Friday, 31 December 2010

Round-up of 2010

Before this blogger heads out for a few festive pints in London it would be remiss not to sum up some of the big political moments of the year.

Harold Wilson famously said that 'a week is a long time in politics' and he was not wrong with 2010 a momentous year for all political parties with many highs and lows both locally and nationally.

2011 proves to be exciting for local pundits and residents as we gear up for the Local Election spectacle.

Enough of that. Below are the moments of the month:

January 2010.

National - The abortive coup on Gordon Brown as Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon called for an anonymous ballot in an attempt to rid themselves of the former Chancellor. After a 6 hour wait Cabinet members rallied around the Prime Minister and the former cabinet ministers were chastised.

Local - Councillor Brice caught in a vice sting by Kent Police in River Ward. Another scandal in the ward of Rochester South & Horsted brought a quick expulsion from the Conservative Group by Cllr Rodney Chambers in what could have been revenge for a leadership challenge years previous. Cllr Brice never resigned and remains in office.

February 2010

National - 'Bullygate' led many tabloids leading on the claims that Gordon Brown was slightly bonkers. The Chairwoman of the National Bullying Hotline put her ore into the Prime Minister with claims that she had received calls from Number 10 staff of hurtling stationary, before it was quickly revealed that she had close links to senior Conservative MPs. The public recoiled and saw through the witch-hunt. The polls closed on the Conservatives. Right wing smear machine suffered a home goal and polls closed

Local - The Council budget ringfenced £250,000 on a new Council website whilst claiming that Primary Schools had to be merged to save costs. Cllr Les Wicks multi-million pound Primary School plan begins to fall apart openly. It later completely failed with only one school closed.

March 2010

Local - The Medway Liberal Democrats failed to oppose the Medway Conservative Council budget and this blog warned voters of Liberal Democrat hypocrisy.

National - As Tory posters begin to fill up billboards across Medway including in prime locations in Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham. Cameron visits Medway for a second time only for Mark Reckless, PPC and his researcher failing to invite the local media. The event turned into a PR gaffe with the local media unaware of the visit. Recriminations were hurled from CCHQ that Mark Reckless was not up to the job, while Mark blamed a holiday for the oversight. Oops, not deliberate, apparently...

April 2010

Local - The Medway Council CCTV Car revealed to have made over £1m out of local residents whilst winning a national award for umm, Customer Service. CCTV car continues to cause angst in the community not for all its work but on its process of breaking the law to enforce the law. Car photographed several times parking where it should not. Clear effort by Council to protect the vehicle and revenue stream.

National - The debates! - Cameron lost the first debate to Nick Clegg and so forfeited certain Conservative victory in the General Election. Brown lost all three and flopped on the third after arguing with voter Gillian Duffy over immigration. Party leaders openly talked about a hung Parliament.

May 2010

National - General Election result of a Coalition Government and honeymoon partnership between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives

Local - Councillor Juby elected leader of the Medway Liberal Democrats defeating the aire-apparent Councillor Andy Stamp. Blog announced Party had made a fatal game-changinig decision which would lead to ultimate destruction. Cllr Andy Stamp later resigned from the Liberal Democrat group and sits as an independent.

June 2010

National - Tories and Liberal Democrat 'Coalition' announce that VAT is to rise and an immediate £6 billion of cuts despite promises not to do so prior to election. We will all feel that sting next week...

Local - Rochester & Strood Conservative Association factions start internal hostilities which leak into media and blogosphere as long-standing Councillors are knifed openly in favour of 'younger' usurpers with close links to office of new MP, Mark Reckless. The fight for MP selections has begun with Mark pitting himself against Chisthi and Crouch.

July 2010

National - Cameron starts his foreign policy agenda in Asia with a gaffe accusing Pakistan government of links with terror. Watch for further gaffe's next year

Local - Free swimming for pensioners and young people cut for Medway residents despite massive success of the programme to reduce obesity levels

August 2010

National - William Hague reveals he shared a bed with a male aide despite being a millionaire. The aide is then promoted to a Special Advisor despite having no formal experience. Issue closed with a very personal and odd press statement claiming that Ffion has had problems.

