The Week in Medway Politics: Bungalows, commissioners, apologies

Medway MPs in Parliament

Recess
Parliament was in recess this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much there, but that didn’t stop Tracey Crouch getting herself into trouble (see below).

Medway Council

Bungalow Bonanza
Medway Council has begun the ‘largest council-built bungalow development’ in the UK. The ‘largest’ being a grand total of 32 dwellings. Which is nice and all, but Medway has thousands on it’s housing waiting lists.

Local Plan
Medway Council will soon beginning drawing up a new local plan, identifying development sites for the coming years. Which will definitely go well.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Conservatives have announced their shortlist for their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner next year. None of the names on the list are particularly relevant to Medway.

Medway Labour
The party have taken the opportunity to crow that changes to Sunday trading rules have been delayed. Despite the fact Scotland has more relaxed Sunday trading, the SNP have decided to block such moves for the rest of us. Ain’t democracy grand?

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumably not entirely sure what they should be doing.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, presumed ignored.

Medway Green Party
The Greens have called for a Medway cabinet portfolio holder to be dedicated to rural areas, wildlife, biodiversity, and all that kind of stuff.
Apparently they’ve also been canvassing in Rochester. Has anyone actually spotted ’em?

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Crouchrage
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch gave a fairly wide ranging and interesting interview to the Spectator, and in one fairly throwaway section, suggesting that certain constituents who are struggling financially should perhaps give up things like Sky TV. Cue the usual outrage machine going into overdrive, followed by the inevitable apology.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with constituents Colin and Carol, the High Commissioner of Bruneiradiographers from Kent Oncology Centre, a distillery with Kelly Tolhurst, stuffed toys at the Women’s Institute, a church Santa, some men at a football match, and folks at the Medway Hindu Temple. Even on his week off, Rehman doesn’t fail to get around.

The Week in Medway Politics: Fireworks, anger, and beer

A fairly quiet week, but this is whats been happening in Medway politics in the last seven days..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Slow week
Nothing much happened from a Medway perspective in Parliament this week. Tracey Crouch answered some questions, Kelly Tolhurst brought up immigration, and all three MPs voted in every vote they were able to.

Medway Council

Fireworks
Seemingly the only thing Medway Council has been focusing on this week is blowing up a bit of the sky on Saturday. They did it pretty well though.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumed hibernating until April 2019.

Medway Labour
Medway Labour want some payday lenders hung, drawn, and quartered.
They also decided Remembrance Sunday would be a good time to make a political point about police cuts.

Medway UKIP
Former Medway UKIP candidate created a Twitter account just to tell us Medway UKIP are still active, but we still haven’t seen much proof of that.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week they’re outraged about roaming charges and Right to Buy.
They also confirmed that they will fight the 2016 Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, after not bothering in 2012.

Medway Green Party
After moaning at us last week for not checking their Facebook page, we’ve now learnt they’re unhappy about development in the Capstone Valley, and excited about a beer festival. Fair enough.

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with Admiral Lord West, the team at St. Matthews Church, Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, Speaker John Bercow, staff and pupils at The Howard School, staff at Medway NHS Trust, the CEO of MHS Homes, a solitary constituent in Rainham, and Santa. Say what you want about Rehman, the man gets around.

Return of the Mackness

We kind of thought we’d be done writing about the restriction of public questions at Medway Council. We did our little experiment, published our thoughts more than once, and the whole thing was inevitably waved through at last month’s council meeting. So imagine our surprise when Cllr Andrew Mackness, the portfolio holder behind the changes, got in touch following the vote to comment on our approach. His statement is presented below, unedited:

I can appreciate the frustration of running a political blog and only getting a limited response from members, I really can. I would also note that any resident committing time to blogging about local government should be commended. Not least the commitment to still be at full council going into the 5th day of Local Democracy week!
However, it is disingenuous to infer that because members haven’t responded to an overtly political blog that they are not responding to constituents. I am sure that my colleagues from across the chamber won’t mind me saying that the great majority of ward work is apolitical and that as a ward councillor you don’t assess a case for its political volatility or opportunity to score points. Having just given evidence to the Independent Remuneration Panel, when their report comes out, I understand it will have an analysis of the time commitments made by ward councillors. I hope that this will be a more concrete form of evidence than a round robin email. When it comes out, I would be happy to bring the report to your attention, if this would be of help.

