Saturday, 29 January 2011

Is Icarus about to fall?

The Medway Liberal Democrats are imploding in factional warfare as the party plummets in the national polls. With former candidates attacking colleagues and the standing down of party stalwart Cllr Herbie Crack, it is now also clear from polling that the rock solid base in Gillingham is deserting the party in droves.

The revelations in the press (above) and the doorstep response in Gillingham shows no support for the independents, with many residents accepting that the cuts to EMA and the rise in tuition fees can only be opposed by a united and effective opposition.

Polling suggests that it is a call between the Liberal Democrats, who have still to announce, and the Labour candidates. This would represent a big decline in Liberal Democrat support which is indeed evidenced in all polling.

The accusations above will also do neither the Liberal Democrats or Independents any favours. It may get a quick headline but its impacts are wholly damaging. It was a shockingly poor move.

Some may believe Cllr Stamp will have shown public honesty in revealing the accusations of a former colleague to the press, but is it really a coincidence that these are revealed just before a local election and a full two years after they were 'alleged' to have occurred?

People locally need Councillors who will stand up to the cuts and fight for resource.

Labour will win on its merits and that involves meeting people and listening to them.

Gillingham North needs stronger representation that is not embroiled in this petty factionalism.

Adam Price, Naushabah Khan and Ian Darbyshire are those candidates.

Strood Conservative Scandal brews...

News this week which threatens to rock the Strood Conservative campaign for May's local election.

Information has been leaked to the press in advance of the Standard's Committee meeting that Porfolio Holder and Senior Cabinet Councillor (or comrade) Jane Chitty may have broken the cardinal rule of local politics - to live or work in the area that you seek to represent.

This blog suspects that there is no smoke without fire, but does raise the question about how, once again, it has taken so long for this case to be resolved.

This blogger stood against Councillor Chitty a full four years ago and it would be interesting to note when the information was revealed to Council chieftains.

Is it really co-incidence that Conservative Councillor Chitty has not been re-selected for Strood North, despite being a well known profile?

Dont think so.

If found guilty the Conservative campaign for Strood should perhaps be labelled; a record of inaction, a promise of even less as it will reveal the true calibre of selection for local candidates.

Strood North is a marginal ward and will be toughly fought in future weeks. The Conservative campaign can ill-afford this story miring the actions of the candidates on whether they live and work in the borough.

Labour candidates Cllr Stephen Hubbard, Linda Robson and Liam Curran all live in the Medway towns and have a record of action in the ward. They are standing up for the community against the £23.5m of Conservative cuts whilst money is gerrymandered to safer Conservative shire councils.

This case threatens to destabilise the Conservative campaign.

If found guilty it is but the honourable thing to do to expel the Councillor and issue a full apology to the people of Strood.

Sadly, given the prospect of a local election, one suspects that the conclusion of this case may have been timed to the benefit of... yes, you guessed it, the Conservative administration.


According to sources Cllr Jane Chitty has been cleared by the Standards Committee. Pity this took so long to resolve as now Strood North Conservatives have picked an alternative slate of candidates.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Gillingham North needs Change

Gillingham North Labour campaigners speaking up for commuters

Gillingham Labour are probably not interested in the petty squabbles between Liberal Democrats, who are sinking into irrelevancy in an area which needs strong and effective opposition to government cuts.

The current polls point to a collapse in Liberal Democrat support and all those that had any former link with the party.

Adam Price, Naushabah Khan and Ian Darbyshire are putting residents and commuters first in Gillingham. Standing up for local residents, campaigning against tuition fee rises, train fare increases and the Coalition government cuts to local services.

If you are a resident of Gillingham it really is a simple choice between a Party that has lost its way or a capable and effective opposition.

Vote for a factional, split and rudderless Liberal Democrat party or vote for a Adam, Naushabah and Ian who are standing up for residents in Gillingham

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Chatham & Aylesford Selection

Local politico's may be interested to note that Labour’s national executive has given the go ahead to parliamentary selections in 26 marginal seats which the party lost last year.

The decision reverses an earlier decision and follows pressure from constituency parties eager to start campaigning and raising the profiles of candidates in Medway.

The seats chosen are all in southern England (outside London) and the Midlands.

Interesting to note that Chatham & Aylesford will now be engaging in an open selection.

Many campaigners visited the constituency at the last General Election and it is expected a number will be expressing an interest in the constituency, formerly regarded as one of the safer Labour areas in Kent.

