Monday, 28 February 2011

Poll Position

There is a new ComRes poll published in today's Independent which a small Labour over the Conservatives

Conservative 35% (down 1%)

Labour 39% (down 3%)

Lib Dem 12% (up 1%)

Looking at previous vote % Medway local elections vis-a-vis national polls the Tories are probably 2% higher with Labour 4-8% lower on average. This gives the Conservatives a lead of 4-6%.

For NOC or small Labour majority Labour need a 10-12% poll lead in the national polls.

The positives for Labour though are that they are ahead of the Tories among the bottom DE social group (by 45 to 30 per cent); among the C2 skilled manual workers (by 44 to 33 per cent) and the C1 lower middle class (by 38 to 33 per cent). It therefore bodes well for Labour in the seats they have concentrated resource including Rochester South & Horsted and Lordswood & Capstone which now become marginals. It points to Labour gains in Princes Park, Luton & Wayfield, Gillingham North, River, Strood South and Strood North.

However, the Tories enjoy a big lead (by 41 to 33 per cent) among the top AB group. This means the Tories will likely hold with healthy majorities the wealthier areas of Hempstead, Cuxton and the Peninsula with probably small swings.

Rainham will see an increase in Labour share of the vote from the Liberal Democrats, but that will benefit the incumbent Conservatives who are likely to retain the seats on these polls. Watling will be a Tory gain.

Although Labour is ahead in every other region, it trails the Tories by 46 to 29 per cent in the South East, which includes London. Regional polls like this are less useful than the socio-demographic breakdowns because Labour is simply not in contention in huge swathes of the region.

There is also a divide between the young and the old. Labour is ahead among voters between the ages of 18 and 54. It is neck and neck with the Tories among 55-64 year-olds but David Cameron’s party has a big lead (50 to 30 per cent) among those aged 65 and over. Given Medway has a younger demographic this also does bode well in the inner city wards for the Labour which have a younger demographic profile, but conversely does not because the older generation are more likely to vote.

Although last year’s slump in Liberal Democrat support appears to have bottomed out, only half (50 per cent) of those who voted for Nick Clegg’s party at last year’s election say they would do so now, while 29 per cent say they would back Labour. Gillingham North on this swing would go to Labour. The independent factor obviously does not calculate but would likely erode the Liberal vote further.

It seems like the return of two party politics is now all but a certainty in Medway.

A fair wind, but Labour are not complacent locally.

Stealth Cuts


Listen to a member of the audience on the Medway budget meeting.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Tory jitters coming through

Medway Labour will freeze Council tax for two years if we form an administration

It seems like a few Tories are getting hot and bothered by the latest announcement by Medway Labour of a two-year Council tax freeze.

Given the Council tax freeze policy is supported by the Tory-led government they should be happy that the opposition has promoted this policy, as not only sensible under the current financial conditions with families struggling, but one that is a necessity for any party to communicate a clear position on Council tax before forming an administration.

That is not to say there are not major concerns around future Council revenues in years to come, but the overwhelming view of the electorate last May, whether some on the left like it or not, was that the public expect some cuts and have taxation levels eased on family budgets. Interestingly this may not be the same in 2015, if Labour can start to set out a clear vision - but that is another point.

The distinction now is between a Labour Party that would not have cut this aggressively and would have promoted investment in job schemes and public services, or a government which has presided over a double-dip and have cut too far and too fast.

Labour are not deficit deniers and this charge is quickly loosing steam as economic growth stagnates. It is the pace of deficit reduction coupled with the fact that if you do not get growth the interest repayments on future debt will be just as high, but the social impact of policies will be worse. This is a simple argument that Labour needs to manage.

Local Tories are rattled. Rattled by the polls, rattled by the laziness of their Councillors and rattled by a resurgent and aggressive opposition which has a new bench of talent for the future. There really is a clear distinction, not only visibly but also activity wise, between the Tory bench and the new generation Labour talent that has been attracted.

You can see how Tories are rattled by the responses to Labour policy positions over recent days which have verged on the hyper-aggressive to the sneering.

Instead of agreeing with cuts to fat cat salary perks, we have just had a tit-for-tat on which leader gets the most; not accepting the fact that public dislike all fat cat pay perks and that we should all accept a cut.

