Monday, 31 October 2011

Just like the 1980s?


Last week the House of Commons Library published the latest unemployment figures. They are as one would expect, pretty grim. Unemployment is up across the board, and the South has been affected much the same as any other region.

Just like the 1980s!

Job Seeker Allowance claimant levels have risen considerably in the five years since 2006. The increases across the South East in particular have been severe, as the figures below show:

Increase in JSA claimant levels, 2006-2011 (source: House of Commons library)

Crawley +114.7%
Milton Keynes South +100.1%
Dartford +87.7%
Thanet South +75.4%
Portsmouth North +72.1%
Gillingham & Rainham +68.0%
Hastings & Rye +67.9%
Chatham & Aylesford +62.8%
Sittingbourne & Sheppey +62.6%
Reading West +55.3%
Rochester & Strood +51.6%
Dover +48.0%
Hove +34.4%
Brighton Kemptown +19.7%
Brighton Pavilion +12.1%

All fifteen of these constituencies were Labour seats until 2010. They are the communities in the South East that Labour needs to win back if we are to win the next election.Labour’s five point Jobs Plan, outlined by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls at the Labour party conference last month and set out below, demonstrates that Labour has a Plan B for growth.

It is a sensible and well thought through plan of action.However, as well as providing hope – and a plan – for those out of work, Labour must also ensure it addresses the concerns of those still in work. Job security – actually, job insecurity, is a rapidly rising concern. Cost of living increases mean that the monthly pay cheque needs to go further and further.

Inflation figures are likely to heap further pain on already overstretched household incomes. Labour’s frontbench must remind themselves that when they talk about a growth strategy as the means of getting people back into work, they also highlight that the very same growth strategy will give security to those already in work.



Source: Southern Front

Tory Allotment Tax


The Tory hatred of anything green isnt just in the Planning law which they are deliberely watering down to make development easier.

It isnt even in the London Conservative plan to bulldoze over the Peninsula and put a slab of concrete over our beautiful landscape.

Labour Councillor, Isaac Igwe in Strood has expressed major concerns at the manner in which these taxes are being increased; with little or no consultation with the huge number of people who enjoy using their allotments.

It also includes huge increases in taxes on allotment holders. The hard men and women who strive and struggle to till the ground.

2006 cost

2011 cost

Taxing our allotment holders; poor show...


Tory CCTV Car(s) Cost

Tory CCTV Car in press again as issues of legality and profitability hit the white vulture cars

Looks like a few interesting Freedom of Information requests this month...

Please confirm the total of all drivers and operatives used for the Medway CCTV car, from the first day they were used, and up to 20 September 2011?

There have been a total of 45 members of staff involved with the operating, driving and reviewing of CCTV since it’s implementation.

Please supply the details of how much this has cost in wages over the same period above.

The cost of staff wages over the same period is estimated to be £340,000

Please supply all the fuel costs, repairs, servicing and costs of uniforms, also any other costs involving the CCTV cars, for the same period.

The associated costs involving the CCTV cars for the same period is £357,335.

Given the cars have probably made about £1.7-2.0m in revenue since they started we can actually calculate that profitability on these vehicles is miniscule when compared with other revenue streams and overall spend by the Council.

Labour were clear on the CCTV cars. A full review on these vehicles is required immediately; they should not be cash cows...

Put it into perspective - the overspend on the bus station over its original estimate comes out higher than all the revenue made by the car(s) since they launched.



Update - 7th November 2011

It now appears that the legality of the car is also in question as the Medway News exclusive reveals that the cars may have been acting illegally so potentially seing thousands of fines written off. I have asked a question of senior officers for a full brief on this issue - as yet, nothing...

Labour has consistently warned and pushed for a full review on this CCTV car and it was part of our manifesto in May 2011.

Medway Buses suffering under Tories

Given the botched opening of the bus station in Chatham and the Conservative u-turn over the Freedom Pass, which will still a 14 year old from Strood worse off, than an equivalent in Gravesend, it is worth looking at bus usage in Medway since the coalition came to office.

Transport is an absolutely crucial issue in Medway which is why Medway Labour put it centre-stage at the local election this year.

