Some Thurrock councillors really need to get a grip!

On Wednesday 24.11, Save YOUR Thameside are organising a protest outside the Grays campus of South Essex College where a full meeting of Thurrock Council is scheduled to take place: SAVE YOUR THAMESIDE PROTEST – November 12, 2021. The protest is against the proposed closure of the Thameside Complex which currently houses a theatre, the central library and the local museum.

This is our write up of the last protest that took place on Wednesday 22.9: The people turned up… – September 22, 2021. The protest back in September was well attended. It was at times, noisy and passionate but there was absolutely no hint of aggression. Which is pretty much what you would want from a local protest attended by wide range of residents – as you can clearly see from the image above.

Somehow, a number of ruling group Tory councillors have got it into their heads that there’s a possibility of ‘confrontation’ at the forthcoming protest. Some of these councillors have actually suggested the full meeting of the council be postponed. The senior officers want the meeting to go ahead because if it doesn’t, the council are likely to be in a bit of bother. This is because of various screw ups that have led to there being just one full meeting since July. The dearth of full council meetings has further undermined the lack of accountability to the public that has become a hallmark of the way Thurrock Council conduct themselves.

To assuage the fears of the councillors who wanted the meeting postponed, Thurrock Council have stepped up security measures and have involved Essex Police as well: Council steps up security and brings in police ahead of residents’ planned protest about Thameside closure. What sort of signals is this sending out?

Those councillors who feel they need a security presence at the meeting, intentionally or not, are slurring the Save YOUR Thameside campaign. Okay, it’s not anything that would stand up in a court of law but even implying that there could be a possibility of confrontation has the potential to discredit the campaign. Which while not wanting to appear to be cynical, would suit those councillors seeking to close the Thameside Complex. These councillors owe the campaign a full, unreserved apology for suggesting their protest would result in confrontation.

It also sends out a signal that ruling group councillors are reluctant to directly face or deal with residents who are unhappy with their decisions and policies. That’s shows arrogance but also, shows cowardice as well. If ruling group councillors are unwilling to face unhappy residents, can we suggest they take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they’re actually in the right role? All councillors have a duty of accountability to the residents they serve, particularly ruling group councillors. Part of being accountable is dealing with residents face to face. Whether that’s in a surgery or at a peaceful protest outside a council meeting is immaterial.

More worryingly, it’s sending out a signal that protesting outside council offices or a council meeting is not seen as a legitimate way of airing a grievance. We pay the expenses of these councillors and the salaries of the officers who support them. If we have a grievance with the council that for whatever reason, is not getting resolved through other channels, we as residents have every right to protest. If that right can no longer be peacefully exercised, then the council shouldn’t be surprised if some residents start to question why the heck they should carry on paying their council tax.

Anyway, here’s to a peaceful but lively protest on Wednesday 24.11. Given the attitude of the ruling group councillors to this protest, we suspect that the numbers attending could well exceed those that turned up in September. We will definitely be there in support of Save YOUR Thameside.

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