Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

An Open letter to Councillor Andy Smith, Thurrock

Below is an email I sent to the cabinet member for highways of Thurrock Council.  Is it just me that becomes frustrated and, or am I just being unreasonable in my expectations of our Local authorities and the people that they employ to deal with us on a day to day basis and who seem, it appears to me, to be obstructive and as unhelpful as they possibly can be?

 Dear Councillor Smith (L) ,

I am a resident of South Ockendon and I have noticed that for the last week or so that the B1335, Aveley By-Pass Road has been closed between the roundabout that separates South Ockendon Stifford Road (B1335) and the roundabout connecting Sandy Lane/Romford Road and Mill Road.  The By Pass,as you will probably know is the only road route into the Belhus Park Golf and Country Club, swimming pool etc!

I have a couple of questions for you, if I may, as you appear to be the Cabinet member for Transport and Highways within Thurrock Council.  I should first state that I checked Essex County Councils website and then phoned the Highways department to ask my question of them, but after waiting about 15 minutes and then having to spell , phonetically, A V E L E Y to the lady on the other end, as Essex CC 's system apparently does not like road numbers ( how can the CC not like road numbers they deal with trunk roads whose main identifier surely is a a road designation number!) and telling her that it was in Thurrock , she did come back informing me that she couldn't find it, asking, "are you sure it doesn't have another name, and where about in the county is it?"

I stated, again, that it was in Thurrock and no, to the best of my knowledge it was and always has been the Aveley By-Pass and again (although she / they don't like them) the road number is B1335.  "Oh", says she, "well that explains it then, if it is in Thurrock it is theirs, they are a Unitary authority you see....."  And she gave me the number for Thurrock Council, bless .... but a lot of good that did me.

While you may not be directly responsible for the telephone system or it's operators you may like to enquire, on my behalf, as to why Thurrock residents are ignored and treated to such an abomination of a service.  Is it an unspoken directive from the ruling party in power that if residents can't get through and make enquiries/ complaint then we (the Council) can't register those enquiries/ complaints? It then stands to reason that they will not form part of any figures for comparison on official statistics on such enquiries/ complaints being made, or is it that I am again being far to cynical?  Or is it just a question of:

a) poor performance by operators,
b) not enough operators to deal with the quantity of calls
c) not enough departmental employees to deal with the quantity of calls 
d) lack of interest by council employees dealing with members of the public's enquiries/ complaints*

*The last one is based on the fact that when I did get through on the 652 652 number the FIRST time I selected option 3 for Highways.  I waited 11 minutes and eventually the call was answered by, it sounded like Tracey, but when I asked the woman to repeat her name (I do like to make a note of the name of the person I am speaking to) the call was cut off!

I called again ignoring all the options and after 7 minutes the call was answered by an operator.  I explained that I had previously called, that I had selected option 3 for highways, that eventually the call was answered and that when I asked for confirmation of the name of the person I was speaking to, the call was disconnected!  The operator apologised and stated that she would put me through, that she understood all departments were experiencing  heavy call volumes (See, b), c) and d) above !) but that she would remain on the line until my call was answered. 

You've guessed what's coming now haven't you?  Yes, I waited in silence for almost 5 minutes and then I heard the click, signalling that the call had been disconnected.  Just what on earth is going on in Grays that makes the Council and it's staff so unhelpful to it's residents?

As I say, maybe you can look into the above for me.

Now, after all of that, getting back to the Aveley By-Pass....  

Having checked the web pages for both Essex County Councils Highways and Thurrock Councils Highways I can find no mention of the current roadworks or road closure mentioned on either website, the reason for it, or the length of time the road is expected to be closed!  I also do not fully understand why there is a diversion in operation that is sending motorists back along the B1335 Stifford Road to the B186 Stifford Hill then to Pilgrims Lane and from there on to the A1306 Arterial Road, West Thurrock and then under the M25 and on and on and on ....... adding about 5 or 6 miles to a journey that if the correct diversion signs were in place would take people people 5 minutes out of their way up Aveley High Street onto Mill Lane and back onto the Aveley By-Pass from the other end, maybe you would be so kind to favour me with a reply to these few points?

copied to ward councillor Barry Johnson (C) 


I should be grateful, I received a response:

The road is closed because the footbridge has been damaged in an accident
There are notices and diversion signs
Sorry for the inconvenience
Cllr andrew smith

But, so much left unanswered, clearly, and unusually for a politician, a man of few words.......

