The proposed extension to Thurrock Council’s civic offices in New Road, Grays, has been rejected by a full meeting of the council and also the planning committee. As well as this, it came in for heavy criticism from the council’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee. From anecdotal evidence, it would seem that many residents in Thurrock see the proposed scheme as a pointless vanity project.

Yet, despite all of this, the cabal of leading Tory councillors aided and abetted by senior Thurrock Council officers seem hell bent on pushing these plans through regardless: Leading councillors press on with civic office plans – buoyed by government cash and optimism over a new 21st century town centre.

It’s claimed that the redevelopment of and extension to the civic offices will be the kickstarter to the ‘regeneration’ of Grays town centre. This is just one example of a number of local authorities across the region we cover who obsess about re-generating their town centres while neglecting peripheral estates and neighbourhoods: What’s behind the urge to tart up town centres?

There’s an agenda of social engineering as town centres with handy access to relatively swift rail links to London are re-positioned as desirable areas for young professionals to live. That entails not only the inevitable apartments but also ensuring that the right kind of shops, cafes and bars are laid on for them as well.

Which is leading a fair few people to think that’s why the Tories and the senior officers at Thurrock Council don’t really give a toss about the migrant owned businesses sitting on the footprint of the proposed extension who potentially face obliteration: Another casualty of the ‘regeneration’ of Grays town centre. Really, this is about social cleansing…

Meanwhile, the peripheral towns and estates continue to suffer their slow decline. One exacerbated by bodged and delayed council infrastructure projects, the most notable example being the stalled re-development of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope: Communication breakdown…

If the ruling group councillors and senior council officers had shown half as much interest in pushing this rail station project forward as they’ve invested in the civic office proposals, the residents of Stanford-le-Hope might be seeing a new station emerge. As it is, they have nothing more than the fenced off, gutted ruins of the old station to look at.

All of this shows that the priorities of Thurrock Council (and pretty much all of the others we know about) are totally skewed. There’s too much emphasis on ‘place making’ in town centres to stimulate economic growth while the needs and wants of many residents are pushed down the priority order.

When residents see ruling group councillors and senior council officers blatantly ignoring the democratic votes of the full council and the planning committee to push through vanity projects, it’s no surprise their faith in local democracy is in sharp decline. That loss of faith is made clear every May at the local elections with ever declining turnouts.

Along with the Brexit induced crisis of democracy at a national level, we have a longer, ongoing crisis at a local level. It’s becoming clear that things cannot continue as they are. The question is – what’s going to happen to change this state of affairs? We don’t yet know the answer to this but sense that it will in people starting to take matters into their own hands rather than relying on elected representatives to sort things out…