The response to cuts in police has been met with a tirade of wonk nonsense about how an elected commissioner can make up for a 1500 reduction in staff and a £52m cut in Policing. We have even had a denial about the impact of Police cuts. Fewer police will lead to an increase in crime. It is not rocket science.

Instead of being open and honest about the cuts in the budget we have had a turgidly slow response from the Conservatives and a whole lot of hot air on how it will not impact front line services. The public are not idiots; and they know a cut of £23.5m will hit the front line somewhere.

The administration has been lamentably weak and incoherent about its vision for Medway in future. As an administration, they have the resource to spell out this type of message, and they are not.

Over the coming weeks Labour will be highlighting additional policy positions. It is responsible perhaps for the governing party to respond in kind.

The fact is there are very distinct policy differences between the two major parties which this blog has served to highlight over the years.

The public now have a more developed understanding of these differences because of the internet then 2007.

I believe that the public are fed up with the mismanagement by the current Conservative Council and are looking for a change in May.

Time to cut Fuel Prices

The Tories have been lamentably slow on fuel tax; partly because George wants to squeeze the tax payer until the last possible moment, partly because it would highlight the wheeze that was the Fuel Duty Stabiliser policy which was briefed against only in October.

Labour opposed the fuel duty stabiliser in government but after the election defeat in May it was expected the government would fulfil the pre-manifesto pledge. Alas, it never materialised.

There is a certain sense of Labour pre-emption of an announcement in the next budget, but a clear policy position by Labour now makes it virtually impossible for the Chancellor to do nothing on fuel. Coupled with the fact Labour are leading the charge makes for sensible opposition politics. Lead the debate or be led; I would rather Labour be leading the debate.

The public in Medway have been angered by fuel costs for years and expected a Conservative government to cut prices. Labour are right to campaign on this issue and it is a vote winner locally.

Ed Balls is the most feared of Labour politicians on the right because he is tactically shrewd whilst being intellectually strong. He gets punch-and-judy but also gets detail and policy. Marrying both the policy and the media-saavyness in politics is tricky.

There will be many Conservatives saying that this should have been natural Tory territory, sadly after the incomptence surrounding the government last week, it is clear the government is not firing on all cylinders, though are being given an easy ride by the media.

Labour locally are supporting the cut in fuel duty promoted by Ed Balls. It is time the Conservatives did what they said on the tin. Cut fuel prices and cut them now.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Labour commit to Council tax freeze

Welcome news announced tonight to a hall of anti-cuts campaigners and residents at Full Council of a freeze in Council tax for two years for local residents.

Labour would protect front line services but also stand up for the hard working families and young people of Medway who are struggling with monthly bills.

Cllr Griffiths (Labour Finance Spokesperson) tonight announced at the full budget meeting a two-year freeze in future Council tax for Medway residents if elected in May, and challenged the Medway Conservatives for the deceit over the VAT rise which has penalised the Medway middle class.

It is a real welcome to see Cllr Griffiths recognise that families are suffering because of the Conservative cuts to local services, train fare rises, fuel price hikes and the struggle around home budgets caused through concerns around the economy.

The Tories have fibbed. They pledged not to increase VAT, and increased it. They pledged not to increase train fares, and increased them. They pledged no NHS re-organisations; and have introduced a wholesale privatisation.

Cllr Griffiths also busted the myths around an alternative. If Labour had won the election, we would have had half the cuts that we observe today. That would mean real terms budgets to libraries, Sure Start, road re-surfacing and parks protected from the Tory axe.

The Conservatives are cutting too far and too fast and the latest GDP figures and future predictions of sluggish growth highlight why the Conservatives have taken the wrong approach. The George Osborne plan is reckless and shows how out of touch and elitist the Tories are; standing up for the wealthy few against the average hard working family.

A welcome development indeed and it shows Labour representing the mainstream and moderate majority of Medway residents.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Barking Parking in Strood North

Candidates Liam Curran and Linda Robson

If you go drive down to Strood today be sure of an unpleasant surprise.

No, it is not the selection shenanigans of the local Conservative Party or even the lack of activity on the Strood Conservative website.