Labour has a long history of campaigning against fare increases with campaign events at Medway station's we have opposed the Tory train fare rises which are being imposed by the Department for Transport on train operators. We oppose the London Conservative plan for an airport on the Peninsula (Boris Airport) which is slowly but surely working its way onto a government white paper (as predicted by this blog three years ago). We have stood up for our young people pledging a full equivalent to the Freedom Pass for our young people; a pledge firstly derided by the Conservatives before they copied and pasted it this April.

Labour is leading on transport and for that reason it is right that we look at buses in Medway.

When we talk about buses this is not just the failure of the Tories to manage the bus station; though that failure is symbolic of how they manage the whole of our towns believe me. The dithering over planning, the delay over building, the damned lies over spiralling costs. A botched completion job and an operation of spin from the corridors of power to conceal the true impact on residents.

Medway residents deserve a new bus deal. Only over the last six months some scary statistics have now become clear.

Under the Tories the statistics stand for themselves:
  • We have seen a massive reduction in Medway bus journeys from 9.3 to 8.9m in just one year. This represents a full reversal of increasing bus usage from 7.9m to 8.9m under the last Labour government.
  • According to Passenger Focus over a third (37%) of fare-paying passengers were dissatisfied with value for money and more than a fifth (23%) were unhappy with the frequency of buses. Nothing has been done to change this perception and bus services are being reduced not extended
  • We have seen Bus Services slashed – According to Freedom of Information requests we have seen cuts to Bus 155 and further cuts currently being discussed on 26 contracts. Bus services which serve the entire of Medway. These contracts carry a total of 194,392 passengers per annum. Tories are cutting your buses right now.
  • Investment cut - The governments budget allocation for Medway's Integrated Transport block (which includes bus capital schemes) significantly cut from £3.5m per year to £1.5m per year in 2011/12. As a result the LTP allocation to public transport capital schemes (bus and taxi) reduced from £299k in 2010/11 to £250k in 2011/12.
  • Costs for the bus station continue to be open-ended after it came out £2.3m over the original budget estimate. A number of operators are expressing major concerns at rising costs...(See attached news item)
  • Travel for youth: our young people continue to be disadvantaged. Whilst KCC operate a flat £50 or £100 fee for an annual Freedom Pass our young people continue to pay extortionate rates on our bus services. Pricing them off the buses
It is a pity because the bus station could have been so much better had the Tories bothered to talk to residents. After all the original funding for the improvements via HCA (Homes & Communities Agency) Grant from the Labour government investing in buses.

But like the 11+ fiasco and the cost overuns at Walderslade, Woodlands and now on the Stoke Crossing. Its another million pound fiasco a week...

Bus services are so important to Medway residents. It is a pity that we currently have an administration that could have done so much better with the money provided, and that is currently managing significant cuts to bus services, whilst residents continue to feel they are being fleeced by Conservative Councillors.


Update

Despite asking the Conservative-controlled Council for a full list of the 26 routes listed as under consultation I was refused, saying that Councillors will only get a full list after the tender process is to be undertaken.

I have written back to complain that this is a fudge as local representatives should have clarity and transparency over bus services. Clearly proposals are in detailed stages because they are able to confirm the number of journeys made.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Five Point Plan for Jobs

Cover up over 11+ fiasco?

Yet full report is not put online for public scrutiny...

Below is an article from Peter Read, a Kent Independent Education Advisor, who has written for the Kent News on the 11+ fiasco.

The article itself raises serious questions about the ability of Rehman Chisthi to adequately represent his constituents after he expressed full confidence in the education department under Les Wicks. A questionable judgement were it not for partisan self-interest.

He needs to make it clear that if the Ombudsman rules against Cllr Wicks that he will call for his resignation.

The article does not mince its words and effectively accuses the Conservative administration of colluding in a cover up.


'Children who were treated unfairly at 11-plus test centres will never know if they would have passed

The row about the shambolic Medway Test arrangements at two test centres, described by Councillor Les Wicks, portfolio holder for education at Medway Council, as “a mortification” - continues unabated.

The Medway 11-plus is held in a number of large centres (mainly schools) on a Saturday morning in September. There have been complaints about the operation of these tests for years, the council agreeing nine changes in procedures with the Ombudsman in 2008 after a large number of complaints; last year the council admitted fault after another large number of complaints about one centre and agreed to put in a number of improvements to monitor the process.

