Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cut the CCTV Car

Click on image to read article.

The council’s all-seeing CCTV spy car has once again caused controversy in what is a running saga, which only serves to highlight the total hypocrisy of the Medway Conservative controlled Council who are taxing motorists for quite minor traffic offences, whilst charging over £1300 on the average Council Tax to fund the CCTV car scheme.

The Tory Spy car was spotted breaking the law on the A2 in Rainham, by diligent motorist Clare Dickenson who is fed up, like the rest of Medway, with this white vulture bleeding motorists dry. A resident who stands up against the Tory money making machine in Gun Wharf - good on her!

She told YourMedway that

"The [Tory] Council is very quick to photograph us, as drivers and quickly fine us for this behaviour, so what about their employees who decide to do it in plain sight?"

Despite the fact the car was not operating outside a school at the time. A Medway Council spokesperson (not incidently Cllr Filmer this time) stated that

"Our CCTV cars make it safer for children by operating outside schools and help cut down on congestion by people illegally parking on roads throughout Medway."

This blogger has read this Medway Council spokesperson right; cutting congestion of people illegally parking by yes, illegally parking yourself and causing congestion. A sort of paradox of logic.

The car has now collected and raped motorists of an an eye-watering £1 million in parking penalties this year, and Tory Council chiefs are budgeting for big increases in revenue from the car in future budgets. Last year a single car earned £303,185 from penalty charges, against a running cost of £118,430.

Tory chief Cllr Filmer happily admitted that the CCTV car parked in prohibited places about 70 per cent of the time and was above the law. He also indicated that the car "never causes an obstruction to other vehicles. It is done to ease the congestion of our towns and to provide a safer working environment. It has had a positive impact"

Make no mistake at all, the car has left a terrible legacy. Throughout its tarnished history it has merely served to highlight the total contempt of Tory Councillors towards the general public.

Last year a direct comparison was made between the illegal parking of Conservative Councillors at Gun Wharf in Disabled Parking bays (twice) vis-a-vis the fine the CCTV would have given for parking in the incorrect bays.

The CCTV car has also been spotted parking illegally outside the Conservative Party HQ in Gillingham & Rainham. The Tory group led the purchase of the despised CCTV car and has wholeheartedly supported the punitive taxation of motorists across the town by purchasing further vehicles.

Every month the press is inundated by members of the public who are sick and tired of the CCTV Car. They are tired of the car arrogantly breaking the rules and they are fed up with the insulting manner and its contempt for basic highway rules and the traffic code. There is a general groundswell of support to scrap the vehicle entirely and use the money to fund stand-alone CCTV traffic cameras outside schools, where dangerous driving could harm lives and cameras could actually save lives.

The Tories have a lamentable record on transport in Medway.

The multi-million pound two-way traffic madness in Chatham, the purchase of an unsafe Medway Tunnel which could see a Tory Toll, constant uncoordinated roadworks, disgrace around gritting during the winter months. Pothole madness in Strood and a bus station farce in Chatham which has seen the destruction of town heritage. Meanwhile we have a total lack of oversight around Arriva busses with some areas of Medway left uncovered by a basic service on Sunday's. That is not to comment on the the gerrymandering of funding for the Yellow Bus scheme and the opposition to the Freedom Bus Pass.

The news that that the CCTV had won a national award for customer service led to public howls of outrage. The CCTV car shows that Tories in Gun Wharf are simply inhabiting a different planet from the people they claim to serve

The public are tired. Time for a change in Gun Wharf.

600,000 Job Losses

A horrible coincidence that on the day Cllr Jarrett and the erstwhile blue-rinse Tory Councillor brigade in Gun Wharf announced the first 50-100 redundancies in Medway Council, we get a leak on the true national scale of this dogmatic cuts agenda.

The full cabinet reports were today published on the first round, and believe this blogger there will be many more Tory cuts coming, that will hurt our public services:

The full cabinet report on the cuts on Medway Council can be accessed here. (see point 58 (R14) on Public Sector cuts)

Everyone accepts that public sector spending needed to be controlled but Medway Councillors and MPs have failed to lobby hard enough for resource when compared with MPs in safer shire areas.