It is car parking charges and the lack of road safety which is bothering the residents on Station Rd, Grove Rd, Frindsbury Rd and North Street.

They know all about the council’s infamous parking enforcement as they have been caught time again in a compromising and difficult parking situation.

For some unknown reason in Strood the residents’ parking zone only runs up to 4pm, but the local Council car park charges up until 10pm, and so overnight visitors now park in the street so forcing residents elsewhere!

This means that all the local residents- who have paid £25 for their annual parking permit– can never find anywhere to park.

Liam Curran, Stephen Hubbard and Linda Robson are fighting for local residents against this barking parking madness.

For more news on the Strood North Action team and please also take a look at our Action map.

Fighting Graffiti in Luton

Combating anti-social behaviour and delivering for the Luton & Wayfield is the number one priority for this blogger.

Have had some success in lobbying for graffiti removal on Luton Millenium Green. A campaign committment I made in February on this blog.

Many people are suspicious of local politicians because of a lack of delivery. Our campaigners and Councillors do work very hard for their communities.

Our young team of new candidates is ready to be a campaigning party. Standing up and listening to local people.

Labour in Luton & Wayfield stands for action in our community.

Tories fail local pupils

“We need to clear out of the way the argument about grammar schools. It has been a chain around our necks.”

So said, the current Prime Minister, David Cameron in 2007. And alas it seems our Medway Tories are proving it to be true once more.

Our dogmatic and ideologically pure Tories are reverting to type. As this blog predicted the Medway Conservatives, short of actual policy substance on education are once again banging a false drum on grammar schools.

No one has threatened the Medway Grammar schools, not one parent anti-group has been established and not one member of the opposition is even remotely interested in having the debate. Under 13 years of a Labour Government they remained; strengthened even, as per-pupil investment was increased.

The irony of the Medway Tory charge is the only people to attack the grammar schools in recent years have been the Conservatives themselves.

David Cameron stoked the row over grammar schools in 2007, when he attacked those that keep talking about the schools as engaging in “ideological self-indulgence” and claimed that he was “determined to move on from a sterile debate about building a few more grammar schools”.

The Prime Minister argued: “Parents will not forgive any political party’s ideological self-indulgence on education, at a time when 355,000 pupils are failing to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths.”

Cameron has a point on this. Whilst the Medway Tories are happy to naval gaze on the schools which are doing well, they are ignoring the real problem schools in the area, primarily those who are failing one third of pupils under the age of 11 years old.

The issue of education in Medway is not on the grammar school system; let parents make their own minds up on this without any prodding from local politicians.

It is on the failure of a number of some secondary modern schools and a high number of primary schools.

Whilst Medway Conservatives moan about a non-issue they control a Local Education Authority which occupies the bottom of the Primary School league tables in England and Wales

These results are 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.

The Tories are trying to fabricate a totally false debate whilst they are taking their eye off the ball on the failing schools.

If this issue proves anything it is that right wing dogma is not only damaging for Medway but it morally reprehensible because it fails those young people who should be the focus for the Council.

Medway Conservatives are being 'ideologically self-indulgent' and for that they deserved to be kicked out in May.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

No time to hug a hoodie

A common issue across all the wards I have canvassed is how local politicians are dealing, or unable to deal with, anti-social behaviour and petty criminality.

It is a tough nut to crack because criminality blights the lives of many but requires an holistic approach with Council, Police and government.

For a Council candidate it is but impossible to do anything other then highlight the comments of people to Police and attend PACT meetings. It is extremely frustrating to have to tell people that you can do bugger all, but in effect as an opposition candidate, all I can do is point to Police and local Councillors, who it is hoped are dealing with the problems.

One such case exists in Thorold Road in Luton. I have spoken with several residents who are at their wits end because of a problem family. The Police and the Community support teams are no doubt aware and are working to ensure problems do not escalate, but what more can this community do. Community tension in parts of Luton remains a real concern for all, and so we can not afford the ball to drop by any government agency or service. It is pressing problem.

It is also a political point because I also look at the future for the area and indeed, how communities such as Luton will cope when Police budgets are slashed by Conservatives, and indeed what will happen if they are being managed by a Police Commissioner, who is constantly looking over their shoulder for an election every four years.

