Friday, 29 April 2011


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Poll Position or Arrogant complacency?

Have had a few enquiries from interested parties, so to speak, on my predictions for next weeks Local Election result and on the position of the Labour camp.

I do find it somewhat disconcerting to read Tory surrogates dicing up the wards and effectively calling the result in whole swathes of Medway, before the majority of ballots have even been cast.

It looks and reads like Medway Tories are already measuring the curtains - such is the contempt, and I would argue actual complacency towards the electorate.

Such is to be expected some might say.

Every ward is winnable for Labour and we are straining every sinew and fighting to win in every area we have selected candidates. From Peninsula to Chatham Central, from Rainham to Cuxton & Halling, we are fighting to win to serve the people who are fed up with this lacklustre administration.

What is concerning for Tories is that some of their own members have already written off their own colleagues in some areas. People who are out day after day struggling to persuade people to vote Conservative now have to fight the publicity from their own side. Perhaps the Tories deep down know they have reached the high water mark in 2007, perhaps they are writing off areas of Medway?

Medway Labour are not complacent about votes like the Tories.

Medway Labour has selected a significant number of candidates under 35 and continues to campaign hard.

The Labour candidate bench represents a new generation of candidates who present the electorate the chance to change the current 'old guard' mentality which has led to closed and very very poor decision making.

The Tories are predicting losses. They are cutting the number of Council meetings and reducing Overview & Scrutiny budgets for the express purpose of stopping an opposition they perceive as tenacious and actually quite dangerous.

As this blogger has been arguing for years, and has tried to put in practice, Labour need to be more outwardly engaging in our communities and delivering on the ground for people. Naval gazing in the Council chamber, when attendance is miserely, will not lead to victory.

It is a lesson only a small number of Tories have learnt.

I have kept a record of Tory leaflets prior to January 2011 and in 80% of the wards in Rochester & Strood / Chatham & Aylesford we had no 'local' election leaflet from candidates from 2008-2010. Only during the General Election did we see an attempt to piggy-back off the election publicity of the PPC candidate.

Instead the Tories spent huge sums of Council Tax payers money on the Medway Matters and Council propoganda; telling us the favourite food stuffs of Tories and advising on other irrelevent pursuits.

The 'Love Medway' campaign in Tory blue/green is another overt attempt to curry favour; patronising as it is telling people to put rubbish in the bin. I'll leave that to the Council Tax payer to judge on whether that was money well spent.

It simply is not good enough to communicate nothing until 3 months before the general election and then blitz people with expensive glossy's. The public are not that gullible.

I will not be providing any commentary - every ward is winnable and no ward can be taken for granted.

We leave arrogant complacency to the Conservatives as they have shown in practice every single time they are elected.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Nailing colours to the mast

It is of particular interest that Tories have been criticising the position of this blogger, and fellow Labour candidates in Luton & Wayfield who are backing the community against the mast.

Careful because Tories have very short memories of course - similar to the Medway Freedom Pass and Free Swimming - which they scrapped and opposed only now to be sudden converts to the policy.

Labour in Luton & Wayfield is opposed to the phone mast because of a total lack of consultation and out of concern that the community has been ignored.

Our response to a total lack of action is to base our response on the Rainham Conservatives, who supported an independent campaign to stop a phone mast in Railway Street.

If elected as candidates we will therefore:

1.Request that the Chief Executive of Medway Council writes to the applicant urging them to reconsider, for the safety of the community and nearby families with children, their decision to place a mast in Wayfield and to request a meeting with them and representatives from Medway Council to discuss the matter, with a view of having this phone mast application withdrawn

2.To seek the support of the Member of Parliament for Chatham & Aylesford, Tracey Crouch and asks that she table an early day motion to restrict the location of mobile phone masts in the vicinity of schools and densely populated residential areas.

3.To write to the government expressing the view that planning decisions are best left in the hands of local authorities who have a wide understanding of their area and not to planning inspectors who have scant knowledge of local circumstances.