Local - River ward fiasco as Conservative Councillor David Craggs resigns after two weeks and admits ineligibility. Medway Conservatives target the police in a vicious attack attributing his resignation to a lack of clarity on policy. Another by-election in the same ward later called at a cost of £11,000.

September 2010

National - Ed Miliband elected Leader of the Labour Party with a shift to the left-of-centre. His election is unexpected after backing from affiliate trade union movement takes him over the magic number.

Local - Police report Conservative Councillor Craig MacKinlay to Standards Board after leaflet to the public savaging Police Chief, Ian Learmonth. Rochester & Strood Conservatives announce the replacement candidate as Alan Mackness before correcting the press statement with Andrew Mackness. Labour won the ward with John Jones elected with a small swing.

October 2010

Local - Boris Johnson announces a proposal for an airport at Cliffe. Kent & Medway Conservatives initially in shock fail to respond before upping the ante. Rehman Chisthi is allowed by the whips to ask a question at PMQs where Cameron closes the issue with the door ajar on future proposals. This one may run after May 2011 and before Boris Johnson's election campaign for 2012.

National - Strategic Defence Review written for future integration with Europe in mind. Tories fail to convince public that one aircraft carrier will be useless before revealing it will have jump-jet capabilities and maybe leased to NATO.

November 2010

National - Ed Miliband visits Medway as Labour conduct the first National Policy Forum in Gillingham. He visits Mid Kent College where he answers questions on tuition fees, Dartford Toll, EMA and the changes required to make Labour win for people in Medway.

Local - Labour launches its Medway Fares Fair campaign to highlight Conservative price increases in the CSR. Tories respond with a poorly written EDM with a lack of support and Labour win the argument on the platforms and in the Council Chamber. Tories support Labour motion opposing fare increases. Labour also win support on Tuition Fee increases, with Tory Councillors opposing the rise.

December 2010

National - Tuition Fees introduced with Mark Reckless MP and Tracey Crouch MP rebelling against the government. Both have destroyed their ministerial careers but are both looking to a bigger prize, a Medway South seat in 2015. More next year...

Local - Medway Council Local Government Grant cut by £23.5 million or 11.9% which is far worse than expected. Grant is skewed towards Tory-Liberal marginal shire Councils in South and South West. Cllr Jarrett announces that cuts will be particularly unpalatable. So much for calling it what you like...

Happy New Year!

Ed Miliband Q&A from Mid Kent College

Transcript of some of the more juicy questions from the Q&A with Ed Miliband in November from the new Mid Kent College campus.

The event was sponsored by KOS Media Group.

A number of interesting local specific questions were answered well.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tory Council Tax Fiasco

The annual mockery by the Medway Conservatives on the hard-pressed tax payer of Medway has come once again.

The BBC tonight revealed that Medway Council is in arrears by some
£4m. This is now the tenth year running that the Tories have run up a massive account deficit on the Council Tax.

The annual tax receipt for Medway is £96.9m in 2010/11. This figure represents 3.5-4.0% of the total tax take.

Over the same period Gravesham Council reduced its Council tax deficit from £2.0m to £1.3m. It is clear that Gravesham has a grip whilst Medway is simply failing to act.

The scale of this deficit makes a mockery out of the Tories tax position. How can the Tories claim to the friend of the tax-payer when they squander so much on poor schemes and fail to collect tax from thousands of residents. It is a total slap in the face.

£4m could be significant in mitigating cuts to front line services. The Conservatives have had a decade to get this under control but have failed.

Many feel that Tory tax increases are regressive and unfair. The VAT increase when fuel prices are at an all time high represent a slap in the face to the hardpressed tax payer of Medway.

