The Week

Reviewing the Boundary Review
On Tuesday, the Boundary Commission for England unveiled their proposed new constituency boundaries. There were no huge changes for Medway, but a fair number of little ones. Higham will be brought into the Rochester and Strood constituency, Lordswood and Capstone will move to Gillingham and Rainham, and Chatham and Aylesford is set to become Chatham and the Mallings. The proposed boundaries are now subject to a lengthy consultation period, so it’ll be next year before we hear any final plans.

Radicalised French Radicals
It’s been a whirlwind week for the internal machinations of the Labour Party. We reported earlier in the week on the suspension of long time member and Momentum activist Alan Higgins, who was planning to stand as the Labour candidate for Strood South. Since this, Medway Momentum endorsed a new candidate, Brian Kelly, but now Higgins has been reinstated by the party, so we’ve no idea what’s going on there now.

Cherry picked
In a rare bout of organisation, the Medway Lib Dems managed to be the first party to select their candidate for the Strood South by-election. In an even more unusual step, they’ve selected a new – and young – candidate, 18 year old activist Isabelle Cherry. Cherry’s campaign will apparently focus on issues like school improvement, litter, and public transport, so all fairly safe, but at the least the Medway Lib Dems are putting up a fight once again.

Return of the Iles
In perhaps the least surprising Strood South selection, the Conservatives have selected Josie Iles as their candidate for the Strood South by-election. Iles is a former mayor of Medway, and was the Councillor for Strood South up until losing her seat to UKIP last year. Going into the election, she remains the odds on favourite to retake the seat.

Other Strood South candidates
Not much else to report on the Strood South by-election front, despite the fact that the election is a mere 31 days until the election takes place. UKIP have two candidates to choose between (one being former local chairman Chris Spalding), Medway Labour have about 800 people putting themselves forward, and the Greens apparently have a candidate, but are busy filling out the paperwork to announce who it is.

Councillor allowances
As per their legal obligations, Medway Council recently published the details of councillor allowances paid for 2015-2016. The small problem with this is that they seemingly did a horrifically sloppy job with it, as Medway blogger Alan Collins covered in forensic detail. The sheer number of errors in the document raises serious concerns about the openness and transparency of Medway Council.

Cabinet reshuffle
Following last week’s sad passing of Councillor Mike O’Brien, a necessary reshuffle took this week within the Cabinet. Councillor Andrew Mackness will take over O’Brien’s education portfolio, with new Councillor Martin Potter taking on the new portfolio of educational improvement. The former corporate services portfolio of Councillor Mackness will be split amongst several other Cabinet members.

Medway MPs in Parliament
Remarkably, Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised concerns in Parliament about the consequences that the EU referendum that she voted for has had on small businesses in her constituency. Meanwhile, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti once again spent his time banging on about laser pens.

Reviewing the boundary review

This morning saw the Boundary Commission for England publish the first proposals for their 2018 boundary review. The aim of the review is to reduce the number of MPs in parliament to 600 from 650, as well as creating roughly equal size constituencies. As you can imagine, this has caused some quite dramatic changes to the electoral map to be proposed.

But what do the changes mean for Medway and it’s three parliamentary constituencies?

Rochester and Strood

RS

By and large, Rochester and Strood remains broadly unchanged from it’s current layout. Some of the bizarre quirks remain, such as Chatham town centre remaining part of Rochester and Strood. The only significant change is the addition of Higham to the west of the constituency. Higham is not part of Medway on a council level (it falls under Gravesham), so it’s curious to see it moved into a primarily Medway constituency.

Gillingham & Rainham

GR

Also remaining largely unchanged in Gillingham and Rainham, which sees the addition of Lordswood and Capstone from the Chatham and Aylesford constituency. While the Capstone part of the ward might be a logical fit, it’s a bit of a stretch to consider Lordswood as part of Gillingham and Rainham, but here we are.

Chatham and Aylesford

CA

Chatham and Aylesford has always been a sprawling constituency, but the new version, now dubbed Chatham and The Mallings takes things to new heights. The area within Medway is reduced yet further with the loss of Lordswood and Capstone, and yet large swathes of Walderslade still remain outside of any Medway constituency.

Conclusions

While some of these proposals are something of a mess and not hugely helpful for local identity, they do make more sense than the previous proposals, which saw such strange suggestions as Hempstead and Wigmore joining Chatham, and Luton and Wayfield joining Gillingham. We have not assessed the electoral consequences for our MPs here, and at first glance, we’d suggest they will face no major changes from these proposals.

The consultation period for the new boundaries runs until 5 December, and the public are invited to offer feedback on them via the Boundary Commission’s 2018 Review website.

