Boring History: Independence Day

In which Chris Sams manages to tenuously link Independence Day to Medway politics..

The 4th of July is one of those dates we remember much like 1066, 1940 and 1348, I mean who can forget the date that Will Smith and that doctor from Jurassic Park saved the world from alien invasion?

The 4th July is, of course, the American Independence day. A date when the American nation celebrates breaking the union of the thirteen colonies with the English Empire in a move that is seen as driven by taking control of their own affairs, greater freedoms and democracy but in reality was all about dodging paying tea tax. Seems fair? Well, the mists of time and a popular history has hidden a few of the salient facts..

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Voice of the Opposition: July

Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics.

Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.


I’m writing this month’s Voice of the Opposition at the Local Government Association (LGA) Conference taking place this year in Bournemouth. This is an annual event which sees councillors from all political parties as well as senior council officers coming together to look at the state of the nation.

This year we will hear from people like the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and the Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis. Alongside this hearing from senior Labour politicians including Keir Starmer who addressed the Labour Group. During the session I raised with him the issue of devolution and the need for quality jobs and skills agenda in post Brexit Medway.

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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.

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iFAQ: National Citizen Service

For our iFAQ this week, we decided to ask councillors, smaller parties, and other relevant stakeholders for their views on what National Citizen Service does for Medway. Partly because we’re two middle aged guys who know very little about the NCS, and partly because it’s been in the news a bit recently.

As usual, we told all of them that we would publish their responses unedited. You can find them below in the order they were received.

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The (Non-)Elected Mayor of Medway

Once a month we hand over to Alan Collins from Medway Elects who digs into the Medway electoral data to try to tell us what it all means. This month we sent him the fun task of looking at the murky world of Medway’s Mayoral system…

A cursory glance at the Medway Conservative Group website this past weekend would have you believe that this blog’s favourite (or is it the other way around?) councillor Steve Iles is the “elected mayor” of Medway.


Except, he’s not. And not just because he handed over the reigns (chains?) to his former deputy Habib Tejan at last month’s annual council meeting.

The fact is that neither Cllr Iles nor Cllr Tejan are the elected mayor of Medway for the very simple reason that Medway does not have an elected mayor, or at least not an elected mayor as provided for in section 9H of the Local Government Act 2000, which states that an “elected mayor” is:

“an individual elected as mayor of the authority by the local government electors for the authority’s area in accordance with the provisions made by or under this Part.”

An elected mayor is the executive leader of the local authority, elected by the people under the supplementary voteelectoral system. In (very) simplified form, in Medway it would be the equivalent position to that currently occupied by Cllr Alan Jarrett, but elected by a larger support base than being given the position on the nod by councillors who were elected by just 34% of the 31% of voters who turned out. Instead of a leader chosen from among the councillors and a cabinet, it would be a mayor who could not simultaneously be a councillor and a cabinet. Similar functions as a leader, but with more power balanced by direct democratic accountability for their policies and decisions.

According to that great font of knowledge Wikipedia, 15 local authorities in England and Wales currently have an elected mayor, while a further 9 mayors represent a multi-authority region (such as Greater London). Three local authorities (Hartlepool, Stoke-on-Trent and Torbay) used to have an elected mayor, but decided it wasn’t for them and reverted to a leader and cabinet system after local referenda. Of those 24 mayors, none represent Medway, which perhaps makes the discussion in this article so far purely academic. So why bring it up?

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iFAQ: The next Prime Minister

We’re not going to lie. Our iFAQ this week is a true classic of the genre. Not for our question, but for the response it yielded.

You might have noticed that we are in the midst of a Conservative leadership election, which will ultimately decide the next Prime Minister of the country and the direction of travel we’ll be taking on Brexit and other issues. As such, we decided to ask our 33 Conservative councillors who they will be supporting, and what their chosen candidate would do for their residents in Medway.

As usual, we told all of them that we would publish their responses unedited. You can find them below in the order they were received.

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Voice of the Opposition: June

Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics.

Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.


Following the local elections around 110,000 of Medway’s residents are now directly represented by Labour. I’m proud that we increased from 15 to 20 councillors and I welcome Siju, Harinder, Simon, Jo, Hazel, John, Mark, and Chrissy, along with welcoming back Stephen to the Labour & Co-operative Group.

We didn’t get the extra few councillors we would have needed to form an administration and that is disappointing. We will continue to be a constructive opposition group; offering criticism where the administration are getting it wrong and working collectively when there is cross-party consensus, as we have seen in the battle to defend stroke services in Medway.

I wanted to take a look back at some key decisions taken at the full council meeting the week before the election, starting with the declaration of the Climate Emergency. I was proud to move this motion which received cross party support because if we don’t tackle this then realistically everything else becomes irrelevant if we have no planet left. I pay tribute to the young people who lobbied for this to be discussed, their arguments were powerful. I am genuinely hopeful that the cross party advisory group which will be set up will give an opportunity to go into some detail and listen to key community partners to make sure Medway plays it part in tackling the Climate Emergency.

Labour’s licensing spokesperson Dan McDonald, seconded by our Deputy Leader Teresa Murray, also secured cross party support to tackle the fact that Uber are not currently licensed by Medway Council and are operating here under the claim that Medway is part of London. Our local Taxi association, the MLTDA, has obtained powerful legal opinion and the passing of this motion will mean the council will obtain their own independent legal opinion on the matter. I’m clear that the issue here is that Uber are simply not playing by the same rules as our hard working taxi drivers and are likely in breach of Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, Section 46 (1).