Why should any of us pay Council Tax if the Conservatives can not be bothered to claim the money owed?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Ferrets in a sack!

Like ferrets in a sack. Cameron has not got a clue and Gideon Osborne 'gets up your nose'

And these are comments from the governments own ministers!

No wonder this useless rabble are behind in the polls.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Medway Council Cut stands at 11.9%

Tonight the public are looking at Tory Councillors and MPs and the monumental failure of them to negotiate a fair settlement for residents.

It has been revealed tonight that the Conservative Government has deceived the public and its own naive Council Group and slammed Medway with an eye-watering 11.9% cut

Rehman Chisthi, Tracy Crouch and Mark Reckless have failed to represent the pressing requirement for Medway to the government. They have failed to fight for Medway citizens and have left the Council base in a worrying position for next May.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds will be cut in Rainham, will be cut in Lordswood, will be cut in Hoo, Cliffe and Halling.

Millions will be cut from schools, from parks, from services to elderly people, from public safety.

Tory candidates in marginal wards now find themselves fighting not only Labour poll leads but the headwinds of their MPs failure to negotiate and fight our corner. Dozens stand on the edge of defeat tonight as the national government falls apart.

The fact is Medway Conservatives have spent years biting the hand that fed them with ever greater grants.

The people expected them to use their influence to reduce the scale of damage to Medway. They elected Conservative Councillors and MPs to fight our corner against over-aggressive cuts.

After years of pious rubbish about 'influence' from Cllr Jarrett, we now have the true extent of his influence with government.

Conservative Ministers have bare-faced deceived the public. They have said earlier this month that the drop in funding resulted in a 3.6 per cent cut in Medway’s spending power – and that no council will see a drop greater than 8.9 per cent.

But Medway Council’s officers have worked through the figures provided and discovered a much larger cut of 11.9 per cent in grant funding from the government.

This is far greater than the average for all councils in England of 9.9 per cent and more than the average for unitary councils outside of London, which is 11.4 per cent.

The new figures, worked out by Medway Council, follow the announcement by the government of all council total formula grants for 2011/12 on 13 December.

This leaves Medway with a £23.5 million funding gap for the 2011/12 financial year – which is how much it will need to save to balance its budget.

The council had predicted a funding gap of £19.5million

Medway Council has been carrying out a great deal of work to see where it can make reductions while protecting its vital front line services such as social care, highways, refuse collection as well as other important and valued areas such as Sure Start.

And the council’s cabinet has now instructed officers to start consultation, where appropriate, on team restructures, which will lead to job cuts.

Directors and Assistant Directors have also been working on an exercise to reduce budgets by 25 per cent over four years and an initiative called ‘Better for Less’, which is looking at how the council carries out its work and where efficiencies can be made, is ongoing.

In addition to this, the council has already announced pay freezes, cuts to jobs last June and is closing its regeneration arm – Medway Renaissance – with a loss of nearly 20 jobs.

In its announcement, the government stated that grants in areas such as transport, skills training and migration will go.

The council will be setting a budget for the new financial year in February and will need to take into account the huge drop in funding it has received.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance said:

“I find the smoke and mirrors way the government has attempted to make it look like Medway is only losing around four per cent, when in reality it will see cuts of nearly 12 per cent next year, particularly unpalatable.”

So will Councillor Jarrett resign?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Unexpected support...

Watts the Truth?

The campaign to safeguard Watts Meadow and surrounding areas from Conservative Councillors and their building developer colleagues is moving at pace.

A petition to the local community is due shortly highlighting the history of Watts Meadow and the Tory U-turns

Did you know for instance that

1. In 2002, Medway Conservatives claimed to be concerned with protecting green spaces in Rochester and joined moves to take Copperfield old allotments site and Watt's old flower nursery out of housing local plan.

However after 2002 elections Copperfield was amazingly put back onto the housing plan and sold for £5,000,000. The Tories rubber stamped the development of153 dwellings.

