Uncertain Starts

In which Lia Mandaracas and Alexandra Chatfield look at the impact closing Sure Start centres has had across Medway..

Part 1 / Lia Mandaracas

Sure Start, since its introduction in 1999 transformed the lives of families with under 5s. By 2009 there were over 3600 centres with most of them concentrated in disadvantaged areas. In mid-2016, Medway Council made significant savings with a staffing restructure and reduced sessions, which came with assurances that this was the only way to save the full provision. By early 2017 they proposed closing all centres in favour of four “super hubs” that would serve wide areas and 0-19 rather than 0-5. Due to public pressure they relented slightly and created the super hubs with satellite centres to run some sessions, although these centres no longer had continuity of staff or full time opening hours. I thought I would take a look at the effects on service users, the impact on the councils Key Performance Indicators, and Ofsted results compared to other parts of the country.

For background here are two speeches I gave to the council drawing on evidence from other councils to speculate on what closing Medway Sure Starts might mean.

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School’s Out

In which Vicki Sigston looks at why so many families in Medway and beyond are turning to home education..

There are many reasons why families, like my own, choose to home educate their children. Some are not a fan of our rigid national curriculum and lack of funding in music and the arts. For others it’s the freedom that home education provides in letting children learn at their own pace, in their own way. The freedom to travel without the threat of fines for missing school. The freedom to spend a whole year on a topic if that is sparking a passion. Sometimes children who are home educated have needs that our schools struggle with and home education can provide a much less stressful environment for them to learn in.

There are lots of choices that lead to the decision to not have your children in mainstream education. But it is just that, a choice, and one that families should be free to make without fear of retribution.

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iFAQ: Medway Commercial Group

Following on from the ongoing arguments surrounding problems within Medway Commercial Group, we sent the following question to all councillors:

Do you feel Medway Commercial Group continues to provide good value for money for Medway taxpayers?

As usual, we told everyone that their answers would be published entirely unedited. They are presented below in the order they were received.

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Cllr Franklin expelled by Medway Tories for Islamophobia three years after being shown he was Islamophobic

So, farewell then Michael Franklin, councillor for Luton and Wayfield, who has finally been expelled by Medway Conservative three years after his grossly offensive tweeting was highlighted by this website.

In January 2016, we published an article highlighting the Islamophobic and otherwise offensive tweets of Cllr Franklin. In February 2016, these tweets were raised at full council. And then.. nothing.

No action was taken against Cllr Franklin, and last year, Medway Conservatives reselected him to fight for the Luton and Wayfield ward again. Change occurred last month when Baroness Warsi highlighted Cllr Franklin’s tweets, which led to the national party stepping in and a suspension finally being imposed.

Now, over 1,000 days after the issue was first raised, he has been formally expelled from the party.

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Know the power of women in leadership

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Medway Labour councillor Naushabah Khan looks at how the fight for equality is going.

This week in honour of International Women’s Day, and well, because I would have done so anyway, I went to watch On the Basis of Sex. Spoiler alert, the cleverly titled film is a moving story about the early years of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court justice; an exceptional woman, now in her eighties, who championed women’s rights in America.

At a particularly poignant point in the film, Ginsburg is challenged by her male counterpart in court, who accuses her of wanting the country to undergo ‘radical social change’. She upends his line of attack, reminding him that the ‘radical’ change he is so worried about meant that prestigious Harvard Law School still did not have female toilets.

Watching the scene, I couldn’t help but reminisce about a story told by female MP who recalled a similar experience. In her first year of entering Parliament she had sought a bathroom, only to be told that women did not have access to one in the entirety of this section of the parliamentary estate. The only difference between her story and that of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, was that this was 1997 not 1957.

Since then, within a short space of time, great progress has been made in striving for gender equality and promoting women in politics, public life and society; championed by a Labour government committed to furthering women’s rights. But there is much work still to do and within political parties the challenge remains significant. Take as an example the fact that Labour has never had a female leader, or that we were not immune to the need for change put forward by the #MeToo movement.

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Voice of the Opposition: March

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.

With a little over 50 days to go until May 2nd, the focus now is firmly on the pledges which each main party is putting forward.

I’m proud of the manifesto launch held this past weekend at Dragon Co-Working in the heart of Medway.  A packed room heard outstanding speeches from our administration in waiting on the key pledges to the residents of Medway.  We were also joined by the Shadow Treasury Minister Lyn Brown MP who gave an inspiring speech, in particular highlighting how austerity has impacted on the community she represents.

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Political Figures: Changing the ballot

Once a month we are going to hand over to Alan Collins from Medway Elects who is going to dig into the Medway electoral data, and try to tell us what it all means..

Short of 30 pieces of silver, what does it take to influence a vote?

Three years ago, the authors of this blog shone a spotlight on Mike Franklin, the Conservative councillor for Luton & Wayfield, for sharing unseemly tweets. Last month, following the intervention of Baroness Sayeda Warsi, he was finally suspended as a Conservative councillor and member of the party pending an internal investigation.

Of course, one does not wish to prejudge the outcome of such an investigation, but it is likely the local Conservatives will not wait for its results, and instead select a new candidate for the ward – as despite these claims being brought to their attention what feels like a lifetime ago, he continued to sit as a Conservative councillor and was slated to stand for re-election in May.

Everyone enjoys reading about a good scandal (what, just me?), but do they have any effect on the outcome of subsequent elections? And are there any other major events happening which could also impact the result this May?

Today I am going to be looking at scandals and farces during the 2007-2011 council term, all with their own hints of scandal, and also trying to guess (emphasis on the word “guess”, as data alone is insufficient for this purpose) whether Brexit will have any effect on this year’s elections.

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