That being said Medway Labour are independent minded. The previous MP was a Councillor in Chatham and the neighbouring Gillingham & Rainham MP, Paul Clark, was a former Councillor in Gillingham.

Hush hush Cliffe Airport

Much fanfare over the last couple of days in the local press and amongst the Tory blue-rinse that that the campaign to scrap any North Kent airport has received the warm support of Steve Ridgway, the current Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive.

A welcome development indeed but a useful way of hiding a more insidious story which will be revealed tomorrow, which should send shivers down the spines of residents of Cliffe and North Kent.

Despite the platitudes of the Conservative-led Government this blog is aware that Theresa Villiers is expected to outline plans for a new aviation policy paper tomorrow.

This planning paper will be a 'scoping' study on aviation policy and will, funnily enough, be open to all consultations.

Including, presumably that of Boris Johnson, who so happens to have published his paper less than a fortnight before.

Co-incidence? Who you trying to kid Tories?

The news of the Government Aviation Policy paper comes at a time when the Former Chairman of High Speed Two has rubbished the government for claiming that railways will resolve future air requirement in the South East of England.

It is clear that the government is open to suggestions on airport expansion in the South East. After ruling out expansion at Heathrow and with limited scope for runways elsewhere, is this as this blog has long suspected, the Conservatives playing the long game on Cliffe Airport.

It is now confirmed; government aviation policy paper is on its way.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Reckless Gamble with UK Economy

Today was the day when George Osborne lost Tory economic credibility and the Conservative General election pitch was left in tatters

Labour have warned for close to 18 months that the Tory policies of over aggressive cuts and lack of idea on growth could very well lead to a return to negative growth. A reckless gamble which is risking growth and jobs in Medway.

The warnings were ignored, the result now evident.

This blog suspected that we would see a double-dip in growth. It did not predict, to its chagrine, a plunge into a contraction in the fortunes of UK PLC by 0.5%.

These are dire GDP numbers, despite local Conservative desperation to state otherwise, which highlight, proof positive, that the government’s reckless gamble with the economy risks plummeting the UK back in to recession.

The economy contracted by 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to growth of 1.1% in the second quarter and 0.7% in the third quarter.

The government’s claims that the numbers are just because of snow is not only complacent but a factual inaccuracy. This blog has been saying for months that the Tories have failed to set a pro-growth agenda and instead focused on blaming all the cuts on Labour. A strategy which creates pessimism in the market at the exact time we need people to start spending.

For months this blog has argued that the government need a Plan B, that cuts while the recovery is so weak are reckless and that the VAT increase will make matters worse. It has clearly stated the position, shared by the Medway Labour Group, that over-aggressive cuts over an electoral timescale is not sensible.

Meanwhile local Conservatives continue to put their heads in the sand. The recession was not caused by government; it was caused by a lack of global regulatory governance and irresponsible bankers. Until Tories can accept the true facts they will not come to the right conclusions

The reality of todays fall in GDP is not all because of the snow. Today’s numbers reveal that even before the VAT increase and before the full extent of the cuts are felt the economy is shrinking again. All the efforts by the previous Labour government to help keep people in work, families in their homes and businesses in business are being undone by what Osborne and the coalition are doing.

The GDP numbers are not even the only data for concern. Last week, unemployment figures showed that 49,000 more people were claiming benefits in the three months to November compared with the three months before that. Mortgage lending is at a 20-year low and bank lending to small businesses fell in the past three months.

The Tory position of cuts and tax hikes allowing the private sector to flourish is too soon. The private sector has not recovered at a pace to mitigate the huge cuts in the public sector – the reality is that public sector cuts, before the economy is out of the danger zone will prolong not accelerate the recovery. Tories were blind to this before today, surely not now.

And with inflation now at 3.7% on the consumer prices index and 4.8% on the retail prices index, Osborne’s optimism that the Bank of England can keep the show on the road is looking less and less plausible. The competing pressures the Monetary Policy Committee face – of managing relatively high and rising inflation, with stalling demand – is becoming more and more stark.

There are other warning signs as well. Richard Lambert, former head of the CBI, said yesterday that:

“It is not enough just to slam on the spending brakes. Measures that cut spending but killed demand would actually make matters worse.”

He went on to criticise the government for failing to articulate a “vision of what the UK economy might become under its stewardship”.

