20/04/2010

Election news from a quiet target seat

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:21 pm by henrysgauntlet

The western half of Thurrock, the bit in the Thurrock parliamentary constituency, is a seething maelstrom of electoral inactivity.   It is a Labour/Conservative target seat, and I was told this morning that the Conservatives must win it to have any chance………

Yes, I know, I could get out there and campaign for somebody, but after all Henry’s getting on a bit, and his armour is rusty.

The Thurrock Gazette is doing its bit, and should feel proud of itself.   It has been publishing regular photographs of the Labour candidate for at least a year, before ever he was selected.   That’s the beauty of being a local councillor.   There is an excuse for the Gazette to publicise you.

Yesterday something very strange happened.   Henry was canvassed by the Conservative candidate.   There was a knock on the portcullis of his castle, and there she stood.   That’s the first time for many years, possibly ever, that this castle has been canvassed by the Conservatives.

Several bits of red paper have arrived by hand delivery from Labour, and the Conservatives are the first off the block with the freepost election address which arrived several days ago.   No communications from anyone else.

So now Henry awaits the Whigs, (he means the Liberals who are not a shiny new untried party, but have actually been around for as long as the Tories), the BNP and UKIP.

17/04/2010

Manhole madness

Posted in Crime at 2:55 pm by henrysgauntlet

There seems to be an epidemic of manhole theft going on.   Strange, but apparently the metal is worth selling for scrap.

59 covers have just been stolen in the Maldon area, some of them from quiet villages.

What a shame it is that those who perpetrate these crimes  –  because that’s what they are  –  never think about the consequences.

A car hits one of these spots, may end up grounded in the hole as manholes are quite large, or could bounce and shoot across into an oncoming vehicle.   At the very least might burst a tyre or damage the springs.   Motor cyclists and cyclists could be thrown off their machines.   Pedestrians trip and injure themselves, or fall down the hole.   So could cats and dogs.

Not just property crime, but very dangerous.

 

09/04/2010

A host of golden daffodils – not if these people nick them

Posted in Crime, Life at 9:11 pm by henrysgauntlet

As I drove through the Avenues area of North Grays today I thought how lovely the gardens looked.   Spring bulbs in full bloom, and above them, magnolias and cherry blossom.

After that, on the way back from Chadwell St Mary, I saw two cars pulled up in the layby at the big roundabout near Palmer’s College.   Two women and several children were milling around.   At first I thought they were feeding or just admiring a number of horses in the adjoining field.

Then I saw what they were actually doing.   All of them were holding large bunches of daffodils.   There is a considerable area of grass between the field and the layby, and at the moment it has swathes of daffodils nodding in the wind.   And these people had taken it upon themselves to pick them.   I don’t suppose they intended selling them.   They were probably for their own homes.   They just thought they would take them for free rather than grow their own or buy flowers at a shop.

But that isn’t right.   The flowers are on public property, presumably supplied and planted by the Council.   Being public, does not mean people can cut them and take them away for their own use.   That denies the rest of the residents the pleasure of seeing such a splendid sight.   And the women are setting a shocking example to the children in letting them think they can just take whatever they want, whether from private owners or from publicly owned sites.

07/04/2010

Last PMQs for Andrew

Posted in Andrew Mackinlay at 2:48 pm by henrysgauntlet

Watched Prime Minister’s Questions this morning, the last of this Parliament.

He didn’t speak, but there, sitting in his usual place on the front bench just below the gangway, was Andrew Mackinlay.   And it struck me how odd it is that I shall not see him there again.

Henry has known Andrew for a long time, both locally and at Westminster.   We do not support the same political party, but am pleased to say we have been good friends.

Andrew Mackinlay has been a fine MP for Thurrock, and a strong, fearless, independent voice at Westminster who was never afraid to speak and vote against his party if his conscience demanded it.   He will be sorely missed in Thurrock and at Westminster.   There are now hardly any independent, difficult (for the whips) characters left, and it’s unlikely there will be many, if any, in the new Parliament.