At that time no development of Watts because council found an inconvenient truth. That the site owners had left the land in protected trust.

2. In 2004, Tory council bought out the convenant from Watt's charity to allow access and sold the land. Plans for Watt's showed 24 dwellings. Housing plots in this part of Rochester worth £100 - 200,000, site worth £2,000.000 to £4,000,000. A huge local protest was more or less ignored.

3. The Open Spaces Society expressed concern with footpaths in Rochester One of the footpaths that needed to be protected by designation on to the "definitive footpaths" map was this footpath through Watt's meadow.

Except there has been no action for years on the issue despite a great deal of action by OPS. How interesting given the current development!

4. Without any consultation Medway Council built a set of concrete steps at end of Southfield "for better access to Watt's Meadow".

5. This year the fence around the building site went up without any warning to local people reducing access to Watts meadow.

Builders were allowed to use part of Watt's Meadow to build soakways for the houses and this meant that the Fence was extended well into the public area of Watt' Meadow with no consultation and again no warning.

6. Today we still have no clarification on public accessibility on the site and we have incorrect legal notices being put up.

It is clear that Rochester Conservatives have an agenda for the site which is not that of the local community.

Chatham Bus Station Disgrace

The news that Medway Conservatives have totally mismanaged another capital programme comes as no surprise to residents of the Medway towns who have suffered years of road works, delays and Tory mismanagement.

There are rumours circulating that the Medway Conservative incompetence may even be close to £1m because of the delays caused by bad weather. An eye-watering sum of money to waste.

Medway Labour will find out the true scale of this outrage tomorrow.

Attempts by this blogger to clarify with leading Conservative cabinet members have been ignored.

The news slipped out from the Medway Messenger website that the Conservatives will now use Council tax payers money to finish the Chatham bus station because they left it too late to secure full government funding for the site

The bus station was opposed by many in the Community and dubbed the 'mushroom patch' because of its poor usability and because many users favoured the modernisation of the Pentagon bus station. Many in the local community also opposed the digging up of the historic trees on the Brook / Paddock which were lifted weeks in advance of the building work.

In effect, the contentious development which should have been built entirely on a Labour Government grant will now have to be part funded by the public. This whilst the Council announce cuts to Sure Start, libraries, leisure centres, litter collection, and education budgets.

The exact figure of the subsidy is unknown but given the weather and the delay to starting the project, we can expect a hefty sum. The Conservatives have remained tight lipped.

Cllr Jane Chitty (Con - Strood North - nominally in every sense) and the leader Cllr Rodney Chambers are responsible for regeneration are ultimately held to account for this outrageous failure of administration.

In addition to this incompetence Medway Conservatives have:

* £2.5m Chatham two-way farce which saw pre-election U-turn on demolition of Hawkins flyover and multiple delays which has decimated town centre trade.
* Demolition of the Theatre Royal in Chatham
* £850,000 demolition cost and associated relocation costs to relocate civic centre to 'ivory towered' centre in Chatham. Monumental waste of tax payers money which involved in demolition of historic Aveling & Porter building to become a car park
* £1 purchase of Medway Tunnel which will leave a multi-million pound tax liability and potential toll. Negotiated behind closed doors.
* Closure of Rochester Dickens Centre, Rochester Market and threats to Strood Market
* Constant un-scrutinised roadwork's in Medway which have harmed local traders and thousands of residents.
* Thousands wasted reminding residents to use bins as Council announces cuts to 50-100 staff on the 'Love Medway' campaign
* Arrogantly re-branding the town without Royal consent, a snub to the Queen. Spending tax payers money and loosing public support without an apology

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Connexion service Cuts

Job service for young will be targeted by Tories

It now seems that families with young children are being systematically targeted by Conservative tax increases and cuts to services.

The Conservative decision to cut £4.8 million from the budget of Kent's career guidance service Connexions is highly regressive because it targets a service designed to help young people into the world of work and further education.