Even the government’s own creation, the Office for Budget Responsibility, is sending out warnings – telling Osborne that 490,000 jobs will be lost in the public sector as a result of government cuts. PriceWaterhouseCoopers go further, showing that another 500,000 jobs will disappear in the private sector as a result of the government’s austerity programme.

George Osborne and his Lib Dem cheerleaders are the only ones who seem to think the austerity strategy is working – with an attitude that doesn’t match the reality.

Over the next fortnight data for growth in the US and Europe will be published. If, as expected, their economies are continuing to grow we will have all the evidence we need to know that this reckless gamble with jobs and growth is not working. It will also prove that snow was not the reason as many countries had similar winters.

The Tories are now at grave risk of loosing economic credibility. Another quarter of contraction will lead to recession and that will be the end of the coalitions credibility.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Strood South on the trail

Strood South campaigners Robert Heathfield and Isaac Igwe were on the trail.

No, not the campaign trail, but the new Strood Community Trail which has been established by the local community to highlight the historic heritage of Strood.

The campaign organisers were joined by current Councillors and other members of the community, including Isaac and Robert.

Local heritage campaigns and groups are extremely important to the vitality of Strood.

They also need the continued support of local Councillors who will stand up for local heritage.

Strood South campaigner Mark Jones was also on the campaign trail in 2009 when he attended and opposed the demolition of the Aveling & Porter building, which has now a temporary car park at a cost of £850,000.

Mark Jones, Robert Heathfield and Isaac Igwe are campaigning for Strood and fighting for its heritage.

Looking back...

Always amusing to look back at what Strood Conservatives were saying prior to the election of the Conservative government in May.

One such post from 25 November, 2008 from former Conservative John Ward;

"If we take "Strood" all together, this encompasses a wide range of places and communities, from the more deprived areas around Darnley Road in the south, via the more prosperous areas around Brompton Farm Road, and then Upnor and the military barracks at Chattenden to the rural areas around Cliffe Woods and Cliffe itself in the north. There is also the commercial/industrial area at Medway City Estate.

For example, changes in VAT rates and National Insurance contributions will be felt more in the commercial areas (also including shops) than elsewhere, and increased duty on petrol will be felt by just about everyone, either directly (through buying their own fuel) or indirectly (by price increases as a knock-on effect via producers/service providers).

I wonder what thoughts any of the nine Strood ward Councillors might have on this topic, and what might be possible to mitigate at least some of the worst effects?"

We are all wondering as well John. Perhaps they should pipe up.

Publish the Spending Jarrett

Medway residents are still awaiting the publication of all Council expenditure above £500 as promised by Eric Pickles in his transparency drive.

Medway Conservatives stand accused of delaying the publication of spending which will reveal the true cost of pet projects, consultants and the full expenditure behind Council events, food and drink.

All of this should really be in the public domain but is yet to be released.

Two-dimensional though they maybe, the Medway Conservatives can not hide from their sins.

They have mismanaged the towns for close to a decade.

They have engaged in a vandalism of the Medway towns not seen in the lifetime of many residents. The destruction of town heritage, be that the Paddock, Theatre Royal, Rochester Market or Dickens Centre to name but a few.

We have seen a systematic and brutal assault on the historic fabric of our towns by those with a craven and distorted view of regeneration.

The Medway Conservatives have also wasted vast sums of money on pet programmes which no one wanted. The £2.5m Chatham two-way system which blights the lives of thousands of commuters and has undermined local business and trade. Spend on Medway Tunnel which will leave Medway residents a legacy of millions and the potential for a toll. They have frittered money on the demolition of Aveling & Porter - £850,000 only for it to become a Council car park. Millions have been spent on a Chatham 'dynamic bus station' which is over-budget and at risk of eating into Council reserves.

Time and time again major programmes have been mismanaged. An administration which has simply lost a firm grip of reality.

Meanwhile the Chatham town centre continues to decline. Gillingham suffers and Strood centre is fast becoming no more then a venue for mega-supermarkets. The public are not blind to the regeneration, but they are also not blind to the fact that local communities are not being consulted.

This is the legacy of an administration which has very little interest in being transparent

To prove a point, despite the majority of Councils not having a problem with publishing details of full expenditure Councillor Jarrett has moaned that

"I envisage that the resultant enquiries (both general and FOI) will be excessive and possibly vexatious, and will not assist public accountability."

