Monday, 29 March 2010

Restoration House & Century Buildings

The saga of the Century Building ('Future Homes' Ltd) development and the 'Tudor Wall' has finally come to rest after months of dispute, acrimony and bemusement to local residents keen to know what quite was going on with those houses in Rochester near the Old Police station.

To jump a stage; the delay surrounding this story is due to the High Court finally having met in session on Monday and the relevant Planning Committee on the Council on Wednesday. Though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise as they key points from our very own Council are concealed under legal statute
For Council watchers the relevant Committee items are points 6 & 10 from the Agenda for Planning Committee on March 31st, 2010.
It was therefore not sensible for this blog to take sides in a very complex argument, though this blog was certainly aware of the heritage cock-ups and mismanagement behind the Century development.
Now there is much the public does not know about this tale.
It involves a dodgy building company with planning permission, demolished historic walls, a stubborn Tory Council, and a David v Goliath battle between two history enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and decent standard-bearers of the local community against the mass army of the Medway Conservative controlled Council, known for its love of heritage, playing with diggers and CCTV Cars.
The start of this tale of woe stems from the purchase of land (situated behind The Terrace and East Row and Crow Lane Rochester) by the property developers Century Properties, who planned to develop the land into bespoke single housing and flat units. The Tory Council rubber-stamped the development of the land and allowed the bulldozers and cement mixers to rumble in.
It quickly became apparent that the Council had not been doing its job properly.
A cursory glance in the Medway Archives shows that the land given to Century had and indeed continued to retain significant historic merit. Historic surveys reveal an extension of the Tudor walled-gardens of Restoration House into the land being bulldozed by the developers. These had subsequently reduced in size over the centuries as the land was partitioned and sold. However the core Tudor-walls remained underground. The Council did not commit a detailed enough survey with this property developer on inception of building this site and in essence gave it the green card to bulldoze.
Matters came to ahead when the property developer dug up the Tudor Wall and proceeded to demolish and skip Medway heritage. The Council were immediately informed but the damage had been done.
The property developer then went bust, so leaving the site empty and half-built.
Restoration House decided to purchase the land with a plan to develop the full heritage of the site and make it a publicly accessible historic asset to Medway. However the demolished wall and the historic context of the land meant that a portion of the land should not have been ever earmarked for potential development. Land which is not able to be developed is cheaper because it is unusable. Restoration House therefore requested the Council pay for their mistakes; they wanted full cost to restore the wall and the cost difference between the land value of a proportion of land that is now correctly, to remain undeveloped.
The Tory controlled Council refused to pay for their mistakes, and the dispute between the two parties escalated. The issue went to the High Court which sat on Monday, where the Councils position was considered such a joke that the judge called the proceedings to a halt and indicated that Medway Council would have to pay full damages, including full restoration of the wall and the difference in land value attributed to the incorrect classification.

According to non-confidential documentation supplied to interested parties, the total cost of Council Actions stands at around £550,000.

This is a significant amount of money to not only the Portfolio holder Cllr Jane Chitty but also to Cllr Alan Jarrett the finance portfolio holder.
Unwelcome in times of austerity. Council Tax Payers will not be impressed.
It shows that mistakes surrounding planning permission, dodgy building developers and lack of investment in central Council support around heritage has left the Council with an even bigger black hole as a a result.
Interestingly, good will come from this. The Restoration House developers want to convert the land into a 'green' corridor and the current 'Brewery Building' (itself an historic site) into highbrow vacation apartments. A number of offices and flats will be built in support of current land usage. This will maintain the area as a functional centre of use.
The Restoration House plans are truly visionary and will make the centre accessible whilst maintaining the building and its surroundings for future generations. Philanthropy which the residents of Medway sometimes under appreciate.

Perhaps if the Tory Controlled Council had been better managed we would not have seen this expensive mess. The Court Challenge was a joke and the original planning permission and site archeology were clearly not managed effectively by both developer and Council.

An expensive mistake

So who are your Tory PPCs?


A Sunday Times scoop yesterday on the backgrounds of 160 Tory candidates in winnable seats revealed that the typical member of Cameron's new class of 2010 is public school-educated, middle-aged, male and white.

So a bit like... David Cameron himself then.

The survey of the new Tory PPCs dubbed originally the '2010 cohort' will be more right wing when compared with the current crop of Tory MPs (as if that were possible). It seems the old-school 'turnip Taliban' Tory MP is more left of centre then the new CCHQ vetted intake of clones.

Most worryingly for Cameron and those in the rational centre - only 9% of prospective candidates agreed that climate change was an established scientific fact. This may be a major problem for Cameron should he get elected and have to negotiate binding reductions in emissions in the Autumn

If your LGBT the news is apparently better because now 65% of Tories believe in your civil liberties - so we should be happy that now only 35% of PPCs standing for the Tories dont believe in your civil liberties but are happy to campaign for everyone else's.