Sadly these failed to stop what the council has now agreed were major faults at Rainham School for Girls, although it disputing the problems at the Chatham Grammar centre.

At Rainham, the council put in just one registration desk for more than 200 children, with the result that anxious queues rapidly built up waiting long past the 20 minutes allocated, the tests starting 40 minutes late. Children were therefore on site for six-and-a-half hours. There were only three boys’ toilets, half the girls’ toilets were not working so many children spent the whole of their breaks in toilet queues.

They had been told to bring a piece of fruit and a bottle of water to sustain them, which was evidently insufficient for the extended exam period. Any adult subjected to such chaos for an important exam would probably have walked out.

As it was some of the children did not have the stamina to cope. I have just listed here some of the many problems at Rainham, and Medway Council has now acknowledged that no fault attached to the school, although at least two councillors alleged the problems were down to the incompetence of the school and had apologise for this later. I could go on about the problems at Chatham, sparked by the invigilators’ failure to provide the question paper for the first exam of the day, but you can read the details at www.kentadvice.co.uk.

Medway Council’s astonishing verdict was that as half the children passed the test at Rainham, none were disadvantaged – apparently they didn’t consider the half who failed! The council promised to carry out a thorough investigation of the problems and make the outcome known to all concerned. However this has turned out to be a ‘management improvement report’, a single-page document looking forward to stop such problems recurring, that does not address the issue of why the problems arose in the first place. One can only hope it is more effective than the promises of 2010 which were supposed to stop such problems!

However, parents continue to be angry, not necessarily because of the original blunders, but because of council attempts to cover them up, and its ludicrous refusal to acknowledge some children were disadvantaged by the conditions to which they were subjected.

We await the ombudsman’s verdict on this one, but spare a thought for those children who will never know if they would have passed, if treated fairly.'


Airport looms over Medway



So much for Tory consistency over Boris Airport which has reared its head once more after the appointment of Justine Greening MP to Transport Secretary, and the subsequent lobbying efforts by the London Conservative Party in its detailed paper on aviation for London.

The latest clue comes from a written response from Theresa Villiers MP to Rehman Chisthi which has shown a clear change in government policy from opposition to willingness to consider all proposals. The inaccuracy of her response also snubs thousands of anti-Cliffe campaigners by suggesting that no recent review had been undertaken on the Peninsula - totally ignoring the rejection of the Peninsula proposals in 2002/2003.

This is, on the face of it, another major u-turn from the Cameron government which is clearly hinting to renege on absolute commitments given over the last four years that there are no plans to build an airport in the Thames Estuary.

There is also a real worry that the appointment of Justine Greening, a London MP with an anti-Heathwick caucus in her own constituency, will make expansion at Gatwick and Heathrow very unlikely.

This blog believes we are now poised to see a Conservative government u-turn and a full paper on aviation options including at Cliffe, Hoo and in the Estuary.

The Medway Conservatives have underplayed the prospect of an airport in North Kent to protect an electoral base which is sure to rally against the Tories should any white paper come forward. The Medway Labour Group has consistently warned that if you treat the airport as a joke, if your underfund any opposition campaign, and ignore the thousands being spent on scoping exercises that you will accumulate trouble later on, when the plans become more developed.

Labour submitted a motion to Full Council in 2009 on this very topic. Mark Reckless MP (then a Councillor) and Rehman Chisthi MP supported the Conservative party position to not campaign pro-actively on the issue - ignoring the reasoned argument that unless you actively oppose an issue when it is at its early stages you allow something to become more developed and entrenched.

The local Tory positioning on this issue is quickly looking knee-jerk and desperate. Cllrs' O'Brien & Chamber's moaning from the sidelines with increasingly shrill demands as they realise there total lack of forsight has left Medway residents with the prospect of a mega-airport on the doorstep.

It is all very well parochial 'village-green' Tories opposing the airport; but neither O'Brien or Chambers have any political weight. They are pygmies against the lobbying efforts of the aviation industry and the London Conservative caucus, of which Justine Greening MP is a member, which wants an airport in Kent.

Let us also not forget that the proposals as they stand are currently impacting house prices on the Peninsula. A Conservative Party mayor is therefore directly hitting house prices in Grain, All Hallows, Hoo and the villages.

