Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Stop Smoking Flashmob

Monday, 29 August 2011

Burma Way Phone Mast Update

Phone mast application passed the Conservative-dominated Planning Committee

You win some you loose some, but am extremely angry that the phone mast application for Burma Way passed through Planning Committee last week.

No one wants a phone mast in their back garden and we all have to accept that if we are to modernise our telecommunications infrastructure that we need new and better masts. There is also no evidence to suggest that these masts cause cancer.

When this mast application was submitted the community spoke with one voice to oppose the mast. We even suggested alternate sites would be better keeping for such a structure.

This mast remains utterly out of keeping with the surrounding land and residents had made it clear that other more industrial / commercial locations would be better suited. Not only that local schools, MPs and Councillors had communicated in no uncertain terms that the mast was utterly unwanted.

We were all snubbed.

We have at present agents running roughshod over local public opinion. Our Conservative-Council had made it clear that phone masts would be considered very closely and in this case they made the wrong judgement.

Please find below our letter to residents on the news:

Burma Way Phone Mast

Fair Game

Just finished watching the truly excellent political drama Fair Game based on a true story.

Well worth a watch.

Fire No. 3

Arrived on Corporation Street - immediate shot (poor quality) of Fire hydrant dowsing flames...

Different angle showing damage to building extensive. Fire hydrant just finished dowsing at this point

Fire officers surveying building. Twitter reports from Kent Fire & Rescue that building could collapse

Winding down panoramic. A number of appliances on scene.

It seems that my post yesterday on the fire on Rochester highstreet, stating that we needed to remain aware was not without reason. At exactly the same tonight Rochester saw its third fire at the vacant Market Cafe on Corporation Street, in what on the face of it looks very similar to the incident which happened last night.

I rushed to the scene after becoming aware via twitter. There were a large number of onlookers from the Casino Rooms and the Police had cordoned off the traffic light junction at Blue Boar lane.

This cafe has been burnt down once before and at that time structural issues coupled with rubbish were also raised.

John Ward has done a graphic of the fires with ward boundaries which show that the three fires stretch across River, Rochester East and Rochester West wards.

I suspect Police will be trawling through CCTV footage shortly to identify any suspicious individual or vehicle movement in the vicinity. Individual (s) carrying baggage and equipment or wearing dark coloured clothing will be noticeable. Given we have seen three fires within a small geographic distance it could be that we have a very local arsonist who is walking to the premises. Police may also be looking through any individuals with 'form' or perhaps identifying those who may have been released from prison, or young offender's institute, with a profile for Arson who may have located to urban Rochester very recently.

Alternatively, given these fires have been vacant premises it could also be the case that this could be drug users or squatters who have set fire to keep themselves warm or for other purposes.

They say two is a coincidence and three is a trend. People living in the highstreet area need to remain aware of any suspicious activity.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Fire No. 2

Fire brigade arrive

Mid-way though incident. Smoke from second floor window. Ladder extending

Towards end of Fire. Several appliances in situ. Police cordon in place

An eventful bank holiday weekend yesterday with the farewell party for fellow blogger Alan W Collins leading to this blog witnessing a major fire on Rochester highstreet.

The incident itself was noticeable after a series of suspicious fires had been noted in Gravel Walk in Rochester, and apparently nearby properties according to KM. A second major fire in a small area is perhap a coincidence, but given this fire is seen as suspicious it is something we all need to keep a watching brief.

My involvement was very limited. After drinking in the Ship pub opposite, after attending the farewell party for Alan W Collins, was with a few friends when a man ran into the bar claiming the opposite Curry house was on fire. After leaving the pub it became apparent that the second floor of the empty restaurant was indeed alight; there was a signficant amount of smoke billowing from both floors and a small crowd was standing in the vicinity; many of whom speaking with the fire brigade and Police.

The fire brigade responded quickly, within 10 minutes, sending a number of appliances from Strood (later discovered) and proceeded to assess and then enter the building with oxygen equipment. A further number of appliances arrived and the Police proceeded to attend advising spectators to step back whilst the fire brigade engaged in their job. I was rapped on the knuckles by a young Police offier after being spotted trying to get a photo; for which apologised.