The survey statistics have yet to be published but it does appear, even to this lonesome lefty, that the questions were very heavily skewed. The Sunday Times has a reputation for good journalism but it would not be Murdoch without some sensationalism.

Interestingly for local readers, The Sunday Times piece went onto to 'discuss' the concept of the career politician who have spent their 'whole working lives around Westminster'.

According to the Times

"The Sunday Times analysis suggests that at least 15% of the new intake are likely to be career politicians — a mix of MEPs, local government leaders and former Tory party staff.

For many of the younger candidates this means whole working lives spent in and around Westminster.

Tracey Crouch, 34, went from university to working as a researcher for several MPs, later becoming a lobbyist for Aviva, the insurance giant, before being selected as the candidate for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent."

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Labour Pledges No Estuary Airport

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched Labour's election pledges in a speech in Nottingham yesterday. Meanwhile Teresa Murray has launched her pledge weekend on the Peninsula and Strood highlighting directly the Boris Johnson Tory plan for an Estuary Airport.

The Labour Pledge card is a regular feature of the Labour General Election campaign and provides a useful wallet keep-safe for voters which is given to people on the doorstep. The card is also useful because it highlights the lack of policy coming from the elitist Cameron Tories who are clearly making the poor choice of personalising the campaign against Gordon Brown.

The Tories have been struggling to maintain a lead in what was a given for them only 12 months ago. The airbrushed Cameron and the slick PR posters show a public backlash - if the UK is in such trouble why are the Tories splashing out on expensive posters, why are they not being prudent with money?

Teresa Murray launched her Labour Pledge card campaign on the back of an anti estuary airport blitz on the peninsula. Voters on the peninsula remember the cross-party (but heavily financed Tory campaign) in the local elections and many are angered by the Tory Mayor proposal.

The lack of a campaign by Medway Council has ironically given the space to make it a campaign issue as no one has seen the pork pie poster... not surprising as the one thing Tories dont want to discuss is the airport.

The pledges for Rochester & Strood are:

Secure the recovery - Secure the recovery and halve the deficit through economic growth, fair taxes and cuts to lower priority spending.

Raise family living standards - Raise family living standards, keeping mortgage rates as low as possible; increasing tax credits for families with young children; providing new help for first-time buyers; and restoring the link between the state pension and earnings from 2012.
Build a high tech economy - Build a high tech economy, supporting businesses and industry to create 1 million more skilled jobs and modernising our infrastructure with High-Speed Rail, a Green Investment Bank and broadband access for all.
Protect frontline services - Protect frontline investment in policing, schools, childcare and the NHS, with a new guarantee of cancer test results within a week.
Strengthen fairness in communities - Strengthen fairness in communities through an Australian style points-based system to control immigration; guaranteed education, apprenticeships and jobs for young people; and a crack down on anti-social behaviour.

These pledges show our determination to secure the recovery and build a future fair for all.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

First Time Buyer?

Labour has doubled the stamp duty limit for first time buyers to £250,000. Labour is promoting home-owning democracy.

A future fair for all v Austerity Britain

Reckless Risk to the Economy?

In today’s budget Alistair Darling has set out the next steps in the Government's plan to secure the economic recovery and build strong, sustainable growth in Medway.

Because of this, Labour the budget to continue to help get all people back into work, and get our economy growing by supporting investment in our national infrastructure.

Meaningful change for the better:
  • We’re extending the Young Person’s Guarantee after March 2011, to ensure that young people continue to be guaranteed a job, training or work experience if they cannot find work within six months
  • We’re funding 20,000 extra undergraduate places on courses starting in 2010-11
  • We’ll grant Working Tax Credit to people over 60, working at least 16 hours per week
  • And Labour are investing in Britain’s 21st century infrastructure by creating a Green Investment Bank that will support low-carbon projects
  • We can offer a hand up to first time buyers with a two year stamp duty holiday on transactions up to £250,000
  • Give us all the right to a basic bank account so that everyone can manage their finances
  • From April 2010, we’ll make additional annual payments of £100 into the Child Trust Fund accounts of disabled children. Severely disabled children will receive £200 per year
  • And we’ll bring in a 2.5% increase in the basic State Pension from April 2010, benefiting over 12 million pensioners
  • 3p fuel duty rise to be phased in between April and January 2011 and not all at once
  • £2.5 billion to benefit small business and skills
  • £385m to benefit British Roads

The Tories want to scrap Sure Start as a universal service and restrict tax credits (that have helped 440,000 extra families through the recession, by an average of £38 a week). That would mean an awful lot of people worse off in order to fund a tax break of £200,000 to the richest 3,000 estates in the country, one of the most regressive policy proposals ever dreamt up, and far removed from the freezing of inheritance tax for four years and the crackdown on tax evasion – including by non-doms in Belize – announced by Darling today.

The next election offers a clear choice.

A choice about what sort of country you want Britain to be, what sort of future you want to see. A choice about investing in our future prosperity or an age of austerity for the hard-working majority.