60 jobs are at risk due to a 19.5 per cent funding reduction.

Medway Conservatives back a government that has led on

- Rise in University tuition fees to £9,000 per annum which will target grammar and comprehensive school pupil alike. Leaving graduate debt of £27,000 before living-cost.
- Cuts to University funding which will compromise excellence in teaching so watering down standards
- Cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance which help pupils from middle class families to attend further education colleges. Reduction in number of apprenticeships
- One-in-three Primary school pupils failing basic literacy tests with failures to improve education in the area despite a decade of power
- Delays in Academy building projects
- Cuts to Sure Start and pre-school education programmes
- Cuts to free school meals and secondary-language programmes
- Cuts to Medway Youth Services and support projects for young people
- Failure to support the Medway Freedom Pass in favour of the £2.5m Chatham two-way programme
- Gerrymandering of funding into Yellow bus scheme which services safe Conservative areas at the expense of middle class urban families

Only the most blind of Conservative Councillors can justify supporting a government which is systematically destroying educational opportunity for a generation of young people.

Residents in Luton & Wayfield will suffer disproportionately from cuts in education. Not only are local Primary Schools in need of extra support but the cuts in budgets for second language and integration will impact Luton schools who have a diverse catchment. Secondly, 16-18 year olds in the ward are more likely to be recipients of the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

Supporters of the Connexion service, which have an office in Chatham, say the cuts will harm its ability to help the county's youngsters, who they say have been badly let down by the Coalition Government.

The Kent branch of Connexions has regional offices in 11 towns throughout the county and employs more than 300 personal advisers. The services are merged in Kent and Medway so service cuts will hit young people in Medway.

A consultation process has now begun with a view to a 17 per cent reduction in staff numbers, which will be achieved through a phased approach over the next eight months.

The £4.8m reduction – which brings the organisation's budget for the next two years down to about £20m – is significantly more than the £2m cut predicted before the Comprehensive Spending Review was published in October.

"This is another attack by an out-of-touch government that doesn't understand the needs of young people," said 17-year-old Kent Youth County Council chairman Dara Farrell.

"Connexions has had great success in finding employment for young people and in providing them with relevant skills to keep that employment.

"The Government talks about not wanting so many people on benefits but how are they supposed to find work when services like Connexions are being taken away?"

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Real Face of the Cuts

Income Inequality will hit hard

Following on from conversations on our local government grant with a number of colleagues elsewhere in the UK.

In the case of Medway, the cut to our Local Government Grant will be approaching £12 million this year. With the prospect of it reducing by another £20 million over the three years that follow. A truly shameful sum given the groans of Conservatives about floor damping.

This cut is not just floor damping. It is removing the floor from under the feet of hard pressed Medway people.

What Tories overlook, and evidently so in Medway because it is never discused, is the significant variations of alternate income between Councils. Tories make basic assumption that income streams from Council tax and other sources are the same in every area.

They assume a level playing field where one does not exist.

For some councils, like Westminster for example, the grant from government is a fairly small proportion of the their overall income. This is true even in the North, for York council the grant is only about 40% of their total income. For Barnsley it is almost 80%.

To mitigate the drop in grant councils like these will have options. Increasing parking charges in Westminster, for example, by a modest sum will replace the loss they are expecting. In Medway the punitive increases in fines from CCTV cars and traffic fines, under the name of enforcement will be key.

What about the other options for increasing our income? Well planning fees are dropping, because nobody can afford to build, this is a national problem for all councils. One of the biggest income generators are care packages, but we are having to outsource more and more which takes them away and again, increases here would target the most vulnerable in society directly. Across the whole range of potential income streams, weaker economy areas just don't have the options to available to others.

There is council tax of course which is being frozen. But look at its impacts; In Surrey, the council are facing a cut of around £13 million in grant next year. A 2.5% increase in council tax on the properties in leafy Surrey would bring in around.. er.. £13 million to the council. Handy. In Medway, which has significant numbers of poorer housing and far more differentiation an increase in tax does not generate revenues like this.