Communities or wards with a lower vote turnout or wrong voter profile could suffer as a result.

Take a commissioner who stands on the premise of more rural policing in Kent - this indeed could win the election, but would be the wrong outcome for fighting crime. Despite the most voters pitching for this outcome, police will be aware that rural areas may lack police because of the lower risk of crime profile. Who is right in this case? Combat higher crime in areas that do not vote or visible policing in areas with lower crime who do. A very real potential outcome.

I passionately believe that this elected police chief is high-minded and intellectual frippery and a total waste of money. Not one person has asked for it on the doorstep, not one.

Labour will also campaign against elected police chiefs, cuts to police budgets and will look to encourage community pay-back

Kerb crawling is a particularly vile and degrading act perpetrated by one human being on another. It lowers the status of the victim, who is often dependent on drugs and in some cases mentally vulnerable. The issue over Councillor Brice I believe highlights clearly where the Tories are on this; despite preaching a hard line on Kerb crawling, there was a gaping hole of silence after his antics.

Prostitution also remains a problem. There is a strain within the Medway Conservatives which seeks to liberalise this entirely. Once again, for the reasons above, I do not agree with that position. As a society it sets a wrong message on relationships and on the treatment of women.

The Tories did support the Labour Government on the establishment of PACTs and have developed a new ASBO which this blog is extremely sceptical about.

Worryingly though, the Tories opposed the introduction of Police Community Support Officers in Medway and are supporting a government which is cutting 1500 staff and £53m cut to Kent Police. Coupled with a soft-sentencing policy and cut to magistrate services we are perhaps months away from a collapse in parts of our Criminal Justice system.

The Labour Government did have some significant success at reducing crime, creating neighbourhood accountability, improving diversity in the workforce and introducing real accountability and transparency. There was a lot left to do, but crime was at a record low on leaving office in May 2010.

Labour locally will focus on stamping out anti-social behaviour by championing the Police and fighting to retain our PCSOs. We will also make the case for increased funding for PCSOs and community initiatives that include community pay-back for some, but yes prison for others.

The Tory 'hug a hoodie' approach will not work.

It is time we put the community first. It is time to stamp out anti-social behaviour.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Keeping up Appearances

Spot the difference, what what...?

It is speculated that David “man of the people” Cameron is a descendant of King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

We all know Dave went to Eton and Oxford and it is suggested from more than one source he had a Royal Equerry give Conservative HQ a call to get his first job as a spinner in Tory HQ.

Judging from the image above, have the rosy cheeks, small mouth and jutting chin made their way down the illegitimate bloodline?

Who says blue blood is not running through the veins of our current Political elite.

Allhallows Brimp Fiasco

It is not often this blogger ventures onto the Peninsula unless its for a walk or to see some of the most inspirational views of anywhere in Medway. It is truly beautiful on a sunny day in August.

Alas today the trip was strictly business which was good because it was very wet

Allhallows are suffering a double-whammy on the Peninsula currently. They are suffering from a stale and tired parish council which has decided to stitch up a local youth service and the Brimp site. They are also suffering because the Medway Tories are cutting youth service budgets and have ratcheted up tuition fees so making it very difficult for young people to get a job or attend university.

The issue of the Brimp has received significant commentary from the local media and Alan Watkins who has correctly highlighted the total farce of a situation that is occurring in the location.

Medway Conservatives have apparently, according to sources, been playing both sides. Warm words to the young people in the area whilst engaging in conversations with the anti-youth side.

Sometimes having someone from outside who has no vestige interest whatsoever to take a look at the site is what is required.

This is a case in point, and Medway Council needs to step in.

It is clear the community is fizzing with rage at what is happening, including over some quite clear inconsistencies, over asbestos and other such issues. It stinks and it needs someone with some gravitas to push heads together and quickly.

Ordinarily this should be the job of the Medway Councillors for the area. However with the games over Peninsula selection and the knifing of the Bamber's it is clear that the Medway Conservatives are largely distancing themselves from the issue, instead trying to claim this is nothing more than an All Hallows Parish Council issue.

Except it is not. All Hallows Parish Council is given its funding by a Council tax precept and it is absolutely the responsibility of Medway Tories to stand up for local residents against yes, there own colleagues, on the Parish Council.