Nationally the Coalition Conservative & Liberal Democrat Government predicts 600,000 public sector job losses. An eye-watering figure that will cause misery to thousands of families across the UK.

Criminal cuts to police, prisons and magistrates

Despite the Coalition Government promising to be tough on crime and criminals we now see that the rhetoric was entirely hollow.

Over the last two weeks we have been softened up for a wholesale downsizing of those who fight crime in our communities. The Coalition has given the green light to criminals across the country despite promising to fix 'Broken Britain' we will get higher crime levels, a demoralised police force and magistrates pulling their out because of a lack of resource.

It is an utter shambles and shows the Conservatives are soft on crime and soft on criminals. Hugging a hoodie will not help the victims of those who are blighted by petty criminality, ostensibly in the poorest areas of Medway. David Cameron and his erstwhile blue-rinse Tory Councillors are giving a green light to petty criminality.

Labour cut crime levels, increased police numbers, reformed the justice system, introduced community support officers and introduced laws to safeguard our communities. All will be reversed as years of hard work is undermined.

The Conservatives will:

i) Introduce lighter sentences for criminals and increase community sentences so allowing the criminal more rights then the victim

ii) Cut police numbers and scrap the Policing pledge so reducing the number of Police and there accountability to local communities

iii) Cut magistrate services and prison budgets

The soft policy on criminals will only embolden those that seek us all harm. Another disgrace from an administration that promised no cuts to frontline services and safer communities.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Train fares to skyrocket by 10%

Thousands of rail passengers across Medway face higher than expected annual fare rises of up to 10 per cent as the Government considers scrapping the formula for raising ticket prices.

Medway Commuters and families will feel betrayed by rises which have put Tories in collision course with rail unions, passengers and the private railway companies, who vowed yesterday to 'stop the Government in their tracks' if train fares increase and investment is cut.

Medway Commuters will feel betrayed that Conservative MPs, Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless who pledged to campaign for fair pricing for commuters have done nothing to change policy. Neither have made any attempt to oppose the move by Conservative Transport Secretary Philip Hammond who signalled that the current formula of managed increases may be broken - allowing fares to rise even further if, as expected, his department is forced to bear the brunt of budget cuts in the Government's October review of finances.

The increase in fare's will prove once and for all whether Tories were paying lip service to commuter concerns or whether they were genuinely interested in campaigning for the commuter.

We have yet to hear anything from the 'independent' Medway Fare's Fair campaign. Don't hold your breath.

Cuts to hurt the poorest hardest

The cuts to Medway services are so severe and draconian that residents will be left with nothing but a rump of public services as budgets are slashed by Conservative & Liberal Democrats.

Despite the professions of local Conservative MPs to care for those poorest in our society, each of our Conservative MPs voted, like lemmings, to slash school budgets, old people services, parks, leisure centres and care for the most vulnerable in our community.

There foot soldiers, the blue rinse Medway Councillor brigade, are stalwart supports of the cuts agenda. For if they were not, why have they not resigned?

The Conservatives truly have no shame and they now stand, full square, as the cuts party. They have failed to stand up for residents across Medway.

Today comes the announcement that the Police and Magistrate services are due to be axed. In a time of increasing pressure and unemployment, the thin blue line is about to be broke We are likely to see an increase in petty crime, anti-social behaviour and a lack of police officers to catch criminals. Medway will again be blighted in crime. Elected police constables can not make a difference if they have no police officers.

Up to 50-100 Medway Council workers could lose their jobs as part of the authority’s big money budget cuts and the Conservative Party, with there Liberal Democrat poodles, have slashed £6 million off the council’s annual grants.

A total of £450,000 has also been taken from a number of education programmes in including before and after school activities, holiday provision, and parenting support.

In addition, £828,000 will be taken from a total of £3.6m for services to improve standards in Medway’s primary and secondary schools and £100,000 will be cut from public health spending.

Finance chiefs said they were left with no option but to make cuts to staffing and services to plug the £6 million spending hole. The truth is that Medway has been hit harder then safer Tory areas in the affluent shire areas. Our MPs and Councillors have failed to lobby for resource and we now all suffer because of incompetence and inexperience.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Tesco Expansion comes to Strood

News to Strood residents that Tesco plans to significantly expand its current store in Strood by adding up to a further 100 car parking spaces. The firm are looking to expand into banking, furniture and the homeware market in the location, so stealing a march on other local superstores such as Morrisons, based ironically just up Priory Road.