We appreciate the fact that Cllr Mackness has taken time to respond to us on this issue, but unfortunately, we also feel we must take issue with some points he raises.

We accept that a “round robin” email isn’t a good way to assess how well councillors are doing their jobs, nor was it necessarily supposed to prove that one way or the other. The intent behind our experiment was to simply see how likely one was to get a response, as email has often been cited as an alternative option given the removal of questions in the chamber.

The problem here is the removal of the public record. Of course this kind of email isn’t an ideal way to see how well a councillor does their job, and nor should it be, but when the on the record options in the chamber was severely restricted, exactly how else are we supposed to judge how responsive a councillor is? We know a good number of councillors from all parties go considerably above and beyond their duties, just as we know there are some that don’t. The issue is that as each aspect of public scrutiny is removed, it becomes increasingly difficult for the average member of the public to gauge how much their councillor is doing.

It’s also disappointing that we’re being painted as an “overtly political blog”, though we’re not entirely sure how to be a covertly political blog. We have stances, but we have gone to great lengths to engage and give a platform to parties and politicians of all stripes. Even if Cllr Mackness feels we don’t deserve to be regarded as press when it comes to politics in Medway, it’s unfortunate that we weren’t seen as deserving as answers as residents either.

We’ll be very happy to look at (and cover) the findings of the Independent Renumeration Panel on how much councillors are doing, in the same way we’re happy to look at anything that gives us a glimpse into how councillors are or are not performing. Until then though, we’ll go on the evidence we’ve managed to collect so far.

Unless something changes in the coming months, this will likely be the last gasp of the public questions issue for now.

The Week in Medway Politics: By-election, snow, and tampons

Just time for a quick round-up of the week’s events in Medway politics..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Tampon tax
All three Medway MPs voted to maintain sanitary products as “non-essential luxury items”. All three have since defended their vote, arguing it’s not as clear cut as it appears, and you can read their responses here: Rehman Chishti, Tracey Crouch, Kelly Tolhurst.

Pakistan
Rehman Chishti introduced a brief debate in the Commons on the nature of the UK’s support for Pakistan, which you can read in full here.

Medway Council

Cuxton by-election
A parish by-election this week in Cuxton, where a straight two-way battle was fought between independent candidate Tracy Thorley and Conservative candidate (and former Mayor of Medway) Josie Iles. In the end, it wasn’t even remotely a close run contest, with Thorley defeating Iles with 434 votes to 90.

Snow wardens
Medway Council is seeking volunteers to clear snow because they can’t manage it themselves.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
All quiet – there’s no elections on for another four years now.

Medway Labour
This week they have they threatened to hold the Conservative cabinet to account. Somehow.
They’ve written to Sajid Javid to demand it remains impossible to get a pint of milk or a prescription on a Sunday evening.
They apparently support the council’s Cycling Action Plan. The council has a Cycling Action Plan?
Former parliamentary candidate Tristan Osborne is very unhappy about Police & Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes, which is nothing to do with the position being up for election next year. Certainly not.

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumed confused.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They’re outraged about some rubbish that wasn’t collected until they reported and then it was. Alrighty then.
They’re also outraged about the changes to public questions, but then who isn’t?

Medway Green Party
Missing, presumed defected to Labour.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably searching for missing votes.

Other News

Rehman’s About Town
This week, Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with scouts in Hempstead, students at MidKent College, poppy sellers in Gillingham, his own face, the team from Kings Treasure Church, more poppy sellers, and, er, Lembit Opik. Phew!

