Tag Archives: protest

Two arrested at Dale Farm Protest

Two arrested at Dale Farm Protest outside Basildon Council Offices

Supporters and residents from Dale Farm have staged a protest at Basildon Council buildings today.

Two protesters scaled the front of the building and put up a banner calling on Council Leader Tony Ball to resign. The protestors remained out of reach of police for nearly an hour before being arrested.

Dale Farm protest at Basildon Council. photo by Ninlilzi

Ali Saunders, a spokesperson for Dale Farm Solidarity who was at the protest, said “It’s becoming clear that this eviction is a lost cause- Dale Farm has got to stay, Tony Ball has got to go”

Mary Sheridan, a Dale Farm resident, said: “Instead of wasting money on destroying a community, Tony Ball should be putting money into Basildon and supporting local people. This shouldn’t be about Travellers, but about what’s good for Basildon.”

By Mike Doherty

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Dale Farm

A big political idea that the last two governments have been touting is ‘joined up governance’. This is where different government departments don’t work against each other to produce perverse and contradictory policy. An example of ‘un-joined up’ governance would be a local council’s outsourced and target-driven traffic wardens being allowed to slap parking tickets on the council’s own rubbish trucks under the terms of the contract negotiated by the Council itself. (You know who you are!)

Apparently, because of joined-up governance, cock-ups such as these are rapidly becoming history. However, if you are one of those who think that 21st century politics are the end result of over 2,000 years of evolving democracy, then you may wonder why it took so long to discover what is blindingly obvious to most people.

Yet like most big political ideas, joined up governance doesn’t always translate into reality when it leaves the humid atmosphere of the think tanks and dribbles down to the real world.

Picture courtesy of Dale Farm Campaign/Save Dale Farm weblog

This is evident in the case of Basildon Council who have recently ordered the eviction of the 300 Travelers living at Dale Farm in Essex without planning permission. The Traveller site is part official and part un-official and half of it is covered by the eviction notice.

Various figures have been quoted about the costs of the operation – the minimum is £3M for the eviction contract and £5M for the police. The maximum could double both these figures. These costs come at a time when Basildon is slashing 6.4 per cent from its budget with over a 100 council staff losing their jobs and half a million pounds being cut from  services for disabled people and repairs to community centres. These estimates don’t include the costs of re-housing the Travellers – who after all have to live somewhere – and the hidden costs of the disruption to the lives and schooling of the 150 children involved in the years ahead.

However, joined-up governance was probably not the first thing that came to mind for Basildon Council Leader Tony Ball when he stood for election.  Basildon is a marginal constituency and the site was a controversial local topic. But instead of promising to calm local fears, much of was fueled by ignorance, gossip and discrimination, and negotiate with the Travellers –who after all are Basildon constituents as well – Mr Ball ran a campaign that relied on an ‘evict Dale Farm’ ticket.

He duly won and this need for a quick fix and easy votes provides evidence for a far more persuasive big political idea – that politicians tend to do and say anything in the short term to get into power, and will work for their own interests more than ours.

Follow the Dale Farm campaign on http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/

An edited version of this appeared in The Big Issue Magazine for the ‘Moneyshot’ column

By Mike Doherty


Save King Edward Memorial Park

Campaigners fighting to save King Edward Memorial Park from being used as a construction site for Thames Water’s new ‘Super Sewer’ project are celebrating after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, gave his backing to their campaign.

Protest Banner for SaveKemp

In a packed SaveKemp meeting at Glamis Community Hall, just off Cable street in Shadwell, John Biggs, Assembly Member for East London and the City dramatically announced that Boris had reversed his previous backing for the proposed sewage works at the park in Wapping – one of the few green spaces left in the East End – and was writing to Thames Water to insist that they search for an alternative site.

Save Kemp protest march to City Hall

A draft of the letter that was delivered to Thames Water the day before the meeting on Thursday April 14th, reveals that Boris is now fully behind SaveKemp’s fight to make Thames Water look for an alternative site. Addressed to Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s Director of Communications, The letter states that both the Mayor and the Greater London Assembly have reversed their previous stance in favour of Thames Water’s proposal and asks that “proper consideration” is given “to local people’s concerns and the alternative options they suggest”. Furthermore, the letter demands that Thames Water investigate these options properly and submit a report for analysis by independent engineering experts. Finally, the letter finishes by strongly recommending that Thames Water should consider making “funds available to enable the save KEMP group/ Tower Hamlets Council to procure specialist technical advice on your assessment of the alternative options.”

Toni Davey

After the meeting, Toni Davey, SaveKemp community organiser, said: ‘We have fought hard to get this far and I’m so happy he is finally listening to us. We feel that his support is fundamental in our campaign and we would like to thank Assembly member John Biggs for bringing both our technical reports and our petition – signed by over 5,000 local residents – to the Mayors attention. We now have the support of the Mayor, the GLA, Tower Hamlets Council and we insist that Thames Water follows the recommendations set out in the letter from Boris and the GLA.”