4.To call on the Chairman of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to put forward a member’s item looking into the possible health implications associated with phone masts.

A Tory rejection of the above will be surprising given it is Tory Policy which received full support in 2009.

Residents in Wayfield should and are concerned because whilst this policy appears to have been adopted for a phone mast with a Tory PPC in Rainham it is being ignored in Luton & Wayfield.

Perhaps a few of those Conservatives moaning about my position should take note; its based on your own!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Medway Tory £515,000 expenses tab

A truly staggering sum of money is spent on a Tory political elite which is clearly lapping the cream from the Council Tax payer at quite a rate.

Despite the Tory platitudes on low Council tax and efficiency they are happy to take huge salaries and expenses off the back of hard working Council tax payers across the towns.

In total tax payers are footing a huge bill of £750,000 for all Councillors

The Tories in Medway risk being labelled as exorbitant in what harks back to the worst excesses of the 1980s/1990s

Medway Labour has rightly pledged to cut the Tory cream and cut £100,000 per annum from Councillor allowances immediately.

Medway Labour has a strong record of cutting the cost of local government from the creation of a single tier of government in the late 1990s to the cutting of Councillors to the present day 55 in 2003.

It is time for a change in May. Cutting the Tory fat cat pay perks must be an absolute priority for any incoming administration.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Bailiffs collecting Medway Council debt?

Suspicions are falling on the Medway Conservative group for allowing widespread use of private bailiffs and debt collectors to chase its own residents.

Using Freedom of Information request Big Brother Watch has compiled a list of 320 councils that use bailiffs the most, and several Kent authorities make the chart.

In total, local councils in the UK have passed almost six million cases to debt collectors between 2007-10. The money outstanding is usually Council Tax, of which Medway has a poor record of collection compared with improving rates elsewhere in Kent, and parking fines.

Other Tory run councils in Kent which operate the practice include Bromley with almost 47,000 cases, Thanet with more then 27,000, Bexley with 23,000, Gravesham with 16,500, Canterbury with 13,5000 and Sevenoaks with 7,000. So much for the libertarian streak of the Tories; all good in theory but totally unworkable in practice it would seem.

A major question is why Medway Council, which is Tory-led, has failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests by Big Brother watch?

It may be because they have something to hide prior to a local election, whereby citizens maybe somewhat concerned that the Tories are spending money on private agents to monitor residents.

A question will be tabled at the next Council meeting so that residents can find out the truth and why the Council has failed to respond to this simple request.

Other Kent Councils were perfectly able to respond and it raises concerns that once again information is not being distributed to residents.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Chatham Bus Station may cost millions

The Tories may have blown the budget for the Chatham bus station and now have to spend Council rate payers money to plug the funding shortfall.

Cllr Vince Maple (Labour) asked the Leader of the Conservatives last Thursday for an update on the funding situation for the 'dynamic' bus facility but was met by another rediculous non-response, which once again highlights why the Tories are simply unfit to manage another major programme in Chatham.

The Tories could not even manage to stitch up the questions from their own Council candidates, as the spun question from Strood North backfired when the portfolio holder answered the wrong prepared answer. How inept can you get!?

The leader of the Council effectively confirmed that Medway Council has not secured government funding for the overrun of the bus station which could leave a legacy of millions on the Council tax payer books.

The Tories have

  • botched £2.5m Chatham road system,
  • purchased the Medway Tunnel for £1 leaving Medway residents a toll legacy
  • spent £850,000 on the demolition of the Civic Centre in Strood which has since become a temporary car park.
  • mismanaged the Rochester regeneration scheme and have had to close Medway Renaissance. T
  • allowed Medway roadwork chaos destroying local trade including a cut in trade by 20% in Chatham

This is an administration that is fiscally incompetent - out of time, out of ideas and soon to be out of office.

It is time for a change.

SureStart cut by Medway Conservatives

It is official - despite the spin from Medway Conservative candidates and the campaign rhetoric from the Tory camp - they are cutting Sure Start.

