Voice of the Opposition: August

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.


So the man who wanted to build an airport in our community has now got the keys to number ten.  There are many alarming things about Boris Johnson’s election to the role of Prime Minister. His obsession with the estuary airport, a vanity project of the highest order – considering the wide variety of evidence from environmental to economic all pointed to it being a flawed concept – but it’s not just us here in North Kent he managed to dismay.  

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Climate change: What can we do?

In which Esme Hehir of Medway Youth Council ponders what individuals and organisations to combat climate change.

Climate change is an issue that needs to be dealt with urgently. We cannot sit back as passive observers of the destruction of our planet. There is so much we should be doing to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. 

This crisis has become so serious that there are now daily discussions in the mainstream media, taking the debate from a niche audience to the forefront of our global concerns. Despite there being an increased interest in the subject, not enough is being done to prevent climate change.

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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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Medway: A Hostile Environment For Refugees?

In which we welcome Caitlin Webb, the UK’s first Local Democracy Reporter, to The Political Medway to look at how welcoming Medway has been to refugees..

You may not know but 17-23 June was Refugee Week. 

Before we delve into this subject- let’s get the facts straight. Refugees are displaced people who have been forced to leave their home country to escape war, persecution or natural disasters. This is different from migrants, who have moved to the UK for hope of a better life but could potentially return home.

Refugee Week may have gone under the radar because of the political sensitivity around the issue or simply because every week seems to be a celebration of something. Yet the Armed Forces Week has been promoted everywhere in the Towns.

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It’s Always Sunny in Medway

In which we welcome Revd Dr Joel Love as he ponders the summer solstice, World Humanist Day, and our place in the world..

Clung to a ball 
That was hung in the sky 
Hurled into orbit 
There You are
– Rich Mullins, ‘Verge of a Miracle’

This week sees the solstice and World Humanist Day, which both fall on 21 June. In the Northern hemisphere this is known as midsummer or the ‘summer’ solstice (whatever the weather). The summer solstice is when when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and is the day with the shortest period of darkness and longest period of daylight. 

Prehistoric sites such as Stonehenge stand as monuments to the annual cycle of the sun, which appears to rise higher in the sky during the summer before falling again towards the Southern horizon in the winter months. Here in the Medway area, Kits Coty is all that is left of an ancient burial mound that was also oriented towards the rising sun. Many Christian Churches are also built on an East-West axis, sometimes literally on top of earlier places of worship. Humanists International, meanwhile, chose the 21st of June because it symbolises light triumphing over darkness, where one represents ‘knowledge’ and the other ‘ignorance’. 

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Volunteering Matters

1st – 7th June was Volunteer Week.

Volunteers are often the unsung heroes that make the world a better place and do so without asking for a penny so it’s quite right we should celebrate them and promote it.

Here, I’m going to talk about another advantage of volunteering that we all could do with more of: better emotional wellbeing and mental health.

So what are positive effects of volunteering on mental health and emotional wellbeing?

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How easy is it to donate blood in Medway?

In celebration of National Blood Week 2019 Elena Keeling speaks to a Medway voice to find out how giving blood gives back to them and what more can be done to help save more lives..

To celebrate National Blood Week 2019 from the 10-16 June, NHS Blood and Transplant have highlighted how they need 400 new blood donors every single day to be able to sustain. 

The number of blood donations are on the rise here in Medway. However, new figures released by NHS England at the start of this year declared that twice as many women than men had signed up in 2018 to be blood donors. Which poses the question of what more can be done to help these numbers keep rising in order to aid the ever-growing population’s need for blood.

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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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