A Future Fair for All v Austerity Britain

Gay in Medway?

David Cameron forgetting his rehearsed lines in a TV interview with the GayTimes. The interviewer pressed Cameron on the homophobic voting record of his party.

The leader of the Tory party was reduced to shaking his head apologising and asking the producer if he can start again

This is not a Prime Minister in waiting. He can barely string a coherent argument.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Strood; you are being ignored?

News today the opposition Strood Labour Cllr Stephen Hubbard has challenged the Medway Conservative leadership over the total lack of consultation over regeneration in Strood, epitomised by the destruction of the Aveling & Porter building for a car park.

Despite the Conservative leadership promising to establish and listen to the Strood Regeneration Cabinet Advisory Group, established in April 2009, it has in reality never met. Not even once.

The Medway Conservative leadership has treated Strood residents with total contempt as they have axed and destroyed local heritage without listening to local concerns.

The Medway Tories have a reckless record in Strood; The closure of Shaws Wood old peoples home, £850,000 Aveling & Porter disgrace, bodged Strood Academy merger, Primary school cuts, Strood Sports Centre timetable cuts, Highstreet road chaos (again and again), CCTV car menace, the everlasting Trolley graveyard, and the threatened closure of the town market.

How many times have you been stuck in a traffic jam in Strood because Medway Tories cant get a grip on roadwork schedules?

Cllr Hubbard said,

“I think it’s amazing that this committee has been set up, apparently to help guide and advise the Leader on the regeneration of Strood, but that it’s never actually met.”

“According to the Leader, this was because a bid for regeneration funding was unsuccessful. However, this seems the wrong way about to me. Surely if the Advisory Group had been allowed to do what it was meant to, then the Council would have stood a better chance of winning the necessary funds.”

“I would say that now there’s an even greater need for it to start meeting, so we can see what went so wrong with the bid and help Cllr Chambers out. There’s a lot going on in Strood, with Temple Marsh, the Town Centre Masterplan and the high-speed rail, so, having set up the Advisory Group, why is this Tory Council ignoring it?”

Cllr Hubbard - Perhaps because this Medway Conservative Administration has a lamentable record of consulting and listening to people?

- 24th March

Following this blogs campaign and rising public outrage and media concern, we have today seen a welcome spectacle of a u-turn from the Medway Conservative Group

A very welcome development.

The leader of the Council has confirmed the first meeting of the Strood Regeneration Cabinet Advisory Group (SRCAG) for Tuesday 22nd June.

Pity that on the same day as the U-Turn this blog has discovered that the new car park that will replace the historic Aveling & Porter building will be a pay-and-display. Ironic considering Medway residents have already paid £850,000 for the pleasure.

Oh well, we will have to wait a further 3 months for Medway Tories to prioritise Strood and its concerns.
15 months in total.

Who says the Tories dont listen?!

US Healthcare Victory

President Barack Obama wins a much needed victory as the House of Representatives gives final approval to an overhaul of US healthcare, expanding insurance coverage to nearly all Americans.

Make no mistake. The NHS is now iconic to the British public; this could be the same in North America.

It isnt big government or socialism. It is fairness and it is cost effective to business.

A very sweet victory indeed

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Reckless Energy Mess

The third Conservative visit by jinxed David Cameron descended into farce and acrimony, as absent local media coverage undermined the Tory leader's attempt to swing key voters in three marginal seats.

David Cameron was visiting Medway to launch his national Energy policy, in what was billed as a key plank to his election manifesto.

Billed as a key event on our energy future, Cameron pledged to keep our 'lights switched on' after the failure of the Labour Government to maintain energy infrastructure which could lead to our 'lightbulbs' blinking out in 15 years time.

Camerons visit to Medway [to launch another key initiative] was supposed to be covered by local press, in an attempt to curry favour with voters in the three marginal seats, which must be persuaded to vote Conservative in May.

The Tories are keen to counter the Conservative 'Boris Island' effect which has played badly with the local population in Cliffe and Grain who remember the former airport proposal.

Cameron has been jinxed before in Medway. His lauded launch of his 'Broken Britain' crusade to clean up our crime ridden and immoral streets earlier this year in Gillingham, got into hot bother as the visit coincided with the admission of former Medway Conservative Cllr Brice for kerbcrawling, and Cameron himself cited poor statistics and confused crime figures, which resulted in a mini-wobble in the polls in February. His previous Chatham & Aylesford Cameron-Direct event was also overshadowed by the plans of Conservative Party Mayor of London, Boris Johnson to concrete over large swaths of the Thames Estuary. A campaign which is opposed by local Rochester & Strood Labour candidate Teresa Murray.

In what descended into a farce, the local media had failed to be informed of the key visit, so leaving Mr Cameron to speak to an audience devoid of local press, and a quicky assembled audience of bemused LNG workers.

According to CCHQ, Mark Reckless, the erstwhile Rochester & Strood PPC, had been told of the visit, but according to Tory sources, had failed to tell the regional press or local media.