So what are your local Peninsula Conservatives talking about. The blog for the area reveals that the World War 2 Anti-tank obstacles remain an interest point. Simply baffling.

Youth Services and funding thereof is a Medway Council matter and the Council has a responsibility for youth provision across all of Medway and ensuring these issues are resolved.

I do not live on the Peninsula, and it is not for me to suggest an outcome except to suggest that there is real lack of responsibility from the glut of local politicians and newbie wannabe's and from the comments I received today on the doorstep, there is a genuine anger that this is not being dealt with at all.

There is a total lack of trust with the blue-rinse brigade who run this area like a fiefdom and the younger generation, like those in the rest of Medway, are fed up with it.

Tories on the Peninsula need to get a grip and bang heads together.

p.s. Thanks to a very friendly couple on Binney Road even provided hot mugs of coffee for a collection of very wet canvassers. Thank you

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Caroline Flint MP on trail in Gillingham

Caroline Flint MP on the stump with Gillingham North Labour team

Caroline Flint MP, the Shadow Local Government and Communities Minister visited Gillingham yesterday to join our campaign and listen to the community.

The Fresh Ideas event was attended by a number of senior local representatives including those from charities, youth organisations and faith groups. All expressed grave concerns at the cuts being inflicted by the Conservative Government.

A key issue raised were the cuts on young people and the future impact of worklessness that will impact future generations.

The Tories have cut the Education Maintenance Allowance, cut the Future Jobs Fund, risen tuition fees to £9,000 and have cut local Connexion and youth services. All of these are having real impacts on the ground from All Hallows, Hoo to Rainham and Watling.

Labour is standing a candidate under 30 in every target ward in Medway reflecting a generation of change for Medway Council. The future for our towns against a tired and out-of-touch Conservative front bench.

Before the event Caroline Flint went out on the stump with the Gillingham North action team who are running a positive campaign of local change for May.

The team have attracted a number of campaigners from Progress and more high profile visits are due. It promises to be a very exciting local campaign.

Caroline met with a number of residents close to the train station, including a number of former Liberal Democrats, who feel let down locally by an ineffective group which has done little locally.

They are looking for a change in May. For Councillors that will fight with others across Medway against the savage and over aggressive cuts.

Tory fat cat allowances must stop

This is actually a real fat cat

The Medway Conservative Party talks a lot of hot air on public finance and how it is managing our Council efficiently. It is largely spin and hot air.

One cursory look at the latest budget and the true extent of the cuts comes straight through in clear black-and-white.

Councillor Jarrett let the cat-out-the-bag in December when he attacked Eric Pickles and his own government for a worse cash settlement then he expect.

Add in gross Tory mismanagement and you end up with a cocktail of front line service cuts to elderly services, libraries, leisure centres and teaching assistants.

They can not hide from their actions and choices.

What is more irksome, nay dishonest, is that whilst Conservative Councillors preach the austerity 'we are all in the together' spin they are in fact taking the proverbial biscuit and cream in the form of local expenses for a variety of non-jobs.

Medway Labour is standing in May on a pledge of low Council tax and cutting the cost of local government including the huge cost of stipends and allowances amassed by the current Conservative Group.

It is time that a local party stood up for local services and the squeezed middle class who are being disproportionately targeted by the swinging Conservative cuts.

Labour do accept however that we do need to see greater efficiencies in the Council and it starts at the very top from listening to the public, and treating the public purse with respect, and not skimming the cream of cash stipends at a time of public concern.

The Conservative Group may preach to the public about efficiencies but they themselves are amounting enormous members allowance cost with a glut of special allowances.

They are simply wasting tax money on increasing the salary perks for themselves.

Last year alone Councillors were paid £750,000 of public money with much of this frittered away to sub-chairs and non-entities

This is a total waste of tax payers money and must stop.

Therefore, as part of our pledges for the next year’s local elections, we will be bringing forward proposals to cut approximately £100,000 per annum on the Councillors allowances and expenses budget.

We will also put our future allowance position to an independent remuneration panel, who will be required to make recommendations on allowances.

This will form part of our manifesto.