After tweeting the photos I was quickly followed by the Twitter feed of local politico's and the Kent Fire & Rescue twitter feed which kept residents updated with developments.

I spoke to several fire officers who indicated that this was seen as a suspicious incident because of the fact the building was not in use and the fact that a number of locations may have been identified as for being the start location.

Obviously Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue will advise but this is most certainly a public interest story.

The media responded very quickly indeed and were speaking to a number of witnesses and the Fire Brigade themselves. I suspect a number of less blurry shots will appear in the Messenger next week.

Will be keeping a watching brief on this development.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Luton Primary needs support

Luton Primary School suffers from Cameron Tory cuts

One of the areas of contention since the election of a Tory-led government is the budget cuts being inflicted on local schools and their staff.

This blog has posted previously on the Tory threat to our local Acadamies, mis-spent millions on capital projects and for a number of Primary schools the cuts to teachers and teaching assistants. As a member of the public in April, I was also able to reveal the fib at the heart of the Conservative Party local manifesto which claimed that Sure Start was not being cut. However, the truth came out when budget figures showed that there was a both a cash terms cut, and a real terms cut of £281,000. Add into the cuts to EMA and the introduction of tuition fees to £9,000 per annum and only the most naive of readers cant see that the next couple of years will be difficult for all those who teach and educate our children. From primary to tertiary the Tories are cutting and slashing important services.

Luton Primary School in the ward I represent is a struggling school and is a case in point. On the latest DfE statistics only 42% are achieving level 4 or above in English & Mathematics (down from 58% in 2009) and way below the Medway average of 67% which itself sits below the national average of 73%. English results have consistently worsened since 2008 where 65% achieved level 4 or above to a 2010 figure of 54%. This sits below the Medway average of 76%, which itself sits below the national average of 80%. Mathematics results have also worsened where only 48% are achieving Level 4 or above when compared to a 64% figure in 2009. The Medway average id 79% which is consistent with the national average of 79%.

The school is in need of investment and parents wanted the improved buildings. They opposed a rushed merger because of the history of school closures elsewhere in the ward.

The school has a challenging demographic from not only economically disadvantaged communities but also one which has a transitory mix from newly integrated communities from Eastern Europe. The school also sits in a ward which will require additional provision in future years.

The Labour Government had proposed significant investment in the site subject to an appropriate proposal being put forward by the Conservative-controlled Council. As we know the Primary School proposal put forward by Cllr Wicks was rejected because of poor research and proposals which were totally unwarranted.

As Councillor I was expecting a new set of proposals to be forthcoming for Luton Primary because the provision of new facilities on this site was actually supported by residents, parents, pupils and staff.

Much to my anger the latest cabinet paper is worrying in that it seems like the Council is examining options to step back and wash their hands of responsbility.

4.2. The council's anticipated capital allocation from central government, from which the project to build the schools was to be funded as part of the primary capital programme, has been sigificantly reduced by the Coalition Government's spending review, meaning that funding is no longer available for a number of projects including the one to rebuild Luton

4.3. In addition, the level of devolved capital funding to schools has been significantly reduced from almost £5m un 2010/2011 to less than £800,000 for 2011/12. The impact of this reduction to the local authority will need to to direct a much higher proportion of our capital funding to routine condition and maintenance issues which schools themselves would have previously funded

It is imperative that we do not allow buck-passing of responsibility over this school, because the outcome will leave hundreds of children in my ward in a position no better than before. In my mind also, not only is Luton Primary in this position because a Conservative Portfolio holder failed to do his job properly on the original Primary School programme, but now it appears that one of the options being suggested is that no new proposals should be forthcoming for improvements because Conservatives (supported by Liberal Democrats) are slashing building budgets.

In times of economic difficulty we can not spend on all schools and I am aware that opposition members can challenge on the fact that 'Labour spent all the money' and that we can afford these improvements.