Leaflets should be being delivered to residents to ascertain concerns or changes to the proposed plans.

Despite the prescence of three other superstores in a small location, it is likely that opposition to the expansion will be small, due in part to the store being a replacement for an existing store, in need of improvement, and the fact the stores gives a much needed boost for jobs in an area of relatively high unemployment.

However, in other areas of the UK, Tesco has been opposed by local residents for fear of harming local stores and pricing boutique's out of the market.

A major concern surrounds the impact on local small stores in Strood highstreet which have now been impacted significantly by the opening of food superstores over the last four years. Local tradespeople need to be consulted properly by the Council on this plan.

Assuming the stores does go ahead and
looking beyond our Medway borders it is noted that other Local Authorities are very demanding of superstore expansion, demanding major works as a concession for expansion.

There are a number of issues this blogger has with the plans, mostly related to traffic congestion in situ and within the wider area:

i) Commercial Road (East of proposed site) already suffers from significant congestion problems, especially over weekends, and is the only major road from Rochester that leads to the A2/M2 via Strood. It suffers horrendous traffic problems and is also a designated area of Air Pollution problems.

The plans for the Tesco and exit roads do not take into account the one way road system and would require residents from South Strood to have to drive around the one way system once again, so only increasing congestion further. This needs to be addressed.

ii) The expansion of a free car park would make the Commercial Road car park, which currently charges residents, defunct. What will happen to this land? The Strood Market was conveniently omitted from the Strood Regeneration plans, and the fear is that the market is not treated as a priority.

iii) The Council owns the land where the new library is planned (North of Tesco site). The land was purchased in expectation that KCC would expand the road system in that area.

An argument could be make, to alleviate congestion that the Council demolishes that entire stretch North of the Tesco (where the library is to be built) and push the library West and build a new road and junction to alleviate traffic congestion in that location.

An argument for another further major road at Charles Street and the making Knight Road / Priory Road one way has also been discussed in the past.

The traffic problems in the locations
must be looked at. Tesco has the resources to improve the road system in Strood. This is important for residents in Rochester who are currently strangled by the appalling road system in Strood.

Medway Council and Councillors needs to spend time reviewing this application and push back on where improvements can be made.

iv) Would the construction of the new library lead to the closure of the current Library and Community centre on Bryant Road?

The impact of this Tesco could be game-changing if handled correctly. Lets not miss this opportunity to get it right.

Showing the Red Card to Tory cuts

Hat tip to YourMedway for publishing the article.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Factional fighting as Local Races start

Medway Conservatives are known to be collectively unfit ruling the Council but they are doubly foolish when it comes to hiding their internal fights and strife with each other. For some reason, they just cant keep a tight lip.

In its previous incarnation, this blog waxed lyrical about the leadership putsch that occurred when Cllr Rodney Chambers and Cllr Alan Jarrett were challenged by the Cllr Brice and Cllr McKinley combo. The irony was not lost after subsequent events.

Now comes the local government selection meetings where candidates for election are selected for 2011. Selection meetings in every party brings bouts of well, mild mannered confrontation. Unlike Labour locally who are happy to announce the results of our selection meetings in public, and can keep our disputes mostly internal, though of course we had none this time, because Medway Labour is harmonious to the core (is the whip reading). The Medway Conservative Party chooses to engage in a royal exercise of back-stabbing in full public view and to the Medway press. All good for the blogosphere!

It appears that all is not well in Peninsula, where long-serving local candidates Janice and Ken Bamber have been de-selected in a bout of internal skullduggery. Fair isn't Fair and it seems that instead of selecting local candidates, we will have a parachute from outside. Of course, living in the seat should not be a pre-requisite, as this blogger will testify, but at least having had some connection or living within 10-15 minutes of the seat would be a massive help.

But then this blog is not the one ringing around the Conservative membership!

Sufficed to say Cllr Ken & Janice Bamber are very unhappy. This blog welcomes any comment from them unofficially as the local election goes ahead in that ward, though it will not be supporting there independent campaign. It will be lending them a hand to communicate their vantage and viewpoints. It is interested to hear a full debate about how the central party has sat on local members.