The Week

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, UKIP councillor for Strood South Catriona Brown-Reckless this week resigned from the council, having been elected only 16 months ago. This triggers a by-election in the Strood South ward, with a three way fight between UKIP, the Conservatives, and Labour for the seat taking place on October 20.

Remembering Mike O’Brien
Sad news this week as councillor Mike O’Brien, Conservative representative of Rainham Central and portfolio holder for Children’s Services, passed away. Mike had been a longstanding member of the local political scene, first being elected to Gillingham Borough Council in 1976 and Kent County Council in 1979.

Cabinet record
Not for the first time, the ruling Cabinet of Medway Council managed to conduct their business in record time this week. Despite having to discuss discretionary business rates relief for local charities and not for profit organisations, government proposals on the distribution of business rates, and a recruitment freeze, they managed to have everything wrapped up in 15 minutes. Because that’s how open and transparent democracy is done.

Boundary review
Plans that could quite literally change the shape of Medway politics will be unveiled on Tuesday, as the Boundary Commission release the first stage of their 2018 boundary review. The review is intended to reduce parliament to 600 seats from 650, and create constituencies of roughly equal size. Reasonable enough at first glance, but previous proposals have suggested moving Hempstead & Wigmore into Chatham and Aylesford, and Luton & Wayfield into Gillingham and Rainham. We’ll be pouring over the proposals in detail once they’re made available.

Local plan
The local plan stumbled forward slightly this week, with a meeting held in parliament to discuss it between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and, er, six other Conservative councillors. Given that the local plan is a vital document that will shape the direction of Medway over the coming years, it’s a shame that the direction is seemingly being directed by the Conservative benches and not a cross-party group.

Medway Labour website hackwatch, day 7182
After months and months of the Medway Labour website being hacked by someone dodgy, and the party doing nothing to fix or take down the site, councillor Tristan Osborne declared this week that something new is on the way! While we’re delighted to hear that something is actually happening, the Medway Labour group will have to excuse us if we don’t expect much this side of Christmas.

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council

Medway Council is set for it’s first by-election in several years, following the resignation of Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless.

Cllr Brown-Reckless was elected to represent Strood South as a UKIP councillor last year, and was deputy leader of the UKIP group on the council.

As such, a by-election will now need to be held to fill the vacancy in the ward, on a date to be decided in the near future.

It also means that the UKIP group on Medway Council has now been reduced from 4 to 2 since their election last year, with Cllr Brown-Reckless’ resignation following Cllr Joy’s decision to sit as an independent.

Strood South has been a split ward for some time now, with Conservative, Labour, and UKIP councillors all representing the ward in recent years, so a fierce by-election battle looks likely for the vacant seat.

The Week

Yeah yeah, it’s been a while. We’re also trying a new format as the old one was a pain in the arse.

Shopmobility shafting
Shopmobility services provide a vital way of disabled people getting around town centres. However, that hasn’t stopped Medway Council spectacularly changing theirs with next to no consultation. On Thursday 25th August, it announced that the existing provision in Chatham would be closing, replaced by a new service on 1st September. The new service is located at the opposite end of Pentagon Shopping Centre to the disabled car park, and charges have been introduced, making it far more difficult for disabled people to make use of the service. Disability campaigners, Medway Labour, and Conservative Chatham & Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch are unhappy about the changes, but we don’t expect much to be done to make this right.

Rochester Riverside plans
The regeneration scheme for Rochester Riverside has been dragging on for roughly 238 years now, but things might finally be getting moving. After appointing Countryside and Hyde to proceed with the project last year, Medway Council will be showing off the plans in a generous three hour window this Tuesday. The project is set to include 1,300 homes, school, hotel, bar, restaurant, offices, retail units, and a new riverside walk. What isn’t mentioned is transport infrastructure, which given the existing congestion on Corporation Street, is conspicuous by it’s absence. If you’re interested in taking a look at the plans for yourself, they will be on display at the Corn Exchange in Rochester on Tuesday 6th September, between 5pm and 8pm

Cabinet kerfuffle
Medway Council’s ruling cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss business rates, and, er, not much else. Being the good little citizen journalists we are, we’d like to be there, but alas they hold these supposedly ‘public’ meetings in the middle of the working day. We’ve looked and struggled to find other councils that make their democratic processes this inaccessible (most hold such meetings around 7pm), and we’ll be doing so in more depth going forwards.

NIMBYism in action
Once again, the Medway NIMBY brigade are out in force, this time objecting to a planning application for a new bar and restaurant on New Road in Chatham. For our money, the application seems to be put together pretty well, with continuous staffing of inside and outside areas, CCTV coverage, and a fairly strict licence request. That hasn’t stopped the locals being outraged at the idea though, claiming it’ll lead to anti-social behaviour and, weirdly, diners being beaten up. The giant boarded up shop that’s currently in it’s place is, of course, absolutely fine.