However, there is an ethical and moral obligation to target resources more effectively and especially where we can see the best improvement in results.

When you see huge sums wasted on mismanaged capital programmes and new projects in wealthier wards still going ahead; the question is not about whether we have the money. It is about how it is allocated, and quite frankly we see all too many cases of money not being spent on areas of most need.

Luton School is currently struggling to fulfil its obligations; it has a great teaching staff and some fantastic pupils but it can not strive for greater success without resource and given its demographic and clear need for investment buck-passing can not be allowed.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Lodge Hill, whats that?

Regeneration is a word that can be seen on billboards across Medway. It is supposed to be a byword for what was supposed to have happened over the last decade, but with delays caused by Tory tardiness over planning, coupled with the downturn in property market post 2008, has failed to materialise.

One project which is raising a few heart beats on the Peninsula and Strood is the Lodge Hill development.

A development which is being persued at pace by the Conservatives in Gun Wharf.

In case you were not aware, and I certainly wasnt prior to becoming a Councillor, Lodge Hill is a multi-million new town development that is being planned for a huge site encompasing Chattenden and the Lodge Hill Valley.

It is something you should have on your radar

Comprised of 5,000 new homes it will be situated between Strood and the Peninsula villages and will see huge swathes of land given over for residential usage.

On door knocking in Wainscott over the weekend I was surprised to find that not a single resident I spoke with knew about the proposed new town on their doorstep. It seems Tory communication in these parts has been utterly lacklustre at best; I wonder why...

Regeneration only works when you take communities with you; this project has the air of secrecy about it because of its scale. But it is because of its scale that the public need to be aware of exactly what is happening. And quite frankly, they are not...

For more information on the proposal please visit the Council website or the Developers website or indeed the Facebook page which shows current views of fields that will be built over.

Immigration Rockets under Tories

So despite all the hot air about controlling immigration from Conservatives for close to a decade the truth will out.

The simple fact is that Conservatives all across the UK were happy to jump on the bandwagon for votes (see campaign poster from 2005) with the full knowledge that because of EU obligations and treaties they could never truly control internal migration.

It will get worse. Not only have the Tories lost control but they are cutting Customs and Border staff by 5,000.

So much for secure borders and controlled immigration!

Net migration rose by 21% last year, with 239,000 more people arriving in the UK than those leaving, the Office for National Statistics has revealed. In 2009, the total for net migration had stood at 198,000.

ONS estimates put long-term immigration in 2010 at 575,000, up slightly from 567,000 the year before. But the long-term emigration figure saw a sizeable drop from 371,000 two years ago to 336,000 - the lowest level for six years.The detail of the ONS figures showed the number of people arriving in the UK for a definite job at a six-year low of 110,000.

Net migration into the UK from the so-called A8 countries - the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - jumped to 39,000 from 5,000 in 2009. The range of figures released by the Office for National Statistics cover the calendar year of 2010, which saw a change of government in May - after an election campaign in which immigration was one of the main areas of debate.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said the period covered by the figures predated the government's "radical changes" to the immigration system.

Conservatives will try and pin the blame on Liberal Democrats, on Labour, on anyone but themselves but the fact is they have lost control of migration and do not have the means to control the problem. It is a pity they were not honest about this in 2001, 2005 or 2010 before they went after votes.

Labour was not as tough as it should have been on migration, and the impacts on communities where unscupulous landlords renting out sub-standard properties, and the cost implications in schools and services on both communties, and those children from poorer backgrounds who in some cases struggled to integrate was seen in the ballot box. Unions warned Labour about wages being undercut yet we were late to the table... it was a major error that did come up on the doorstep in the General Election in 2010, including infamously with Mrs Duffy.

Labour realised that a points-based system and tighter border controls were needed but were lambasted by Tories for doing it; now it seems the same people who have been chucking stones at glass houses are having to swallow a bitter bill; it is not an easy issue to deal with.