A white paper and rest assured these people will be up in arms because they it will kill off the housing market in the area and will likely impact thousands of properties in the North of Medway as interested parties seek to flee the prospect of noise, congestion and a deterioration in life-quality.

The Tories locally could have done something about the Boris Airport two years ago. Instead they have treated this issue as a joke and they kicked the can down the road and it is only now, in retrospect, do they see that what seemed wise at the time has led to greater folly.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Parking, open space or slow worms!


“The latest public row about change and improvement is in Luton. Luton remains high on any index of deprivation and the council has been working with partners such as police and health to improve things. It's proving a tough job, but progress is being made.

The idea of having a Healthy Living Centre in Luton has been welcomed by many, but to date effectively blocked by a few. Where these centres have been built elsewhere in Medway - such as Rochester, Rainham and Lordswood - they have proven a marvellous asset to the community.
Time is short, the money to build this centre will soon be lost if progress is not made. There are always plenty of reasons for not doing something - whether it be parking, open space or slow worms!

If the obstacles and prevarications continue, this marvellous facility will be lost. Sadly if the objectors have their way, it will be the good people of Luton who will lose out.”

Cllr Jarrett (21/10/2011)

Substitute the word Luton with ‘Rochester’ and the words ‘health centre’ for airport and change listed ‘Rochester, Rainham and Lordswood’ with ‘Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow’

Councillor Jarrett last week attacked the airport proposal for exactly the same reasons local residents object to the idea of a poorly located healthy living centre; Ecological, infrastructure and resident concern.

Only the same issues, which he labels ‘parking, open space or slow worms’ are happily ignored elsewhere when he has own finger on the bulldozer ignition.

Of course the two proposals are not the same; but I can imagine someone in the Mayor’s office labeling Cllr Jarrett 'anti-change' and an 'obstacle' to progress.

They deserve just as much short shrift as Cllr Jarrett's article did on Friday.

I am consistent; you can not ignore resident opinion or the concerns of ecology (whether from the RSPB or environmental groups). Only a fool runs roughshod over local opinion; and that is just as much a lesson for Boris Johnson as it is for Cllr Jarrett.

Perhaps listening to those on the ground; whether on the airport or the health centre is the best way forward. The basis for objection you will find are not altogether that different.


Update

I am quite concerned by the lack of updates from the administration on the counter-proposals on location for the health centre. All requests for further information have been met by silence, despite several emails to chase on my points mentioned here.

With the Kings Road clinic being shut the area does need a health facility - surely we can find a suitable outcome in a better location?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

11+ Report slaps Wicks


The late 11+ fiasco report was finally published today, but has yet to be linked on the Medway Council website for full public review.

The report is several days late and was due to be published last week. Another delay it would seem by the Tories

For the sake of public transparency and accountability the Administration need to publish this report in all its details and in the full public domain.

Grammar school parents and pupils have been let down by the Conservative portfolio holder and the narrow clique that support him.

Hiding the report in the background when there is demonstrable public interest is not best served. Details of junior staff can be redacted if there are any conflicts of interest but some form of public document needs to be produced.

I have not had a chance to read the report; so I can not possibly comment on its content but from leaked snippets it would appear to be pretty damning on Cllr Les Wicks and his political leadership.

What I would say is that it took 13 days for Les Wicks to apologise; which is an outrageous delay, and most importantly, after he and colleaugues blamed the schools themselves.

In addition this fiasco is but one in a litany of failures on schools.

The Labour Group were rightly disappointed at last week’s Council meeting (still not published) to see that Cllr Les Wicks was unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions

This despite the litany of errors that fall within his remit:
  • The 11+ exam fiasco at the Chatham Grammar School for Boys and the Rainham School for Girls where Medway Conservatives blamed the school for internal Council failures
  • The botched Primary School re-organisation programme which used incorrect pupil statistics to close local primary schools, including the closure of Ridge Meadow and proposed closures of St Peter’s, Rochester and St John’s, Chatham
  • The £350,000 bill to cancel photocopier contracts across schools
  • The £1.8m overspend on the Walderslade School
  • The £1.25m overspend on the Woodlands School
  • Failure to back the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds
  • The cancellation of the School improvements at Luton School and the cuts to Building School budget from £5m to now cover maintenance only
  • Medway being ranked close to the bottom of the Level 4 league table, with only 67% of pupils across the area gaining the level required

In any other job, that amount of error and incompetence would surely lead to dismissal.