Accroding to Medway Messenger, bemused local reporters then spoke with Mr Reckless who stated that

"I only heard last night....David was coming to Medway to launch our national energy security policy...Apparently our press officer was away."

"It was very interesting - the most significant thing was that we will remove the climate change levy from the bills and instead charge the supplier and producer according to the amount of carbon they produce."

Mark Reckless is widely regarded by pundits as being out of sorts with CCHQ. In what is a tradition of Rochester & Strood to select independent minded PPCs [of all political persuasions], he is close friends, and former best man to Dan Hannan MEP who called the NHS a 'sixty year mistake' and cited his admiration of Enoch Powell, despite the individuals rather poor record with minority groups.

Despite the lack of local media, a small number of national press were present in the audience.

At the event, Cameron recommended an overhaul of the climate change levy, to tax firms on the basis of their emissions and to provide a "floor" price for carbon to encourage emissions. In essence it means a central levy on energy producers and suppliers, which will spread cost across all 'users' [or you]. Cameron also pledged extra red tape that will require ministers to deliver an annual energy policy statement to Parliament while energy regulator Ofgem will lose its competition and consumer protection powers.

In addition, central to the Conservatives' policy document, called Rebuilding Security, are plans to fast-track the building of nuclear power plants by allowing their construction to be approved directly by Parliament to avoid lengthy delays by local protesters.

The Tories' plans could see a nuclear power station being completed every 18 months.

Inencom, the UK's largest energy analysts, warned that this target is "verging on the impossible", claiming that even if the party overcame planning delays, solving the skills shortages and construction complications would be a "huge challenge."

Cameron mentioned little on Kingsnorth, fuel poverty or fuel prices and made no comments on consumer fairness after a winter period where Energy Bills sky rocketed.

To snub the Tory leadership and to make a fool of yourself with the local media in the same day. How reckless.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Save our Sure Start

Labour is today joining forces with families across England in a campaign to Save Our Sure Start children's centres from David Cameron's plans to cut their funding and prevent access to these valuable services for families on middle and modest incomes.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls launched the campaign today as he welcomed the opening of the 3,500th Sure Start children's centre for parents and children across England.

Families are invited to show how much they love their Sure Start centre at a new website

The Tories would cut Sure Start from families on middle and modest incomes. Instead of the universal service Labour has created for all families, the Tories have said they would cut £200 million each year from the Sure Start budget - which could see one in five children's centres being forced to close.

Labour will protect Sure Start funding this year, next year and the year after with inflation rises in funding up to 2013, but the Tories have already committed to taking £200 million each year from Sure Start to spend elsewhere. And they have refused to protect Sure Start from further funding cuts in future years.

Cllr Brice debate hits letter columns

The news that Cllr Brice and his kerb-crawling antics continue to cause a bit of a stir in the local YourMedway letter columns has caused some mutterings in Conservative ranks.

The letter to the press by a member of the public was written after the author felt 'angry' at comments by Cllr Teresa Murray

Cllr Teresa Murray wrote to YourMedway in response to the failure of Cllr Brice to recognise the implications of his actions, apologise or indeed consider his position even once, despite widespread public outrage.

Cllr Murray correctly highlighted the 'parody' response of the Medway Conservatives who 'vetted' the individual for suitability for office, but offered no comment on whether he should stand down as a Councillor, instead maintaining a wall of silence.

The validity of the law with regards to prostitution or kerbcrawling is not the debate issue. The rights and wrongs of these actions, and there is a significant difference between the two, does not negate the fact that what Cllr Brice did was considered illegal by the law as it stood at the time he was caught.

Add to the fact that many local Conservative politicians are themselves campaigning successfully against Kerb crawling and you begin to see the weakness in Cllr Brice's position. All local politicians and agencies oppose kerbcrawling and call for the toughest of penalties for those caught in the act. Cllr Murray is not the soul voice opposing kerb crawling, though the author may have perhaps thought as much at the time.

The fact Nick was/is a Councillor remains very relevent because those elected into office are expected to uphold the highest standards and set an example. The fact that Cllr Brice was and continues to be paid an allowance by the tax payer, who themselves pay a large sum to counter the effects of kerbcrawling and prostitution, are a major reason why taxpayers see duplicity.

Prostitution maybe the oldest 'profession' but in Medway a large number of these women have significant drug problems, are abused and are themselves involved in petty criminality. Those that 'pay' for this service therefore feed anti-social behaviour which blights the life of not only the women themselves but also residents and citizens.

It is for that reason Cllr Brice should have apologised for his actions and stood down. He did neither, and therefore his judgement is rightly questioned by the public who can have no confidence in Brice as a public representative.

It is clear that the saga of Cllr Brice wont be resolved until the local elections next year.

Let the electorate decide.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Lib Dems 'propped up' Tory Budget

Whispers from the Tales from Gun Wharf that Andy Stamp, Liberal Democrat rising star and PPC has apparently had the whip threatened by the Liberal Democrat leadership.