This is another bandwagon the right were very happy to exploit in opposition and which is now coming back to bite... and believe me; it will bite very hard in 2015 in Medway if these figures show an upward trend.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Thorold Road Alley Clearance

Luton & Wayfield Labour team in action in Chatham clearing an alleyway on Thorold Road, Chatham.

Delivering for our community

Friday, 19 August 2011

Window Dressing

An interesting video on the fake shop fronts which are appearing on a highstreet near you

Cost to you the taxpayer = £45,000

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fare-ly reflecting history

A number of newly local Conservatives have a habit of ignoring railway history when they blame the former Labour Government for fare hikes. This is either because of a lack of intellectual capability to grasp the issue, or indeed a policy of obfiscation of responsibility.

It is worth looking at the underlying causes of fare increases over the last couple of years and also why the current fare hikes are not a continuation of Labour Policy at all, but instead reflective of a Conservative ideology which is trying to remove the tax-payer and tax the rail-user. An inherently Conservative notion of putting the pain on the individual user whilst undermining collectivism and communitarianism on the railways.

An ideology which destoyed the railways before, is once again being used to undermine them again.

The privatisation of British Rail was set in motion when the Conservative government enacted, on 19 January 1993, the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Act 1993. This enabled the relevant Secretary of State to issue directions, as to the disposal of assets, to the relevant Board. This was necessary since (in the case of the British Railways Board) they had to act, at all times, within the rules established by various Transport and Railways Acts – none of which would have allowed the Board to 'sell-off' any of its assets.

The subsequent direction from the Conservative Party Secretary of State forced the creation of Railtrack PLC. This then paved the way, later that year for the Railways Act 1993 introduced by John Major's Conservative government. The operations of the British Railways Board (BRB) were broken up and sold off.

This process was very controversial at the time, and the Labour opposition announced its intention to re-nationalise the railways, although this was not implemented by the subsequent Labour government due to huge cost barriers placed into the contracts by the Conservative Government

The Tories have admited liability for this monumental failure so it is with tongue-in-cheek that they blamed Labour for fare increases whose seed was sown by their own destructive lack of judgement.

Chris Grayling, admitted that the 1996 split of the rail industry into track and train components was a mistake which had increased costs:

"We think, with hindsight, that the complete separation of track and train into separate businesses at the time of privatisation was not right for our railways. We think that the separation has helped push up the cost of running the railways - and hence fares - and is now slowing decisions about capacity improvements. Too many people and organisations are now involved in getting things done - so nothing happens. As a result, the industry lacks clarity about who is in charge and accountable for decisions."

Labour however did not do everything right. Despite the fact that Tony Blair's "New Labour" Government, in principal, wanted to ‘re-nationalise’ the railways (and little wonder, in view of the ‘unhealthy’ state of the privatised industry they had inherited), this policy had to discarded out on the grounds of its estimated £22 billion price-tag.

The SRA failed to have any lasting impact on the rail network due to the fact the Conservative privatisation was so vast in scale and scope it left a totally inept system of management.

The Hatfield Crash left Labour with very few options, but a decision was made to nationalise the railway infrastructure and spend billions on improving railway safety Over the following years the infrastructure did improve and so did train punctuality. Under Labour, 1.32 billion passenger journeys were made on the national rail network in the calendar year 2010 - a rise of 6.9% compared to 2009 and 37% more than in 2000. This total approaching a peace-time record, with such figures not having been witnessed since the early 1920's

The problem of ticket pricing however became unresolvable as it become increasingly clear that the Tory privatisation was not actually profitable for private companies at all; the entire rationale for the privatisation was utterly flawed, and ever since the government has effectively had to subsidise billions to unprofitable private train companies. The idea behind the privatisation was to take the politics out of the railways; what a monumental Tory failure that has been.

The story of SouthEastern trains is complex but to cut story short the previous Conservative Government awarded the Southern Central / South Eastern contracts to Connex which was originally supposed to run until 2011. The company made some serious strategic and financial mistakes, to such an extent that in June 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority decided to cut the South Eastern franchise short at the end of 2003, citing poor financial management and "a serious loss of confidence... in the ability of the company to run the business in its widest sense".