Or in plain English - He does not want you to know what he is spending our money on.

That may explain why as yet, Medway Conservatives still have not bothered to publish details, despite being only a handful of Councils not to do so.

A Council spokesperson stated tonight that it was being worked on. Lets hope so. A nasty fine awaits should it not be ready.

What is clear though is that Medway Conservatives do not want you poking about in their expenditure.

It is time to blow away the cobwebs of local Tory spending

Horsted Development Concern

This blogger alongside many in the community, including Medway Labour campaigners continue to show concern around the development of the former Horsted Mid-Kent college site.

Medway Labour has challenged the Conservative administration for its casual disregard for building in Rochester.

The Tories in Medway have a poor record on allowing building developers to run roughshod over local peoples concerns. Watts Meadow and Copperfields are two such areas under threat.

Developments which are against the express wishes of the local population.

The Conservatives in Medway have a legacy of selling green space and land to the highest bidder for a quick buck.

The planning reference for this new Horsted development can be found at MC/11/0001 and can be accessed on the Medway Council planning portal

Despite opposition it appears that the Tories have not been able to articulate the very real concerns of residents to the developers, which has resulted in them submitting a new proposal which seeks a similar level of building.

In addition to this failure to represent local people, the Conservative-contolled Council has failed to provide full details online beyond the basic details of 154 units out of a project aprox 340.

The public do not have time to go to Council meetings. Details should be published in full and online.

It is extremely disappointing that despite community objections the Conservatives have not put pressure on these developers to think again.

Extremely disappointing indeed

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Electoral Sages

Wise men sometimes say little but in so doing say a lot.

Alas not so with the Medway Conservatives who appear to be ever willing to give some helpful pointers on campaign tactics to the Labour camp.

Cheers fella's

John Ward, like a white wizard, has predicted that unless Labour concentrate on core seats that they are at risk of defeat in those with big majorities. Comparing Labour to the SDP / Liberal alliance, he is predicting defeat at the polls unless Labour reverts to talking to the same people it was able to convince in 2007. This of course conflicts with the Sorcerers Apprentice, Alan W Collins who seems to point to small gains for Labour where the Conservative majorities are small.

Sufficed to say the Labour electoral strategy will remain under the proverbial lock-and-key but unlike the opposition, we never take any voter for granted in any ward.

It is with a tongue-in-cheek though that we read from Tory campaign chieftains that platoons of blue-rinsers are out door-knocking and leafletting across the towns. Indeed, given the amount of spin, I half expected a phalanx of blue rosettes out in Rochester East as I left my front door.

Luckily for residents, it is largely fiction.

Given the numerical superiority of Tories in Medway, they are either walking very very slowly between houses or indeed, and this is probable, not actually campaigning.

Proof positive of a total lack of effort - the Strood Conservative website, which is run by the actual Strood Conservatives has seen no campaign effort. Or alternatively, you can visit the domain name of the which gives you an application for credit cards - this whilst Mark Reckless MP talks about levels of personal debt. Oops

As we get closer to the election of course the Tories will start to pay for staff to leaflet, but until that point, it seems it is all quiet on the right flank.

Perhaps a little less lecturing on the Labour campaign and a bit more activity on your own.

p.s. It looks like the Rochester & Strood Conservatives are staying silent on the well publicised UKIP endorsement. It seems UKIP have agreed to concreting over North Kent with an airport, which may not go down well on the Peninsula

It isn't Brown, its Balls.

And so finishes the front-line political career of Alan Johnson.

A much loved and respected politician but one who was clearly feeling the heat on the political and personal front in recent weeks.

Given his 'personal' situation it was sensible for Alan to step down. Odd though that Alan did not wait until a re-shuffle announcement, but suspicions tonight it may be related to a suspected affair with a civil servant that may have been revealed in the press.

This blog was cautious about the appointment of Alan Johnson to the position of Shadow Chancellor, instead overtly favouring the eminently qualified Yvette Cooper for the job.

Yvette has a future herself, but Ed Balls is the next best choice. He is intelligent, charming, caustic, discerning and has far more raw intelligence than George Osborne. Intellectually George will face a master across the dispatch box who will pick up on every inconsistency, every nuanced slight-of-hand and every decimal point in the budget box.

