The proposed extension to and re-development of the Civic Offices in New Road, Grays, by Thurrock Council has been rejected by a meeting of the full council and also of the planning committee. As the proposal is supported by senior council officers, protocol dictates that a month has to pass before any rejection can be accepted. A month can be a long time in local government, particularly when the cabal of ruling group Tories and senior council officers supporting this scheme are busting their guts to get it through by any means possible.

The senior officers have not been wasting their time – they’ve produced a report arguing why the scheme should go ahead: Committee to hear why officers back civic offices project. This report will be put to the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 3rd September. Twenty four hours later, the Tory ruling group cabinet who back the scheme will be meeting to discuss the report and the decision of the full council to reject it.

Basically, the message to the majority of councillors who voted against this scheme is this – ‘you voted the wrong way and we’re going to pile on the pressure until you change your mind and vote this scheme through’. Never mind that the councillors who voted against the scheme had listened to the residents they represent and formed the opinion that the proposed extension was little more than a costly vanity project. Never mind that the councillors representing the ward the Civic Offices are in had not only listened to their residents, but also to the owners (mainly of migrant origin) of the businesses that sit on the foot print of the extension and which face obliteration, and having listened, voted against it. None of this matters to the cabal of ruling group Tories and senior council officers who want their pet vanity project to go ahead regardless.

A few times, we’ve asked the question – who actually runs our local councils? Well, it looks as though the senior officers doing whatever they can to push this hubristic project through have provided us with at least the outline of an answer. Councillors voting as a majority do not run the show if their vote goes against the wishes of the senior officers. It’s clear that the senior officers do not respect the views of the councillors who rejected the scheme and the residents they represent. While unelected senior officers might not actually, one hundred percent run the show, they’re exerting a heck of a lot more pressure than is healthy.

It should be mentioned that the Tories are ruling as a minority administration. It would appear that even though they might be running a minority administration, if their pet schemes have the full support of senior council officers, they’ll be led to believe they can eventually get them through. The people of Thurrock are no mugs and if they think they’re being treated as such, they’ll find a way of expressing it. We’re starting to think that maybe this time, Thurrock Council have reached a stage of imperial overstretch and that come next May, there may be consequences…