In the end poorer areas including Medway will have very little prospect of dealing with this massive loss of finance by finding other money to invest in services. We only have one real option. We can only spend tens of millions less. Which will mean less services, less jobs, less council.

Pickles says, only 'lazy' councils will cut services. He couldn't be further from the truth. Only wealthy councils will be able to lose this much money and not cut jobs and services.

Hard pressed councils in hard pressed areas, who have to get the most from every penny and work hard to get it, will be the ones who have to cut the most.

Another concern is the suggestion that business rates ought to be repatriated to the areas they came from. The system where the wealthy areas who can charge what they like, help to support the areas where business needs to be encouraged with low rates, should be dropped? Once again the money flows to wealthy areas and away from the areas of greatest need.

If this happens, Councils in the South East may have to repatriate money to London as we are overwhelmingly reliant on the capital for jobs.

The weak are an easy target for the Conservatives. Medway will suffer not only because of the cut in grant but because when compared with leafy Tory shire areas we do not have the same measures to increase income to mitigate cuts.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Formula Grant cut unfair on Medway

More details are emerging from the Local Government Settlement grant for Medway Council today as Council chiefs estimate they have lost £12 million from the government settlement.

Cumulatively over two years the budget will drop from £98m to £86m in 2011/12 and from £86m to £78m in 2012/13.

This is a drop of
£32 million cumulative over two years based on the 2010/11 numbers. That represents currently one third of the Medway Council budget.

Despite double-accounting makes it now almost certain that the leaked 3.7% cut number released by the government is almost certainly spurious and for media consumption.

The government have removed national grants and added them to local government budgets and have double accounted for health and social services which were budgets allocated to the NHS.

This settlement is smoke and mirrors designed to deceive the electorate.

There is still no comment from Conservative HQ on the Area Based Grant which many Conservatives whinged about whilst receiving year-on-year increases in grant from 2003. Those same people have been silent today as the true extent of duplicity has set in. The government they leafletted and campaign for, has just taken away the hard earned money of Medway citizens and have not only failed to give it to the poorest, but instead have handed it to the richest.

Conservative values; help the rich, hurt the middle class.

Government cost-cutting is expected to hit family services in deprived parts of Medway. The Conservatives have no concept of fairness and have given the smallest reductions in grant to safe Conservative shire seats. It is gerrymandering and it is overt/

It is also likely to wipe out low-key efforts to integrate eastern Europeans into the community which will hurt areas in Luton & Wayfield which have major issues with integration.

Even Tory Council deputy leader Cllr Alan Jarrett admitted that "This is not to Medway's benefit," which is code for Medway being legged over by the Conservative government.

A new budget has to be approved in late February but if you live in any of the inner city wards in Medway from Gillingham, Twydall, Chatham, Lordswood, Rainham, Rochester or Strood, you will be viciously hurt by these cuts.

Primary School Results Shame

Pupils protesting against Medway Tory cuts to Primary Schools

An indictment of close to a decade of Conservative control of the Local Education Authority has seen Medway slide to the bottom of the Primary School league tables in England and Wales

Today's results are a damning indictment on the Conservative administration and the state of education in Medway and points to a failure of the LEA to adequately support poor performing schools to ensure they improve there performance.

Almost a third of our pupils are failing to achieve the results they deserve despite years of per pupil funding increases from government.

It is fair to say that Medway has consistently performed poorly and it would be remiss not to point out that a number of individual primary schools have improved. However, the story for many remains static; whilst the good schools continue to perform the poor schools are not adequately supported.

Medway should not occupy a position close to the bottom of the table because taken as a whole, we are a wealthier demographic than a number of those areas that perform better. This makes the poor result all the more damning, because on average our pupils should have more opportunity.

