State of the Unitary

What is a Unitary Authority?

 

 “A Unitary Authority (UA) is a local government structure which combines the functions of the two tiers of County and District/Borough Councils.
Medway became a UA following the decision to amalgamate Rochester Upon Medway and Gillingham Councils with the relevant part of Kent County Council.”
Cllr Vince Maple, leader of the Medway Labour group

 “Usually, you have two tiers of Local Government, the County Council which deals with strategic and major issues such as organising elections, working with schools and emergency services for example. They work parallel to the District Council, which is responsible for a much smaller area. So you would expect many district councils to operate in the same area as one county council. District Councils are responsible for issues such as housing, car parking and environmental health.

The concept of a unitary, is to for a specific area merge those powers under one authority. Therefore, in the case of Medway, all decisions be they working with emergency services or with social housing are taken by the one council.”
Cllr Mike O’Brien, Conservative councillor for Rainham Central

“Obvious answer is that it is a single tier of local government covering a specified geographic area to reduce costs, as opposed to wider areas which may comprise of district and county councils.
Medway does still have Parish Councils which some argue represent another tier of local government. I am generally supportive of Parish Councils as they tend to be made up of representatives from distinct villages who may be better placed to consider and address hyper-local matters, though at a cost in the form of a Parish precept.”
Cllr Chris Irvine, leader of the Medway UKIP group

“A top tier local governing body that administers an area but is separate to the local council”
Chris Sams, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Gillingham South Ward

“Unitary authorities of England are local authorities that are responsible for all local government services within a district.
So says Wikipedia anyway.”
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC Gillingham and Rainham

 

 Why isn’t Medway part of Kent?

 

“The majority of KCC administers rural areas and Medway being the largest urban area was not being represented so broke away possibly? But before my time!”
Chris Sams, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Gillingham South Ward

“Because it is a unitary authority. Seemples.
I’m not sure however that many people get the nuance and it is largely subjective as to whether someone in Medway considers themselves to be in Kent.
I think it’s nice to be both.”
Cllr Chris Irvine, leader of the Medway UKIP group

 “Medway is part of the historic county of Kent through basis of our geography and for many other services is recognised as such.
In local political terms it is distinct; Medway Unitary Authority was formed in 1998 when the City of Rochester-upon-Medway amalgamated with Gillingham Borough Council and part of Kent County Council to form Medway Council, a unitary authority independent of Kent County Council”
Cllr Tristan Osborne. Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford

 “It is in Kent, but it’s a bit big to be a borough of Kent County Council. Plus, with the dockyard it’s always been a bit separate.”
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

“The individual towns in Medway are classed as Kent as far as what ceremonial or geographical county they belong to. Therefore the Lord Lieutenant of Kent is responsible for the Medway towns as much as he would be Maidstone. The Medway Towns however are not under the prerogative of Kent County Council as they are a Unitary Council, though as you would expect there is much scope for joint working between the two.”
Cllr Mike O’Brien, Conservative councillor for Rainham Central

Why is Medway a unitary authority?

 

“Very good question.
Many in my ward of Peninsula feel no affinity whatsoever to Chatham, Rainham and Gillingham, and some are even calling for independence from Medway Council, particularly following the council’s decision to concrete over Lodge Hill.
Unitary authorities are, in my opinion, a reasonable proposal but we need a representative democracy on the council which we simply don’t have under the current Leader and Cabinet model which UKIP will scrap.”
Cllr Chris Irvine, leader of the Medway UKIP group

 “There is a massive population in one of the largest conurbations  in the south.
Makes sense it is self governed.”
Chris Sams, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Gillingham South

“At the time it was recognised by the government that Medway being a major urban centres has major strategic and political challenges best managed at a Medway-level. The Labour-led Borough Authorities at the time supported the move towards a single-layer of local government.
The creation of the UA led to the lowest Council Tax in England and a single layer of political representation and accountability.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford

“The formation of Medway Unitary Council goes back to 1998, when John Gummer as Environmental Secretary rolled out plans for Unitary Councils. Representatives of various councils met with Mr Gummer and it was felt that the towns would benefit from being a Unitary.”
Cllr Mike OBrien, Conservative councillor for Rainham Central

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know if anyone really cares.”
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

How did the Budget affect Medway?

A special in a series of posts, ‘inFrequently Answered Questions’ all Medway parties, MPs and candidates, have been invited to answer and we will update should further answers be presented.
The answers are presented here unedited.
If you have an iFAQ then leave it as a comment and we will attempt to get it answered for you.

