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Dagenham was still an undeveloped village, when building of the vast Becontree estate by the London County Council began in the early 1920s.

Each ward elects three councillors to Barking and Dagenham London Borough Council.Services on the London Tilbury & Southend line at Dagenham East were withdrawn in 1962.The wards of Eastbrook, Heath, River, Village and Whalebone are in the Dagenham and Rainham Parliamentary Constituency.In addition there are numerous different wards that cover the Dagenham district.At the time of the 2011 census, the Alibon ward (north of Heathway station) was 61% White British and 15% Black African.Ford and Cummins offered a good redundancy package, billed as one of the best in UK manufacturing. The movie Made in Dagenham (2010) is a dramatisation of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike at the plant, when female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination and unequal pay.

Sterling Ltd who were famous for manufacturing British Army weapons and Jaguar car parts were also based in Dagenham until they went bankrupt in 1988.

The population of the area significantly increased in the 20th century, with the parish of Dagenham becoming an urban district in 1926 and a municipal borough in 1938.

It has formed part of Greater London since 1965 and is a predominantly residential area, with some areas of declining industrial activity, including the Ford Dagenham plant.

Other industrial names once known worldwide were Ever Ready, whose batteries could be found in shops throughout the Commonwealth, Bergers Paint and the chemical firm of May and Baker who in 1935 revolutionized the production of antibiotics with their synthetic sulfa-drug known as M&B 693.

The May & Baker plant, owned and run by Sanofi-Aventis, occupies a 108-acre site in Rainham Road South, near Dagenham East tube station.

They will redevelop it with a new shopping centre: stores announced so far are a Sainsbury's supermarket and a pub restaurant. Dagenham was an ancient, and later civil, parish in the Becontree hundred of Essex.