Once I get hold of the report I will publish it online with permission


Update

The Council have not published a full report and have opted for a 'management document' which is effectively a summary of outcomes. It appears that Tories are unhappy to reveal the truth or reveal any reasons why we continue to see, year on year, cock-ups with the 11+ test.

So much for democracy.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Poor Consultation root of poor Regeneration

Gillingham Station - funded by government grants lobbied for by former MP, Paul Clark


This blog was particularly interested to read the party-piece column the deputy leader of the Tories in the Friday' Medway Messenger piece whilst on the 7.20am train to the City of London.

Coming off the back of the slavish support for the efforts of Councillor Les Wicks on Thursday night, it seems that lessons really arent being learned by an increasingly out of touch clique, and it is a clique, at the top of the Tory party locally.

The Tory leadership have an increasing habit of re-writing history - as we saw below over national foreign affairs - it is the same locally.

Regeneration in Medway and the funding for major programmes - some £127m- was, and is, absolutely nothing to do with the Conservative leadership. The money came from central government grants under the previous Labour Government, working alongside SEEDA and the regional agencies.

The Council though had a responsibility to consult locally and get public support - and that incidently is usually where it went wrong, as we can see with the lack of political leadership over projects.

One visit to Maidstone and you can see the juxtapose on regeneration. In Maidstone the agencies and the Council have got it about right, irrespective of the other poor decisions by the ruling Conservatives, there are few complaints about the regeneration work. Contrast with Medway and you can see that jobs are half-done, half-baked and usually as a result of poor consultation.

New bus stations in the wrong place, roadworks unplanned and delayed and Strood Riverside no further forward than in 2002.

The Tory leadership locally are in a hole; regeneration ostensibly funded by Labour is running out; but the clique are desperate to pretend to their back-benchers this is all the improvements is a result of the Conservative leadership. It isnt and never was:

Take two examples:

Gillingham Railway Station improvement - the piece claims this is as a result of Council action but it is actually an investment by the national stations improvement programme and Community Infrastructure Fund which was lobbied by former Transport Minister, and Labour MP, Paul Clark. This plan has nothing to do with the Conservatives.

Incidently this blog is reliably informed that Rochester Station improvements are at later stages but have still not received any information on it...

Brook and Chatham bus stations - whilst the blame for the delay and subsequent failure to scrutinise can be pinned on Tories; because they were responsible for the Planning and consultation behind the station. The money for it came from central government coffers allocated by the previous Labour government.

On regenetation; the opposition to local Conservative leadership has not been on the proposals; who could not want better bus facilities, and more regeneration, but it has been the manner it has been managed and the lamentable consultation and local implementation of projects.

Opposition also to the manner in which costs are hidden: the Tory leadership keep talking about budget outturns on regeneration projects but never ever tell you how much they are above the original budget estimates. The Council spin room, under orders from the Tory leadership no doubt, can try and obfuscate the truth badly, but the press statements from years previous are out there for all to access. You cant hide it when a bus station whose original budget estimate of £5m is now costing an expected sum of £7.3m.

Some back-bench Tories do get it. Though I do not agree ideologically with many of them, there is an attempt by those on the aspiring and community-based right to consult with people more actively - to take people with them - especially over Lodge Hill. That is good to see - because a new cabinet, comprised of a more dynamic breed of Tory Councillors could see projects better managed but also better consulted upon.

But until that generation step up. We are left with the clique, and that is where the Luton 'Healthy Living Centre' comes in.

The original proposal for the Luton 'Healthy Living Centre' was consulted upon with residents in 2009 and the location for the centre was rejected by the community - the location being behind several narrow terraced streets with very poor vehicular access. The Council also indicated that the centre was supposed to be built with additional funding for the Luton School improvements and the two were linked together. The suggested location for the living centre was dictated to by the PCT who indicated the centre had to be in the Luton area, whilst another centre would cover Wayfield, proposed at Hook Meadow.