“The first thing to say about the budget is that it is clear that having Lib Dems in government has made a difference over the past 5 years. It was OUR manifesto commitment to raise the threshold at which people start paying income tax, not the Conservatives. Thanks to us, over 25 million low and middle income earners have had income tax cuts of over £900. More than 50,000 of those people are in Rochester and Strood. 
Another thing that will help people locally is the Help to Buy ISA, which will give people who are saving to buy their first home up to £3000, which with property prices as they are must be useful.  And of interest locally, there is the reduction in the bingo tax, which will be welcome to all those who play at the bingo hall in Strood.
Less good are the Conservative and Labour plans for the future. Labour seems bent on going back to believing in the magic money tree, and the Conservatives are preparing their sharpest knives to cut public services to the bone. As for UKIP, who can say what they would do?  The Lib Dems in the next government would borrow £70 billion less than Labour and cut £50 billion less than the Conservatives, sticking to the sensible middle ground.  And that is what people should bear in mind when they think about who to vote for on May 7th.”
Prue Bray, Liberal Democrat PPC for Rochester and Strood

“As most people noticed there was no mention of the NHS in the budget. 
I can only assume that was because the tories know they can’t say anything as the have cut funding to the NHS and will continue to do so and they know the electorate won’t accept that.  
Medway hospital is surrounded by constituencies which have Conservative MPs.  Indeed the MP for Gillingham is an Ex Labour councillor now Conservative MP.  
During this current government Medway Hospital was put into special measures. This was all on the watch of the Medway tories. So when they start bleating on about supporting the NHS we all know it’s a complete lie.  They as much as their leader want to see the NHS under increasing private control.  
Labour are no better. It was under them that the infamous “Private Funding Initiative” was bought in and we all know that was privatisation through the back door.  
There is only one group who would fully fight against ALL privatisation in the NHS and across ALL of our public services and that is TUSC.  TUSC candidates are people who work in the NHS and other public services. We know the issues facing people of medway as we talk to them every day. Only TUSC candidates know what’s needed for our public services in Medway.” 
Dan Burns, TUSC PPC for Rochester and Strood

“On the positive side, the reduction in the duties levied on beer, cider and whiskey will be well received, as will the raising of the 40p tax threshold for the middle classes. 
The most significant thing for me was that the public outcry against public spending cuts has made Osbourne change his mind about creating a public surplus for 2020 from £23bn to £7bn.
This is a huge result, especially for Medway Council and our public services, eg Medway Hospital. Although he still plans severe cuts  for the next 2 years, another £12bn (from where? We are already down to bare bone!) it does seem that Cameron has finally listened to the public…..ever so slightly! 
Obviously this is all just tinkering for me, the establishment are still hell bent on robbing the poor to pay the rich, it’s just that they are a bit worried about triggering a revolution! 
The really interesting thing was listening to Ed Balls stating that he wouldn’t reverse any of the Budget measures.
Just another shade of blue rather than red!” 
Neil Williams, Green Party PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

“See my previous tweet for comment on budget. All in 140 characters. #brevity” 
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

Two more Medway councillors defect to UKIP

As Medway UKIP have been promising for a while now, two more former Conservative councillors have defected to the party. One of these – Tom Mason – is not surprising in the slightest. The other – Vaughan Hewett – is rather more out of the blue.

Tom Mason is currently a Conservative councillor for Strood Rural, and had recently been unceremoniously deselected from the Conservative party for the upcoming election. After being a local councillor for 45 years, he didn’t take this too well, and made no secret of his outrage over the matter. After a few months of flirting with UKIP but not going public, he’s today revealed he’ll be standing for the party in the coming elections.

The case of Vaughan Hewett is rather more strange. Until last year, he was a Conservative councillor for Rainham North, and actually one of the more reasonable ones. He resigned from the party following a falling out with his fellow ward councillor David Carr. This was because Cllr Carr had made unpleasant comments about travellers that Cllr Hewett described as “something akin to the BNP”. After a year of sitting as an Independent Conservative, Cllr Hewett has now joined UKIP, and will also fight his seat in the coming elections.

Is this the last of the UKIP defections in Medway, or do the party have one or two more surprises up their sleeves?

Jennings

(Delayed) Reaction: Winning Back Medway

During the Sunday Politics South East (SPSE) on 15th Feb there was a piece entitled ‘Winning Back Medway’ book-ended with an interview with Medway’s own Labour PPC for Chatham & Aylesford, Cllr Tristan Osborne. We at The Centre and What’s Left thought it would be good to consider and counterpoint the piece, and a month later, here that is!

The programme makes the valid starting point that Medway should/ could be a key battleground – we covered this with Medway Voter Power – yet only Chatham & Aylesford appears on the target list for Labour, whilst Rochester & Strood is in a nexus point of being/not being a target ward for the Conservatives. Whether Chatham & Aylesford is a target for Tonbridge & Malling Liberal Democrats remains unclear, but we probably all know the answer to that.

