Voice of the Leader: July

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

THANK YOU TO OUR WONDERFUL NHS STAFF, OUR SOCIAL WORKERS, AND ALL OTHER KEY WORKERS for keeping us safe during a time of an unprecedented world-wide pandemic. 

As I write this column on 1st July it is revealing to reflect on the last few weeks, and consider some of what has been happening. Crucially to consider how people have been reacting to the ongoing understandably cautionary tone coming from government as we all seek to contain the spread of infection. 

In the main it seems as though most people have behaved responsible, thinking of their own health, and mindful of the health of others by following government guidance on social distancing in particular and also personal hygiene. There have sadly been exceptions, which I will come on to later.

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Voice of the Leader: May

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

THANK YOU TO OUR WONDERFUL NHS STAFF, OUR SOCIAL WORKERS, AND ALL OTHER KEY WORKERS, who put others before themselves! THANK YOU TO OUR WASTE TEAMS AT MEDWAY NORSE FOR KEEPING MEDWAY CLEAN AND HYGIENIC.

So, the coronavirus pandemic moves on. The number of daily deaths has fortunately decreased, which is absolutely no comfort for family and friends of those who have tragically passed on.

At least there is a degree of clarity in the reported numbers, as when we were running at death rates approaching 1,000 a day there was a feeling that these were merely the deaths recorded in hospital. Now the numbers are being reported as all encompassing.

There are of course time-lags in reporting. It is no coincidence that reported numbers fall each weekend, only to climb again once we get into the following week.

Despite the ongoing crisis there has been some very limited relaxation, with the message of STAY AT HOME being modified to STAY ALERT. Some of the territorial restrictions have been lifted, whilst there has been more latitude shown for those engaged in recreation and sport. Team activities are of course still very much in lockdown although we are hoping for better news after 1st June.

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Voice of the Leader: April

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

What a time to be Leader of a council! Just when it seemed that the financial hand-cuffs where being slightly released, and we could start to see light at the end of a fiscally-constrained tunnel, something more sinister, more life-changingly deadly arrived.

Coronavirus – COVID-19 – swept from China, into Europe, and thence to the rest of the world and of course here in the UK. Few could have imagined the massive disruption to our lives, nor the way it would change our lifestyles and indeed our interpersonal relationships.

The deadly virus has been cutting a swath through our country and in that Medway has suffered too. Medway deaths have so far been mercifully modest. However, of course one additional death from this virus is one too many.

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Voice of the Leader: February

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

A belated Happy New Year to all readers of The Political Medway. In particular well done to Ed and Steve for keeping this blog going, thereby providing a platform for all things political in Medway.

It has been three months since my last contribution to this blog, and what a three months it has been! This presents me with a good opportunity to reflect on a decision I made in 2019 when Conservative Party members had the chance to choose a new Party leader.

I voted for Boris Johnson for two reasons: firstly that he was the most likely candidate to Get Brexit Done; secondly he was the man most likely to beat Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in any upcoming General Election. Boris won the election for Leader of the Conservative Party comfortably, and I was subsequently proven correct on both counts.

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Voice of the Leader: November

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

What a roller-coaster of a ride it has been since I last wrote in The Political Medway in September. One of delights of being Leader of Medway Council, are the complexities with which I deal with: changing issues; different (and sometimes difficult!) people to do business with; the changing external landscape which confronts us as politicians.

It is always a challenge, but when success comes through it is all the sweeter for that. 

Success is invariably hard fought, requiring dogged determination and the ability to work with others to gain their support.

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Voice of the Leader: September

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

After a missing month, there is a lot to write about, both here in Medway and nationally.

The biggest national furor of course continues to relate to Brexit, this time the decision to prorogue Parliament with an awful lot of hysteria surrounding that. However, by standing back and sniffing the coffee we can see the prorogation relates to four days with Parliament traditionally closing down for the party conference season anyway.

As I write this there is a row within my party over voting. It is no coincidence that most of the usual suspects promising to undermine the will of the British people in the 2016 referendum have been recently fired from the government. “Hell hath no fury…….!”

There are varied views about what should done with those people who vote with the Opposition against their own party, and the threat of deselection has been mooted. Good!

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Voice of the Leader: July

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

So, by the time you read this we will have a new Prime Minister, and I shall be 5,000 miles away with not a thought for politics at home!

Not entirely true of course! For I shall be fervently hoping that my vote for Boris Johnson was one of many, and he now occupies 10 Downing Street.

Not that I have always been a Boris fan, and am still not in some ways. In fact in those days when as Mayor of London he sought to have a massive airport built in Medway I was anything but a fan!

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Voice of the Leader: June

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

Hmm! Tough choice to make this month: spend most of my 1,000 words whining about Medway Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees, and who is Medway’s Mayor, or get on with discussing the things that really do have a major impact on the lives of Medway people.

May 23rd saw the Euro elections we were never supposed to have. Those elections were the electoral equivalent of having sand kicked in our faces. Like all of us the electorate does not like having sand kicked in its face, and decided to kick back.

Continue reading “Voice of the Leader: June”

Voice of the Leader: May

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

This month I really must start with the results of the recent local elections in Medway on 2nd May.