Over what, as yet, remains a secret.

Though it may have something to do with the rediculous position of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council in relation to the Medway Council Budget which they did not actually oppose.

According to the personal website of Cllr Stamp:

"Just hours before the Council budget was set, Councillor Jarrett, the Tory Finance Boss had staff in a frenzy allocating extra pots of money found down the back of the sofa.

The administration complained again about not getting enough money from central Government to provide services .But every year, money is plucked out of the air to fund Tory pet projects of dubious worth.

The ruling Conservatives moan about a lack of funds but refuse to promise that the Council would receive any more funding from a Conservative Government.

When the country is still struggling to emerge from recession, taxpayers haven't got much to look forward to with a Council Tax rise of 2.45%.
With the Conservatives having 60% of the votes at the Budget meeting, there was nothing opposition Councillors could do to stop the majority Conservatives riding roughshod over Medway."

Yet despite the mock outrage, the Liberal Democrat Group did NOT vote against the same budget.

They abstained.

The dictionary definition of 'Abstained' - to hold back, to not express a view, to refrain from an opinion, to give no indiction of a position.

Only Labour opposed the budget and voted against Cuts to local services whilst the Lib Dems propped up the budget, for what?

You dont fight for a better deal for residents of Gillingham & Rainham by sitting on your hands

British Airways; The Truth

The news that Unite cabin crew members at British Airways are now days away from strike action has rightly taken people by concern. The prospect of cancelled flights and the national flag carier being perceived as a joke is not one which anyone enjoys.

The frenzy however with which the Conservatives have tried to party politicise this industrial dispute is a total disgrace. The equation that the Unite Union and its contributions to Labour somehow equate with the tax dodging Ashcroft is beyond belief. Unite members are tax payers and work hard for themselves and their families and deserve to be treated with respect. They deserve not to have this issue fought over by salivating Conservatives keen to milk an issue of party political funding, on the back of an industrial dispute which is not related to party politics.

Much of the media has portrayed the crew as overpaid, underworked and prepared to bring BA down to its knees.

The last thing BA crew want to do is to go on strike. Industrial action is not taken on a whim, the crew are preparing to take industrial action as a last resort because they care so much about BA and want the airline to have a future as a premier carrier.

There is history: In November 2009, BA imposed changes that cut over 1,000 crew members from flights, cuts that cabin crew believe have been a disaster for the on-board service quality. BA’s European flights have seen 25 per cent reductions in crew numbers and on long-haul flights crew compliments have seen reductions of between 1 and 3.

Unite crew members realise that BA is operating in tough financial conditions. That’s why they offered the airline £62m in savings – the same amount BA has saved by removing cabin crew from flights. Unite today have agreed on pension contributions and work every day with other employers as partners to improve workplace safety and equality.

In this case the crew were prepared to compromise on crew numbers, take a pay cut, and take cuts in their terms and conditions. But no matter how much the union offered, BA withdrew its offer at the last minute after agreeing in principle. Unite believes that all along BA was merely playing lip-service to the negotiating process whilst seeking to undermine its own workforce.

What the public dont know is that most of the crew’s local union leaders are either suspended or awaiting disciplinaries. A further 30 union members have been suspended on spurious grounds. Staff are living in fear of who could be next. BA has also spent months encouraging other BA staff to help break the strike by training up as cabin crew. BA has also threatened to remove the travel concessions from any crew member who goes on strike – this is a particularly vindictive move when around one third of crew use it to commute to work.

If your employer started acting in such a manner it would surely lead to conflict?

Unite and its members did not want this strike and it is ready to resume talks at any time. Crew are prepared to offer compromise and flexibility.

This dispute can only be avoided if BA is prepared to make a serious attempt to finding a negotiated settlement. It could start by putting the offer the airline made last week back on the table so that Unite could give members the right to accept or reject BA's proposal. Unite is prepared to halt the strike while members are consulted and will stand by crew's decision.

The ball is clearly in BA's court.

The fact the Tories have politicised this issue rather then talking about policy shows that they are trying to hide the detail on cuts they would impose on our public sector

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Rochester Highstreet Heritage under threat?

Looks like another large scale chain store is moving into Rochester Highstreet in what seems to be a creeping policy of Medway Conservatives to allow commercial brands entry into a traditionally small business only location.

The opening of a Pizza Express comes after Subway was allowed to open its doors opposite the Blue Boar Lane Car Park.

According to the Pizza Express press release the chain has decided the area was under-represented by mid-point national restaurant businesses. It has therefore taken a 25-year lease on 1-23 High Street, Rochester.
Jason Grant, partner at Restaurant Property who advised Pizza Express, said:

“This part of Kent is under-represented by mid-point national restaurant chains. Pizza Express is looking to gain a first move advantage by selecting a high profile site on the High Street, which is very close to all the major tourist amenities.”

As a resident of Rochester, this blog can think of several restaurants that this store would directly compete against including Simply Italian and Don Vincenzo.