If you ask a public question via email, and nobody responds, does it make a sound?

So, what are we to make of Medway Council’s proposal to limit public questions because email is apparently a good alternative when hardly any councillors answer their emails?

As our investigation established, only 14 out of 55 Medway councillors bothered to reply to questions. More damningly, not a single member of the Cabinet – the councillors that currently answer public questions in meetings – responded in any way.

To reiterate, the people that are currently forced to answer questions at meetings are the least likely to answer public questions by choice.

At the previous council meeting, Cllr Mackness, the portfolio holder in charge of this issue, insisted that public questions were not needed because residents can contact him via email.

Cllr Mackness did not respond to our email with questions on the subject.

That is not to say that public questions at Medway Council meetings shouldn’t be reformed in any way. Many councils only allow the public to ask one question and a supplementary at meetings, whereas Medway allows two plus two supplementaries. A number of councils limit any member of the public to only asking questions at two meetings per year, whereas Medway allows the same person to ask questions at every meeting, so four times per year.

A more interesting arrangement is that a number of councils have a smaller number of public questions at full council meetings, but allow 10-15 minutes of public questions at all other meetings, from planning committees to overview and scrutiny committees. This allows questions to be asked, on the record, at more specialist meetings, on relevant topics. If the aim of the proposed changes to stop grandstanding at the (relatively) well attended full council meeting, this would seem like a good solution that still maintains public scrutiny. Indeed, Tony Jeacock, the Medway Liberal Democrat chairman will ask whether or not this is possible at Thursday’s meeting.

It is unlikely that much can be done to stop the proposals. They will go to a vote on Thursday, and the Conservatives have such a stranglehold over the council in Medway, with the councillors terrified of defying the party whip, that it seems all but certain that these changes will happen. With four years until the next elections and an opposition that borders on irrelevant, it’s very likely that after Thursday, proper public scrutiny in Medway will be a thing of the past.

iFAQs: Public Questions

Revised 16 Oct: Included late response from Cllr Vince Maple, and explanation for lack of responses from Cllr Dan McDonald.

Medway Council are planning to curb the number and type of public questions that they need to answer at public meetings. We’ve covered the situation fairly extensively previously.

During the last meeting, the Cllr Mackness, who is the portfolio holder in charge of this matter, stated that public questions weren’t as important as there were various ways to contact a councillor, specifically highlighting email.

As a result of this claim, we decided to email every single councillor in Medway with some questions about, well, public questions. We emailed every councillor on September 6, informing them that they had until September 21, a little over two weeks to respond. We’ll be analysing the full outcome in a future post, but for now, their full answers are presented below:

  • At the October Full council meeting, the Cabinet Member for Corporate services will be making recommendations regarding questions to the council.
    How do you intend to vote on the recommendation which includes the following motions?
    b.      Removal of a facility for second and supplementary questions.
    c.       Limiting any person, organisation or Member to no more than one question at each Council meeting.
    d.      Discontinuation of the practice of allowing substitutes to ask questions if a questioner cannot be present with a written answer to be supplied after the meeting instead.

The first part of your question, I am not at liberty to answer and you may find that the same for most councillors.  This is due to attending a discussion on a subject not pre-disposed, which is against the democratic process (I am aware that political groups have decided how they will vote prior to the meeting through group whips).  The use of Whips is undemocratic in itself as they breach every level of code of conduct going as they are used to persuade there members how to vote, when apparently they represent there constituents..
As an independent, I have the luxury of listening to a debate (and taking part if I can assist) prior to making a vote
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Yes, I do intend to support the Conservative group regarding questions. I understand both sides of the argument but believe this will provide an opportunity for more people to take part.  Frankly it is just one tiny part of the way we listen to residents as everyone who understands the council will know. Anyone can easily contact me directly by phone, email or by letter. I normally respond immediately and I will always meet if that is what they prefer. Personally I think surgery is a bit outdated these days and I prefer to arrange meetings at a time that suits the resident and then give them as much time as they need.
Similarly, if residents prefer than can contact any cabinet member directly or even the leader. Speaking in full council can be very intimidating for most people, and I suspect in some cases it is more likely to attract those who like a big audience and the chance of press coverage.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

b. Do not agree
c. Do not agree
d. Do not agree
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I am not sure how I will vote yet.
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