George himself has grown into the position but many in financial circles still feel he is too political and light weight. Someone with an incomplete and lack of grasp on economic detail. The Tories know this which is why they wheel out Michael Fallon (the man who did not get the Chairmanship) to tackle Labour.

Ed Balls will be able to challenge George on the minutiae as well as the bigger issues.

Interestingly neither men is particularly popular with the public. Both appeal to the partisan bases so expect red meat from both.

And what about the latest CCHQ-inspired attack of Ed Balls having worked for Gordon Brown. Cameron of course worked (or spun) for both John Major and Norman Lamont - that CCHQ line simply doesn't wash.... but well, 15% interest rates, werent, cough, that bad.

Ed Balls is the best choice for the job at this time. He will strengthen a formidable front-line team which is already 5% ahead in the national polls.

Council to cut 750 staff?

Unconfirmed reports tonight from Council insiders that the Tories are looking to cut around 750 people from the Council headcount in a move which will impact front-line services.

Parks, education services, bin services, road resurfacing and services to the elderly will be impacted.

According to insiders, the cuts in staff are currently being managed in an ingenious but quite dubious manner. Given I spend a chunk of my day dealing with employment law, it appears that the Council is going through a series of 30-day 'mini-consultations' under the guise that the headcount being reviewed is beneath a certain size in defined areas.

Sadly an employment tribunal will look very unfavourably at this type of behaviour on appeal. The Council should of course follow the scripted 90 day consultation to the letter and not try and play games on redundancy. Oh well, warning out of the way. Expect a few appeals.

So why, as members of the public, have we not heard about cuts to staff?

In these austere times most people accept that we need to live within our means but they would also believe that the rules should be followed, not only in spirit, but to the letter. Given the hollow tributes given by Medway Conservatives to the public servants who have worked for our community for years, it is the least for them to expect a fair and transparent process.

This blog also wonders how many senior Directors of the Council are also included in this restructuring exercise. Whistle-blowers to this blog indicate that despite being a top-to-bottom review it appears senior Directors are not included. More mid-level to bottom then. How convenient?!

Coming from a private sector background it would be remiss of this blog to point out that Managing Director's were the first to take the hit in the banking sector. How odd that in the public sector it appears to be the indians that get the chop whilst the chiefs sit smoking their pipes.

And the Medway Conservatives...?

Councillor Jarrett maybe poor at schmoozing the press but he is also quite transparent politically. He is probably backdating the really harsh front line cuts until after the May local election because he does not want the public to make it an election issue.

Not only a slight-of-hand but atypically dishonest once again.

Ironically it is also likely he will be turfed out at that point as well. His febrile backbenchers and the Rochester & Strood faction are sharpening the knives.

Whoever takes the job after him has therefore been left a poison chalice in every sense. Whether Labour or Conservative.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Vote Conservative: Vote Cliffe Airport?

In what is now becoming a monthly regular occurrence with this Conservative government and Council administration the issue of Cliffe Airport has returned with a vengeance.

As this blog has stated countless times - the Conservatives are once again playing games with resident house prices and homes.

We have two-faces.

One lot of Tories ruling out the airport, whilst another lot of Tories rule it in. What a total mess.

It is now clear that Parliament and Central government are open to conversations on future plans on aviation in the South East, and this now (as of four months ago) includes Cliffe Airport (see above).

It is worth reminding readers of the timeline, because this has now gone on longer than under Stephen Byers in the early 2000s.

Is the government playing the long game?

Remember where we were 3 years ago? Tory Mayor Boris Johnson first suggested the idea of an Island Airport in North Kent and Medway Conservatives commuted up to London and helped him win the election on that manifesto commitment.

Remember where we were 2.5 years ago? Boris established a planning committee and actively funded consultations and feasibility studies on the 'Island' airport. Medway Conservatives did nothing.

Remember where we were 1.5 years ago. Medway Conservatives finally funded the cheapest and most ineffective campaign in known Medway campaign history. The 'pie-in-the-sky' poster was, in this blog's mind, kept low-key to ensure victory for Conservative PCCs in the General Election.

Remember where we were 4 months ago. Tory MPs elected and Medway Conservatives are shocked to discover that Cliffe Airport was once again being considered. Tories point to letters and David Cameron statements that there are no 'current plans' for an airport, ignoring the fact that Cameron has bare-faced lied on VAT, on NHS re-organsations, Police cuts and train fare rises.

Until Tories stop playing both sides and start to stand up for residents, this issue will come back time and time and time again.