Many local tradespeople have expressed concerns that there seems to be a slow but creeping position of the Conservative Council to allow large and aggressive multinational brands into the high street. A position which could reach a tipping point which could undermine local shops.

Whilst customers and visitors do deserve to have a variety of restaurants and services in Rochester - it is of increasing concern to this blog that the heritage of Rochester Highstreet is slowly being undermined.

A similar situation has happened in Strood where local business and trades people have complained that the Conservatives have allowed too many chain stores into the highstreet.

Local heritage organisations and campaigners are keeping an eye on this process. Many are dismayed at the Tories lacklustre approach to our heritage across Medway.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

We believe in a better future

Why, unlike the Tories in 1997, the Labour Party is full of fighters and believers.

Tories in the dog house?

There is a difference between a party seeking government and one which is playing opposition.

The latest Tory dog tax attack is simply baffling at a time when they are slipping in the polls. As if there is nothing better to talk about - perhaps the NHS, Economy, Immigration, Crime or even Schools?

As a bit of background, the Labour dangerous dogs 'pack' [it is named that] will only extend the dangerous dogs law to cover attacks by dogs on private property, to protect postmen, and making third-party insurance compulsory so that victims can be financially compensated.

The measures are a response to Police and Public concern that "status dogs" are being used by some irresponsible owners to intimidate communities or as a weapon by gangs. The RSPCA says the number of complaints about dog fights has risen 12-fold between 2004 and 2008. In London alone, police seized 900 dangerous dogs in the last year.

The package is expected to also include proposals to give police and councils more powers to tackle the problems of dangerous dogs by introducing dog control notices; consider removing exemption rules that allow some people to keep banned types of dogs; and introduce compulsory third-party insurance so victims of dog attacks are financially compensated.

The impact of dogs being used as weapons is also distressing to the animal itself. This was covered in an exclusive documentary last year by BBC 3 - My Weapon is my Dog.

What makes this Conservative attack a bit laughable is the fact that much of the legal framework stems from the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, introduced by um... the previous Conservative Government.

The Home Office stated that "While this [existing] legislation is an essential tool in tackling antisocial behaviour, the government wants to look at it again to ensure it is working as it should and enables the police, local authorities and the RSPCA to take swift action to protect the public and stop abuse."

The CWU, the former Post Union is also supporting the move. Not surprisingly Alan Johnson, who launched the policy was himself a former postie who may have had a few experiences of dogs on the doorstep.

Medway Political pundits and activists will probably have had a few experiences to share on dangerous dogs themselves. Many will remember the bruising battle for Luton & Wayfield last year and the dog attack on Lib Dem Cllr Geoff Juby, who was unfortunately bitten whilst delivering campaign propoganda for Lib Dem candidate, blogger and transport commentator Gary Allanach.

The Conservative leadership must be getting pretty desperate if they are jumping on a policy which comes out of Tory legislation and which actually has some pretty good powers for Police and Councils to protect innocent people from dog attacks.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Camerons floppy moment?

Blog the week. Douglas Alexander and Jessica Asato's favourite vlogger, Conor Pope, agrees with a Tory education policy, celebrates International Women's Day and does his part for peace in Northern Ireland, whilst Adam Connell assesses the recent polls.

and the PR disaster that was Cam

Tories playing Politics with Delce Schools?

The saga of the school closures continued at pace this week as the ruling Tory cabinet meeting descended into a 'riot' after Medway Conservatives showed their true blue colours by axing St Johns School, a well performing and much loved primary school in Chatham.

The Tories claimed that there were sufficient places in local primary schools to cope with the numbers of pupils. A position challenged by... well everyone else ...

Meanwhile the Delce School merger continues to be subject to much debate.

There is a suggestion that the Delce school merger is one big act to do 'down' the Labour candidate for Rochester and Strood, Cllr Teresa Murray, and raise the standing of the Conservative candidate, Cllr Mark Reckless, and protect the standing of the Cabinet which ignored officers advice to create the micros' academy.Justify Full

Apparently the Tory backbenchers firmly believe that it will be rejected by the schools adjudicator when faced with the views of the school, the teachers, the governors, the parents and the local community.

If this is the case, and this blog isnt that cynical, why are Medway Conservatives funding, at great expense to tax payers, this rediculous proposal. Why put the children, parents and teachers through the stress of a false merger?

Council partisan games are irrelevent to 99.999% of the people of Medway... so if it is a game then it really is lost on everyone outside a small Tory clique.

Not many votes there then

From Porn to Parliament...

Today has been Lib Dem day. A flurry of news stories on the new campaign launch, a new MEP and the selection of a former Labour supporting porn director Anna Arrowsmith for the Labour-Conservative marginal of Gravesham.

The Lib Dem launch today of there general election campaign under the cut-and-paste slogan "Change that works for you; Building a Fairer Britain" was inauspicious in a week when Clegg all but announced a coalition government with the Conservative Party. His article in the Spectator indicated how he idolised Margaret Thatcher, presumably while he a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association and perhaps at the same time as he was aide to Leon Brittan, Tory Trade Commissioner.