This blogger received confirmation of the cuts after a question was submitted to Council last Thursday.

The Tory portfolio holder, Les Wicks, clearly had zero clue of his brief and was not aware that the figures had been distributed in advance. He callously could not admit the simple numbers that he is cutting Sure Start.

It is a real and cash term cut. It is a cut that the Tories want to brush under the carpet by twisting words to justify it to themselves; that whilst no centres are closed, the budget for staff, facilities and funding for particular programmes will be brutally slashed.

You can not trust Medway Tories with Sure Start. Not then, not now, not ever.

The budget figures were revealed by the Medway Council finance officer highlighting a real terms cut of £281,000

The Medway Conservatives have totally cut to £0 this year the Disabled Children's Access to Childcare (DCATCH) fund and the Every Child a Talker (ECAT) funding.

The ECaT programme operated in 97 local authorities (LAs) and was designed to help children with language difficulties. The programme allowed parents and practionners to share understanding about how language develops from 0-5. It also allowed regular monitoring of how children's language is developing with support identification of children who might be falling behind. The Tories have cut this budget.

The Disabled Children's Access to Childcare (DCATCH) was specifically aimed at Disabled Children and childcare provision for this group of children and their families. The initiative was to address the lack of adequate provision to meet the childcare needs of disabled children and their families, and reduce barriers to access.

Tories should hang their heads in shame for cutting Sure Start.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sure Start Funding in Wayfield

In light of correspondence with several families on Wayfield Road, I will tonight ask a question on the funding concerns for Sure Start centres in the ward and beyond.

The Tories have indicated they are safeguarding Sure Start provision but have failed to indicate the exact budget details on funding.

The opposition is suspicious that there is a real terms budget cut hidden in the small print of the budget, despite the warm words it is in fact the pure numbers that residents are interested in. Are the Tories backing up statements with investment?

Over the last four months, I have asked several questions establishing that the Medway Conservatives may have plans to expand the current CCTV car fleet from the present two.

I have also challenged the Tory administration on the Ridgemeadow and Bradfields site working with the former Chair of Governors at the school. The school site had been earmarket for asset sale by the Conservative cabinet who undertook a u-turn after my question was submitted in March.

Luton & Wayfield is looking for those that will stand up and speak out for the area.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

No Phone Mast in Wayfield

Labour candidates Tristan Osborne, Sam Craven and Christine Godwin are backing the independent campaign in Wayfield to oppose the phone mast proposed for the Links which has once again returned to haunt residents.

Despite the issue being raised in early 2011 it is clear the Conservative Council is still pressing ahead with the development.

Labour is backing the campaign by concerned residents in Barnfield who have been canvassing the local community over the last four days.

The campaign organisers have requested that the campaign remains independent from any of the candidates in the election, but if elected we have indicated we will give them our full support and indeed organise meetings with the phone mast company and Council if required.

Major questions remain.

How come the Conservative Council is pressing ahead with the idea despite months of local objections?

Are they really listening to residents?

Other areas in Gillingham have recently had success in removing a phone mast so community action can work

We urge readers of this top 100 Politics home blog to sign the independent petition.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Kent Police Cuts will hit Medway

See how damaging the police cuts are

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Bugle calls for Coalition?

This week will see the final council meeting before the election. It is usually a highly charged affair as nerves are frayed on all sides. Partly as a result of the fact that people are spending time on the doorstep and finally becoming aware that it is looking increasingly bleak.

The Liberal Democrats must surely be aware that the situation is truly dire. With huge numbers of independents and assorted minority parties standing in both Gillingham seats we are now seeing evidence of the Lib Dem vote crumbling and splitting which bodes well for gains.

Results from Labour/Tory marginals are to close to call as both vote shares are holding. A small swing to Labour and a depression of the Tory vote could see 10 gains on wafer small swings.

It is too close to call in many seats, partly as a result of the fact Medway is not seeing the same swing to Labour as in the Midlands and North, but also because people tend to keep their voting intentions close to their chest a lot more here.

