YOU pay £27m for new road!

Herefordshire Council’s budget has been slashed and job losses are being threatened left, right and centre.

Hereford's old cattle market, before conversion into a car park

Yet plans are being put in place to borrow £27 million to fund a highly controversial link road to Hereford’s Edgar Street Grid.

The plans for a taxpayer-funded road are being drawn up after the council had been refused funding from both the public and private sectors.

Further developments with the ESG retail quarter reveal that a deal to receive the £80 million needed for the project to go ahead is yet to be done. Rents on the grid are being driven down as a dealbreaker, putting the site in direct competition with High Town.

Work to clear the old cattle market site is due to start at the beginning of March.

One group conspicuous by their absence in objecting to the plans is It’s Our City. Once a powerful campaign group boasting the support of more than 13,000 people, its leading lights wound it up in favour of political group It’s Our County, eager to get a taste of power for themselves.

A year later, and now with several councillors, It’s Our County boasts little of the active, grassroots support it could do in its former incarnation, and little power to effectively challenge Hereforshire’s supreme Tory council.

Whereas It’s Our City could’ve whipped up a fury in protest at plans to borrow £27 million to fund a new ring road, opposed by most of Hereford’s people, It’s Our County can do little more than ask awkward questions of top council chiefs.
The Heckler has never been opposed to development on the cattle market site, but what we do object to is having our city and its heritage sold down the river to ruthless property speculators and greedy multinational companies looking for a quick buck.

Development on the site must genuinely benefit the people, but Tory politicians cannot be trusted to strike a deal that has the city’s best interests at heart. Sadly, when It’s Our County politicians killed of the grassroots movement against the ESG, they killed off any real hope of stopping the Tories in their tracks.

Herefordshire Council’s talks with financial backers are ongoing.

A Question of Democracy – A Critical Look At It’s Our County

We anarchists are often ridiculed and criticised for our attitude towards voting and to representative democracy as a whole. We view the system of having individuals representing us in council or government as giving up our freedom. We all know that these people do whatever they want once elected and rarely keep the promises they made in order to win votes. Anarchism comes from the Greek an-archos meaning without leaders.Democracy to us is everyone having an equal voice. If we organised in our communities and workplaces into groups and made decisions based on consensus we could do without those people who claim to represent us.

An example of what we mean can be seen from the It’s Our City anti-ESG campaign. This group was set up by people, including but not exclusively councillors, in order to stop the destruction of the city centre. Around 16,000 people agreed with them and signed a petition to show their support. At this point, we believe, the democratic thing to do would have been open public meetings to decide on the direction of the campaign. We would have pushed for the picketing of council meetings, city centre rallies and other forms of direct action. Not everyone would have agreed with us, but at least in open meetings people could have shared their ideas.

Unfortunately the self appointed leadership of It’s Our City decided that 16,000 signatures meant 16,000 votes. Behind closed doors they turned a vibrant community wide campaign into a political party. This was anything but a democratic decision. Cynics would say they let their egos and hunger for power get the better of them. In the end they failed to win the election. But it would make no difference if they had won control of the council; people who claim to be the solution always end up as the problem. Tony Blair and Barak Obama are evidence of that. Leading members of the It’s Our County party supported the election of Jesse ‘sod the poor’ Norman, so it’s clear their political views aren’t very different to the people they claim to oppose.

When It’s Our City was being wound up, Hereford Solidarity League tried to push for an open and democratic continuation of the campaign, but organisers refused, thinking that we wanted to take over. We thought that there would be support for direct action, as numerous community based campaigns have successfully used this in the past. This would have allowed supporters to use their own voice, rather than rely on other councillors to talk for them. As we now know only a lack of money stands between the council and their ESG plans. We hope that future campaigns learn from the mistakes of It’s Our City and not allow politicians to get in the way of democracy.

Whoever you vote for, It’s Still THEIR County

Central ward councillor Mark Hubbard launched his new political party this September to a packed out Shire Hall of almost 200 people.

It’s Our County claims to be “a new kind of political party dedicated to returning democracy to Herefordshire and to finding local solutions to local problems”. They are now campaigning ahead of next year’s local elections under the broad banner of ‘change’. But hang on, haven’t we heard all of this before? Blair in 1997; Obama in 2008; Cameron in 2010.What we quickly find out is that they’re just more of the same.

It’s Our County was formed out of It’s Our City, the campaign against the Edgar Street Grid. It’s Our City now looks set to be wound up at the decision of those involved in It’s Our County, despite the fact that firm plans are still in place for the ESG development.

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Since its launch in September last year, It’s Our City has dragged its feet over the ESG issue. Over the course of a year it has amounted to little more than a petition and it has failed to mobilise its 13,000 supporters–a campaign against a major development like the ESG cannot be fought with the single tactic of a petition alone.

In November when the petition was presented to the council we organised a feeder march to arrive at the time of the presentation. Despite repeated requests, they refused to advertise the march because it might lose them their air of respectability. For us the choice was simple: did they want to look respectful or did they want to win, because you can’t always have both.

When the petition failed we pushed for action: pickets at council meetings, marches, mass street meetings and rallies, occupations of council buildings … whatever it took. Many people told us that it was time for It’s Our City to take a more militant approach. Not knowing where to go next, the campaign went into near shutdown, emerging months later with its key members planning a new political party–It’s Our County.

It’s hard not to be cynical about this–was It’s Our City just a strategy to galvanise support for a future political party? Have they ridden on the backs of discontent over the ESG just to gain power for themselves?

It’s Our County is now claiming to be a more serious fight against not only the ESG but the council’s ‘growth agenda’ as a whole–the plan to build 8,000 new houses and a bypass in Hereford.

What we’re fed up with is Herefordshire Council making all the decisions for us. But It’s Our County will be more of the same. If they take control of the council next year it will still be ‘them’ making the decisions and ‘us’ who get no say. Their version of ‘democracy’ is exactly the same as all the others: we get a vote once every four years and if you don’t like what they do in between then tough!

No more leaders, No more political parties, let’s have some genuine people power instead.