Clegg has sold the left-wing Lib Dems to the Tories. His members and voters know it and they really dont like it. This blog senses a potential leadership putsche should a coalition government or hung Parliament not be the outcome in May. An eye on the uncharismatic, but knife carrying, David Laws...

A Lib Dem coalition with the Conservative Party would not go down well here in Medway where the Liberal Democrats are mostly left-of-centre and probably share less with the Conservatives then any other party. Though they do have a habit of supporting the Budget for a few budget scraps. Still, can imagine a few of them balking at such a move.

Talking of Tories, the former senior Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott today defected from his independent Conservative position to the centrist Lib Dem federalist grouping in the European Parliament, presumably for a cushy committee position. Edward McMillan-Scott was expelled and exiled from the Conservative Party, after the remaining Tory MEPs decided to establish an irrelevent loony-right wing grouping comprised of racists and homphobes on the extreme fringe of European politics.

Nothing like a constructive Conservative position on Europe.

The defection however was overshadowed by the selection of Anna Arrowsmith as the Liberal Democrat PPC for Gravesham. Anna is managing director of adult entertainment firm Easy on the Eye Productions, has directed hundreds of films under the pseudonym Anna Span.

Mrs Arrowsmith, who has an MA in philosophy and lives in Groombridge, said Margaret Thatcher's performance during the 1979 general election campaign had sparked her interest in politics and the current expenses scandal had spurred her on.

On her Twitter site, Mrs Arrowsmith, who is married and lives near Tunbridge Wells, wrote:

“From the adult industry! From porn to Parliament, here I come!”

Something fellow Lib Dem, Tower Block of Commons star Mark Oaten may disagree upon... even after his cushy fee.

The well vetted Arrowsmith harks from a Labour supporting family but admires former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Lib Dem position of being all things to all people still remains intact then...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Tories: An Economic risk to you?

Last year the global economy shrank for the first time since the Second World War. In the face of this global recession, the Labour government pursued a correct and active policy of supporting the economy.

Working with other Governments our government led the G20 Group of major economies on banking recapitalisation. The Labour government action prevented this recession becoming a second great depression.

At home, policies like the temporary VAT cut and the car-scrappage scheme helped encourage spending and boosted confidence among consumers. Our decision to allow businesses to postpone taxes helped support over 160,000 businesses employing over 1.2 million people. The government extra investment sustained and created jobs. The Bank of England cut interest rates to record lows - enabling the introduction of ‘Quantitative Easing’ to further support the economy.

The extent to which this active government intervention has made a difference is remarkable. It has made the downturn less painful than it otherwise would have been.

Compared to the approach taken in the last recession, the impact is striking.

In the Conservative controlled 1990s, relative to the fall in GDP:

• around twice as many households were repossessed

• about two and half times more businesses became insolvent.

• almost four times as many people would no longer be employed if we had followed now the policies that were adopted then.

With Labour: Continuing to Support the Economy

• While some specific recession measures are being phased out – like the one year VAT cut – the Labour Government is maintaining the planned government spending in 2010/11 to help lock-in the recovery. The government will increase spending from £675.7bn this year to £706.6 billion in 2010/11.

• It will continue to support the economy into recovery while growth and private sector demand is below trend. It also enable us to maintain key policies to support businesses and jobs such as the Strategic Investment Fund , Business Payment Support Scheme and the Future Jobs Fund into next year.

In 2010/11, the Labour Government have chosen to target investment on:

– getting people into work, with a billion pounds underpinning the guarantee of a job or training for young people out of work;
– building our green industries, with extra investment in the Boiler Scrappage scheme, Warmfront for insulating homes and the Strategic Investment fund for future jobs; and,
– helping families who are still facing tough times, with £70m additional funding being made available to keep people in their homes through Support for Mortgage Interest.

Dont risk our economic recovery with George Osborne. He is a risk to our future and jobs.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Tories on Crime: Take a long hard look?

Take a long hard look at David Cameron and the Tories position on Crime.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Paul Clark MP gets it sorted.

An interesting innovation in Gillingham from Labour MP Paul Clark, who has recently launched his 'Get it Sorted' campaign to highlight people's problems and concerns with Medway Council after complaints that the Council has not done enough to improve quality of life on our streets.

Paul Clark is articulating something which is a very real concern on the doorstep that

- The fact that literally hundreds of residents can’t park their cars on the same street they live in because there is not enough space.
- The fact that everywhere you look there are uneven pavements, potholes in the roads and broken streetlights.
- The fact that streets are simply not clean enough and Medway Council seems to have ran out of answers towards addressing problems such as fly-tipping and dog-fouling.

Paul has always been a very strong online campaigner and this 'Get it Sorted' campaign links his online presence with his noted ability to get out and about and meet people.