The next fight is in Strood North, where this blogger has close connection, having fought with the Conservatives in 2007. Getting up close and personal with the two Jane's was no small task, but despite a few frayed tempers at Strood Market, the campaign was spirited and well mannered. Highlights included 'Jane' spotting on the treacherously hilly Watling Street and the cordial banter with Lee Garrett-Olguin (Conservative Candidate) in Prospect Avenue, where he proudly predicted a Labour rout in Strood North. This blog might add with some glee (for the enth time), that it was the only seat where Labour made a gain in 2007 against a Conservative. This blogger of course paid a fraction, nay minuscule part in the campaign and there were a number of supporting factors. Chiefly amongst the fact that Stephen Hubbard was previously and indeed remains one of the strongest of all Medway Councillor's, and is known in the community as a true local champion. Note to Conservative candidates in Peninsula. Aided of course by the fact he lives in the ward, and not say elsewhere in the fair County of Kent. But less said of that the better.

Fast forward to 2010 and we have the unseemly sight of knifing in the press. According to Medway Messenger, Cllr Les Wicks, the man who has an aversion to saying sorry for the monumental million pound education balls up, is now fighting up close and personal with the two Jane's and a mystery number 3 candidate. This blog looks forward to whispers from that contest.

Of course infighting is not just kept to the Conservatives. One week after the 'rising star' Cllr Andy Stamp has left the Liberal Democrats and we still have no statement on his rationale. Has he left the national Liberal Democrats as well as the local party? The Liberal Democrats are very poor communicators in and out of the chamber and like the X Files, they trust no one and reveal nothing. They are so tight lipped that even this blogger struggles (sometimes). Where does this leave local government selection for the two Gillingham seats, and will he continue to stand up for residents as a candidate of the centre-left?

The mystery remains.

The only statement we have heard from local Liberal Democrats are from the pursed lips of Cllr Juby, who readers may remember, but could be forgiven not, was the PPC for Rochester & Strood and the individual bitten by a dog at the Luton & Wayfield by-election in 2009. Apparently, according to Mr Juby, Mr A. Stamp departed in outrage because he failed to win the leadership election for the Group. This blog was aware that Andy was a candidate and indeed in a spirit of fair play, congratulated the Group for picking the ever charismatic, charming and capable Cllr Juby.

So with all this mess and blood-letting amongst our governing parties, the next 12 months promises to be a spectacle for local media and the public. The MPs can stand above the fray like masters looking at the children playing beneath, though rest assured with parliamentary boundary changes ahead, could which local candidates get selected where now, be a foretaste for a Tory power struggle across Medway to come?? You can bet your bottom dollar on it.

May the virtues and disposition of the fine citizens of Medway come to judge prudently next year. May commentators sensibly remark and may those who enjoy local democracy act sensibly and with respect. Satire not sniping, friendly remarks not attacks and yes, if someone could send this blogger a dictionary it would be help...

p.s. This blog would like to state that the remark attributed to Cllr Juby that Cllr Stamp left the Liberal Democrats, because of Labour-Conservative coalition was in fact a typo by Medway Messenger. It has since been corrected.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

For efficiency savings; read job losses.

"So another pre-budget statement has come and gone, and most of us are going to be worse off again.

National Insurance is going up again, but there are a host of other measures that will see people suffering financially as never before. Everything points to a bleak 2010.

If you happen to work in the public sector - councils etc. - then a cap on pay increases is just the tip of the iceberg. If you work in the private sector then the parlous state of the economy will ensure you will be lucky to get a pay rise at all.

In 2010 you will be lucky to keep your job as such scarcely noticed rises such as a 2.5 per cent increase in VAT take their toll.

The pre-budget statement professes to protect heath and education spending, but also takes money away from residential care and concessionary bus fares.

These last two are already a huge drain on council budgets, so expect things to get worse.

The real threat to jobs lies hidden by 'efficiency' savings that the government expect us to make. This has the potential to threaten council services, so for efficiency read job losses.

There are two ways that local councils can make significant savings; shed staff and reduce the number of properties being owned and occupied."

