– by Mat Thomas
While the Isle of Wight Council are consulting with the Public about what to do with cuts in services in the budget they will need to consider what is happening on the ground. People are considering what forms of political action they must take.
The fact is, if the Council wishes to lead the people in the right direction they will have to consider what mass actions they can initiate themselves. If the finger is to be pointed at the Government for causing cuts in public services and the budget deficit they will have to rally the people and demonstrate their intentions and join with them in defence of the island. In this they will have to bring further on board the Trades Councils and unions.
People on the island are taking political action on their own because they have lost faith in the Politicians at all levels. Whether it is a protest about a floating bridge, staff at Cowes Enterprise College who are sick to the back teeth and are considering independent strike action, through ATL, or people at Undercliff who have done a number of things including marching.
This latest thing cannot be considered as “anarchy”, they have actually built a road!
Bit by bit the innovative and creative nature of the Public is materialising and the “authority”, the powers that be and big business are not only criticised – they are being sidelined by the people.
ANGERED by months of inaction, fed-up residents in landslip hit Undercliff Drive have taken to matters into their own hands — and rebuilt part of the stricken road themselves.
A team of volunteers from across the Isle of Wight spent just two days filling in and clearing a 40 ft section of the road at the Niton end of the landslip, which has been shut since February.
However, the action has sparked anger from PFI contractor Island Roads (and the Council) who say the work is not safe, unauthorised and unapproved. They are totally embarrassed by it and their own ineptitude.
Resident Gary Smedmore, who owns Undercliff Glen Caravan Park said that it took just two days for a team of volunteers from across the Island to rebuild the section of road.
Around 150 tonnes of rubble, costing £2,500, were used to fill in the stricken section and was tested by driving a lorry over it.
Mr Smedmore said: “We have taken matters into our own hands”.
“Residents clubbed together to pay for it. We had volunteers from across the Island who came to actually carry out the work last weekend”.
“We can now get an ambulance down there and residents have access. It is a demonstration of people power. We had no access and we just thought, well, it’s now or never.”
Another resident, Barry Thwaites, who was forced to abandon his home following the landslip added: “It shows a commendable effort on behalf of the residents, which the Council did not seem to be able to do.”
Quoting “health and Safety” as an excuse, a joint statement from Island Roads and the Isle of Wight Council said that as the safety of the work could not be verified, vehicles would not be allowed to access the site.
A spokesman said: Therefore we will, as a matter of urgency, take the necessary steps to once again prevent vehicular access whilst we conduct ‘a full safety assessment’.
People have spoken out across the island in support of the residents and have condemned the bogus actions of the Island Road monopoly and certain councillors. It is they who are irresponsible, the residents have took the initiative and “dug for victory” in the adverse conditions of cuts.They have created a quality service against the inability of Island Roads who have not been able to do so and accept responsibility or liability for re-establishing the main road and access.
Who is in the best position to assess the risk? The proven inept Council who never seem to know which way to turn when it comes to “expertise” or Island Roads who have not found it within their capacity to “provide engineering solutions” for the landslip. Hence the ludicrous arguments about “good money after bad” and not being able to “combat nature”.
The conflict is a good example of Monopoly Right versus Public Right.The PFI company is acting as if it owns the very ground beneath the road.
Another recent action by people is over the floating bridge in Cowes.
Around 250 Islanders recently demonstrated in East Cowes to show their opposition to the Isle of Wight council proposal to introduce 50p each way foot passenger fares for over 18s on the Floating Bridge.
The Council had the gall to say the introduction of the fare is “needed” to put money “aside” for a new bridge that will be needed in 25-30 years time.The people in the area refuse to be singled out and taxed in this way, which in reality is to help balance the budget and pay towards austerity.
If these “representatives” ignore what is happening on the ground and stand in the way of these streams of protest, then they are in danger of them turning into a torrent and they will be seen as part of the problem and not the solution.
They must avert blame by joining in with the independent political movement of the people and representing the people’s aspirations before it is too late for their credibility to be rescued.
The Council will have to organise some of these protests themselves.