and this from the Conservative member (not in power) in the local government

Mr Stronach thanks for your email I will let the portfolio holder respond but I do have to agree with you that TBC website should have the details showing regarding this incident. Even as a councillor I was not made aware of what had happened but have since been informed (after asking) that a vehicle had clipped the bridge and works are underway to make it safe, but no time line given. Without getting political I am very disappointed in the councils performance under a labour administration but I will continue to be part of a robust opposition. Just for the record with regards to an earlier blog. I did indeed knock at your door during the elections, as I remember well our conversation from the previous year, however I obviously called whilst you were out, and I definately put out literature well before the election as well as on its eve so apologies that you didn't see it. I do hope we can work together in the future and would like to assure you that I would welcome your comments or ideas as we go forward. Myself and Cllr Carr are trying to obtain St Nicholas church for a surgery the first Thursday of each month, however this date is yet to be confirmed.
Cllr Barry Johnson
Working hard for the Ockendon Ward

From: THOMAS STRONACH [mailto:tomstronach242@btinternet.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 03:10 PM
To: Cllr A.J Smith
Cc: Cllr B Johnson
Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways 
Dear Cllr Smith,

Thank you for at least taking the time to respond, even if the response was less than responsive!


Tom Stronach 

From: Cllr A.J Smith <AJSmith@thurrock.gov.uk>
To: "'tomstronach242@btinternet.com'" <tomstronach242@btinternet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 29 May 2012, 15:54
Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways

If you need more information please ring me
Cllr andrew smith

From: THOMAS STRONACH [mailto:tomstronach242@btinternet.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 04:11 PM
To: Cllr A.J Smith
Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways 
Dear Cllr Smith

Well, what I was looking for was a more responsive reply to ALL of the comments in my note to you and not the less than verbose one received.

My initial query was surrounding the road closure,

1.  Notices are noticeable from their absence as to the reason for the closure locally, although you did answer this.  Now I have to admit that I may have missed it in the local press, but I don't think I saw any comment on it anywhere!  And still no response as to a time frame for re-opening the road!

2. One diversion sign pointing you back through Ockendon and nothing again until you get to the B186 hardly well signposted and why the need for such a lengthy diversion, or is the road also closed from the other end as well, and if so then why a diversion at all?

3. Whether you took it as such or not, I was critical of the service provided by council employees,  and you totally ignored that, just as the employees seem to be doing to callers!

I wonder if you think I am just nit picking or that in fact these points are not valid, in your opinion?

Kind Regards 

Tom Stronach  

On 29 May 2012, at 16:40, Cllr A.J Smith <AJSmith@thurrock.gov.uk> wrote:
Mr Stronach due to a problem on my blackberry I was unable to read the end of your email
Now I have read it all I have forwarded it to mr millard the head of service for his attention
I trust you will get a full reply
Cllr andrew smith

 Dear Cllr Smith,

thank you for that, I trust the problem with your Blackberry is not a terminal one, although I do recall a Cllr Kiely, having similar problems a year or so ago, when I challenged him over something, it must be contagious!

I look forward to a response from Mr Millard in due course.

Kind Regards

Tom Stronach

30th May Update

Just an aside, but I thought worth mentioning: I had occasion to call Basildon Council today, I wanted to Speak to Environmental Health, guess what;
The call was answered on the first ring, I asked for the dept and the lady operator thanked me for calling, put me throu and lo and behold, the call was picked up by a nice helpful young chap, who thanked me for calling after listening to what I had to say, informing me that an EHO would get back to me tomorrow!
It might only be a few miles along the road, but they are galaxies apart in their response to callers – Thurrock could do well to emulate this approach, Oh! And BTW I did make enquiries and found that the operators and other staff were employees of the Council and not some faceless company earning millions?


  1. I am a resident of stifford road aveley and i too am frustrated at the lack of information re this incident and when the bypass is expected to reopen. The road is already beginning to crack up from the volume of traffic especially heavy goods vehicles which have been coming through aveley village and i imagine the long diversion is to try to stop that happening. Thurrock council need to act quickly but i dont hold out much hope!

  2. Okay, this is kinda funny. You actually got a response! I would never, ever get a response from my council man or woman. Wow! Even if it was a somewhat confusing response like your road system is confusing.

  3. Dear anonymous,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting:

    I sympathise with you. Stifford Road running into the High Street is not the place the articulated vehicles, never has been. And the Eddy Stobart trucks and others who come off of the A1306 roundabout and travel along Ship Lane turning right towards the depot in South Ockendon don't do you any favours but as Thurrock Council and the Police never seem to take action against them, your plight is only exacerbated by current events!

    There is no excuse, if the council put in proper signage and reinforced this with traffic cams targeting HGV vehicles of this type, which I believe are excluded from your road, it may slow down the deterioration of the road and improve your living conditions!


All posts and photos copyright to the author, unless otherwise stated, and should not be reproduced without permission. If reproduction permitted, full accreditation and link to site must be provided.
Anonymous comments are not invited and will be sent direct to the SPAM box....