Looks like another Tory who does not like the VAT increase. Though baffling that anyone with any concept of economic competence can claim a 2.5% increase in VAT is scarcely noticed. Thats £13 billion a year. Anything but.

The above was written by Councillor Alan Jarrett in December 2009 in another quite prescient article entitled 'For efficiency savings, read job losses.' It seems he was able to predict and attack everything the Conservative Government were looking to introduce in the Budget statement today. Except its worse...

Perhaps Cllr Jarrett can clarify, now that it is a Conservative Government that is increasing VAT by 2.5%, and it is the Conservatives who have slashed local government grants, and that it is the Conservatives who have retained 'floor damping' whether or not Cllr Jarrett will now eat humble pie?

This current Government have slashed budgets, increased VAT and will scrap capital programmes.

VAT Tax Shame

The news that VAT will increase to 20% does not come as a surprise to this blogger. Despite the lie from David Cameron that there were no plans to increase VAT and the opposition from Liberal Democrats, we now have an increase on the cards.

Don't take my word for it now. Take a look at what the Mystic Meg Musings was saying:

The Tories had plans for a 20% VAT increase way before they even saw the 'government books.' This blows away the myth that the coalition had to put up VAT after suddenly discovering a black hole in the finances in May 2010.

Local Tories accused this blog of scaremongering and employing fear tactics. The fact we have a 20% VAT rate from 2011, shows how Conservative activists were fooled by there leadership.

This blog rarely shares agreement with local Conservatives or the Tax Payers Alliance but surely today we can all now agree that the hypocrisy of this government is clear for all to see. It is a shameful VAT increase.

Reckless Tory Gamble

So there you have it folks. George Osborne delivered a Budget that will throw people out of work, hold back economic growth and damage the public services we all rely on.

The Tories have broken their promise to be fair, with tax increases and benefit cuts that will hit hardest at the people who can least afford it.

These cuts will affect you, your family and the people around you. This Budget will affect everyone:

* Growth next year would have been higher and unemployment lower with Labour’s responsible, credible plan to halve the deficit over four years
* Increasing VAT from 17.5% to 20%, so that higher prices will be paid in the shops by everyone, from pensioners to the unemployed
* Cuts to tax credits, and cutting back free school meals
* Cuts to the disability living allowance, cuts to help for the jobless
* Freezing Child Benefit for the next three years

It is important to set the record straight, the Tories can't encourage economic growth, and reduce the deficit, by throwing people out of their jobs and abandoning support for business. People will be worrying about what these cuts will mean to their livelihoods, and for the future of their family.

The Liberal Democrat General Election position of opposing a VAT rise has been proven a sham. They have deceived their voters and have lied to the electorate. Over the next 12 months, more Liberal Democrat's will be making the same walk of shame as former Liberal Democrat PPC for Gillingham & Rainham, Cllr Andy Stamp. Fed up with the lies and deceit from a bankrupt Nick Clegg, fed up with the Thatcherite policies that will hurt the poorest in society, fed up with the conniving leadership, so desperate for office, that they will rip up the core beliefs of a Party which once had a social conscience.

The Conservative Party lie that Labour have left a legacy of unaffordable debt is a myth. We are not a Greece, because unlike that economy Britain is now and is predicted to see economic growth in future years. The level of predicted deficit has come out some £20bn less then forecast so to claim that this situation is worse then previously considered is false. Labour made clear that we would see through cuts to public services from 2011/12 once the economy had recovered. Labour had a position to retrench the deficit and pay back the debt over a longer 5-7 year cycle from 2011/12 in manageable sums. The Conservatives have gone forward with a hyper-aggressive and risky strategy of seeking to balance the books in four years.

President Obama has explained the risk, or gamble, by stating that withdrawal of funding or stimulus too early could have a double-whammy by leading to increased unemployment leading to less purchase-power and depressed economic sentiment hitting small business in local economies. This trickle down of public sector cuts will therefore hit small business like coffee shops and antique houses as fewer customers have the disposable income. Couple this very real risk with Tory increase in VAT to 20% and you entertain a toxic cocktail of high tax, a weak recovery and a private sector that is not strong enough to hire those being made redundant from the public sector.