Every single time another notch of public opinion will be notched away as the Conservatives ratchet public opinion towards an airport option.

I do genuinely believe that Peninsula Conservatives oppose the airport. My challenge is their partisan inability to actually oppose this issue in public with visual campaigns for fear that it will harm the electoral prospects. It is placing public interest on the peninsula after the electoral interests of Conservative campaigners and Members of Parliament.

The lack of campaign activity, the poorly funded poster campaign and the fact this issue keeps coming back is proof that the Tories in Medway have failed to get a firm grip, or have any influence in Westminster.

Medway Tories will promise you no airport, but until they have the influence to disband the Parliamentary TEA Group, until they get the influence to sanction the Conservative Party candidate for Mayor to change his stance, until they get they influence to run a proper and funded opposition campaign; this blog along with independent blogs will challenge this total Tory fiction. It is two-faced.

The simple choice on the Peninsula is to actually vote for anyone other then the Conservative candidate and send a message to Boris Johnson that if you want to continue with these plans, we will kick your Party candidates.

Elect someone who will speak as an independent voice against the Conservative government.

Time to make a stand for your community. Do not let the Tories take you for a ride

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Tories snub South Eastern commuters

Conservative transport minister Theresa Villiers (see far right) has made it clear that the government supported by Mark Reckless, Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chisthi has no intention of approaching SouthEastern boss Charles Horton about fare increases and is relaxed.

Proof that despite the self-agrandizing statements by Medway MPs that they have been totally and utterly ignored in the corridors of power.

In what is a snub to Conservative voters and thousands of commuters in Medway the Tory minister stated that the massive price hike was well within the rights of SouthEastern trains.

In a letter to a senior Tory backbencher, Ms Villiers said the train company was allowed to increase fares by inflation plus three per cent rather than the normal one per cent to cover improvements made to the network.

Clearly the minister is not up to her brief because South Eastern trains already operated a 3% RPI policy before she took office.

And she stressed that Southeastern was in fact free to increase prices by as much as five per cent plus inflation, so long as the average remained at three per cent plus RPI across the county.

That is why Medway Commuters have seen a 9% increase this year in fares.

What a total disgrace.

She said:

"I am fully aware of constituents’ concern about the higher than average price cap that applies for Southeastern passengers.

"I am afraid the fare increases Southeastern is introducing are within the terms of the franchise agreement. I therefore have no standing to intervene with Charles Horton."

This makes an absolute mockery out of residents as it is now clear they deceived the public of Medway about fares.

In some parts of Kent, season ticket holders saw fares rise to well above £5,000 as the train company introduced its new price list for 2011.

The cat is out of the bag. The Conservative Party supports 5% + RPI or more increases in fares.

Shame on them. Shame on them all.

Time for a New Movement

Another broken promise by Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg

Ed Miliband has said it is time for Labour to "change the way it works" and form a new "broad movement of the mainstream" as we make an appeal for Liberal Democrat and Green supporters in Medway to join us in changing our towns for the better.

Neither the Greens or Liberal Democrats can oppose the Conservatives in Medway. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats now actively collude and support the administration as we saw in the last budget settlement for Medway.

The 'Orange' Tories can not be trusted to campaign for the most disadvantaged communities and Clegg has sold out on all his principles to achieve office.

The VAT rise, cuts to Police, train fare increases and the raising of tuition fees are only the most visible sign that the Coalition is Conservative dominated.

The Liberal Democrats are now the soft-wing of the Conservative Party. They are not a party of the centre or left.

In a speech at the Fabian society today, Mr Miliband emphasised that the Liberal Democrats had made a "tragic mistake" of signing up to the Conservatives' spending cuts. A mistake which now makes stands them on the cusp of defeat in a number of Medway seats.

Miliband told the Fabian Society that he was proud of much that Labour did in office, but that its failure to regulate the markets and, latterly, its belief that the state knew best, left it remote from the people it existed to serve. Labour made a massive strategic error in being too controlling and in thrall to a deregulated market.

"We became too technocratic and managerial,"

"But more than that: we sometimes lost sight of people as individuals and of the importance of communities. In our use of state power, too often we didn't take people with us. That is why over time people railed against the target culture, the managerialism of public service reform and overbearing government.

"At the same time, we seemed in thrall to a vision of the market that seemed to place too little importance on the values, institutions and relationships that people cherish the most."

