That Was The Week That Was: March 1988

That Was The Week That Was – 25th March 1988

By Myles Cook

HERE IS the latest in our series of features looking back at some of the news items to be found in the Thurrock Gazette archives from 25 years ago.

Fear That Hospital Will Close

The approval of further cuts at Orsett Hospital led to the drawing up of battle lines to prevent the closure of the hospital that, it was claimed, the cuts would lead to.

Mrs Ann Geaney, Thurrock council leader, called upon the chairman of the District Health Authority to resign following the approval of the £500,000 cuts.

Cuts agreed upon by the health authority included the closure of all family planning clinics in Thurrock, keeping 30 orthopaedic beds at Orsett Hospital closed, not opening 20 general surgery beds at Orsett and the continued closure of 26 medical beds in the district.

Mrs Geaney stated: “I am past the stage of being disappointed – I am absolutely furious. The obvious intention is to close down Orsett Hospital piece-meal.”

She continued: “Orsett Hospital, which is bearing the brunt of all these cut-backs, has a marvellous medical, nursing and general staff but their future is being made uncertain

“The health authority is deliberately creating this atmosphere and then complaining they can’t attract staff.

“The Family Planning service affects women who are least advantaged. It is the ordinary woman in the street who will be affected by this decision. It is a service I passionately believe should be available easily and discreetly.”

Mrs Geaney went on to call for all members of the council to fight the cuts.

Thurrock representatives mounted a fierce opposition to the cuts approved by the health authority, which faced a deficit of £1.5 million.

District Health Authority chairman Joan Martin forced through the cuts by using her casting vote three times during the meeting. One vote, however, was lost by objectors due to the fact that Cllr Pat Rice, Thurrock’s only representative on the health authority, was out of the room when the vote was taken.

Cllr Rice stated: “Things moved so quickly that I unfortunately missed the vote on the budget proposals which went through on the chairman’s casting vote.

“These are draconian measures. We already have the longest waiting lists in the country and the bed closures will have a terrible effect.”

Mrs Martin, DHA chairman, said: “I have no intention of resigning. Although the cuts are devastating it is better to plan ahead than let cuts happen by default.

“I will continue to press for more resources. There is nothing to stop us opening and expanding our services if more money comes our way.”

Twins Take Trophy

Tilbury twins Debbie and Denise Lawrence, 14, won first place in the mace duo section of a competition organised by the United Kingdom Majorette Association in Basildon.

The twins were members of the Sue pearl Majorette Troupe formed only a fortnight before.

The youngest of the members, Charlene Ridgewell, aged 5, won second place in the flag solo section.

MP Sees Budget Boost for Jobs and Better Business

Tory MP Tim Janman believed the Budget would lead to more local jobs and a boost for local small businesses, saying that the proposed changes in the Business Expansion Scheme would allow small traders to raise extra capital.

Mr Janman stated: “It is a budget of caution, with £3 billion going to pay off debts incurred by the last Labour Government. The Chancellor hasn’t thrown everything into tax cuts.

“It is a prudent, cautious, but exciting budget which has fulfilled the Conservative election pledge to cut the basic rate of Income Tax to 25p and the promise of it going down to 20p in the future.

“The cut in the top rate of Income Tax to 40p is also welcome. It is a tremendous fillip to increase enterprise and increase prosperity.”

He claimed the Budget to be very responsible in paying back debts accrued under the previous Labour administration, saying: “If this debt had not been there, then even more could have been spent on the National Health Service.

“There will be flack on the decision to cut the top rate of income tax, but by cutting the rate, the revenue paid by the top five per cent of earners has gone up by a third and the percentage of revenue from the top third of earners has also increased.

“Cutting the top rate of income tax makes good sense. People will have more incentive to go out and earn more money, and that way lead to a further increase in revenue.”

A Week-long Protest at Alton’s Bill

Grays High Street was the site of street theatre performed by members of Thurrock Fight the Alton Bill (FAB) and Grays Thurrock Rape Crisis Line to mark the start of their week of action against the Alton Bill.

Members of the groups acted out scenes highlighting the difficulty for women in getting abortions and the consequences of the Alton Bill whilst others collected signatures for the FAB petition against the Bill. A collection raised almost £70 for campaign funds.

A number of small events were planned for the week including more street theatre performances and a speaker from national FAB addressing students and staff at Thurrock Technical College. The week was due to end in the local groups attending the national rally in London and meeting with Thurrock MP Tim Janman to present him with the petition.

Press officer Dennis Hayes commented: “Mr Janman believes that his pro-life anti-abortion stances represent the views of his constituents. But the hundreds of signatures we have obtained every time we have campaigned show that residents believe that restrictions on abortion strike at the heart of women’s rights.

“Without control over the reproductive process, women will be forever condemned to the status of second class citizens. Only if women have access to abortion facilities as early as possible and as late as necessary will they ever begin to achieve equal opportunities.”

Man in Mask Robbed With a Crossbow
A Corringham service station was raided by a robber wearing a ski mask and armed with a crossbow in a terrifying late night ordeal for the cashier…for just £30.

A spokesman for the police said: “This was a really awful crime. Fortunately, the young woman wasn’t hurt, but she was badly shaken to say the least.”

The robbery, at Tokley’s Garage in Giffords Cross Road, was committed by a man, believed to be in his early 20s, who walked into the garage and ordered the cashier to empty the till before escaping on foot with just £30.

The police spokesman continued; “The incident was all the more frightening because of the black ski mask which the man was wearing.

“It had slits for the eyes and mouth and looked very sinister.”

The police requested any witnesses to contact them with any information, describing the robber as “wearing dark clothing apart from the ski mask, and the crossbow was quite distinctive because it had a black string.”

In Other News…

The weapons amnesty, organised by Essex Police, had been such a success that the duration was extended.

Chafford Hundred, the biggest housing development in the country at the time, was off and running.

Thurrock councillors were set to oppose the granting of a waste disposal licence for land at Mardyke Meadows in Purfleet that had been put before Essex County Council.

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