Connex had run a business model of lower fares, lower investment, higher numbers. Years of underinvestment and poor services resulted.

The government nationalised the Connex franchise in 2003 but was left with a mess. Not only were South Eastern railways in a parlous state but the carriages and infrastructure were simply not fit for purpose either. The polls at the time indicated that railusers would be happy to invest in better trains and railways and a decision was made by government to dramatically increase the government Rail Grant for the newly nationalised franchise.

The government however made the position clear that an increase in tax-payer subsidy must be matched by fare increases of RPI + 3%. This was unique on the railways at the time because of the poor state Connex had left our railways and the requirement for investment.

The RPI + 3% increases were believed to be manageable with inflation at historic lows but a timelimit was set for 2011/12. The fare increases were used to pay for new train carriages, better stations and the development of the HS1 network. Investment was prioritised and from 2003-2008 we did see huge improvements in punctuality, rising train numbers and a reduction of major crashes (across the entire UK network).

When the crash happened in 2008, the Conservatives in the South East sensed an opportunity to appeal to marginal voters by opposing fare increases of +3% RPI stating they were not only unfair when compared with other areas but also harming business. Tory PPCs, Council candidates and sympathisers used the bully-pulpits of elected Council offices to undermine SouthEastern trains for political gain whilst ignoring the causes of the problem and the logic for the fare rises in the first place.

It succeeded as public pressure focused relentlessly on the company and its performance. From a purely partisan position this was a very sensible campaign strategy. The problem is it utterly ignored, or actually conveniently ignored the entire history of the problem which is primarily Conservative mismanagement. It also deliberately manufactured and harvested public discontent for a political outcome; the election of Conservative Councillors and MPs.

It worked. On the back of supporting transport campaigns across the South East; cutting fares, cutting Dartford Toll and supporting Fuel Duty Stabilisers; the public put their trust in Conservatives.

But what has happened since is a dereliction of duty.

Once in office the Tories in 2010 they cut the Rail Grant investment into the railways as part of the DfT budget settlement, and not only retained the 3% RPI increases but extended it across the entire UK rail network. The fare payer thus paid more (across the UK) but the money does not go to improved services but to mitigate the cut in grant; the argument behind fare increases under the Tories is thus entirely different.

The Tories also removed 'flex' so allowing franchises to increase costs in high volume areas to mitigate increases in low volume areas. The Labour Party time-limit on 3% RPI was extended from 2012 to 2015 with fare increases laid down over the entire Parliament in stone, ignoring any economic factors such as a lack of growth or economic recovery.

We are now in a situation where growth and the economy has not recovered due to George Osborne cutting too far and too fast. Inflation is rampant and the Tories have locked themselves into increasing fares which is why we are now paying the price and why the increases ignore all logic.

Labour did make some mistakes; it should have acted more quickly after taking office in 1997, though I do believe Blair wanted to limit the impact on the public purse of having to re-nationalise at a time when we were trying to balance the books from the 1991-93 recession. Labour should have kept an eye on Connex and perhaps cancelled the franchise earlier; it also should not have allowed the franchise to return to the private sector. It could also have been more aware of the financial constraints of commuters from 2008-2010 in terms of the recession and could have made moves to ameliorate these impacts.

Make no mistake however, when compared with the actual policy outcomes of Tory decision-making the above would have been tinkering around the edges of the problem. Had Connex lost its contract in 1999 Labour would still have inherited a mess. Fare reductions in 2008 would have impacted the ability to roll-out HS1. These are small issues when compared with the botched privatisation of not only the railways infrastructure but also to Connex as a provider in the first place.

For the Tories to claim the railways and fares are a mess because of Labour is a complete lie. It is re-writing of history to fit a right wing narrative which is utter rubbish

These fare increases are also utterly wrong because they are not about investment at all; which is what the original 3% RPI fares were for. They are also prohibitively high given inflation at the moment is rampant. The Conservatives have got it wrong (again) on trains and sadly we will all suffer from their utter arrogance once again.

