The Medway Council April ding dong

Medway Council held it’s April full council meeting last night, with issues on the agenda ranging from all schools being academies to the EU referendum to how many things a Chatham shop can put on the pavement. As usual, we live tweeted the excitement, and if you missed it at the time, we’ve collected all of the highlights here:

The Week in Medway Politics: Referendum, housebuilding, babies

Medway MPs in Parliament

Told off Chishti
Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti got himself into trouble with Speaker John Bercow after running afoul of parliamentary procedure. It seems you can’t mention the Public Gallery in the House of Commons without a telling off, but no one says anything about your somewhat dodgy connections to Saudi Arabia.

In, out, shake it all about
On the issue of the EU referendum, all three Medway MPs seem to be taking the latter option. While Chatham and Aylesford MP has the somewhat valid excuse of maternity leave, Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst have no such excuses. Neither MP wants to state where they stand, with Chishti “listening” to residents on an almost daily basis, while Tolhurst keeps her head down all together. It’s unfair on their constituents that so close to the referendum, none of our MPs are willing to tell them exactly where they stand on such an important issue.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti’s suspicious relationship with Saudi Arabia began gaining further attention, with a forensic analysis from Middle East Monitor. On a jaunt to the Council of Europe, Kelly Tolhurst got into a bit of a ding-dong with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Medway Council

Set some of Medway on fire! (part 2)
Following on from last week’s social media fail by Medway Council, their competition to allow a resident to light a beacon to celebrate the Queen’s birthday didn’t go any better. Blogger Alan Collins have covered the whole sorry saga.

No babies, thanks
Medway Council went to court (and lost) to try to get out of looking after a baby. Because that’s the kind of world we live in.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Conservative Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott was in Chatham. So there’s that.
Rochester South and Horsted councillor Rupert Turpin was outraged that Barack Obama dared to use the word “queue”, even though he’s used in on several occasions previously.

Medway Labour
The Medway Labour website was hacked eight weeks ago, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because with an EU referendum, and a Police and Crime Commissioner election where they’re likely to be in the top two, they’ve got nothing to do.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, because they’ve got some campaigning coming up next month and don’t want to wear themselves out too soon.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Greens aren’t too happy that the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett said it was “inevitable” that green spaces would need to be built on to meet housing demand.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Beacons, think tanks, tax returns

The big story

Final list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
After months of build up, we finally received confirmation of who is, and more importantly isn’t, standing for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. With current commissioner Ann Barnes standing down, one of six new names will be taking on the role next month.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Two jobs Chishti
There were some interesting revelations in the latest issue of Private Eye about Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti. After taking up a £24,000 a year job for a Saudi Arabian think-tank, he led a delegation of MPs to the country. Unlike his recent football freebies, Chishti did at least register this trip correctly in the register of MPs’ interests. Curiously, he claimed to have met with “human rights groups” during the trip, which the Eye finds questionable given that the country doesn’t apparently have any such groups. Upon being asked to name the groups he had met with, Chishti refused to respond.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst was very, very concerned that some Africans managed to sneak into north Kent. Following recent stories about the tax arrangements of MPs, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch declared there was ‘nothing of interest’ in her tax return. But then she would say that, wouldn’t she?

Medway Council

Set some of Medway on fire!
Medway Council launched a curious competition this week, inviting residents of Medway to light a giant beacon on the Great Lines to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. As a staunch republican, Jennings immediately took the opportunity to enter, and after several days, is still one of only two entries. So if you’d like your chance to set fire to a little bit of Medway in the name of an antiquated class based system, head on over to Twitter and tell Medway Council why you should be allowed to light the beacon using #MedwayBeacons.

Unappy days
After five years, Medway Council has done away with it’s Love Medway app, which allowed residents and council staff to report issues such as fly tipping, broken street lights, or graffiti. Launched at a cost of £7,000, the council claimed it saved money overall, yet has decided to do away with it now. Despite some perfectly good free alternatives being available, such as FixMyStreet, the council has suggested residents go back to phoning the council to get things fixed, as if it was 1989.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Once again, the two main factions of the local Conservative group engaged in their annual scrap to decide which councillor should receive the role of mayor for the following year. Despite the role being entirely meaningless, both sides will go all out to take control of it, with Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter being the lucky recipient this year. Princes Park councillor Gloria Opara is likely to be his deputy.

Medway Labour
Remarkably, several months on, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, so it’s clear they’ve pretty much given up trying to fix it at this stage, even if leaving the old site up presents a security risk to visitors.
Following the above revelations about Rehman Chishti’s second job in Saudi Arabia, Medway Labour are concerned that he hasn’t registered this new role with the council.
If you fancy meeting a Shadow Cabinet Minister (and why wouldn’t you?), you can join Medway Labour’s ‘Curry & Chat’ evening in Rochester, which will only set you back a mere £25.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because with an EU referendum, and a Police and Crime Commissioner election where they’re likely to be in the top two, they’ve got nothing to do.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Happily, the Medway Lib Dems notify everyone of when they’ll be campaigning, so no one has to miss out on the excitement. Over the coming weeks, they’ll be out no less than five – count ’em – five times! Next Saturday you’ll find them in Rainham, and the week after that in Gillingham. After that, they’ll take a week off, before popping up on May 14 in Strood, then May 21 in Chatham, before wrapping up their campaigning for the year on May 28 in Rochester.

