iFAQs: Immigration and Housing

Update, 8 September: This piece has updated to include a response from the Medway UKIP group.

During the full council meeting of Medway Council, Leader of the Council Councilor Jarrett said, in relation to a statement by Cllr Andy Stamp regarding housing targets.

 “… one of the root causes of that, of course, is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that and still trying to grapple with the problem… that’s one of the key problems”*

An audio file can be found at http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/mgconvert2pdf.aspx?id=28081
Go to 1 hr 19 minutes

We asked various Medway political types the following:
a) What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?
b) How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?

Cllr Jarrett responded with the following:

“Whilst, I appreciate that answers will be presented unedited online I must insist that the statement originally made be given in its entirety as well. For your convenience, I record it below from the Council transcripts.”

Cllr Jarrett: “Cllr Stamp talked about the drive for new homes and very high housing targets which we have and all object to. But one of the root causes for that is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that, and still trying to grapple with the problem so I think that’s one of key problems.”

What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?

“I have repeatedly said that the main reason for the crisis in housing both here in Medway and across the UK is fundamentally the lack of house building over the past 30 to 35 years. In it’s time in government between 1997 – 2010 Labour focused on the decent homes standard, making sure social housing was at a quality which was acceptable – it was a job which needed doing but did mean that not enough new housing stock was put into the mix. I don’t accept that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, in fact to join the housing waiting list now you need to have been a resident in Medway for a period of time.”
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour

Immigration has not caused the housing shortage in Medway. Our view is that the housing shortage is caused by:-
– Selling off social housing under the right to buy

– Not building sufficient low cost affordable housing. The Greens would welcome a large scale building programme for social housing by Government. We would oppose building on Greenfield sites, but feel there are sufficient brownfield sites which could be used in Medway

– There is insufficient activity by the council to bring empty properties back into use

– Where housing is built by private developers this often focuses on luxuary developments which may be unaffordable to local people

– Overall there is a real lack of affordable housing both to buy or rent
Medway Green Party

“Immigration is not one of the key problems regarding the housing shortage in MedwayThe Government’s target of 200,000 homes per year by 2020 falls far short of the 250,000 that Shelter estimates is necessary to meet demand but this has nothing to do with immigration. The housing crisis is caused by the failure of the market that delivers low pay and sky high rents with around 60% of new builds in London and the South East being bought by investors rather than as affordable properties to actually live in. Councils in England are sitting on 23,000 hectares, enough brownfield land to build one million decent council homes and the ‘big four’ property developers have enough land to build further 1.4 million. There is plenty of capacity to build high quality and environmentally sustainable homes but only when we are able to control what is built and where. This will require the nationalisation of the banks and the large construction companies whose profits have soared by over 550% since 2010 while the number of affordable homes has shriveled.”
Chas Berry
Medway TUSC

Medway Council has a billowing housing crisis with no action plan since 6 million extra people have been welcomed but literally squashed into Britain’s little communities.

No explanation has been made to the people of Kent how or why this mass immigration from Europe and other countries is advantageous to Medway communities instead we are left to suffer the consequences. Substantial billions of additional tax is being collected but  not one extra house, flat, school or GP surgery has been built to accommodate these people mainly from the failed EU experiment but also foreign lands who come here desperate to improve their family lives.
Medway Council has no real policies and shown no interest in the lack of affordable properties available for renting in order to fairly accommodate the many thousands of people in need . For the many desperate families living in overcrowded, damp and dilapidated private tenanted properties they can no longer complain as they are silently fearful of eviction and their children no longer allowed to attend their local schools.
Medway Council knows how tightly packed families are in the region who are paying ever increasing unreasonable rents because landlords are exploting shortages but does nothing, sighting Governments policy. We need bold and brave Councillors to debate the housing crisis seriously,sensibly and honestly telling the Government how residents are being unfairly housed.  We need Medway to stop supporting the purchase of more and more buy to let properties where the mortgages for these wealthy landlords are being paid by the tax payer through housing benefits. We need Medway to plan and build thousands of new properties for renting not just 100. 
Cllr Roy Freshwater
Leader of Medway UKIP group

Housing building in the UK has not been at sustainable levels to demand since the 1970’s which has resulted in not enough houses being built.

We need to bring into the equation, the EU, due to freedom of movement.  Upto 2004, the EU had 15 countries, which were generally the richer countries of Europe, not fuelling mass migration to get a better life. Since then 12 Eastern European countries have joined (generally poorer countries of Europe).  This has caused mass migration across Europe.  Add to this migration from other countries and lack of infrastructure planning by Conservative and Labour Governments since the end of the 1970’s has led for the current quotas for house building.  However the targets are not achievable as not enough houses are being built by the private sector.  To ever meet the target the government needs to start building houses and providing the boom in house building that was achieved in the 1960’s.  This would not increase the deficit as houses generally sell for twice the cost of building them.

Cllr Mark Joy
Independent

How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?

“I would expect the leader of a top tier local authority to be more mindful of the language that he uses, particularly at the time where the issue of refugees coming into Europe from areas of conflict is so high on the agenda. It is on the same level as David Cameron talking of Swarms or David Blunkett talking of being swamped both of whom I criticised when they made their comments.

I’m not sure which immigrants Cllr Jarrett is talking about when he mentions flooding, are they the immigrants who are working hard in our hospital as Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and Porters? Are they the entrepreneurs who are setting up small businesses? Are they the students studying at our Medway Universities? 

