Last week Councillor Turner of Basildon Borough Council accused BAG and other action groups of scaremongering having previously worried residents by stating that Basildon Borough Council’s plans could lead to “slaughter on the roads”.
This week in the Yellow Advertiser Councillor Turner said he wanted to have “a grown up debate” about the future of the green belt and will have a series of meetings with political rivals to explain his plan, to let them comment and suggest changes; yet in last night’s Basildon Cabinet meeting which discussed the responses from residents to the Local Plan it descended into political mudslinging and insults leaving observers concluding that there was little or no respect for fellow Councillors or their views.
Our chairmans letter regarding the meeting was also published in the Echo on Thursday 7th
1. Just “going through the motions” : your views don’t count
We were left with the overriding impression that some senior Councillors were just going through the motions. Legally, the public (also known as “residents” and, next year in the local elections, “voters”) had to be consulted and despite the poor communication effort by Basildon Council large numbers did respond (many through the efforts of the Billericay Action Group we might add). At no point did anyone from Basildon Borough Council stress that the public’s comments either had to be acted upon, would be seriously considered or express any sympathy with those views.
We demand that people’s views be taken into account. We demand that the Council show more respect for the views of residents. We demand that they demonstrate that the consultation exercise wasn’t wasting our time by just “going through the motions”.
2. “It’s not our fault, don’t blame us”
We were left with the impression of a hardening of the views of the ruling party : that they are saying the destruction of our green belt is going to happen whether residents like it or not. Councillors said “it’s not our fault” constantly claiming that the numbers are provided by the Government and others outside our Borough. A clear case of “don’t blame us, guv”. This is after we have been repeatedly told that the 16,000 figure is objectively assessed and is “robust”.
Well I’m sorry but that’s not going to happen. Throughout history many people have sought to avoid responsibility by simply blaming others. That’s not acceptable to us. There are Borough elections next year; we will hold our Councillors responsible and vote for those who demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of our area and its towns.
3. Abject surrender.
No one from the main party said they were fighting back. Or even attempting to fight back. We came away with the impression that rather than challenging why they had “been told” to construct 16,000 houses they were simply packing their bags and surrendering. Rather than work even harder to reduce what could turn out to be approaching a 25% increase in the number of homes in Billericay over 16 years they were just caving in. The Billericay Action Group would be delighted to work alongside our elected representatives to help them fight.
16,000 is an excessive number - and despite our best efforts so far an inexplicably high number. We want our Councillors to fight. Respect is not gained from simply caving in. Respect is earned by fighting for what residents want. Yes this might be a simplistic, idealistic view. And yes it might be very difficult. But we want our Councillors to show that they listen to their residents; to stand up and say “Yes. We agree the numbers are far too high. We will challenge them”.
4. Here we go, party politics again.
Then, of course, it became party political. Insults were thrown in ways that sadly many politicians feel is necessary these days. We were back to the politics of trading insults rather than an intelligent, informed debate. Members of the public thought this unseemly from such experienced politicians.
People are fed up with party politics. That’s why turnout in elections is so low; that’s why people are disinterested in what happens in Parliament and local councils. And that’s why the level of distrust of politicians of all parties is at rock bottom.
5. And So …..
What is clear from the responses to the consultation is that in every single area the majority of residents were against of the proposed developments; they did not agree with the necessity.
The consultation exercise asked for our views and now Basildon Council has them. It is clear what the residents don’t want; in fact they were very vocal in saying that they did not want to lose the vibrant green belt that surrounds us all. And isn’t that what localism is all about ?
So, dear supporters, a rather bleak picture has been painted and perhaps our fight is becoming more difficult. But with your support BAG will continue to represent the views of the residents of Billericay, if that is what you want.
What do YOU think ? Do we give up or fight ?
What do YOU want your elected Councillors do ?
How can YOU help BAG to help you ?
What will YOU do to help save the very existence of our town as we know it ?
Our Open Meeting is on the 18th September at 19:30 in the Stables Bar to the rear of the Red Lion in the High Street. Come along, listen to the updates we’ll be presenting, join in the debate - and most importantly make your own minds up.
But please, do email us at info@BillericayActionGroup.org.uk to let us know you are coming so that we can be sure we can fit everyone in !