All governments accept blame but this mess of the railways is a Conservative creation and the current fares fiasco is also a direct result of Tory ideology.

They like to play with the railways but they dont have a clue about how to run them.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Off the rails?

Medway commuters and residents are fed up with the utterly useless representation on transport and train fares from our current MPs, who have once again failed to have any leverage over the Department for Transport on matters which impact thousands of residents.

The Tory ineffectiveness on transport comes after VAT increases in petrol, the prospect of a Cliffe Airport (after three years of suggesting there were no plans), pot-holed streets and perceived gerrymandering of road budgets into Conservative wards, a million pound overspend on the Chatham Bus station and regeneration works and the Dartford Toll increase and threat to Medway Tunnel. Medway residents are left wondering; what the hell is going on. It is transport incompetence at an altogether different level.

Local MPs have resorted to soothing words and toothless EDMs which have received little support amongst colleagues. The Mark Reckless EDM wasnt even signed by fellow-Medway constituency MP Rehman Chisthi, which makes a mockery of the entire process.

Mark Reckless MP even had the audacity to claim that because everyone has to pay 3% RPI fares that this is a win for Medway residents. Simply off the rails...

Meanwhile local Tories can not bring themselves to accept the facts that despite jumping on the proverbial trainwaggon before May 2010, that these fare increases stink of right-wing hypocrisy of the highest order. They have hit the buffers.

Medway Conservatives campaigned to scrap the 3% RPI settlement and not keep it. Medway Conservatives campaigned to cut fares, not raise them by 13% annualised. We had surrogate campaigns managed by now Tory Councillors who waxed lyrical about train fare rises under Labour, but who have cut the chat despite it being even more necessary now with inflation being so high.

Medway Conservatives have failed miserably on fares trying to pin blame on everyone else but themselves. If you could not deliver on this promise then tell people prior to the election; dont go into the General Election on a pledge to cut fares whilst then doing an abrupt turn.

Once again the tired old excuses are trotted out about it being 'Labour Policy' - they have been in government now since 2010; they could have changed the train fares policy and the franchise arrangements. Not an excuse which washes now we are further into the government; people can smell Tory hypocrisy even more than last year on fares.

The simple fact is the local Tories have played another bandwaggon, like the Dartford Toll campaign, only to be caught with absolutely no authority what-so-ever to do anything about it.

The fact is stabbing Medway commuters in the back will carry "economic and political consequences" for the government as all polling suggests these traditional floating voters will snub Conservative candidates and representatives in future elections.

Across the UK, from next year season tickets will rise by the rate of retail price index inflation plus 3% until 2014, with room for a further 5% increase on some services. With the RPI due to hit 5% next week, commuters face a 13% increase on certain routes – to the dismay of passenger groups, environmental lobbyists and trade unions.

In addition, Theresa Villiers fibbed on the investment argument claimig this was because of rail investment; which is an argument local Tories spent time attacking prior to May 2010. The difference though is that the Rail Grant is being cut just as fares go up. Therefore there is no extra money going into rail just a change in where the income is sourced. Instead investment in rail will go down in real terms so meaning even worse conditions for rail users.

If you cant trust her on rail. What about Cliffe Airport?

In addition the Department for Transport has confirmed that it will retain the so-called flex system, which allows rail companies to average out fare increases across a basket of tickets instead of applying uniform price increases. Under this framework, a further 5% can be added to the RPI + 3% hike on certain fares, provided that the total increase within that batch of fares is in line with the official limit.

Medway commuters need only remember this Tory fare increase. From because of ineffective representation from MPs Mark Reckless, Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chisthi you could pay an extra £445.41 with a combined bill of £3,769 for your annual commute.

The same MPs who sit amongst Conservatives in Kent who are fleecing the tax-payer of huge sums of money on subsidised rail and car transport.

As that debit card goes into the slot; just remember what you are paying for and why

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Boundary Review

The modelling of a potential outcome of the forthcoming Parliamentary Boundary Review by Lewis Baston is being put online region by region on the Democratic Audit website. It shows which individual wards go into which of the seats Lewis has modelled.