MedLabHack
Back in February, the Medway Labour website was hacked, with someone sticking some malicious content into it’s code. Remarkably, the website still remains in this state, with Medway Labour having done nothing to fix the issue, take the site down, or even warn users that visiting the site puts them at risk. This whole sorry ordeal has been going for over six months now, meaning the Medway Labour website has been hacked for a longer time than Tim Peake spent on the International Space Station.

“The only thing that cunt wants is a bullet between the eyes”
Interesting times at the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, which has been locked in huge infighting between it’s members. Police have been called to meetings that threatened to get out of hand, and a new report details some remarkable tales of bullying and intimidation (such as the quote above) that took place within the organisation. What does this have to do with Medway, we hear you ask? The former chair of the BASC, who resigned in June, is none other than Alan Jarrett, the leader of Medway Council.

Car-aoke challenge
As part of the September campaign for local charity Danny’s Angels, the Medway Labour group have taken part in a car-aoke challenge. We’ll be curious to see whether the other political groups in Medway take up the challenge, and The Political Medway has offered a generous donation if representatives of all five local political parties – Conservative, Labour, UKIP, Lib Dem, Green – all take part in a joint singalong. Will they accept the challenge?

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Referendum Special

Well.

That was something, wasn’t it?

We haven’t written an actual post about the referendum, because what can you say, really? We try and remain impartial with this site, yet this was a decision we cared greatly about, and impacts our futures in a big way.

In the next couple of days, we’ll get something up on the exact results from Medway and what it might mean, but for now, let’s do what we always do: snark mercilessly about what each of the parties have been up to in the past couple of weeks.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Neverendum
When it all came down it, our three Medway MPs managed to provide three different stances for where they stood on the referendum. Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst decided to focus on her career by endorsing remain, which will have seemed like a horrible mistake by Friday. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti went for leave, which probably sets himself up nicely for this post-Brexit world. Finally, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch decided to vote, but not tell us how. Which is absolutely her right, but we wonder how that might go down with her constituents down the line.

Also in Parliament
Unusually, Kelly Tolhurst asked a half arsed question about the balance of privacy and security in the Investigatory Powers Bill, and asked what turned out to be her final question to David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Medway Council

Oh, the humanity
The EU referendum saw a Medway turnout of 72.1%, and a split of 64.1% for leave to 35.9% for remain. Special shout out to the 27 Medway voters that managed to vote to both leave and remain in the EU. Various councillors and other folks weighed in on the referendum results here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The referendum bitterness reached the local Conservatives with Cllr Andrew Mackness, who acted as the election agent for Kelly Tolhurst, questioning the mandate of any MPs that supported remain. MPs like Kelly Tolhurst, for example.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 17 weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. And yes, we are going to mention this every single time until they do something about it.
It’s hard to keep track of all of the animosity between Labour councillors and activists on Twitter at this point, but it’s worth noting that three councillors – Tristan Osborne, Naushabah Khan, and Andy Stamp – all called for Corbyn to step down this week. Which went down with certain activists like a cup of warm sick.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because.. wait, why the hell would they be missing at this point?

Medway Liberal Democrats
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t thrilled about the referendum result, and dealt with it the best way they know how: a 60,000 word essay about it on their website.

Medway Green Party
The Greens are now jumpy about what the consequences are for the environment once the EU is out of the picture.
They’re also focussing on trivial issues like local homelessness too. We don’t know what’s got into them.

The Week in Medway Politics: Sell offs, Saudi, snooping

Medway MPs in Parliament

Rehman probed..
It’s from the Daily Mail, so probably best you treat it with a supersize pinch of salt, but Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti is facing a formal complaint in relation to his work for a Saudi think tank. Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat MP, has written to parliamentary authorities asking them to investigate the matter, suggesting Rehman’s often pro-Saudi comments in the Commons may be influenced by his £2,000 per month paydays from the Kingdom.

They’re listening
Unsurprisingly, the Investigatory Powers Bill swept through the Commons this week, after Labour decided to support the Conservatives on the mass collection of everyone’s communications data. Equally unsurprisingly, both Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted in favour of the plans. It’s rather tempting to cc our MPs on every email that we send, given they’re so interested in reading the content.

