Despite the warm words of a few from last nights meeting it was bitterly disappointing to see Conservative Councillors vote to retain the £10 Blue Badge charge for the 10,500 (and probably more given this is a 2009 figure) people who are currently some of our most disabled citizens.
The Tory Council, as part of its budget process introduced a £10 administration charge for the most vulnerable to obtain a blue-badge in the budget this year; and indeed from stories last night expressed by Cllr Juby, has made some wait up to three months before receiving them.
I am not dogmatic when it comes to issues like this, given my broad background in the Police and working in central London for a small business I am aware of the financial environment. I am also aware of the fact that the Council Cabinet at present is seen as out of touch and is perceived as spending money on mayoral frippery and excess and not the public good.
It was very apparent early on from the [poorly] researched amendment that the Tories wanted to play politics.
I had a hope that a consensus could be reached and dogma dropped on this issue given all sides are opposed to the manner and process of introducing parking charges at Medway Maritime and the lack of consultation.
Hopes that were quickly dashed.
This motion, like with loan sharks and train fares, was totally watered down.
There continue to be a number of very good reasons why the Council could, and still can, cut the charges and why:
- It will now be seen a pure hypocrisy for the Council to be attacking the Medway NHS for introducing charges because of government cuts, when the Council have just done exactly the same thing on Blue Badge applications (which the opposition voted against as part of the budget in April/May incidently).
- Recent statements by the PCT indicating potential movement on the charges have now been undermined, perhaps fundamentally, because the Council is happy to have its own charge
- The budget sums are miniscule. Using the basis of the Tory press statements which were a calculation on the Hospital budget impacts, we are talking about £110,000 or 0.02% of the total revenue budget (of £550m) on Medway Council; it could easily be reduced despite the distortions last night.
- No mention as to how the Tories could cut the wine and frippery budget for the mayor. No mention how how the figure compares with the bus station overspend, or the millions overspent on the primary school fiasco.
Last night the take home message from the audience was that the administration is happy to support millionaire tax cuts and spends on mayoral shindigs but not interested in helping the most vulnerable.
I felt last night showed a casual disrespect and disregard for some of Medway's most vulnerable citizens. It was extremely disappointing.
p.s. In addition last night:
The response to the application in my ward on the Alexandria Road application was poorly answered and clear limited officer correspondence with portfolio holder.
The second question on the botched water meter works in my ward was answered well; and will be holding the Council to account on a published list of fines to companies who fail to undertake appropriate works subsequent to infrastructure upgrades.
In addition some of points of interest as well
- Cllr Chambers speech once again a list of events rather than a leaders report. It was once again weak; very very weak.
- No apology to parents of Primary Schools over the multi-million pound Primary School fiasco in 2009 which has led to a new application on Chatham South site
- Welcome development in Strood over a new Tesco and 'Community hub'
- No acceptance that poor leadership and research may have undermined expectation management on the UTC bid
- No acceptance that Medway MPs and the Conservative Party are being dithering and incapable on the Estuary Airport, nor any mention of the 'long term' viability option left open by the LEP on the Estuary solution
- Limited acceptance of cross-party work to Save Marlowe Park
- A rambling dialogue from Cllr Jarrett on Council Tax contributions which was not appropriate for Full Council