Both the Medway News and Medway Messenger have picked up on the potential boundary changes in Medway over the last fortnight (see press report), which may see a major change in composition of all the three Medway seats, but specifically in the Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford constituencies.

The press have not presented good diagrams, or actually reported the Democratic Audit position entirely accurately however which was a little dissapointing.

It is worth pointing out that the Democratic Audit proposal is one suggested idea for Medway. There are also a number of other alternatives which actually resolve boundary issues with less movement of wards. Obviously these positions will be factored into any outcome. The Democrat Audit team also has close links with Liverpool University and has published in the Guardian which suggests left-leaning. A scientist would factor in potential bias.

At the moment the independent Boundary Commission for England are working on the new seats across the Country within a set tight timescale. We know that existing European Union regional borders will be maintained and that the South East region will loose one seat. We also know that existing geographical, cultural and where possible Local Administration borders have to be respected, but not necessarily followed.

The example by Democratic Audit is one such example for Medway which will see the Conservative-leaning Hoo peninsula and Isle of Grain moved into the marginal Gravesham constituency. This has historic precendence from prior to the 1970s where the wider 'Peninsula' was not part of the Medway area, and indeed in former years was not part of the prior Rochester & Chatham constituency.

The new constituency would see the urban Rochester and Chatham areas merge with Cuxton and Halling also moving to Gravesham or a new central Kent seat. Gillingham would swallow up the River Ward and Brompton which is likely to be broken into two over the next decade with regeneration works (though this is not factored into the final result). Brompton has historic links with Gillingham.

On these boundary changes Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch would likely move into a new safer Conservative Kent seat, and loose any formal representation for citizens within the Medway Unitary Authority, who tend to reflect her Labour voting opposition. Mark Reckless MP would formerly represent the new uber-marginal seat of Rochester & Chatham, whilst Rehman Chisthi would sit on broadly the same seat as before, with a marginally safer position.

Whilst on the face of it this would result in a more likely Labour win in Rochester & Chatham in 2015 it may not be in the medium-long term interests of Labour in Medway to loose three marginal seats in favour of one Labour-leaning marginal and two Conservative safer seats. The party nationally will therefore negotiate on the basis of national interest not only for the Labour supporter but also to ensure that we do not see an entrenched democratic skew, based on seat boundaries, towards a Conservative Government.

An example of this would be the difference within parties as well; would Gravesham Labour, who have just won the Council, want to have a safer Conservative area added to the Council and/or Parliamentary seat. Parochial Labour Parties and CLPs will have a say, but a national policy position is the likely result. A united negotiating position is also a sensible course when engaged in Boundary Commission consultation, so I suspect the wishes of local Parties may not actually be as signficant as people assume. The same will happen, in reverse, in Conservative Associations, be that there concerns maybe more personality driven, given most wards in Kent have a Tory vote to a larger or lesser extent.

In addition, the Democratic Audit position does not respect potential City Status which is understandable currently, but not over the course of the Boundary Commission review. It would be very odd situation of wards being within a Medway City but being represented by an MP from a neighbouring urban area. Gravesham Council is also borough council and not unitary based model, so moving Councillors from one to another could be complicated and they would loose influence or in the case of some existing Councillors, loose their seats. Medway Council would also not want to loose the Peninsula as a tax-base and/or as a revenue generator for major industrial projects which pay subsidy into the Council. A number of future regeneration schemes also require close links with the Peninsula.

That is not to say that the Peninsula wards wont continue to be Medway Councillors and have a Gravesham MP. The Aylesford area within Tracey Crouch's seat does cross local government boundaries; but it is akward.

Add into this the current Conservative Party membership being skewed, according to anecdotal evidence, with the majority of members on the Peninsula, they are likely to fight tooth-and-nail to remain in the Medway area because they remain a financial resource base for the Medway Conservatives. The Medway Tories would not favour the Democratic Audit position, the Gravesham Tories will see it as an opportunity to gain finance and resource.