It’s time to cut the Tory fat cats and you can send that message in May by voting Labour in the local elections.

The Council has too many elected members receiving special responsibility allowances and its time to cut the Tory fat cat Councillors perks

Monday, 14 February 2011

Heritage gets Local Support

Do you want to call time on the destruction of local heritage?

Medway Labour is working with local heritage organisations in calling time on the legacy of historic vandalism overseen by Medway Conservatives, who have bulldozed and trashed historic town centres and industrial heritage in an aggressive attempt to foist regeneration schemes on residents.

Labour supports the regeneration of our historic town centres but it does not support the roughshod and digger-like approach to town management, which has steamrollered over public opinion and local heritage groups who have struggled to get their voices heard.

Labour will back local societies and heritage organisations in ensuring their voices are heard at the top of local government. We will consult and listen to residents and not just run roughshod over local accountability.

Over the last four years we have seen the systemic destruction of heritage including
  • Aveling & Porter demolition
  • Closure of the Dickens Centre, Rochester
  • Bulldozing of the historic Paddock, Chatham
  • Demolition of the Theatre Royal, Chatham
The main opposition party will encourage heritage-led regeneration; that is working in partnership with local heritage organisations to improve our communities with full respect for our environment and our communities. Although less directly profitable than market-led regeneration, the heritage approach has an advantage of creating community-led changes in social conditions and local pride.

Education for all?

Looks like the cuddly Conservatives are taking their message on education out to the masses.

The spoof posters produced by young Tories at York University and published are cringeworthy but ultimately benign, but it sends a message that they simply have no idea about the impact of £9,000 tuition fees will have on normal families.

Tories understand the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Local Conservatives will no doubt be sending congratulations to their Association chums committee for producing literature with David Cameron crowing over the recent hike in university fees.

Interestingly enough the student society has something of a reputation for rebelliousness with its chairman being expelled from the party last year for urging voters to support UKIP in the European elections.

Comes very close to home indeed given the backgrounds of some of our local Tories!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tory Tunnel Legacy

Medway Conservatives may treat the public as idiots but the blame for the Medway Tunnel purchase and its legacy is squarely on the shoulders of the ruling Conservative Group.

Labour opposed the Tunnel purchase and warned (see above video) of the potential legacy on the tax payer books.

Councillor Chambers and the Conservative front-bench ignored all public opinion and irresponsibly purchased the tunnel. Conservative Councillors voted to support the purchase.

Perhaps the Tory press release has totally ignored the actions of its own Councillor ranks. In the haste to attack Labour they forget that Mark Reckless MP has understood the potential liability on the tunnel during their own period in office, and has tried to secure a purchase by the Department of Transport which has thus far failed.

The Medway Labour position on the tunnel was highlighted in the General Election. Labour has consistently opposed the purchase because of the fear of a Conservative toll. The Tories purchased the tunnel which has therefore created the toll risk because they do not have short-medium funding from the Rochester Bridge Trust beyond the original donation.

It is a simple A = B.

Press statements on the matter:

'Medway Tunnel Fiasco' - Rochester & Strood Labour Press statement
'Medway Tory Tax Bomb' - Strood Labour
'Medway Tory Tax Bomb' - Chatham Labour
'Medway Tory Tax Bomb' - Gillingham Labour

So why have the Tories waited until now to bring this topic up?

They are have said nothing until now because they know there is a local election and they are desperate for votes.

And more importantly ladies and gents, they have seen the budget figures which confirms the Labour Party was totally correct to oppose it.

p.s. Also this issue deliberately attacks Councillor Chambers because he negotiated the agreement. Convenient the first person to put up the press release was Rainham Central Conservatives...

Irish Party Election Broadcasts

The Irish Election is in full swing and alas the Party Election Broadcasts are not so exciting as in other countries.

So far the campaigns have focused heavily on the respective leaders of the parties with very little substance and policy.

FG Rock Video from Fine Gael on Vimeo.

Above is the lead video for Fine Gael; the party leading the polls. The PEB covers extensively the theme of engagement, change, dynamism and the major problems of the Country. This is a PEB from a party which knows it is in the winning position and is overwhelmingly positive.