Voting against all because Labour proposed the motion to stop this in the first place
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

b. Voted against
c. Voted against
d. Voted against
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

I intend to oppose all the measures which are proposed to limit the rights of Members, and members of the public, to participate in council meetings.  I intend to vote against all these measures.
Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)

As you know, occasionally the high volume of public questions received for full Council meetings means it is not always possible to deal with them all in the thirty minutes allowed for public questions. It therefore seems wholly reasonable to try and address this democratic shortcoming, despite the criticism it may bring from a vocal minority e.g. opposition councillors and your own organisation.
The public rightly ask questions of councillors at all times, at meetings, via correspondence and on the phone. The opportunity to do so at full council is part of this right but I am sure any right minded person would agree that it is reasonable to ensure such rights have some limitations i.e. questions should not be repeatedly hijacked by a minority, should not unduly impact on the efficient and sensible running of Council business nor cause unnecessary delay and inefficiency.

I have considered the proposed changes carefully. The fact that 30 minutes for public questioning (as is the case at present) will be maintained under the proposed changes and that anyone who has not received a response within the time limits will receive a full written reply after the full council meeting, means that I would support these proposals as things stand.
I am very keen to ensure public questions are opened to a greater number and wider variety of local residents and the changes proposed appear to be an effective way of achieving this.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

b. AGAINST
c. AGAINST
d. AGAINST
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

As all Councillors should I will listen to the debate and vote as I think best.
Cllr David Wildey (Con)

I WOULD NEED TO SEE THE ACTUAL AGENDA WORDING FIRST HOWEVER ASSUMING THAT IT FOLLOWS WHAT IS WRITTEN HERE, I WOULD BE VOTING:
b. IN PRINCIPLE FOR
c. IN PRINCIPLE FOR (A QUESTION ABOUT INTERPRETATION OF AN “ORGANISATION” THOUGH?)
d. IN PRINCIPLE FOR
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

For
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 12 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con), Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con), Cllr John Williams (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

My position on this is well documented – our full position will be clear on the evening of the 15th
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • It has been suggested that these changes will not affect the democratic process because Councillors are available for surgeries and via email.
    Can you confirm your surgery details, as taken from the council website, are accurate?
    [ individual details inserted ]
    Can you confirm, through reply, that your email address, as taken from the council website, is valid?
    [ individual details inserted ]

I can confirm that I do hold surgeries every Wednesday between 10am and 12 noon at St Francis of Assisi church as per council website.
Cllr John Avey (Con)

I have now set up ward surgeries at Strood Community Hub on the second Saturday of the month starting this Saturday 10.00am to 12.00pm.  My email address is correct.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Yes my contact details on the web site are correct, but I think the picture was taken when I was much older!
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

yes
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

Yes, these are the accurate surgery details and my email is correct.
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

We no longer have the Maidstone Road surgery as it was unpopular,the Delce is correct we also do street by street surgeries where residents are notified in advance that we are coming and asked to display a “stop here” leaflet in their window on the day if they don’t want to just look out for us.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

These were accurate. I am currently liaising with Chatham Central colleagues on new dates due to the opening shortly of the All Saints Project. Once dates are confirmed here a new set of dates will be released for Luton Library.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Many Thanks for your email, especially in relation to the council website and my surgery details. I will get this updated asap. However, as you do point out my email address is on the web site and my details are also published in Medway Matters, so my constituents can contact me if they so wish.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I will update the website and surgery details if needed ASAP.
I can confirm my email is correct.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Gillingham councillors hold a street surgery in Gillingham High Street on the first Saturday of each month.
The email address you have is the correct one.
Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)

