This is what we saw when we were out and about in Grays distributing the latest print edition of The Heckler – a bin in Grays Park overflowing with discarded beer cans. The overflowing bin was just one clear indication that Thurrock Council are failing to get to grips with the situation in the park. Other physical manifestations of decline are discarded fast food cartons all over the grass and ‘flower beds’ that are becoming overgrown and full of weeds.

This is overlain by the number of street drinkers already in the park at lunchtime, which for a fair number of people, makes the place a no go area. However, being fair to the street drinkers, judging from the photo above they’re doing their best to get their empty cans into or as close as possible to the overflowing bins!

This is Thurrock Council failing to get to grips with the basics of what any council needs to be doing. Namely, looking after what is supposed to be the main park in the town centre so it’s a place residents want to visit rather than avoid. Also, being able to reach out to the streets drinkers and other substance abusers frequenting the park to help them get their lives back on track rather than throwing them under the bus.

What we saw in the park is just one manifestation of the consequences of permanent austerity. A town centre park being abandoned to decline frequented by people with multiple issues who are falling through the increasingly precarious and threadbare safety nets a society in crisis has to offer. A cash strapped Thurrock Council is seemingly unable to reverse the situation.

Parks can be turned round by determined resident action. Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope has in the space of a decade been turned from a no go area into a much loved community asset as a result of residents effectively taking over its running.

The same could be done with Grays Park but it has to be borne in mind that it will be a tougher challenge to turn it around. Not least because any solution means engaging with the street drinkers and others who currently frequent the park. That engagement needs to get them to buy into a vision of the asset the park could be and then taking an active part in realising that vision and starting to get their lives back on track at the same time.

Thurrock Council have failed. It’s time for local residents to get together, solicit the help of appropriate charities and agencies and start to work together to take the park back for the people of Grays.