Henry sends his very best wishes for the future to Andrew, to Ruth and to their family.   Henry is proud to have known him.

18/03/2010

Ford investment helps Essex jobs

Posted in Industry, Jobs at 10:09 pm by henrysgauntlet

Good news today that Ford are planning new investment at the research centre in Dunton and the Dagenham factory.

Across the country £1.5 billion will be invested at four sites, which together will safeguard about 2,800 skilled jobs.   Many of those jobs will be at the two Essex sites  –  if Henry may be allowed to include Metropolitan Essex in the county  –  giving some peace of mind to the many Thurrock residents who work there.  And perhaps some extra jobs which will help our unemployed.

14/03/2010

Anti-social behaviour, no it’s crime

Posted in Crime, Law 'n order, Police at 8:50 pm by henrysgauntlet

Henry is not always in agreement with the pieces written by Michael Casey in his Your Thurrock website, but he is spot on with this one, which asks when and how crimes came to be rebranded as anti-social behaviour.

Henry particularly liked this quote:-

“What the bottom line should be is that the police and associated agencies still use as their mantra the reason Robert Peel started the modern police force back in 1829.  Peel coined the phrase “The maintenance of public tranquillity”.”

As Mr Casey says, statistics are being used by the powers that be in an attempt to lull the public into feeling that crime has been considerably reduced.    Whereas we residents, (not just in Thurrock but across the country), use our eyes and ears to register what is going on around us;  to read in local newspapers and on websites of the string of crimes being committed: assaults, rapes, car jacking, house breaking, and more;  to notice that people are frightened to walk the streets after dark, even where there are street lamps;  and to watch people crossing the road to avoid groups of men, or young people of both sexes, who are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a potential danger.

Henry agrees with Mr Casey that the police are not to blame, or at least not the only culprits.   They are indeed the victims of the terrible tick box culture, where they are required to hit constant targets.   Henry has often wondered about, for example, targets for the number of arrests.   If that nirvana were ever reached where there is no crime, how could they fulfil their targets.   Even now, we all believe that the police give less attention to difficult crimes like burglary because it is so much easier to fulfil the arrest target by persecuting the poor motorist.   After all he is easy to identify by his vehicle registration, and in recent years myriad new offences have been created to attack those who have the temerity to drive their own vehicles.

So, as Mr Casey and Henry believe, let’s ditch the blurred and vague anti-social behaviour and get back to calling it what it is, crime.                

05/03/2010

Please, Henry, how do I deactivate my wheelie bin?

Posted in Refuse collection, Wheelie Bins at 7:34 pm by henrysgauntlet

Way back last August, a post was published on this website called “Don’t put your chips in my bin” about the fact that Thurrock Council’s new wheelie bins have electronic chips installed on them.

Big Brother Watch has announced today that 68 local authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland have installed microchips in the rubbish bins of 2.6 million households.   Last March the figure was 42 local authorities, so that’s a 62% increase in twelve months.   Read the full article here

So guess what, this website has today received a large number of hits from people whose question to their search engine was “How do I disable or deactivate wheelie bin microchips?”

Pretty clear what the public thinks about it all then.

25/02/2010

Villagers do their bit but it’s a bit too much for the Council

Posted in Litter, Thurrock Council, Volunteers at 4:27 pm by henrysgauntlet

“Sofa and no farther” that is the headline in today’s Times.

It seems the villagers of attractive North Stifford decided to do their bit for the environment and their own surroundings by clearing up litter.   If the sides of the nearby A13 are anything to go by, there would be plenty to clear up.  

They obtained bags from the Council to use for their voluntary effort, and a Council lorry came to pick up the results.   In three hours work they had gathered up 43 bags of rubbish and an old sofa to be taken away.   And that’s when Thurrock Council informed them that their efforts were excessive and should be curbed.  According to an e-mail from the council the results of the clean up were excessive and filled up the bin men’s lorry so much that they couldn’t then go on and do their normal round.