The final Council meeting on Thursday will see Labour candidates challenge the Tory administration on Sure Start cuts, tuition fees, Bus services and the state of the Chatham bus station.

With the polls pointing to Tory losses of 1000+ Councillors the Tories should be worried, but they are also relying on the fact that the centre and left vote will split to other independents. Quite simply Labour is the only effective opposition to the Tories and a vote for anyone else will let them in through the back-door. Could you stomach four more years of this lot?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Ed Miliband Broadcast

A very personal homily from Ed Miliband in the latest Labour PEB. Contrast the normality of Ed Miliband's Comprehensive and state school background with the elitist and top public-school background of the current elite managing the Tory Party.

From an election broadcast perspective it was heavy on character reference and light on content. Given we have another broadcast later in the month this may focus more on how Labour is delivering in communities up and down the Country.

The message locally is that a new generation of Labour activists is poised to shake the foundations of local government which has been managed by a tired Tory elite for too long.

We need a a more dynamic force in local government and it is Labour which represents that change that our community so desperately, and it is desperately, desires. A candidate under 35 in every target seat represents a massive generational shift and a change for the better in May.

The nomination list today highlight the Tories have not chosen to reform. The same old faces have been selected again.

Too many incompetent decisions, too many useless Tory Councillors and too much money squandered on pet programmes which have simply frittered public money

The simple fact is that the Tories do not represent low Council tax. Labour created the unitary authority in the 1990s and cut the number of Councillors from the 80s to 55. We reduced the tiers of local government and introduced Medway Council with the lowest tax in Kent. They inherited low Council Tax.

The simple fact is the Tories have cut £23.5 out of public services which you cherish. The numbers are not in dispute and either is the impact,

The Tories will not protect your heritage or your community. They have a record of selling off land to the highest bidder, and have spent the last three years demolising our heritage for cheap land grabs.

The Tories will not offer choice in education. The grammar school system, which was abolished elsewhere, will remain. We have amongst the worst Primary School results in the Country, schools with a revolving door of teachers, and the Academies teetering on the edge. Education is so important but Tories are focused on the wrong priorities and have been for years. We get poor results for a reason; and that reason is strategic management.

It angers people to see people fritter the inheritance bequethed to them, to mismanage project after project, to arrogantly opine financial probity and honour when we have accusation after accusation in the press.

It simply beggars belief to see them talk about the Freedom Pass they opposed, to talk about Free Swimming they cut, to talk about probity in finance when they purchased the Medway Tunnel, to talk about financial management when they demolished the Civic Centre, to talk about small business when they have decimated trade in Chatham highstreet.

There is a day of reckoning in May.

Labour needs to do a lot more to expose this lot and they need to do it soon.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Tory Thatcherism Exposed

Proof that the cuts are ideological and that an alternative is indeed possible from Conservative MP Greg Barker.

Same old Tories. Same old Cuts

Close of Nominations

Welcome news for democracy that a total of 315 people have been nominated for elections in Medway on May 5.

The good news is that all our seats will be contested and people will have a choice to vote out the Conservatives and to vote for a better alternative. A positive, dynamic and engaging Labour team, bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the future.

Labour have a full slate of candidates as usual for a local election.

Normal residents of the towns have been posting on where they will be lending their vote on May 5th and it makes pretty damning read for the Tories. There is widespread discontent on the doorstep with very poor decision making.

For the first time in many years both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have candidates for the parishes. A welcome development which will finally give a choice to kick out the Tories from their traditional redoubts.

The Tories have a large majority on the Council currently which has led to poor decision making and complacency. Labour are confident that with the ground work done we can see some positive results in May.

We have a new generation of activists and campaigners from a younger demographic which truly does represent the future for our towns. Years of effort recruiting new talent has paid off.

Cllr Jarrett and Chambers will soon feel the true scorn of Medway residents.

Please lend Labour your vote on May 5th.