Roll on two years and the position has changed. Not only have the Tories locally cut the funding for Luton School improvement, caused in my mind by a lack of funding partly as a result of overspends in Walderslade and Woodlands, but they have simply rehashed the same proposal that the public in the area rejected in 2009.

What is different though is not only cuts to the school improvements but that the PCT have also indicated that the original proposal for a Wayfield centre at Hook Meadow, has been kicked into the long grass.

Take into account also the poorly executed application; which proposes to bulldoze over green land without any ecological surveys and dodgy dates on consultation and yes, you alienate public support pretty quickly..

The residents in the area have not rejected a centre - they have therefore supported a new health centre but at a location that can benefit the whole community; on Barnfield or Street End Road.

This is what consultation should be about; and what Tory remarks represent is not a failure of campaigners opposed to development, but by agencies not speaking with residents, or each other, until the last moment and a foisted agenda of improvement without public support.

We have spent the last fortnight trying to get a compromise - perhaps better access via Pheasant Road, perhaps working with PCT on expanding the boundaries on the PCT guidelines given the situation on Hook Meadow, perhaps engaging with residents on more positive aspects of the scheme and getting information out there.

We do not support the scheme but compromises in politics are always an option. Alas not with the Tory leadership it seems.

It is the same old story.

Residents want a new health centre just in a location it would be better suited. They are accused of being against 'change' and being NIMBYists.

The campaign in Luton is not to oppose the Healthy Living Centre, it is to oppose the location and to call for it to be moved to serve all the residents of the ward.


Pot calling Kettle

It is getting quite tiresome to note the number of right wingers indulging in the puerile and facile act of putting photos of Prime Minister's shaking hands with former tyrants.

Of course foreign policy changes over time and anyone with a reasoned brain can understand the nuances of these changes and the times in which they were taken.

The right over the last four days have slavishly focused on the meetings of Labour Prime Ministers (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) meeting and shaking the hands of Gaddafi over the last ten years.

Of course the picture of Tony Blair was taken as a result of Gaddafi renouncing his weapons of mass destruction and his apparent thaw to Western approaches on economic renewal. After the meeting Gaddafi opened up his oil markets and appointed a moderate Prime Minister. That is not to excuse the subsequent actions over the uprising or his muderous tendencies; but whoever said foreign affairs was easy.

Before Tories start jumping on this type of bandwagon its worth looking at some Tory Party Prime Ministers and some of those they have had diplomatic relationship with:


Mugabe shaking hands with former Prime Minister, John Major. Mugabe is of course a tyrant who is continuing to inflict huge suffering on his population.

The picture was taken in the early 1990s when Mugabe was seen as a paragon of stability


Pinochet with Margaret Thatcher. Despite Pinochet having a terrible human rights record of imprisoning and murdering political opponents - Mrs Thatcher always supported his attempts to destroy socialism in his country and for the support over Falklands.

Conservative Party Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler after the Munich Pact was signed. Hitler later went onto invade most of mainland Europe.

If the Tories want to play this type of puerile game - be careful - the shadows of history have a habit of showing hypocrites up

Never Forget...


Friday, 21 October 2011

Grammar School snub as Wicks remains


The Medway Conservatives declared war on the grammar school mum and dad last night by backing the feckless Councillor Les Wicks to retain his education portfolio, despite plea's from concerned parents over the botched Chatham & Rainham 11+ tests.

Thousands of parents are simply aghast that the Conservatives could put partisan self-service before that of the public, and the 43,000 pupils across Medway's 100+ schools. The Council received huge numbers of complaints and the Medway Messenger board was inundated with comments calling for a full review.

The full review that had been promised by the Council leader had been delayed; a deliberate ploy perhaps to save the portfolio holder face at a public meeting. Yes, of course it was.

Councillor Les Wicks continues to retain responsibility for the important Child Safety, adoption and school entrance selection process and was congratulated by colleagues for his 'first rate' performance including in Rainham.

There was no apology for the mis-spent millions on school projects including at Woodlands and Walderslade. Instead parent-governors were blamed for poor financial scrutiny.

The management of the 11+ test system is a fundamental to the Medway system of secondary education. Parents from Rochester to Rainham prepare their children assiduously for the test so that their child can aspire and reach their full potential.

