Back in April we wrote this piece – Plugging the gaps – which looked at the way grassroots community action groups were stepping up to the plate to plug the gap left by permanent austerity degrading local council services. One of the groups we featured was the Orchards Forum in Grays who were organising a series of clean ups targeting fly-tipped back alleys in their part of town. Well, it looks as though their hard graft has got a result: Forum gets pally down the alleys and hard work pays off. A mention has to be given to Thurrock Council who took away 37 lorry loads of rubbish that was collected by the residents – that is a LOT of flytipping!
We know there’s an ongoing and sometimes heated debate as to whether residents groups should be stepping up to the plate to plug the gaps created by austerity and sometimes exacerbated by local council inefficiency. The point about the work undertaken by the residents in the Orchards area of Grays is that they have sent out a very clear signal to the flytippers that their anti-social actions will not be tolerated. The hope is that the scumbag flytippers will take note of this and realise they are not dumping their crap in an atomised neighbourhood but in the middle of an increasingly empowered community who will not tolerate their actions any longer.
Whether, it’s getting to grips with the issue of flytipping, fighting the council to stop a local park being flogged off for the development of a school or simply keeping the planters neat and stocked with flowers, these actions send out a signal of ownership and pride in the community and a desire to work collectively to improve conditions there. In an increasingly atomised and fearful society, it’s this kind of graft at the grassroots that starts to make a difference and helps to build the community solidarity needed to get through difficult times. This kind of activity is a hard, unglamorous slog but it’s what’s needed at the grassroots in working class neighbourhoods if more serious progressive change is going to be on the agenda.