Just when you thought Thurrock Council couldn’t sink any lower when it comes to a combination of incompetence and a lack of accountability, they only go and pull another rabbit out of the hat! On the evening of Tuesday December 7, the council’s transport, planning and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee had a meeting scheduled. Among the items on the agenda were the massively over-budget and delayed widening of the A13 in the east of the borough and the debacle that’s the ‘redevelopment’ of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope. Issues that fed up residents would like some straight answers on: The Stanford-le-Hope railway station debacle – the STILL unanswered questions! – December 6, 2021 and: Asking for a community… – November 24, 2021.
The scrutiny committee meeting was scheduled to be held at the Beehive Community Resource Centre in Grays. The reason being is that issues arising from a water leak in the Civic Offices that affected the electrical supply have yet to be resolved. All but one of the councillors due to attend the meeting turned up. Just one council officer actually showed up in person. All the other officers due to attend elected to stay at home and appear via video link.
Seasoned followers of the shitshow that’s Thurrock Council are aware of long standing issues regarding their ability to set up and use communications technology effectively and without errors. On the evening of the meeting, yet again, the technology failed, the work from home officers couldn’t communicate with the councillors and the one officer at the Beehive and eventually, the proceedings had to be abandoned. This is the full report from Thurrock Nub News on this latest debacle: Calamity council left red-faced again. Officers decline to face their responsibilities in person, technology fails again and key questions about A13, Stanford station and other important issues remain unanswered and democracy is denied.
Ensuring communications technology works and having effective back ups ready to be brought into action if one platform goes down should be part of the basics that any council can master and implement with ease. Thurrock Council have experienced repeated failures with communications technology which has seriously affected meetings. These meetings are where ruling group councillors and the officers who support them are held to account for their policies and the way they’re being implemented. They are a vital part of the process of democratic accountability. If these meetings can’t be held or have to be abandoned, then to all intents and purposes, democracy is being denied. This is totally unacceptable.
Last but by no means least, let’s consider the officers who elected to work from home rather than attend the meeting in person. At the time of writing, there’s no indication as to why they chose to try and access the meeting from their homes rather than attend in person as all bar one of the councillors due to attend did. Despite the aftermath of Storm Barra and lingering concerns about Covid, the councillors who attended in person did so because they thought it was the right thing to do. We have to be careful how we choose our words here… Some people could be forgiven for thinking that the non attending officers knew they would be facing difficult questions, were aware of the likelihood of the communications technology yet again failing, so opted to stay at home in the hope that they would avoid the flak. A bit of a stretch maybe but given Thurrock Council’s dismal record on transparency and accountability, you can’t blame people for thinking this.
How much longer do residents of Thurrock have to put up with an utter shambles of a council? One we pay for with our taxes. It wouldn’t come as any surprise if it turns out that a growing number of people are asking what are they paying their council tax for and are considering withholding it in protest.