With regard to your list of questions about my contact details, these are correctly listed on the Medway Council web site.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

NO LONGER  TAKES PLACE
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

CORRECT
CORRECT
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

Surgery details are in the process of being updated on the website. They should be up in the next few days.
Correct
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 14 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con)Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con), Cllr David Wildey (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

That is correct although it will be changing very shortly to move to a new venue of the Magpie Centre and will be held on a Saturday Morning.  Roving Surgeries will continue.
Correct
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • What is an acceptable turn around time for a resident to wait for a response to an email?

it is dependent on the question, some can be turned around in a few days, most by 10 days, some a little longer. You also have to take into account whether the councillor  works or not.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind).

I respond immediately – sometimes within the hour but normally in a day or 2. I have no admin support, so if away it might take longer. I have email with me all the time. I dealt with this enquiry in less than 4 hours.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

7 days
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I try to respond to all resident emails within 5 to 7 days which I believe is reasonable
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

I try to respond within 3 days to emails and will arrange face to face to meetings according to urgency, mainly when constituents need to show me documents or require more emotional support. These take place at Gun Wharf or the LP office depending on convenience for residents.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

One working day for holding email or response
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I personally acknowledge my emails soon as I see them, face to face meetings are arranged at a time convenient to both myself and the resident.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

I respond to all emails that require a response as soon as I have read them, this is not always on the same day as receipt owing to the fact I am currently unable to check my account every day but it is usually within two or three days at most. Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

3 DAYS
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.
Cllr David Wildey (Con)

SAME / FOLLOWING DAY FOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT / HOLDING REPLY (UNLESS AWAY / COUNCILLOR ATTENDING EVENING MEETINGS ON A COUNCILLOR’S DAY JOB DAY), SUBSTANTIVE REPLY WILL DEPEND ON WHERE INFORMATION HAS TO BE GATHERED FROM AND RESPONSE TIME OF OFFICERS TO THOSE REQUESTS
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

1-3 days
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

It varies issue to issue, some issues are very straight forward and can be answered immediately – others more complex and can take longer.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • What is an acceptable response time to arrange a face to face meeting?

not sure on this still learning.  But been advised not to meet people one to one alone.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Again, the first date available to both parties. Normally less than a week. If urgent, quicker. I have been known to meet up within 30 minutes.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

7days unless urgent
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

I try and arrange face to face meetings within 2 weeks of a request
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)

I try to respond within 3 days to emails and will arrange face to face to meetings according to urgency, mainly when constituents need to show me documents or require more emotional support. These take place at Gun Wharf or the LP office depending on convenience for residents
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)

Depending on availability of member no more than two working weeks.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)

Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I personally acknowledge my emails soon as I see them, face to face meetings are arranged at a time convenient to both myself and the resident. I always copy in my ward  colleagues so they are aware of the work I am dealing with so they can help or take over if I am not available.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

As and when needed. I regualarly meet with  residents and will meet with them in their homes if convenient for the resident. We can also meet at Rochester and Strood CLP headquarters at 73 Maidstone Road, Rochester or in the Labour Group room at Gun Wharf
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.

Cllr David Wildey (Con)

SAME / FOLLOWING DAY TO ACKNOWLEDGE / ARRANGE (UNLESS FALLS AS NOTED ABOVE) AND A FEW DAYS FOR ACTUAL MEETING TO HAPPEN AS DEPENDENT ON WHEN CONTACTED (IE IF ON A DAY WHEN COUNCILLOR IS AT THEIR DAY JOB)
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

ASAP if convenient. If not, 5 days to a week of request.
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

Sometimes diaries can be very busy through no-one’s fault but I always try and see a resident if they ask for a face to face meeting no more than two weeks after contact, and most of the time a lot sooner.  As I live in the ward, sometimes people will just knock on my door to raise an issue or concern.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

  • If you are unavailable who would you recommend a resident speaks to?