The story has also been noticed by the Nanny Knows Best blog, which highlights ridiculous political correctness and similar matters, and has given Thurrock Council its “Prats of the Week” award for this week.  
 
It seems Thurrock Council has now apologised, and claims the email was sent in error.   I wonder why.   Perhaps they don’t like us all calling them Prats of the Week for their treatment of  keen volunteers;  or perhaps they were just getting too many calls from the national press!

24/02/2010

Should security staff have police powers?

Posted in Crime, Law 'n order, Police at 9:04 pm by henrysgauntlet

The BBC reports that an Essex-based security company is to be given powers to hand out on-the-spot fines.   The idea is that door supervisors working for the company have some of the powers that the police have to tackle anti-social behaviour, (how I hate that phrase).

The company provides security staff at shopping centres and over 200 door supervisors at venues in Basildon, Chelmsford, Harlow and Colchester.   The company’s staff will carry identity cards issued by police under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, and then will be able to hand out the on-the-spot fines.

Well, most of us don’t like yobbish behaviour in shopping centres, around clubs and so on, but this does seem a step too far.

Last November I was at Lakeside Shopping Centre on a Friday evening when a gang of teenagers of both sexes made a huge nuisance of themselves.   They were in the lesser populated side walkways, and were harrassing shopkeepers, and throwing themselves against plate glass windows.   Lakeside makes good use of CCTV cameras, and the splendid security staff arrived very quickly.   They escorted the group to the nearest outer exit, but it wasn’t very long before they were back again.   This happened three or four times, and then the Police were called.   Again, they reacted quickly, and this time the youngsters were ejected and didn’t come back.

So, should Lakeside’s security staff have had the power to issue fines?   Well, it might be a quicker response, but almost certainly the youngsters would not have the cash to pay the fines.   Then there would be a long-drawn out process of trying to make the parents pay, probably unsuccessfully.  So it seems a rather pointless exercise.

But, even more importantly, I can’t condone extending police powers to other people.   Already there are too many instances of  “authorities” having the right to enter our homes and boss us about.   I don’t want to live in a police state, and giving “security” staff police powers, albeit in a small way, is a step in the wrong direction.

14/02/2010

Old Grays shops recalled at Thameside exhibition

Posted in Local History at 11:06 pm by henrysgauntlet

If you are around Grays town centre in the coming week do call in at the Thameside Complex and have a look at the Exhibition now on in the foyer.   Entitled “Fond memories of Grays High Street”, it covers the history of shops, shopkeepers and businesses from 1900 to the 1970s.  

Museum Officer, Jonathan Catton, has put together a mix of photographs, advertisements and even some paper bags from the shops, and then there is a powerpoint display of various parts of the High Street “then” and “now”.   People have already shared their memories of the shops, and some of them are highlighted in the display.

When the writer was there, there was a group of about ten people who were chatting happily away together, all anxious to recall their memories of the old shops.

It occurred to the writer how marvellous it would be if owners/managers or their children from the old family businesses, now sadly all gone, could get together and record as many details as possible about those old businesses.

For example, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Convent of La Sainte Union de Sacre Coeur, in those days an independent school for girls from 4 to 18, and boys from 4 to 8, numbered amongst its pupils the daughters, and a couple of sons, from Westwood the tailors, Jordan the chemist, Munt the butcher, Harris the coach company, Gurnett the jewellers, Simons from the Wharf Hotel, Crouchman the hardware shop, Burney the ladies dress shop, Walsham the builders, Eve’s the ladies and children’s dress shops, Baird the bakers, Wisbey the scrap metal merchant, Euin Steele the optician, and more.

The exhibition is really well worth a visit, and it is understood that it could be taken round to, for example, pensioners’ clubs where no doubt many more memories would be jogged.

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