Yet, the failure of Les Wicks to manage not one but two test centres has left hundreds of parents feeling that their child could have been discriminated against their peers on the basis of increased stress caused by the organisational failure.

The fact it took 13 days for Cllr Wicks to apologise to Grammar School parents and staff at the Grammar schools concerned - because he was at Conservative Party conference - shows the contempt with which he holds these schools.

A ward colleague, Cllr Vaughan Hewett who was silent last night, was not even aware that one of his own schools was actually an Academy. An insult to the hard work of staff, pupils and the governors.

If Conservatives think that back-slapping and fawning over Wicks in the Chamber means a jot to the public they have another thing coming.

By clinging onto an individual who would be fired in any private-sector role for budgetary mismanagement they have sent a message that incompetence and feckless leadership is not only supported by Tories; it is positively rewarded.

They have failed the Grammar schools - parents, staff and future pupils in Medway - and that is unforgivable.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Purple Book Event


Whilst our MP in Rochester is drifting ever further to the right, flirting with UKIP, and the recent adoption of an English Democratic Councillor, is it time Medway had a less extreme set of representatives, who were more aligned to the centre; and the concerns of every day families across the constituency.

Rochester constituents have suffered under the reckless Tories. From rising unemployment, economic uncertainty, rising house costs, cuts in Police, schools and the privatization of the NHS. Meanwhile our MP is focused dogmatically on the European Union at the expense of more important matters.

Does the Purple book offer any moderate / progressive solutions for the future?

Progress will be in Rochester between 7:00-8:30pm on the 2 November 2011 in the Rochester Coffee Co. , 146 High Street, ME1 1ER and would be delighted if you could attend.

Speakers:

· Author: Rachel Reeves MP
· Author: John Woodcock MP
· Response: Cllr Wes Streeting
· Chair: Naushabah Khan (Kent Young Labour)

You can also tweet about the event here:

Rochester #PurpleBook event w/ @RachelReevesMP @JWoodcockMP @wesstreeting @NaushabahKhan

The Tories in Medway represent the past and an extreme right wing agenda; come listen to what could be the Progressive solution


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Poor timing for EU debate


It is with bewilderment that I note today that whilst Medway residents are worried about simply staying in the black, about jobs, schools, hospitals and the economy our MP is once again banging on about Europe.

It's like one of those broken records... we have heard this all before... time and time again.

There are times and places for these things and a vote on whether we leave or stay in the EU, whilst we are embroiled in a full Eurozone crisis is not only baffling but also positively foolish.

It is a massive economic risk if politics were to be put before the economy at this crucial time - but dont let that stop the right wing opportunists - who sense an opportunity to rubbish Europe at a time when closer fiscal integration must be considered.

The focus for our local representatives should be stability and jobs. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports today that consumer price inflation in the UK was 5.2% in September, up from 4.5% in August. Increases in gas and electricity prices were largely to blame but - although these were well known about - the jump in inflation was bigger than anticipated.

The surge in inflation was driven by a rise in utility bills, with gas and electricity costs increasing by 13 and 7.5 per cent respectively following price hikes from Scottish & Southern Energy, E.ON, British Gas and Scottish Power. The retail prices index (RPI), which includes housing costs, rose from 5.2 to 5.6 per cent in September, while the consumer prices index (CPI), used to set benefit levels, increased from 4.5 to 5.2 per cent.

With unemployment hitting a 17-year high of 2.57 million in the three months to August, the benefits bill is increasing, which is putting further strain on the public finances as the chancellor wields his axe.

The people of Medway are really feeling the squeeze at the moment; but instead of articulating that concern we have another vote on Europe... and we all know it will be totally rejected by the same Conservatives who promised a referendum in the first place.

You think we should be talking about Europe?

Thought not.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Lodge Hill Consultation ends

Dark Green / Light Green is protected and designated green space


As predicted by this blog in August, the Lodge Hill Consultation by the Tories has been anything but an exercise in generating local opinion.

I suspect the overwhelming opinion of those that did respond was negative; but dont let that change your minds...

This blog suspects the Conservatives will steamroller this proposal through the local Planning Committee and give a green light to building over our cherished green land.