I will always try and direct a resident to the relevant council department or officer.
Cllr Mark Joy (Ind)

Kelly Tolhurst, who is also a councillor in Rochester West, or, if appropriate, a cabinet member. Of course, they can also contact council officers direct.  If anyone was having difficulty getting hold of their councillor try contacting Democratic Services.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con)

I would personally recommend person to speak to who can take matter forward
Cllr Roy Freshwater (UKIP)

If I am unavailable, I recommend residents address:
– other Ward Councillors
– Chairman or Vice Chair of the relevant Committee
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard (Con)
If I’m not available my ward colleague is the first port of call,for some topics I will ask the MP eg immigration.
Cllr Teresa Murray (Lab)
I would offer a meeting with my fellow ward Councillors’ Sam Craven and Mike Franklin should I not be available but this is extremely rare. If the issue is related to non-council related business; welfare assessment, immigration appeals, I would refer to MPs office.
Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab)
Personally, I send an acknowledge on receipt of an email as soon as I see it, this evening both I and my fellow ward councillor had a face to face meeting within hours of being help being requested and I always copy in my ward colleagues so that they are fully aware of anything that I’m dealing with so that they can assist or take over in my absence.
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con)

I always copy in my ward  colleagues so they are aware of the work I am dealing with so they can help or take over if I am not available.
Cllr John Williams (Con)

Since first being elected four months ago I have responded to dozens of emails and general correspondence, met with a number of constituents who have requested meetings face to face, undertaken site visits and have not yet had any occasion where I have been deemed “unavailable”.
Cllr Phil Hall (Con)

Cllr Teresa Murray, my ward colleague
Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab)

Your other questions all depends on the reasons residents get in touch.

Cllr David Wildey (Con)

FELLOW WARD COLLEAGUES, THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION INCLUDED IN MY EMAIL SIGNATURE BLOCK
Cllr Trevor Clarke (Con)

Wendy Purdy
Cllr Asha Saroy (Con)

We received responses to this question from 13 out of 55 councillors.
Apologies for not responding due to personal reasons were received from Cllr Dan McDonald (Lab).
We received no response within the time frame from Cllr John Avey (Con)Cllr Tashi Bhutia (Con), Cllr David Brake (Con), Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless (UKIP), Cllr David Carr (Con), Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), Cllr Rehman Chishti (Con), Cllr Jane Chitty (Con), Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab), Cllr Sam Craven (Lab), Cllr Howard Doe (Con), Cllr Matt Fearn (Con), Cllr Phil Filmer (Con), Cllr Michael Franklin (Con), Cllr Dorte Gilry (Lab), Cllr Paul Godwin (Lab), Cllr Sylvia Griffin (Con), Cllr Glyn Griffiths (Lab), Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), Cllr Peter Hicks (Con), Cllr Steve Iles (Con), Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con), Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab)Cllr Barry Kemp (Con), Cllr Naushabah Khan (Lab), Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), Cllr Vince Maple (Lab), Cllr Mike O’Brien (Con), Cllr Gloria Opera (Con), Cllr Mick Pendergast (UKIP), Cllr Martin Potter (Con), Cllr Adam Price (Lab), Cllr Wendy Purdy (Con), Cllr David Royale (Con), Cllr Julie Shaw (Lab), Cllr Andy Stamp (Lab), Cllr Habib Tejan (Con), Cllr Kelly Tolhurst (Con), Cllr Rupert Turpin (Con), Cllr Les Wicks (Con).

We received the following response from after the deadline had passed, but before this article was published:

If it is an issue in Chatham Central then my two colleagues Paul Godiwn or Julie Shaw, if someone is contacting me as Labour Leader then either Teresa in her role as Deputy Leader or the relevant Labour Spokesperson.
Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)

We received answers from, on average, less than a quarter of councillors to each questions, and even some that did reply barely answered the questions asked. We’ll be analysing the answers we did receive, along with those that we didn’t, in a second post tomorrow.