Medway Labour has attracted a number of Liberal Democrat and Green members since May and is open to welcoming those who want to make a difference to our towns.

Labour is the only opposition to the increasingly fringe Conservative administration which is badly managing our towns. From incompetence of the Chatham regeneration to the failure to collect £4.2m of Council tax. It is one mistake after another.

If you are interested in getting more involved locally, or indeed thinking about perhaps one day representing your home area, please do contact us at Medway Labour or me directly on twitter.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Medway Council Meeting III

The first Council of 2011 was dominated by the £23.5m cut to the Medway Council grant and the impact of cuts to police and Sure Start

Attendance was surprisingly good considering a number of Councillors are likely to be on there final stretch of service before retiring. Cllr MacKinlay was noticeably absent which was somewhat surprising given that that European Union was on the agenda. Looks like it was only John Jones speaking up for River ward once again.

The public questions began at pace with an early question on toilets at the Pentagon knocked back by the Conservatives. The administration accepts no responsibility for the appalling state of the toilets and will do nothing about the charge. It was not just Cllr Mark Reckless (Con) who was taking the piste, his colleagues were seemingly happy to join him.

The nightmare roadworks, a constant irritation to residents across Medway once again came up. The questioner wanted to know why Conservatives seemingly ignored traders and residents and engaged in programmes which were poorly timed and planned. The Rochester Corporation Street roadworks were mentioned as incredibly damaging. The Tories suggested that all that opposed the roadworks opposed regeneration and that the schemes were overwhelmingly supported by business. Facts disputed by the traders themselves. No apology for loss of trade was forthcoming.

The leaders reports were notable as Cllr Chambers (Con) railed against his own government and the cuts that have disproportionately impacted Medway. Cllr Godwin (Lab) reminded the Tories that this was the same government that they had campaigned and leafleted for, and that distancing themselves from the government was ridiculous. The Medway Conservatives are the 'cuts people' he went onto say and they would be judged in May on that.

Cllr Vince Maple (Lab) then raised the issue of the Chatham bus station. The response was farcical and notable for its total lack of content. The Conservatives have utterly mismanaged this major programme and it is now running late with the money due to run out in March. The Tories are consulting banks and government for an extension of a loan, but the Tories would not disclose the total sum. They did disclose that the government had not confirmed any extension to the budget for the programme. This is a major problem for the Conservatives - will they leave Council tax payers with another debt legacy?

The motions were contentious and well debated.

The Labour motion to oppose Conservative cuts to Police through the wasted election of a Police Commissioner was well debated. The Tories supported the elected commissioners despite many of them sitting on non-elected boards themselves and receiving stipends. The Conservative hypocrites were out in force. Cllr Mike O'Brien (Con), the probable Gillingham faction candidate for leader, put his foot in it by suggesting Councillors should not mandate there MPs, seemingly oblivious to the previous Council meeting and the Conservative-led motion on the EU. Cllr Mark Reckless (Con) even suggested that having the Police Commissioner spending their time canvassing for support would not be a conflict of interest; totally ludicrous. The Tories voted for Police cuts.

As predicted by this blog, the second motion on the EU budget was indeed a warning shot to Cllr Rehman Chisthi MP to stop sucking up to government and start to act in the interests of the lunatic right-wing fringe that is the Tories in Medway. He was made to look a plum as he stood up to defend the indefensible Conservative settlement to the EU budget. He was the only member to oppose the motion led by Cllr Jarrett (Con).

The Rochester & Stood Conservative faction knifed him in open Council which shows that the games in the Tory ranks are getting worse. At no time, and this blogger noted, did any of the Tory speakers talk about Medway residents. It was a total naval gazing exercise.

The last motion was led by Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab) on the the cuts to Sure Start. The motion was well timed given the announcement in the BBC that all Councils would need to cut Sure Start facilities. Medway Labour pre-empted this announcement by forcing the Conservatives to safeguard the Sure Start facilities.

At no point did any Conservative mention Council tax during the evening which was significant given the fact that they have failed to collect approximately £4.2m in Council Tax.

The Rochester Riverside programme of works passed with little debate but John Jones did highlight the major concerns that one of the building developers 'Crest' had pulled-out the process and left the development at risk.

All in all a very good evening for Labour and a good evening for the Rochester & Strood Conservative faction. Cllr Chisthi looked foolish.

We can all celebrate that!