After the elections…

Here’s some coverage and the ward by ward results for Thurrock:

Blue is the dominant colour as Tories enjoy a night to remember in Thurrock Council elections | Thurrock Nub News | 7.5.21

Thurrock: Council election results, 6 May 2021 (PDF 183.46KB)

The Tories consolidated their hold on Thurrock.

Here’s some coverage and the ward by ward results for Basildon:

Tory surge in Basildon sees Labour leader stand down | Basildon Nub News | 7.5.21

RESULTS – Basildon Borough Council Election – Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Tories have regained control of Basildon Council from the Labour/Independent alliance.

Firstly, the all important aspect of any election, local or national – the turnout… This is what we said in our previous post:

“We’ve got a feeling that in the wards with a residents party or independent candidate making waves, the turnout may well be a bit up on normal. We sense that in both Thurrock and Basildon, there are a fair number of people who, for a whole host of reasons, want to give their respective council ruling groups a well deserved bloody nose.”

At 30% for Basildon and less than that for Thurrock, we were a bit off the mark on that one to say the least! Look, we’re only human and even we can get in a bit of a bubble sometimes and miss what’s really going on. This is one of those times…

Let’s start with Thurrock as that’s fairly straightforward. Just over 70% of the electorate felt it wasn’t worth the effort of going down to the polls and casting a vote. This even applied in the wards where the Thurrock Independents were standing. Why was this the case?

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of a number of long running sagas that demonstrate a combination of arrogance and incompetence from Thurrock Council. They are, in no particular order:

A strike by environmental services and highways maintenance workers in protest at pay cuts and worse terms and conditions of employment – a dispute that shows no sign of ending.

The vanity project that’s the £10million extension to the council offices in New Road, Grays.

A very questionable ‘investment’ strategy that involves hundreds of millions of pounds borrowed from other local authorities being sunk into potentially risky projects.

The long running farce that’s the ‘re-development’ of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope.

The overdue and over-budget widening of the A13.

In our coverage of all of these, we’ve highlighted that it’s senior council officers involved in these screw ups with less than adequate oversight and supervision from the ruling Tory group councillors. A lot of voters concluded that it’s all very well electing councillors but what’s the point if the chief executive and the senior officers at the council are allowed to carry on willy nilly without ever properly being held to account by them.

A telling image from the count was one of the returning officer who was none other than Lyn Carpenter, the chief executive of Thurrock Council. One individual who has a lot to answer for concerning the debacles listed above yet is unelected and unaccountable. Carpenter as the returning officer has got to be the ultimate in gaslighting the residents of Thurrock FFS!

Would the election of a few councillors from the Thurrock Independents have made a difference? Possibly in that it might have altered the balance of power. It would have provided a few councillors willing to ask some difficult questions about the way the chief executive and senior officers go about their business. That’s all speculation because it never happened. Why was this?

Bear in mind that originally, the Thurrock Independents were formed by UKIP councillors who felt that their brand was possibly getting a bit too toxic. Many of these councillors plus one non ex UKIP one ended up defecting to the ruling Tory group. When voters put their cross next to a candidate, they do so in the expectation that they will stay with the party or grouping whose banner they stood under. Given the number of Thurrock Independent councillors who walked across the floor, voters are understandably reluctant to risk being disappointed again. So while the candidates who stood for the Thurrock Independents had little or nothing to do with the old guard, if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll realise there is work to do in repairing their brand and re-building trust with the voters.

Then there’s Basildon… 70% of the electorate chose not to exercise their right to vote. This is despite the appearance of a new grouping, the Basildon Community Residents Party (BCRP) who stood candidates in a number of wards. Why was this the case?

The BCRP has been in existence for just over two months… From our experience with the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), we know it takes at least a year of pounding the streets, door knocking, talking to residents and getting stuck into issues to start to gain any real recognition and credibility with the voters. From a standing start, the BCRP earned the votes of 5% of those who voted. Given the amount of flak they got, not just from Cllr. Gavin Callaghan, the now former leader of the council, but also from some dodgy elements in the Laindon Park ward, the BCRP have done pretty well to be where they are. Our gut feeling is that they’ve laid down enough of a base to build for the future and offer a real alternative to the people of Basildon.

The Tories are back in control in Basildon. Whether, they will be the same as Phil Turner’s shower a.k.a. the ‘Basildon Tory Mafia’ remains to be seen. The Tories have pledged to review the town centre masterplan: What does a Conservative win mean for Basildon’s £600m masterplan? If they don’t keep their word on this, the backlash will not be a pretty sight… What does need to be born in mind is that the previous Tory administration had a nasty habit of offloading bits of green space in the new town south of the A127 to housing developers while doing what they could to keep Billericay and Wickford leafy and green. Suffice to say, we and many others will be watching like hawks to see if they revert to this behaviour.

With lockdown restrictions still in place, it was a weird campaign. Can that be blamed for the low turnout? It would be all too easy for all of the players to do this but it would be a total cop out. Voters can see where power really lies and they know that in a rigged and fundamentally flawed system, there’s only so much councils and councillors can really achieve. Voters know that senior officers and developers are all too often the ones calling the shots and that these f**kers can’t be voted out. That’s why 70% of them stayed away from the polls. Cynicism? No, just hard headed realism about the very real limitations of a democracy that’s in terminal decline.

How this will play out is something that’s difficult to predict. Suffice to say, we’ll carry on doing what we can with our limited resources to call truth to power, wherever that may lie.

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