Add into the mix the fact the Conservative whips dislike the current incumbent in Rochester & Strood, and you could see some interesting negotiations and squabbles amongst Conservatives.

I therefore suspect proposals will be fought over tooth-and-nail. For my part I have no interest in getting engaged.

The timeframe for these boundary changes is tight. By this Autumn we will have the initial boundaries reviewed for consultation. Next year we will see formal consultation and reviews engaged (hopefully in full public) with a final outcome in 2013.

Back our Police against Tory cuts

The Kent Police are fighting back against the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who are still pursuing Policies to cut Police numbers and the move towards an elected Police commissioner.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Love Medway: Rochester Graffiti Concerns

Graffiti on Holcombe Road, Rochester - Near St Peters Primary School

Despite the glut of advertisement across Medway for the Love Medway application, there is a very real concern about the increasing amount of graffiti in Rochester, its impacts on our local community, and quite how much awareness there is amongst the public about self-reporting online.

This weekend I received several twitter messages from concerned residents about increasing amounts of graffiti or 'tagging' appearing in the Delce area. A problem which residents indicate has been getting worse over the last couple of months.

I paid a number of site visits and took several photos of the graffiti. It is clear that the problem stems from a very small number of people. Some seemingly so arrogant that in the below case revealing mobile phone numbers on full public display.

Glut of graffiti with mobile numbers! Site is off St Peters Road / Delce, Rochester

In addition, there are worrying signs that school property and signposts near schools are being targeted as well. The below is on the wall of St Peter's Primary School itself.

Graffiti on external schoolwall of St Peters Primary School (from alleyway)

With the recent work ongoing in the Luton & Wayfield ward I have decided to report these cases using the Love Medway phone applicaton to report cases of anti-social behaviour and review follow-up from the Council.

You can register on the lovemedway.co.uk website and to make things easier you can even register using your twitter, facebook and even blogger log-in.

All it then takes is for you to upload a photo of the concern and drop a pin on the location.

A public report is then generated which can be reviewed online from work or home. It is also publicly accessible.

With increasing levels of concern around crime it is important that graffiti and small instances of low-level crime is picked up and actioned. I am a supporter of the 'broken window' philosophy whereby allow one window to go broken and it allows further such cases to occur.

I will also ask fellow bloggers in Medway to advertise this application as much as possible and use it.

I, alongside the ward Councillors, Teresa Murray and Nick Bowler and the team in Rochester will be keeping an eye on follow up.

We urge all residents to support the scheme and report all cases of anti-social behaviour. Like the post-riot clean-up in London; the community can stand together and challenge bad behavour. The tools are there.

Supporting Community Mothers

Mum's, Dad's and a few assorted politicians of all stripes

Whoever said August was a month of rest and relaxation clearly has not been a Medway Councillor. For the Councillors in Luton & Wayfield ward it has been extremely busy indeed with constituency work and meeting members of the community.

One such group that has been supported by us all is the Luton Community Mothers. The Community Mothers group are a collection of parents, primarily in Luton & Wayfield, who have come together now for the second year to run a fortnight programme of entertainment for local kids in our community.

The focus of the group is particularly on getting mum's and dad's to play with their children and develop lasting relationships, and to encourage children to engage and work with each other and develop friendships.

The venue for the Community Mothers event on the Luton Memorial Meadow also has a close bond with the ward as the nearby war memorial is run by Don Phillips who has kept the surrounding site in excellent condition. Many on the memorial died for their Country and came from the old Luton ward in Chatham.

The neighbouring Scout facility was ideal for the group and from initial enquiries is very well used by the community.

Despite this blog's overt positioning on policy it is clear that despite the hurly-burly of elections that politicians of all stripes can set aside and work for the community and have a bit of fun whilst doing it.

David Starkey Rap

Very amusing rap of David Starkey's Newsnight rant on Friday.

With cameo appearance from Owen Jones who is the author of Chav's and a rising interest on the left.