There are too many primary schools in Medway that are failing and the pace of improvement needs to quicken. Unfortunately, given Tory cuts to education budgets this remains a risk. We start from the bottom of the hill with a strong headwind and icy slopes.

After the shambles of the Primary School re-organisation last year, this points to an oversight failure by Conservatives over the strategic direction of education in Medway. Next year, we need a change of focus away from performing schools who can manage themselves, onto the most disadvantaged and poor performing schools. We need Councillors who get education.

The authorities listed are ranked firstly on the percentage of pupils attaining the government benchmark of Level 4 in both their maths and English SATS. The average point score in the national curriculum tests, out of a maximum of 33, is then used as a tie-break. Medway scored 26.8 points which is way below the average.

Many educational psychologists believe that future education achievement is overwhelmingly impacted by what is termed 'early intervention'. It is clear we are failing too many at the earliest points in their lives.

Luton & Wayfield ward saw a number of poor performing schools that are way below the average. Breaking down statistics on free school meals, ESOL and ward demographics and it is clear that not only are these schools not being given adequate support but with future cuts in the EMA and tuition fee hikes, the Conservatives are damning an entire generation of students from the area to failure.

That is why residents next year must oppose Conservative cuts because as we can see they skew resource away from areas with most need to wealthier areas.

It is true though that a quarter of schools boycotted the SATS tests this year, and where there is not enough data to give an accurate figure, government statisticians have not published averages. The data therefore is open to error but

Our position on the table is appalling and we need a renewed focus and vigour on improving those schools so that our future generations are not strangled of opportunity from their earliest years

Monday, 13 December 2010

Local Government cuts

Medway families, the elderly and the vulnerable are targeted the hardest by the Conservative cuts in local government funding. We will suffer a 3.5% cut in funding

The Tories have targeted the middle class for their cuts in an attempt to gerrymander resources to safe Tory seats.

Whilst Medway will have to cut 3.5%. Tory safer seats are given priorities over our towns. Dorset gets a 0.25% increase in funding and Windsor and Maidenhead, Poole, West Sussex, Wokingham, Richmond upon Thames and Buckinghamshire all get cuts of 1% or below.

This is blatant gerrymandering of funding by the Conservative Party against the people of Medway.

The council settlement came amid a flurry of funding announcements today as the government was set to bury bad news

Cuts also include

• Each of the 43 England and Wales police forces will see a 5.1% cut in funding next year and a 6.7% reduction in 2012-13. This is a direct attack on bobbies on the beat and will lead to a rise in crime across Medway.

Instead Tories want to spend millions on elected police commissioners which will see funding gerrymandered away from Medway to Tory-shire seats in mid-Kent.

• Next year's budget of £834m for highways maintenance will reduce to £707m by 2014-15 – a 15% drop in spending on road repairs.

Instead Tories will now cut funding for residential road repairs which will leave your road pot-holed. Coupled with Medway Conservative waste on the Chatham two-way system which cost £2.5m this is a slap in the face to the motorist.

The education budget for England for next year is revealed, including the new "pupil premium". However, the education department confirmed it could no longer deliver its promise of a 0.1% real-terms year-on-year increase after the Office for Budget Responsibility revised the inflation figures up, meaning that the £3.6bn cash increase would now mean a marginal cut in budgets.

Medway is about to feel the brunt of Tory cuts.

Whilst safe Tory areas suffer, the poorest areas and Medway suffer under this government.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Liar Liar

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tory Traffic Chaos in Rochester

The state of our towns road system is now beyond a joke to Council tax payers and residents.

Anyone who has had to travel from one end of Medway from another will now take 30 minutes to an hour to complete a journey that should take 15 minutes.

Residents should squarely blame Conservative Councillors because it is the current administration in Gun Wharf that has so monumentally failed to manage this.