Unfortunately other motions did not secure the same cross party support – Alex Paterson and Adam Price proposed a key motion on the issue of food justice, recognising that in Medway close to 6,000 packages of support were given by Medway Foodbank alongside help and assistance from other charities and community organisations. We are one of the richest economies in the world so to see these sorts of statistics are sickening. Sadly the Conservatives failed to grasp the nettle and have not recognised the urgency of this matter.

Moving forward, there are a number of challenges on the horizon including the ongoing state of local government finances.  Worrying for local residents is that our council had one of the highest levels of reduction in our council finance reserves, being 11th on the list (out of 426 local authorities) for emergency reserve depletion since 2015. That list shows Conservative controlled Northamptonshire County Council top of the list – this is the council which has effectively gone bankrupt, exercising very poor financial management including ignoring numerous warnings. Dwindling reserves is one of the first warning signs of financial mismanagement and it’s extremely worrying that Medway is at risk of running out of reserves in the next four years. I look forward to the Conservative administration providing some further detail and putting Medway residents at ease about Medway’s ongoing financial situation.

We have also got the very practical issues around the regeneration of Strood which has repeatedly led to absolute gridlock, causing misery for residents and businesses. Of course communities want to see positive regeneration taking place, but not when it has been so poorly handled as we have seen here including a much loved local pub, the Riverside Tavern, at risk of closure due to the negative impacts regeneration are having in that part of Strood. Stephen Hubbard will be bringing forward a members item to try and make sure things are improved and quickly.

At the next full council meeting we will be debating the issue of how the mayoralty is selected. In the grand scheme of everything that Medway Council does this is not the most important thing but it is absolutely a point of principle. At the recent elections the Conservative Party got just 34% of a 31% turnout – that doesn’t mean they have the support of 100% of residents and absolutely doesn’t give the right for the first citizen of Medway to be the gift of one political party. Some Conservative members have privately said to me and other Labour colleagues they would be supportive of returning to the points based selection model so I hope they will vote to return to it at the July full council meeting.

This sits alongside other democratic issues such as the Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny committees.  My Labour colleague, Roger Truelove, recently became the Leader of Swale Borough Council. In his maiden speech as Leader he made it clear he would be offering the Chair of Scrutiny to the Conservative Group which they accepted.  In Westminster we see people from all parties chairing Select Committees.  However here in Medway, throughout my time as a councillor, all we have ever seen is Conservative Chairs of all Overview and Scrutiny committees – this is another change which would lead to a greater level of scrutiny and something which over the next four years should be strongly considered.

I can’t finish this month’s column without recognising that by the time the next column is published we will be close to having a new Prime Minister.  Frankly after nine years of Tory austerity and the hugely negative impact that has had on our communities the way I would like to be selecting a new prime minister is with a General Election and the person going through the front door at number ten being Jeremy Corbyn, but regrettably I recognise that it will only be Conservative Party members who will be selecting at this stage.

It is not for me to interfere in the “personal grief” of a selection process for another political party but I would respectfully remind all readers of The Political Medway that one candidate spent years attempting to singlehandedly create an Estuary Airport which would have been bad for Medway, bad for the environment and bad for UK PLC.  He had utter disrespect for Medway, repeatedly ignoring the cross party and community campaign and attempting to press on with his completely ludicrous idea. On KMTV’s Paul on Politics show I was asked who would be the next Tory Leader – my answer was simple A.B.B – Anyone But Boris.

Vince Maple is the leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition party on Medway Council, and a councillor for Chatham Central.

World Environment Day: its theme and relevance to Medway

Ahead of World Environment Day tomorrow, Steve Dyke tells us why we should all be more worried about the levels of air pollution in Medway..

I think it is a reasonable guess that many reading this will not have heard of ‘World Environment Day’, coming up on June 5th. This United Nations led event, held annually since 1974, is intended to encourage both global awareness of our environment and action being taken to protect it. The idea is that people commit to doing something to help take care of our planet, either individually or as part of a group. Each year thousands of related organised activities take place all over the world. Sadly so far I have found no evidence of Medway Council promoting it or seen any advertised public events linked to it taking place locally.

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On being a councillor as a working mother

Is being a local councillor compatible with being a working mother? This is a question I get asked a lot along with “why on earth would you want to be a local councillor?” and “how could you be a Tory?”

And the truth is that it is extremely hard to be a working mum and a councillor. It’s hard because you have a full-time job on top of being a councillor and most people tend to forget that, and it’s hard because – let’s face it – misogyny is still prevalent. As for being a Tory, well suffice it to say that the current Conservative Party is most certainly no longer in line with my core beliefs and that’s without even mentioning the “B” word.

I decided to run for local election because I believed that my professional expertise could be put to good use. I wanted to give back to my community by using my skills. I wanted to help people improve their lives by providing a link to an authority they are often too distanced from, or don’t understand the dealings of. I naively believed that I would be taken seriously having spent over 15 years working for large multinational corporations, that my voice once elected would be equal to that of all the other elected councillors. But most naively of all, I believed that we would focus our time, effort and attention to local issues and would focus on what was best for Medway and Medway’s residents. Suffice it to be said that this was not the case.

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