Medway Council

Get your surplus council resources here! part II
As expected, the Cabinet met this week to decide whether or not to sell seven sites around Medway for development. These range from the only disabled car park in Rochester to a building used by a charity in Gillingham to the library and community centre in Hook Meadow. Unsurprisingly, they began the process of disposal of these sites, in a move that looks to be hugely unpopular with many residents.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
An action packed week for local Conservatives as both Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Minister Michael Fallon came to visit.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 15 weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, 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 there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
A busy week ahead for the Medway Lib Dems as this week they’re be out both leafletting and with a street stall in Gillingham on Saturday! We can’t remember the last time they were so active.

Medway Green Party
A rare quiet week for Medway Greens, but they were apparently out on Rochester High Street campaigning yesterday. Anyone see ’em?

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Decisions, swimming, sell offs

Medway MPs in Parliament

Rehmain Rehmout
Following weeks of excitemen.. mild interest, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti finally declared that he would be campaigning for a leave vote in the upcoming European referendum. It was a slightly surprising stance for Chishti to take, as he’ll usually do exactly what his government expects of him, but he seems to think this position more fairly represents the views of his constituents.

Meanwhile, in Rochester..
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst shocked absolutely no one by declaring that she’ll be supporting the remain campaign in the referendum. This is despite the fact her constituency will be one of the most euroskeptic in the country, and that she was clearly advocating for leave during her campaigns. Of course, now she’s elected she needs to do what she can for her own career, so she’s going for remain, and has issued a statement roughly the same length as War and Peace to justify her decision.

Medway Council

Get your surplus council resources here!
This week, the Cabinet will meet and decide whether or not to sell seven sites around Medway for development. These range from the only disabled car park in Rochester to a building used by a charity in Gillingham to the library and community centre in Hook Meadow. Most of these sales are likely to be highly controversial, but if the council is set on disposing these sites, not much will be able to stop them.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
After months of silence, the Rochester and Strood Conservatives have declared that they will soon be launching a new website. Hooray!

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 14 weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, 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.
Unsurprisingly, they’re grumpy about the above proposals to sell off various council sites across Medway.
That pales in comparison to their grumpiness over the reduced opening hours at the Strand Lido though.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
After five street stalls in as many weeks, with a grand finale in Rochester, we can’t wait to see where the Lib Dems pop up next. Or are they all tuckered out for a while after so much hard campaigning?

Medway Green Party
Along with Medway Labour, they aren’t happy about the reduction of opening hours at the Strand Lido.
Perhaps it should be expected, but they’re also a little antsy about the 30,000 homes that Medway are going to have to build somewhere.
A rare sighting of the Medway Greens out campaigning too, as they pitched up in Rochester High Street. Right next to the Lib Dems.

Other News

REGISTER TO VOTE
In case you didn’t notice, there is a referendum thing coming up in a few weeks, and it could have pretty big consequences. To vote, you need to be registered by this Tuesday (7 June), so if you’re not registered, or even unsure if you are, head over and sort yourself out. It only takes five minutes.

The Week in Medway Politics: New mayor, not so new Cabinet

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
Just the Queens Speech in Parliament this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much. In the lengthy debate that began following the speech, Gilingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti managed to ask the Prime Minister about where the line on free speech and extremism should be drawn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was worrying vague.

Medway Council

Meet new cabinet, same as the old cabinet
This week, the Conservative administration of Medway Council announced who will be in the cabinet for the coming year. It should come as little surprise that the cabinet remains unchanged from last year, meaning Medway will continue to be represented by a cabinet that’s 100% white and 90% male. Just like Medway itself, obviously.

Meet the new mayor, different to the old mayor
This week, Medway’s new mayor and deputy mayor officially took up their positions, with Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter and Princes Park councillor Gloria Opara taking on the respective roles. Tranter replaces previous mayor Barry Kemp in the role, who is stepping back after two years in the role, as detailed in this glowing profile from the Medway Messenger.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because after winning the Police and Crime Commissioner election, there’s not much for them to do until 2019.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been twelve weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, 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
Missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
Usually, political parties out campaigning give you some nonsense about everything was so brilliant for them. So it’s refreshing to see such honesty from the Medway Lib Dems, who cheerily announced that they had “some” positive responses to their campaigning in Chatham.
If you’ve missed the previous dates on their tour, you’ve got one more chance to catch them as they descend on Rochester High Street at 10am this Saturday.

Medway Green Party
They haven’t done so for several weeks, so happily the Medway Greens are once again sharing stories of opposition to the proposed option for the Lower Thames Crossing.

Other News

Rehman about town
This week, Rehman Chishti managed to have his photo taken with the new mayor, the new deputy mayor, Kelly Tolhurst, a balcony of his block of flats, some children, the Gillingham stadium, the Strand, a blurry Attorney General, runners at the Race for Life, some confused cricketers, and a soggy Hempstead Fair.

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