Medway Green Party
Unusually, they haven’t posted about the Lower Thames Crossing for a while, but they are unhappy about plans to demolish the Royal Oak pub in Frinsbury.
Rather charmingly Green, they’d also like to see pod homes built above car parks in Medway that could be sold to first time buyers for £50,000.

Final list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner

After months of flirting with the electorate, we now have a formal list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, as published today.

The formal list of candidates nominated:

Henry Bolton (UKIP)

Dave Naghi (Liberal Democrat)

Tristan Osborne (Labour)

Gurvinder Sandher (Independent)

Matthew Scott (Conservative)

Steve Uncles (English Democrat)

We’ll be looking at each of the candidates in more detail between now and the election.

In the meantime, it’s time to say goodbye to the following declared candidates that didn’t make it onto the ballot paper:

Fergus Wilson (Independent) seemingly didn’t submit his nomination papers properly, so wasn’t allowed to stand. It was unlikely he’d be able to take up the position regardless following his assault conviction.

Tim Garbutt (Independent Green) discovered last week that the £5000 deposit required to stand was quite a lot of money.

The Green Party declared that they would be standing a candidate, but one never made it onto the ballot paper.

With current commissioner Ann Barnes not standing again, we now know that one of the six names above will be Kent’s next Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Planning, police, powerhouses

Medway MPs in Parliament

Lower Thames Crossing
The consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing closed at the end of March, so we thought we’d take a look at where our local MPs stand on an issue that has great relevance to the people of Medway. Somewhat surprisingly, most of them don’t really stand anywhere. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch have made little public comment beyond sharing the consultation. Unusually, the only one to take a stand is Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who came out against it, presumably because she doesn’t have to sit in the queues at Dartford every day.

Elsewhere in Parliament
It won’t be all that surprising to discover that both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst both voted for George Osborne’s recent (and not entirely well received) budget. Additionally, in a slightly bizarre intervention following the Brussels attacks, Rehman Chishti demanded more “theological language” to fight terrorists.

Medway Council

Planning palaver
A baffling interlude courtesy of Medway Council’s planning policy this week. On Wednesday, councillors will vote on a range of planning applications, the most interesting being a proposed trampoline centre at Rainham Mark. Despite the proposed building having sat empty for a long time, the centre creating 45 jobs, consultation responses being 3 to 1 in favour, the recommendation is for the committee to refuse the application. The reason? It’s not in the right part of town, whereas the the KFC drive-thru right next door is perfectly fine. In the same week, the Cabinet looks set to wave through a plan to build a giant marina right outside of Gun Wharf.

The Kentish Powerhouse
Some curious comments from Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett, who told the KM that Medway is talking with other councils in Kent about powers and funding models that may be offered from central government. While there has been talk previously of other Kent County Council controlled boroughs forming larger groups, this is the first time Medway has been confirmed as taking part in such discussions.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Kent Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott campaigned in Rainham this weekend, but otherwise, the party seems to be keeping it’s head down.

Medway Labour
Incredibly, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, despite the party being aware of the issue weeks ago.
The party are also concerned by the seeming hypocrisy between the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett opposing government plans to make all schools academies, while trying to make all Medway schools convert mere weeks earlier.
Labour also hit the streets of Strood South, ostensibly to campaign to remain in the European Union, and nothing to do with a likely by-election in the ward. Interestingly, there was no sign of Strood South Conservative UKIP Independent Labour councillor Mark Joy on the campaign trail.

Medway UKIP
Not to be outdone by Matthew Scott, Kent UKIP Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Henry Bolton campaigned in both Gillingham and Chatham this weekend.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They reported some dumped bin bags to the council. Jolly good.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re still unhappy about the Lower Thames Crossing, and not really sure how to deal with Kelly Tolhurst ultimately being on the same side as them.
They’re unhappy that Medway Council have begun charging for all bulky waste collections too.
They’re also unhappy about a new retail development on Medway City Estate being built without road improvements. Though if the council proposed more roads, they’d probably be unhappy about that too.

Other News

Minor Police and Crime Commissioner candidate roundup
Previously announced Independent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Tim Garbutt may be out of the race as he seemingly didn’t check how much it costs to stand before now.
No such problems for another Independent candidate, Gurvinder Sandher, who has been hitting the campaign trail all over Kent, including a stop in Rochester this week.
We’ve covered the baffling campaign of Fergus Wilson several times before, so we won’t again in detail here, but blogger Jon Patience has been staying on top of latest events.
..and in one of the most jaw dropping twists of the campaign, English Democrat candidate Steve Uncles successfully convinced a judge to delay his trial for election fraud so he could fight this election.