Dont say we didn't warn you. Same old Tories; same old tricks

Estuary Airport back on agenda


London Conservatives publish 167 page scoping document on air travel today

The two-faced Tory attempt to rubbish the idea of an Estuary Airport with polling, has suffered a major set back this weekend as the London Mayor released a 167 page scoping document on the necessity for additional airport capacity.

The paper which includes detailed breakdown of economic flows makes it clear that the Birmingham option is not sustainable over the medium term and rubbishes the 'Heathwick' proposal.

The publication of this report comes conveniently after the appointment of Justine Greening MP who has been vociferously opposed to any further development at Heathrow, which could put any plans to expand Heathrow/Gatwick on hold. The paper makes clear the option for Birmingham is a non-starter due to mid-term capacity problems. Medway Tory Councillors had, this blog believes, been briefing the press informally that this option was potentially the likely outcome...

Daniel Moylan, the Deputy Chairman of Transport for London, is leading on aviation matters for the Mayor.

“Several ideas have been put forward to try and address our increasing lack of runway capacity. But I remain to be persuaded of there being any workable solution other than the creation of a new hub airport. And the obvious location for a 24 hour airport with the least possible impact on the local population is the Thames Estuary. A true ‘airport city’ of the type never seen before in the UK would provide the capacity we need and provide vital support to the UK economy.”

Outrageous view from the Conservatives. Atypical attitude we have seen over the last couple of months which show the simply dont care about the ecological and historical significance of Medway heritage.

If this proposal is put down into a white paper the three Tory Councillors on the Peninsula should do the honourable thing and become independents so that they can fight any proposal without hindrance to Party loyalty. The public are already cynical about why this proposal is still on the agenda after years of internal Conservative conversations.

This blog made clear a mere 48 hours ago that we are now at risk of having an airport agenda foisted upon us. Our local MPs and Councillor's have been utterly ineffective, and have opposed campaigning proposals, which could be an argument for saying they are trying to protect their electoral base. This ineffective campaign posture could have allowed this airport proposal to gain ground over the last four years.

In 2008, the proposal was merely for an island airport in the Estuary, but local Conservatives have allowed, via support of the Conservative Party ticket in London, the slow and rathet like slippage of an on-site option on the Peninsula. A proposal which is causing severe distress to residents and which could impact house prices in the area.

Our Tory MPs need to get a grip; a clear and unequivocal statement from Justine Greening MP that no scoping or consultation paper will be released on any proposal for an airport in North Kent.

Any deviation of this position will lead residents to think they have hoodwinked us for four years over on an idea which the community has overwhelmingly rejected.



Click below for full article



Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bumped!

Sufficed to say I have had better days.

Much preperation for a presentation on the importance of internet-campaigning to a number of constituency Labour party chair's this afternoon in Crawley.

If only I got there.

I set off at 12.45pm; stocked up with petrol on the Maidstone Road and proceeded up towards the roundabout.

It was busy; the Rochester Girls Grammar School had an event... traffic was heavy.

After getting past the first roundabout I was caught on the slip road above Junction 3 (M2) before it happened - my first ever car accident. You hear of these things, but never think, it could happen to you...

Luckily it was at low speeds, and involved a third party having tried to cut in front of three moving vehicles as the roads merge into one, causing us to all suddenly break. The culprit of course never stopped but left in his/her wake a trail of bumped cars - my Peugeot coming off by far the worst of it.

The police were on scene remarkably quickly and handled it very professionally, which is nothing less than can be expected from our thin blue line. Details exchanged, a curteosy handshake with the other gentleman involved in front, and company parted. It could have been so much worse... and I was grateful that actually, whilst my car has suffered damage, it is a financial cost rather than a human tragedy.

The moral of the story is be very careful; there are some lunatic drivers out there.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Bin a bad day!



It seems like that baffling behaviour is not just the preserve of some of our current and former local Conservative Councillors.

Oliver Letwin MP - of blue-sky thinking fame - was spotted dropping his constituent communications into St James Park bin. Not only is this ethically questionable given its constituency work but there were apparently sensitive documents included.

Apparently he wasnt the only one!

Luckily for Letwin it did not include the Coalition Agreement document... he may have won a few pundits for that on the right

It was all so much easier back in Roman times a Letbin...