Monday, 22 December 2014

Alley Clearance - Time to act.

One of the biggest complaints I get on the doorstep as ward councillor and when canvassing in the urban wards in Medway is that of fly-tipping. Specifically the fly-tipping of rubbish in rear alleyways that have long since been gated or unused.

Many terraced streets in Chatham used to have rear alleyways for rubbish collection in the long distant past. Many of these alleys became unused in the 1950s/60s and with increases in crime in the 1990s they became gated. Since then many of the alleys have been used as a dumping ground for every-day items. When cleaning an alley on Thorold Road I also found a number of sharp objects long since discarded; kitchen knives and the like.

The Council is aware that this is a problem but is reluctant to accept responsibility. The Council cites that the alleys behind homes are an ownership conundrum due to historical quirks on housing boundaries. Therefore to clear the alleys requires community consent and participation. Understandably many residents who didn’t cause the mess are reluctant to clear it; and many others are elderly or simply not able to carry heavy items.

The Council has an enforcement team that is tasked with prosecution but in my mind the time taken to chase and enforce adds burden to the taxpayer. I do not believe many Councils have the finance to mount significant number of prosecutions. The argument that clearance only encourages further fly-tipping is a chicken-egg argument; if we took that argument to the extreme we would not pick litter for fear it encourages people to drop it.

It is ironic that to clear a fly tip off Council land the removal operator has to be licensed and trained to handle. Yet Councils are happy for volunteers to clear sites that happen to be on private property in alleyways. Anyway; life has quirks.

This is an important issue; I have in the Luton part of my ward significant numbers of alleys blocked with detritus and seemingly no reasonable solution. The problem has therefore remained and is protracted. The rubbish becomes not only an eyesore but a haven for vermin. The general ambience of the area deteriorates as a result. 

In other Council areas they have teamed up with a local sub-contractor to charge residents £220 per tonne to remove the waste

This is an idea I believe many councillors would support, and where we can employ a local firm to undertake the work, it seems to be a no-brainer. Many councillors have ward improvement budgets and I could think of few better schemes to improve the lives of many in urban areas. 

I will be pursuing this over future weeks.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Jumpers

With Christmas approaching we are just completing our second ward canvass for Lordswood and Capstone ward for next year’s local elections.

It is important to remember at Christmas – amongst all the parties, black-tie work do’s, Christmas lunches and catch up drinks – of the year that has been and reflecting.

It is also the season for Christmas jumpers. Nope, not the unhappy and tired Tories jumping to UKIP; but the woollies with snowmen (as worn proudly by the Rochester & Strood PPC).  

We have a truly fantastic, young and dynamic team in the Labour movement and one with a bright future. Even though our sartorial appeal may need some Cameron-like airbrushing…

Watling candidate Ben Pranczke perfecting the art of canvassing... 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Small Business Saturday

Small and independent businesses in Chatham and Aylesford make a vital contribution to our community, add to the character of the town and are a source of local jobs.

That’s why a team of Medway Labour councillors and PPCs got behind our local shops and firms as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday.

The idea of ‘Small Business Saturday’ comes from the USA. Last year, we helped bring the idea to the UK and a movement was born. Small Business Saturday is a grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small and independent businesses in the local community.

Last year was the first time it took place. It was the largest celebration of small business the country had seen. Nearly half of consumers who knew about the day made purchases because of it and almost £500m of extra trade went to small firms. It also helped local small business link together, championed their vital role in local communities and created a buzz about entrepreneurship and people starting out.

That’s why we celebrated Small Business Saturday on Saturday 6 December and shopped at local small firms. The Labour Group leader met businesses in Chatham, Strood, Rochester, Luton, Gillingham and Rainham.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Food bank Christmas Collection

Last weekend I joined Labour councillors at the Tesco in Chatham to collect food and donations on behalf of Medway Bank. The Medway food bank and has fed around over 8,500 people since it opened in December 2011. This figure includes a staggering 3,000 children.

The Church of England is absolutely right to highlight how the government needs to be doing more to help the most disadvantaged. We have a cost-of-living crisis in the UK coupled with a benefits system in shambles (with one lady reported last week waiting months). Coupled with a zero-hour contract culture we are seeing low-pay becoming endemic in communities. This hurts Britain over the long term as it dents aspiration and hinders social mobility.  The need for food banks has rocketed over recent years with 500,000 people across the UK now relying on food donations.

I was deeply impressed with the generosity of the people of Chatham. I cannot praise the work of the Trussell Trust highly enough but it is a very sad state of affairs that so many people cannot afford food in the sixth biggest economy in the world.