Medway residents have now had four years of unmitigated road chaos which has been monumentally mismanaged by Tories. They have watched Medway Conservatives spend £2.5m on a road system in Chatham which doesn't work (because no one is following the taxi/bus only route rules) and have suffered the infamy of gas works on Gun Road which literally cut off Chatham from Gillingham for 2 months.

The current works on Corporation Street, Rochester are causing absolute chaos. I say absolute chaos because it is an unmitigated shambles of monumental proportions. Thousands upon thousands of drivers are left for 30 minutes to an hour stuck in traffic. The entire system has collapsed and it is like an urban jungle. We have ambulances stuck, police stuck and with the level of traffic, the bus system must be suffering unmanageable delays.

People do not mind road works or improvements to the road system. They do mind un-coordinated and unnecessary works which prolong misery and which damage local business and trade, and therefore risk jobs.

These road works in Rochester are necessary. However, to wait in queues only to see no one working on a stretch of road which is a core junction in the entire Medway road-system is laughable. Or indeed, resignable if I were the Tory Councillor in charge.

It simply beggars belief that the Conservatives can just ignore this. They just inhabit a different planet then those who have to use the roads on a daily basis.

Inner city Rochester and Chatham have seen a welcome influx of tourists over the last four weeks for the Dickens Festival and the Castle market which has been a success. The problem is that someone in the Medway Conservative administration sanctioned massive works on the Corporation Street at the same time. Surely, one department should be speaking with another. This should have been rubber stamped for January not December (a core trading month) and it should have been 24 hour, 7 days a week works.

Today, despite the gridlock there were no workmen on the works at all. So not only was there absolute paralysis but it seems the lights have been left on automatic and the works left until Monday.

The same old tired excuses get trotted out about spending the money before the budget runs out, but that is total rubbish. Councillors and Council officers can pick a time for road works and they can demand it be undertaken within a longer time frame.

It may be more expensive to complete the works overnight and into weekends but given the strategic importance of that junction, that should have been considered as a natural response.

The current works in Rochester even make the traffic chaos in Chatham look well managed and that remains a £2.5m waste of money if ever there was one.

The expensive joke (because you as council tax payers are paying) however is that the Conservative administration, and it is Tory Councillors directly, have not appropriately scrutinised roadworks at all.

Despite the opposition complaining for years that important works should be undertaken at an appropriate time and if in a strategic location, very quickly. Despite residents, press and opposition screaming for years that we demand a better process for road improvements, they are all totally ignored.

We are seeing the same mismanagement now that we saw years ago. The same mistakes repeated, never a lesson learned.

It is Medway residents that are once again suffering because of this bungling administrations incompetence.

It is time for Tories to start to get a grip on traffic. They have had four years to manage this properly and they have failed every single time.

New management is required. Vote Labour in May for competence

Friday, 10 December 2010

Just holding the line

Liberal Democrat suppport has plummeted since the general election in the North East and South West of England, new analysis of Ipsos MORI polls shows.

As controversy over Liberal Democrat support for the government’s policy on university tuition fees reaches a peak, Ipsos MORI’s aggregate analysis of their monthly polls since the general election shows that support has swung from the Liberal Democrats to Labour across the country, but much more sharply in some regions than in others.

Across Great Britain as a whole, Liberal Democrat support has averaged 15% between June and November, less than two-thirds of the 24% of the vote that the party secured at the general election; the swing has been almost entirely to Labour, with the Conservatives holding the 37% they won in May.

But there have been big differences in the changes in support in different regions. In the North East, Liberal Democrat support has almost disappeared, falling to just 4% of those certain to vote, an overall swing to Labour of 19%. In the South West, the Lib Dems’ strongest region at the election, the swing has been almost as high, 16%, and they have lost half their support in London, with an 11% swing to Labour.

Most recent polls have shown the Lib Dems well below that post-election average of 15% nationally, which suggests that they may well be even worse off now in many regions than these figures show.

However, the party has held on to most of its support in the Midlands and South East, as well in Scotland and Wales where devolved elections are due next May.