Government did not cause this recession, greedy banks did and unashamed Conservatives pointing blame at the previous government, should be fully aware that it was there chums in the banks, and the excess of market based economics that led us into the mess. It was the nationalisation of banking debt which saved us all.

These cuts will affect you, your family and the people around you. The secondary effects of unemployment including higher crime, higher mental health bills and strained public services will affect you. The cuts to local services, education, old people homes, leisure services and capital projects will affect you.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Tory Gerrymander?

An interesting email from a Conservative last night indicating that this blog was being less then truthful about the gerrymandering of resources to safe Conservative areas at the expense of Medway.

Conservative gerrymandering is as old as the Conservative Party itself (remember the rotten boroughs) and is very visible in Medway. You may be unsurprised to hear that if you live in inner city Rochester, Strood, Chatham or Gillingham that road building and re-surfacing tends to happen in the safest Tory wards at the expense of roads, which actually, are better deserving in more urban areas. That's your street.

Lets take the recent school closures as another example.

Accusations that Medway Conservatives and Cllr Wicks were gerrymandering are laughed away. However St Peter's (Rochester East), St John's (Chatham Central) and Ridge Meadow (Luton & Wayfield) were all at the time, by chance, in Labour wards. Labour at that point had less then 25% of representation on the Council by Councillor number but had each of the three school closures.

Coincidence? Perhaps the Schools adjudicator saw through this when they stated that the evidence used to justify the closures was, well, scant.

And no apology later and in case you still need to be convinced. The Medway Mayoralty was previously assigned on a fair points based system. Not any more. Under the current system and composition, it will be a Conservative Mayor for ever! Hardy fair at all.

So nationally, expect the same to be true from our true blue friends in government.

The geography of where the axe has fallen is interesting and proves that it is not just the scale of the cuts, it is where they are being targeted. The cuts were capped at a maximum 2%.

The 20 local authorities suffering the deepest cuts are:

Ashfield 2%
Barrow 2%
Bolsover 2%
Burnley 2%
Great Yarmouth 2%
Hastings 2%
Hyndburn 2%
Norwich 2%
Pendle 2%
Blackburn 1.7%
NE Lincs 1.5%
S Tyneside 1.4%
Blackpool 1.4%
Chesterfield 1.4%
Thanet 1.4%
St Helens 1.3%
Middlesbrough 1.3%
Woking 1.3%
Knowsley 1.3%

So with the exception of Woking, mainly places that are already under great economic pressure getting an even worse hit.

Whilst the lowest cuts were felt in a set of hmmm, rather more diverse authorities:

Gosport 0.2%
Dartford 0.2%
Worthing 0.2%
Wyre Forest 0.2%
Ashford 0.2%
Mendip 0.2%
Gravesham 0.2%
Tendring 0.2%
Basildon 0.2%
Erewash 0.2%
Amber Valley 0.2%
Havant 0.2%
Sedgemoor 0.2%
South Kesteven 0.2%
Carlisle 0.2%
Mansfield 0.2%
Lincoln 0.2%
Cherwell 0.2%
Newcastle-under-Lyme 0.2%
South Somerset 0.2%
Bassetlaw 0.2%
Waveney 0.1%
City of London 0.1%
Scarborough 0.1%
Huntingdonshire 0.1%
Lancaster 0.1%
Canterbury 0.1%
Ipswich 0.1%
Exeter 0.1%

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Whose the goose now?

Oh, the irony...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

£18,000 on Wine

We all deserve a glass now and again. However, with only a few days to go until the emergency budget, it has emerged that at a time of fiscal austerity, the British coalition government is busy spending thousands of pounds on wine.

Yes, £18,000 has been spent on replenishing the government wine cellar since May 6th. So with free swimming for the under 16′s and over 60′s scrapped, and £2 billion of projects stopped and VAT expected to rise to 20%, it seems a little odd for our Tory overlords in Government to be clinking wine glasses at our expense. Toasting the austerity budget over expensive chablis was not quite what people had in mind when they were minded to lend their vote to David Cameron and his millionaire cabinet chums.

