all part of a masterplan to make Thurrock a London borough is crediting both authorities with too much Machiavellian skill. But you’re right to say that Thurrock residents would be dead set against becoming part of London though.

  9. Not wanting to advertise for a competitor but feeling it relevant to the issue, perhaps readers of this column should read Cllr Kent’s column in this week’s Thurrock Gazette (page 18). Not wanting to appear to be a Labour supporter, I’d still have to say that the reasons given for working with B&D over Basildon seem reasonable to me.

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