Neil4Corbyn

The Green Party candidate for Gillingham & Rainham at the last general election, Neil Williams, has defected to the Labour Party. Williams cited Jeremy Corbyn’s recent victory as the main motivation for his decision.

Williams, who presumably only a few weeks ago didn’t ‘support the aims and values of the Labour Party’, hasn’t always been quite so happy with the way the party does things:

Still, it’s all happy families now, with Medway Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple saying “it is great to welcome Neil to the Labour Party”.

Medway Labour have apparently seen a surge in membership over the past few weeks, presumably inspired by Jeremy Corbyn. It’ll be interesting to see how well these new members manage to work with the more traditional members of the party, and if any other candidates from the Greens or TUSC decide to make the jump to the party.

Added 25 September:
Of course, we’ve been here before, and that didn’t exactly go well.

Toll Hurts Kelly’s Constituents

Recent readers of the Medway Messenger (August 7) may have been shocked to read that newly elected Member of Parliament for Rochester & Strood, Councillor Kelly Tolhurst, was being stopped from doing her bit to help out the local community:

A group of business people set up to improve Rochester will lose out on tens thousands of pounds due to financial red tape.

Kelly Tolhurst wanted to donate her council allowances to the Rochester Town Centre Forum after she became MP for Rochester and Strood and also held onto her council seat in Rochester West in May.

Of course, a councillor choosing to donate their allowance to a good cause is a noble endeavour. So what “financial red tape” was stopping Kelly from donating her council allowance to the Town Centre Forum?

Tax law.

Because council allowances are paid directly to councillors, they are taxed like any other income. Just like they would be if you or I or anyone else decided to donate some money to a good cause. You pay tax, and then you can do what you like with whatever is left. Apparently this is an outrage to the esteemed Member of Parliament though.

The numbers

Rochester Town Centre Forum claims to currently have around £2,000 per year, that it mostly spends on Christmas lights.

Kelly Tolhurst wanted to donate her full council allowance of £8,730, which would have given the Forum £10,730.

Having to pay income tax, like the rest of us, would result in Cllr Tolhurst “only” being able to donate £5,238 to the Forum, leaving them with a measly £7,238.

As this would only be a mere 262% increase for the Forum, Rochester West’s Councillor has decided not to bother donating the money, and as such it will remain in the council account for no particular purpose.

If Cllr Tolhurst had followed through on this donation over her four year term, the Forum would have received nearly £21,000 in additional funds. But this won’t happen, all so she can avoid paying some tax.

The beneficiary

Although it’s rather moot at this stage, it is rather curious that Tolhurst would select the Rochester Town Centre Forum as her intended beneficiary. While any town centre can always use additional funds, her constituency also contains Strood town centre, Cuxton, Halling, and the villages of the peninsula. Surely any of these centres would benefit as much as, if not far more than, the town centre of Rochester.

The solutions

It would appear that rather than grandstanding on this issue, if they really did want to support the town centres of her constituency, there are a number of possible solutions:

The most logical would be to accept the council allowance, pay the legally required tax, and donate the remaining £21,000 to either Rochester Town Centre Forum or between the town centres in her constituency. After all, this money is urgently needed:

“The High Street Forum are working on projects around promotion, increasing footfall and tidying up the high street but there’s no money left to do any initiatives.

They are working on starting a Saturday artisan market and this money would have helped.”

With this being the case, there is a larger gesture that Tolhurst could make: Replace the £3,492 per year that is lost to tax with a donation from her parliamentary salary.

After all, MPs were recently given a raise of £5,588. Tolhurst could make up the figure lost, provide a nice boost to the town centres, and still be left with a yearly salary in excess of £70,000.

What do you say Kelly?