Of course there does have to be a government wine cellar, as President’s and Prime Minister’s visit Downing Street during their state visits, but it appears the occupants of government are looking for a new supply despite there being adequate reserves. This is not the case of stocking after your running low, it is stocking up for the sake of it.

Perhaps the government are mindful of a rise in VAT to 20% which will add significant cost to bulk purchases of wine. Tom Watson, Labour MP remarked that instead of spending hard earned tax payers money on huge stockpiles of wine “the coalition should sell the wine to boost the public finances.”

So while you and your family are swallowing austerity cuts, the government will be swallowing a crisp chenin blanc.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Free School Meals axed for...

Tory funding for the 'Free Schools' Programme coming from poorest pupils and rebuilding programmes for existing schools.

430,000 pupils receive free school meals – 15% of pupils in state nursery, primary and secondary schools. They are entitled to the benefit if their parents receive welfare payments or earn below £15,575 per year.

The Tories have already vetoed Labour pilot projects to expand the number of children who qualify for free school meals after it emerged that 1 million children below the poverty line were not entitled. The Coalition government has also shelved an £85m scheme to extend free school meals to 500,000 more families this September.

As stated below, we all accept cuts, its where the cuts are being targeted this blog opposes.

Crisis as Cuts target Medway residents

Finally Cllr Jarrett, the Deputy Leader and Conservative Council Finance supremo, has come clean about the cuts to our front line services.

According to the Medway Messenger, jobs are set to be axed, bus services slashed, road repairs delayed and capital projects binned. All part of this Conservative and Liberal Democrat agenda of dogmatic cuts that will harm the poorest and most vulnerable in Medway.

According to reports, our Conservative MPs have not been able to lobby well enough for resources in Parliament against MPs in safe Conservative shire areas. A shame that our new MPs are failing at the first post, though time remains for them to pick up the pace.

In the Tory firing line is Sure Start and Free School meals. Services which help the poorest in our society. This whilst Tories are happy to pursue tax breaks for millionaires.

Council officials have apparently been holding emergency meetings this week and a crisis summit has been organised for Monday next week on cuts to budgets and capital projects.

It is set to be bloody meeting.

It is now evident that Medway Conservatives have been caught short by their own rhetoric and spin. During the election Conservative Councillors were very happy to leaflet and doorstep residents promising no cuts to frontline services. What is likely to happen on Monday shows why the Tories do not deserve your vote next year. They have gullibly fallen for the fibs from CCHQ and have sleepwalked residents into a belief that the Conservative Party cared for the poorest.

Hollow Tory rhetoric and bland assurances mean nothing as parents lose free swimming or school meals. It means nothing as road users have to cope with more pot holes. It means nothing as pensioners and the most vulnerable have service cuts and it means nothing to Council staff, who have served the public, being cut because of the mess of greedy bankers who quite literally bankrolled the Conservative General Election campaign.

A major concern to this blogger, is that not only are budgets to be slashed, but capital projects which will stimulate business investment is being cut. Regeneration money for Rochester Riverside is in the firing line and the new £9m bridge at the Stoke Crossing on the A228 is threatened. These projects are an investment in the future and are being shamelessly threatened by Conservatives, and, absolutely, there Liberal Democrat poodles. Those that remain.

Cllr Jarrett has confirmed to the press that he has desperately written to the three Conservative MPs for help. A quite desperate act it must be said, but it highlights his total lack of control over this process. He is trying to pass the blame onto the three Tory MPs and for that, they will be very grateful to Cllr Jarrett. If he, as a colleague, can pass the blame, then that means the press and media should fairly expect these MPs to justify the cuts to our community. They can not distance themselves.

Surely, with budgets even tighter and the risk of cuts so high, we should be ruling out a dogmatic and partisan Council tax freeze next year?

Cllr Jarrett needs to answer that question because it will highlight whether he puts party interest above the poorest people in our community.

Only a vote by Medway Conservative MPs against the Tory budget next week will save these programmes and investment, and from all indications some of our MPs are more then happy to tow the whip and vote to cut local services. Happy to spray a mist of deceit, when in fact, as they know, resources are being allocated to safer Tory shire Councils at the expense of Medway. This is not an argument about whether we should cut or not. It is where the cuts are being targeted the most and it is clear Medway is being hurt.

We are simply not the priority.