Despite the highly amusing opening line on another website – “…with both sides claiming victory…”; together with the Leader of the Labour Party on his recent visit to Medway congratulating Medway Labour on victory the result is not in doubt.

Conservative 33; Labour 20; Independents 2. That is an emphatic Conservative victory, and allows us to go into the next four years with a very healthy 11-seat majority.

I write this not to be triumphalist, but to put the record straight following those woefully inaccurate comments.

At the Conservative Group AGM last week I was honoured to be re-elected Leader of our Group. The way ahead is now clear.

The next election for Medway residents to consider will be the European Election. If ever there was an election that should never be this is it! European elections are notoriously poorly supported, and this one will be no exception.

However there are a lot of angry people out there, and it would not surprise me if the turnout is higher than normal. The other thing which is widely predicted is that both main parties will get a drubbing at the ballot box, due to their collective inability to honour the result of the 2016 Referendum.

The sadness is that those parties which are standing in the election with the stated aim of stopping Brexit – deliberately promising to thwart the will of 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU – will gain votes quite possibly at the expense of those who are trying to deliver the referendum result.

It’s interesting to hear on both television and radio those who have won seats for minority parties saying that Brexit had no bearing on the local election results across the county. Rubbish!

Those of us who worked so hard in Medway know full well that there was a real groundswell of dissatisfaction among Conservative voters, and there is no doubt in my mind that but for that our victory would have been even greater.

May 23rd will come around soon enough, and then we will know how the good people of Medway (63% of whom voted to leave the EU) have reacted to their wishes being ignored.

Politicians play a dangerous game if they fail to honour a manifesto on which they have been elected. The difference between Conservative and Labour manifestos recently was palpable.

Medway Council budget and the Conservative manifesto align. That manifesto will cost £297 million in the first year to deliver, and everything is on place to do so. The least said about the Labour manifesto the better!

Post local elections it is now time to concentrate on the four years ahead. I remember being asked by a journalist at the election count once the result was clear what we would do next. My answer was unambiguous in that we will continue the work we have been doing.

That for me is taken as read, but we will enhance service delivery where ever we can. There are challenges ahead – not least the continuing shortage of money.

But we have the experience and the competence to make the best of what we have, and also the influence at governmental level to at least make our case for additional resources.

Most recently, thanks to the help of our three excellent MPs I have had three meetings with Ministers. Secretary of State for Health over the stroke unit at Medway Hospital; the Housing Minister about our Local Plan and housing delivery; and the Transport Minister about funding for the Medway Tunnel.

In each case we had useful meetings with some guidance about how to proceed. Only the future will demonstrate whether anything tangible comes from these meetings, but we have to keep putting Medway’s case.

Over the months ahead Medway will be seeing more ongoing change: our regeneration projects in Chatham, Strood, Gillingham, and at Rochester Airport will be further advanced. Those projects are going to pave the way for more homes, more road improvements and more jobs. What’s not to like about those?

Apart from money the biggest challenge confronting us is housing. This takes many forms, and we will be debating this over the months and years ahead.

For me the essentials are these: getting in place that new Local Plan, with part of that being informed by whether or not our Housing Infrastructure Fund bid of £170 million is successful; ensuring we have the right type of housing in the right place; and working even harder to reduce the number of rough sleepers on our streets to the absolute minimum.

Homelessness is a major problem for us to grapple with, but rough sleeping is the first priority in tackling this problem. Fortunately government has come up with over £900,000 over last year and this, and this money will certainly help.

As I wrote before the election these are among our priorities: ensuring we have the lowest council tax in Kent; retaining the best waste collection service in Kent, and indeed one of the best in the whole country; better roads than the rest of Kent; and retaining our libraries and community hubs as well as our excellent leisure offer.

On the people side of things to ensure that our vulnerable children and adults are being cared for, and that our education offer continues to improve. The demand for more Grammar school places is a high priority, as is ensuring sufficient places for SEN children. Both these are not without problems, but the job of running a large council is to recognise and then solve those problems.

Regeneration is not just about bricks and mortar. Yes, it is about building but it is also about creating a Medway that offers more jobs, prosperity and opportunity for all. That is why our ‘growth for all’ agenda is going to be vital over the next four years.

Alan Jarrett is the leader of Medway Council, leader of the Medway Conservative group, and councillor for Lordswood and Capstone.

Voice of the Leader: April

Once a month we are offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics. Today we hear from Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group.

Alan Jarrett

‘Going forward I promise that we will protect Medway from those who seek to close down facilities and services; against those who belittle Medway and its hard-working people; and against those who snub our military heritage and insult our monarchy.’

The place to start this month is surely Brexit (scream!). Between them our national politicians have brought shame on an ancient profession, by their collective refusal to honour the will of the people – in Medway 63% voted to leave.

That wasn’t to nearly leave; or sort of leave; or be asked to vote again on what was supposed to be a once in a generation vote. THAT WAS TO LEAVE!

I admit that my own party has not covered itself in glory, and the negotiations to leave have been very poorly handled. But when it comes to it the political game-playing by the Labour Party in parliament is the reason we are in yet another extension, and the reason we look almost certain to have to endure the charade of European elections!

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