Former MP for Gillingham & Rainham Paul ‘confident of a Labour comeback’ Clark appeared in the piece full of political bluster. He is obviously not going to appear on SPSE and say Rehman Chisthi has a clear lead, even if he does. Clark stated he is

“determined the Labour Party wouldn’t forget about Gillingham and Rainham”

If he is true to his word we can expect additions to ‘Our Honoured Guests’.

The piece goes on to interview the Prime Minister, in Chatham, the Labour target. Yet he fails to mention he was there with Conservative PPC for Rochester & Strood Kelly Tolhurst, not Tracey Crouch MP, because whilst the location was Chatham, the constituency was Rochester & Strood.

The presenter then hits the high street to vox pop our way to meaningless insights. Asking people who they would vote for, then showing the party leaders for the Conservatives and Labour, rather than Tracey Crouch MP and PPC Tristan Osborne, who they can actually vote for (ignoring this is a High street, so the people being asked might not even live in Chatham). The meaninglessness was compounded when residents were also offered Nigel Farage, somebody else they can’t vote for, and at the time of writing UKIP don’t have a candidate standing in Chatham & Aylesford!

In the main show Labour PPC Tristan ‘I am aspirational’ Osborne appears to discuss issues live, there is no sign or mention of Tracey Crouch the MP for Chatham & Aylesford in the whole show. Importantly however they do point out that Tristan did use to be a choirboy, and he for good measure points out that ignoring the concept of target seats Labour are “fighting to win every seat”, it will be interesting to see how good a fighter they really are for the Medway seats, and if they do have a full slate of 55 Medway Council Candidates, name them.

“Will be announcing that on Saturday (21st March) as well as launching local government manifesto”
Cllr Vince Maple. Labour Group Leader

Keevil

 

 

 

No Medway Lib Dems willing to stand in Rochester & Strood

Given the disastrous result for the Lib Dems in the Rochester & Strood by-election, it was going to be a brave soul that would be willing to become the candidate for the upcoming general election.

Happily though, the party have selected their candidate. Step forward, Prue Bray!

Prue Bray

Not being familiar with this particular local Lib Dem, we decided to find out a little bit more about her. It didn’t take long to notice this:

Prue Bray Twitter

It’s not entirely uncommon for candidates to be brought in from outside the constituency, and there should be no illusions that the Lib Dems are the only party to partake in this.

Still, the Medway Lib Dems are perhaps in a worse state than thought if they have to bus in a candidate 60 miles to stand in a seat they’ll never win.

Jennings

How is Rehman Chishti an MP and a Councillor?

The second in a series of posts, ‘inFrequently Answered Questions’ all Medway; parties, MPs and candidates, have been invited to answer and we will update should further answers be presented.
The answers are presented here unedited.
If you have an iFAQ then leave it as a comment and we will attempt to get it answered for you.

 

“I don’t understand how he is either.”
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

“Because he was elected as both.”
Cllr Chris Irvine, leader of UKIP council group, UKIP councillor for Peninsula

“He was elected.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford

“He ran in a local & general election. Not a really good idea as it has left him very stretched & can’t be much help to his ward mates.” 
Chris Sams, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Gillingham South

“Both positions are attainable subject to winning a respective election. Rehman Chishti stood as both a Parliamentary candidate and a local candidate in the 2011 local elections, and Rehman achieved the highest poll in the Medway towns.
As he won both elections he holds both offices and manages his time to support his constituents utilising both roles as appropriate, as both roles involve representing the same constituents. Since becoming a Member of Parliament Rehman has not claimed any expenses from Medway Council and has saved the taxpayer £34,923”

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Conservative councillor for Rainham Central

Vote for Policies 2015

When Jennings and Keevil undertook this political blogging mini-adventure, they wanted to be open about their politics and so they used a variety of tools to demonstrate this.

One of those tools was Vote for Policies and as the title suggests it has been updated for 2015 policies.

Two clear differences this time: The first is no BNP.

The second is more meaningful. Your first option is to decide whether policies are something you would definitely vote for or not.

And this was interesting because presented this way, unattached to a party name. there were policies that you might not vote for, but you also potentially wouldn’t definitely not vote for them.

 

So how did Jennings and Keevil do?

Here we will be presenting the results of their 2015 vote. Later blogs will look at individual policy areas and invited others to comment and counterpoint those.


If you want to take the Vote for Policies 2015

(For full transparency it should be made clear that Keevil contributed to a crowdfunding site to support VfP2015, and received a sticker)

VfP2015c

VfP2015b

Potentially interesting points to notice.

Jennings not Lib Dem areas of choice are evenly split between the other parties, including Conservative and UKIP. His support for Conservative education policy will undoubtedly be an area of future conflict with Keevil.

Keevil’s support for Green policies has declined since VfP 2010, most notably like Jennings supporting the Liberal Democrats policy on the environment, which arguable identifies why he is no longer a member of the Green party.