King Edward Memorial Park

The Mayor’s support for SaveKemp is the latest setback for Thames Water’s estimated 3.4bn project amidst rising concerns about the cost effectiveness of the whole Thames Tunnel project. In Wandsworth, where Thames Water are planning to build another main shaft site for the ‘Super Sewer’ – similar to the one proposed for KEMP – the Council had previously released a statement questioning whether:  “such an expensive project can be viable in today’s economic climate – not least because the costs will be passed on to Londoner’s through higher water bills.”

SaveKemp protesters

The expense of the Super Sewer have also been questioned by Hammersmith and Fulham Council – who host another main shaft site – who said: “Many local people are starting to question whether the benefits of the super sewer are in proportion to the large costs. The public health benefits will be relatively minimal.”

King Edward Memorial Park

These concerns about the potential cost versus the benefits of the project are also backed by the Consumer Council for Water who said that the costs of the Super Sewer have escalated so that the “average impact on customers’ bills could reach £90 a year by 2018”. The CCW also say that Thames Water needs to exhaustively search for cheaper and less disruptive solutions to deal with the increasing volume of sewage that London produces.

This is not the first time that Thames Water have been called to account for the excessive cost of a major infrastructure proposal. In Oxfordshire, campaigners have been battling to stop a massive £1Bn reservoir being built near the village of Farmoor. At a recent government planning appeal using the evidence of two expert water resources witnesses, local campaigners successfully argued that Thames Water had not proven the need for such a large project and that there were cheaper, quicker and less environmentally damaging alternatives. In statement after The Secretary of State had ruled against the reservoir proposal, campaign leader, Brigadier Nick Thompson, said that Thames Water had not researched the alternatives to the proposed ‘super reservoir’ properly: “because, it must be assumed, Thames Water’s owners regarded their customers’ interests as secondary to those of their shareholders.”

By Mike Doherty


A big fat surprise for Firecracker Films

Jes Wilkins holds his hands up

By Mike Doherty and Dawn Burrows

Firecracker Films, the makers of the hit TV series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings had a big fat surprise when they were confronted by over 50 Gypsy and Traveller activists during a TV industry seminar at a Royal Television Society event in London.

The Gypsies, led by Jake Bowers, the editor of the Travellers Times www.travellerstimes.org.uk,  had been booking tickets for the event on the 30th March to confront the Firecracker team and tell them about the negative impact that they say the Channel 4 series has had on their community.

The Firecracker team where there to present how they made the film to what would usually have been an audience of media professionals and students. Instead it quickly became apparent that half of the audience where more interested in debating MBFGW’s claim to journalistic and ethical integrity.

A nervous Jes Wilkins, the executive producer of MBFGW, started the presentation by saying that he had just received a call from “the head of the Gypsies” who had given his support to the MBFGW production team. This was dismissed by Jasper G Johns, secretary of the Gypsy Council who said “what a load of rubbish”.

Jasper G. Johns, secratery of the Gypsy Council confronts Firecracker Films

The Firecracker team finished their presentation amidst snorts of derision from the Gypsy and Traveller members of the audience at their claims that the programme had helped to combat discrimination against Gypsies. “Some people like the show and some people don’t,” said Mr Wilkins. “You are all entitled to your opinions.”

During the discussion afterwards, the Firecracker faced some tough questioning.

Dee Cooper Gregory, who introduced herself as a “proud” Gypsy woman who campaigns for Gypsy and Traveller rights, asked the team what they were going to do about the increase in the bullying of Gypsy children and wether they were going to donate some of their profits to Gypsy organisations and charities. She said that she personally knew of many children who were being taunted at school as a direct result of the series, and that Firecracker where responsible for this.

Defending the show, Mr Wilkins said that the programme had the support of the Gypsies and Travellers who appeared in the show. This was again questioned by Jasper G. Johns who said that he had personally spoken to many Gypsies who had since regretted their involvement. A young media professional in the audience said that MBFGW was ok because he claimed that he had “thought badly” of Gypsies, but that seeing MBFGW had changed this. A Traveller woman sitting behind him laughed and asked him how much money Firecracker had paid him to say that.

After the seminar, Jake Bowers said: “We came here tonight to meet the people who have made such damaging films about our community. They have consistently refused to meet us to debate the issues with them at a public forum, so when we heard they’d be slapping each other’s backs here we decided to come and show them what damage their sneering mockumentary has done to us.”

“They heard tonight how BFGW has led to an increase in the bullying of Gypsy children and women and the denial of work to Gypsy and Traveller men, yet they refuse to accept any responsibility,” he said.

“This series has put the cause of traveller equality back 20 years,” said Margaret, an Irish Traveller woman from Ealing.

Firecracker films were approached after the seminar and declined to comment saying that no one was available.

The research for this article informed a diary piece in today’s Guardian.

Margaret, a traveller, explains her feelings about the show