The majority of Thurrock councillors plus the majority of those councillors sitting on the planning committee have voted against the proposed extension of the Civic Offices in New Road Grays – a proposal which threatens to obliterate a number of small businesses. From what we can gather, anecdotally and otherwise, the majority of Thurrock residents think the money earmarked for the scheme could be much better spent elsewhere.

By this point in time, you would have thought that the cabal of Tory ruling group councillors and senior council officers would have got the message that the extension of the Civic Offices has little public support. What they’ve done instead is double down on their hubris.

The chair of the planning committee, Cllr. Tom Kelly (Little Thurrock) has utilised the council’s press office to issue a personal statement effectively expressing support for the proposal and pitting himself against other members of the planning committee: Planning chair backs civic offices plan despite his committee’s recommendation. It’s thought that this is a move which is pretty much unprecedented.

The next stage is that council officers will submit a report to a future meeting of the planning committee outlining the implications for making a decision contrary to their recommendations. Basically, that translates as “you’ve made the wrong decision and we’re going to keep piling on the pressure until you make the right one”. If anyone thinks we live in a democracy, this episode might serve as a wake up call.

Back in June we asked this question about the local councils who are supposed to serve us: Asking where does power really lie? We think the events of the last few months have provided the answer – senior, full time officers have way more power than is healthy. When that’s exploited by ruling group councillors to pursue their own vanity projects, we have a situation that can only be described as toxic.

People aren’t mugs and when they clock what’s going on in local councils and can see ruling group councillors and senior officers conniving to push through their vanity projects regardless, it’s not surprising there’s a massive loss of faith in local democracy. People rightly ask themselves – what’s the point of voting if our views are going to be routinely ignored? The commentators getting themselves in a stew about low turnouts at local elections need to start doing some investigative digging into the workings of local councils and perhaps, they might find out why people are shunning local so called ‘democracy’.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – the system of local governance we have is dysfunctional and unfit for purpose. We’ve asked this before and we’ll ask it again – how much longer will people tolerate this situation before something gives? Somehow, we’re beginning to suspect that it may be sooner rather than later…