The above is from the Irish Labour Party. Traditionally a bit-part player in Irish politics it is has leaped-frogged into second place. A sister party of the Labour Party it plays not on tribal affiliations of Republicanism but on secular management of the Country. Labour is very focused on highlighting the credentials of Eamon Gilmore who is far more Prime Ministerial than the leader of Fine Fail. Could the parties form a co-alition with Eamon being the Prime Minister?

This is from the current governing party, Fianna Fail, which has gone through what can only be described as a John Major 'bastards' moment, conjoined with the EMU crisis, all in 6 months. They are about to be decimated. Conversely they know it. Given they are the Party of government introducing the leader at this stage of the campaign highlights a fundamental problem.

Interesting to hear that 'he will fight to win' with 'a strong sense of values.'

And from the minority parties

Very upbeat party election broadcast from the Greens. Focus on green jobs rather than the economy. Not really a platform for government.

Putting a Stamp on it

Alan Watkins has been on the Medway Political scene longer than I have trodden feet upon this Earth but the caustic back-and-forth on his blog between the Medway Liberal Democrats in full public has to be read to be believed.

Andy Stamp has responded to the charge of Alan Jefferies with a vicious assault on his character and indeed with additional slurs on Cllr Herbie Crack and other former colleagues.

Andy has responded to the charges with a vitriolic attack on the former Chief Whip with a few further allegations.

"I am not in the least surprised by this latest series of personal attacks, lies and slurs from Mr Jefferies. This is the same Mr Jefferies who was instrumental in forcing out former Liberal Democrat Councillor Ian Burt (who also now sits as an Independent Councillor).

This is the same Mr Jefferies who submitted a formal complaint to the Chief Executive about Lib Dem Councillor Herbie Crack for innocently taking photographs outside a polling station. It is no coincidence that Councillor Crack has suddenly announced he is standing down as a Councillor, despite having said only days earlier that he wanted to seek re-election for another four years. All indications are that he jumped before he was pushed.

I have not ignored the legally supported rules of the standards board. What has been reported in the local press merely repeats the publicly available information which is on Medway Council’s website.

Mr Jefferies did not advise me to take action in December 2009. In fact I am surprised he can remember talking to me about the issue, because he turned up at my house somewhat intoxicated. He said he had contacted the Regional Chairman about my concerns but had not done so: Mr Jefferies was caught lying red-handed by the Regional Chairman and even fabricated complaints about me – a bullying tactic in the hope of keeping me quiet on the issue.

Bullying is rife in the local Liberal Democrats – maybe somebody should ask Councillor Diana Smith, who, as Whip, was often forced to give out instructions she did not want to.

I did in fact ask for the Regional Liberal Democrats to investigate the issue back in December 2009. They did not investigate until July 2010 and by the time I resigned from the Liberal Democrats in October 2010, they had still not reported their findings. They still refuse to release details of their internal investigation, not even to Liberal Democrat members.

It is no surprise they have allegedly cleared their two Councillors of wrongdoing. Afterall, turkeys are not in the habit of voting for Christmas. My resignation from the party gave the Lib Dems the perfect opportunity to cover this up.

The “Chief Legal Officer of Medway Council and the Monitoring Officer” is not under investigation. The complaint is not about their conduct and their career is not at risk, so Mr Jefferies should not try to cloud the issue . There have been no delays on my part in relation to the standards investigation.

I have consistently opposed several aspects of the coalition in local newsletters to residents, to the press and in the Council chamber. For Mr Jefferies to state otherwise is a complete lie. Sadly, Mr Jefferies gets a kick out of attacking other people, and he is not used to somebody standing up to him publicly by exposing him as a liar.

Finally, had I been elected as Lib Dem Group Leader, my first action would have been to suspend two Councillors from it. Perhaps herein lies the answer – they would never have voted for their own demise. With hindsight they did me a huge favour; the Coalition government has a lot to answer for.

I am fed up with the Lib Dem mud slinging and would now like to return to concentrating on resolving problems on behalf of local residents, as I have done tirelessly for the past four years."

The last senstence is particularly eye-raising given the umm, proverbial tonne of mud that he just flinged in full public view onto his former colleagues.