Another MP who is working hard for residents and who 'gets' the internet.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Sleaze from Belize hits Larkfield

Out with a small team this morning in Tory heartland territory to firm up our support in what is a non-traditional patch. Mission; Educate a few wavering voters inclined to the Conservatives of the murky tax dealings of the prime financial backer for Medway Conservative PPCs.

None of the Medway Conservative PPCs have made any statement on Ashcroft and his chanelling of £££ into Medway Tory propoganda. A point which in itself reflects badly on the feeble leadership of David Cameron who seems to think that not addressing this issue will some how magic it away. It wont.

The doorstep conversations came after comment in the print media and Channel 4 on the wobbles within the Tory campaign.

This blog enjoys a good musings.

According to Bingle:

"In recent weeks I have hinted at being not over-impressed by the Tory campaign since the beginning of the year. The time has now come to be more blunt. The Tory campaign is shambolic and unless somebody of quality and experience takes control of it now there is a real danger of the Tories throwing away what should be an inevitable election victory. Should this happen, David Cameron will never be forgiven by his party and his party's supporters in the country who are desperate for a change of government.

"I have already observed that the 'sleaze from Belize' is a toxic issue. Didn't David Cameron or his colleagues understand that it should have been sorted out years ago rather than in the middle of a general election campaign?"

Nobody knows what the Tory Party stands for any more.

"David's speech at Brighton was simply more of the same. Was I inspired by the rhetoric? No. Did it convince me that a Tory government would give power back to individuals and reduce the size of the state? No. Did his Shadow Cabinet give me confidence that they would be able to take control of the government bureaucracy and deliver radical change? Absolutely not"

Simple question to a few Tory voters in Larkfield: Do you think it is right that Larkfield is bought by a tax exile in Belize and do you think it is right that local Tory PPCs glossy magasines are funded man who unlike you and me doesnt pay UK tax? Do you think it honest that Cameron and Hague did not tell the public of his status when they knew?

If you dont mind being bought; please go and Vote Conservative.

Uncomfortable shuffles amongst the Tory base in Larkfield.

Its going to be close.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Chatham Paddock - Remember

Chatham Paddock - Medway history axed

Chatham Paddock - X Marks the Spot

Cross Party campaigners, including the Medway Greens are campaigning to save one of the last green spaces in the heart of Chatham Town Centre.

Labour Councillors have opposed the destruction of these trees and have opposed the manner in which Medway Conservatives have consulted.
At least 18 Trees are under the Tory axe.

Medway Labour have opposed the axe wielding Tory move to chop down and bulldoze our heritage.

The Pentagon Bus Station could easily be improved in various ways, such as creating glass screens between the bus bays and the passenger waiting areas.

Remember - X marks the spot at the next general and local election.

Marginals swing against Cameron

The Conservative party has seen its lead cut to just two points in 60 key marginal seats, in an exclusive Channel 4 News/YouGov poll released today which shows we could be heading for a hung parliament.

In what is a damning indictment of the Conservative election campaign led by etonian David Cameron, the poll reflects that the Tories have lost the support of women voters, have little economic credibility and are seen as elitist, PR-driven and out of touch.

The result will see a uniform swing of 4.5% nationally and 6.5% in marginal seats but will not see David Cameron in Number 10 with any overwhelming mandate. He will however be Prime Minister, but a weak one.

The vote will cause massive concerns amongst the blue rinse, as CCHQ has been spinning a tale of deceit. The Tories do not lead in the marginals by a significant factor and clearly have very weak underlining trends.

The Full Statistics and breakdown can be accessed here

If this blog were a sitting Conservative Councillor in Rainham, Strood or Chatham it would be at this moment that i'd be itching with concern. If a Tory government does get elected with a pathetic majority, and starts immediate austerity measures then as Tory Councillors the old adage applies; Governments get blamed locally.

Perhaps some Conservatives are taking this advice to heart.

Rumours to this blog from Tory 'insiders' indicate a major frustration with some more 'lazy' elements of the Medway Conservative Councillor ranks.

YouGov carried out the poll earlier this week. In 2005 Labour enjoyed an 11 point lead in these seats. When we first polled them 18 months ago the Tories had a 13 point lead. "The swing is down to 6.5 per cent," says Peter Kellner from YouGov. "That is higher than the national swing – 4.5 per cent in YouGov’s latest Britain-wide poll – but not enough to win every target seat.

On key questions such as which party would be best for Britain's economy, 33 per cent believed the Conservatives would be best, also a two point lead over Labour. But Gordon Brown does have a three point lead over David Cameron in the question which party leader is best equipped to lead Britain out of its current economic difficulties, on 31 per cent.

Labour also has a considerable lead over who would be best for jobs [absolutely crucial point]. 34 per cent believe Labour would be, compared to 26 per cent for the Conservatives. The Lib Dems polled just 9 per cent.

The irony of ironies is that the 2% lead is probably a result of Ashcroft's funding but it is Ashcroft which now undermines the same majority he has spent millions to achieve.