The public in Gillingham are tired of the Liberal Democrat factionalism and are looking for an organised and capable opposition in the ward. Not grand-standing but listening Councillors who will be out on the doorstep week-in and week-out listening and dealing with small or big concerns of the people of Gillingham.

If this commentary proves everything it is the whole lot of Liberals have totally lost the plot to govern.

Meanwhile, Medway Labour has distanced themselves from the allegation in the latest Indpendent publication that Labour made formal approaches to Andy Stamp for him to join the Labour Party.

Where conversations were held they were done at the behest and consent of both parties, in good faith of discretion, and clearly failed.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Budget cuts hit front line

This blog enjoys Tory budget time because it shows the public the Conservatives at their worst but today, Councillor Jarrett showed his mental and intellectual incapability to tell the truth with the public.

The gaffe-prone finance supremo Councillor Jarrett had been expected to show some honesty to the public in what was supposed be a downbeat budget outcome after the £23.5m Conservative government cut was announced in December.

Sadly the Conservatives have injected brazen party politics into what should be an exercise of sober reflection.

The budget document itself calls these cuts truly 'unprecedented' (see Point 14.1) which highlights the total distortion of the truth by Medway Tories who claim that these cuts will barely tinker around the edges.

Most people with a brain cell can see that a 11.9% cut in the budget will impact local services.

It is beyond the truth to claim otherwise.

Medway Conservatives are being politically and conceptually dishonest when they claim these cuts will not hurt.

Medway Labour would also have had to make cuts to the budget but we would have been open and consultative with the public about their priorities. The Conservatives have failed to consult the public in any meaningful way on these cuts.

This blog would contend that the Tory spin on the budget shows the utter fallacy of their position; so desperate to win the Local Election they will deceive the electorate on what is basic and visible truth.

In the words of Cllr Alan Jarrett, this budget settlement was a result of a 'smoke and mirror' government settlement which saw clear gerrymandering of finance from Medway to Conservative shire Councils.

He could have made a stand today and admitted that what he had to do was because of this cut on government grant. Instead he spent the time posturing on politics with the Unions and scuttling over to Conservative Home for a fig-leaf of popular comment (all four of them).

Please read the full Budget document here

The background narrative I have highlighted below on the major cuts

Medway Conservatives had budgeted a deficit of £21.5m. The Conservative Government introduced a budget cut of £23.5m. (Point 2.2). The overall budget cut was 11.9% with an additional cut of £9.0m (Point 2.4). Remember folks that the Tory Government told Councils that cuts would be no more than 8.5%. This shows Conservative statements to be a blatant lie; this is worse.

The Conservative Government has cut per-pupil education funding with an effective grant increase of 0.3% (Point 2.7) . Taking into account increase in pupil numbers and inflation this is a cut.

The Conservative Council is cutting the Early Intervention Grant (EIG). This was cut from £12.8m to £10.2m over the last 12 months. This includes cuts to Connexions, Youth Opportunities Fund and Mental Health Services. Sure Start is cut with no inflationary increase in grant and despite review no firm number on the Sure Start allocation.

The Conservative Council has continued the floor damping mechanism (Point 17.3). This will cost tax payers £3.5m which is money re-allocated away from Medway and a mechanism Conservatives pledged to remove. It remains.

The Conservative Council has purchased the Medway Tunnel which Labour warned would be a tax liability. The spend forecast of the tunnel is expected to be £1.5m in 2011/12 and £3.0m in 2012/2013. The tunnel will effectively be a drag on future budgets after 2014/15. A Tory legacy?

15% cut in libraries budget and closure of the Dockyard Store with an increase in rental targets (Appendix 4c)

And now the cuts to frontline services which include increase in punitive charges, increase in revenue from CCTV car and other traffic enforcement process. Also include reduction in waste collection spend and ability to deal with fly tipping. They are blatant and visible in Appendix 4 (b)

This is but a first read of the budget. It does contain drastic cuts in front line services and also in those that support the front line.

The Appendix section highlights the front line cuts in a very transparent manner so how Conservatives can claim there are no cuts is just pure political posturing.

Labour would not have cut the council budget by 11.9%. Our manifesto in the General Election made clear we would halve the deficit over four years so reducing the requirement for local Councils to make such severe cuts.