The immigration policy Alan Jarrett talks about, if he is talking about EU freedom of movement, is not a Labour policy but actually a fundamental element of membership of the European Union – one can only assume if he doesn’t agree with that he will be campaigning against Cameron but with Mark Reckless, Chris Irvine and Nigel Farage for a no vote in the forthcoming referendum. “
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour

“We would challenge the view that the country has been “flooded” by immigrants on the basis that this is inaccurate and also that the language is inflamatory and unhelpful. – There are two issues here:-

(i) people who come to the UK to work or study and

(ii) those who seek asylum.

As Greens we acknowledge the huge contribution made by workers from overseas, in particular in areas such as the health service or social care. We also recognise the financial contribution made by overseas students which helps to fund our universities. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of immigration to Britain. We support the flexibility provided by our EU membership which allows people to move freely between the EU states. We would extend the same welcome to other EU workers, as we would expect for British people who may choose work or study in other EU nations. As Greens we would expect the government to comply with our obligations under international law and provide asylum to those in genuine danger or fleeing persecution. We would see the current situation with the migrants in Calais as a humanitarian crisis which should be responded to with compassion. We condemn the alarmist tone taken by much of the media to this issue. We would acknowledge that countries such as Greece, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon are currently shouldering the bulk of the burden and call for the government to take our fair share of refugees (including those at Calais).”
Medway Green Party

 “To describe the country as being ‘flooded with immigrants’ is offensive and revolting. By all accounts net migration to the UK has increased and in Kent this is fairly visible but migrants have brought net gains that would benefit the economy if it were being run in the interests of the majority rather than by exploitative bosses and landlords who have tended to use migrants as a cheap source of labour. When Councillor Jarrett uses emotive terms like “flood” he is trying to dodge responsibility for the poverty inflicted by his party in Government by directing the fears and insecurity felt by millions towards a scapegoat. This sort of language is disgraceful. “
Chas Berry
Medway TUSC

Sadly flooded is a dehumanising word for desporate families fleeing wars. It is true that British people and Medway residents are fearful of uncontrolled influx of foreign nationals, with many families desporate and deserving out help. But they will include terrorist gangs, drug smugglers, people smugglers, killers, thieves or political activists. The Government is sleepwalking into a slow destruction of our communities. No police checks are made on the majority of people bribing there way into Britain who have terrorist or criminal records and are quietly joining our communities.    Quite conceivably in such numbers soon that they could launch a war inside Britain on our once wonderful but now broken communities. At that stage apologies from Government will not be good enough when our streets are turned into yet another war zone.
Cllr Roy Freshwater
Leader of Medway UKIP group

In context the word flood is to do with a deluge (normally water) onto land. Due to excess demand on housing and also on infrastructure by current net migration levels, to make a comment of flooded may be justified. However it should be pointed out that the majority of immigration is due to freedom of movement throughout the EU and not through illegal immigration.

Cllr Mark Joy
Independent

“In answer to your questions

Whilst I absolutely stand by my assertion that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, my answer was directed towards a national perspective and not a Medway one. 
This is pertinent because during the Labour Government’s time in office, they exercised an open door immigration policy. During that time we saw considerable numbers of immigrants come into the UK as a whole. Not only did many immigrants settle in Medway during that period, we are now seeing not only the immigrants coming through Calais but migrants who settled historically in London who are now it appears being encouraged to re-locate to Medway. 

This makes it increasingly difficult to track, plan and budget for housing requirements and also means that residents are quite rightly taking a strong interest into the future of Medway when it comes to building new housing.”
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council

 

Medway Liberal Democrats were invited to answer but we did not receive any response.

The Opposite of Power

Disclaimer: As a naive lefty who is clearly wrong about most things, Keevil has accepted a political life on the outside. Where it is easy to be dismissed, especially by those who are dismissive. Being in opposition to the administration isn’t about being anti-Tory or being contrary, it is about the need for a strong opposition in a strong democracy.

Rather than just accept that an election was won by a small percentage, or not by the majority of voters (the FPTP losers equivalent to the current government/administrations’s ‘Austerity is needed because of the last Labour government’ mantra), we need to ask;

What does it mean to be in opposition?
Is there any real power in opposition?

According to the freedictionary.com
A person or group of people opposing, criticising or protesting something, someone or another group.

Residents expect elected councillors to contribute to the development of policies and strategies, and for the councils policy’s to be signed off by full council, on which everybody sits. They expect concerns to be investigated and decisions to be communicated. They expect to be represented.
They expect those in opposition to question and hold those in power to account.

I’m going to try (I’ll fail) and sound non-partisan, when I say there are issues regarding the role of opposition in the Medway Towns.

Following the 2015 local election result, there was a new status quo, which heavily affected opposition and oppositional power in the Medway Unitary Authority.
Firstly; whilst I don’t think Medway Labour were expecting to lead the council, there was an expectation of increased group side, maybe even no overall control, a view held by this site at least. What resulted was in fact a strengthened and emboldened Conservative administration.
Secondly; whilst nobody expected the Medway Liberal Democrats to do well, their complete removal from council resulting in the loss of a Liberal/ liberal voice, should not be considered a good thing.
Thirdly; Chris Irvine’s foolishly noble decision to stand for election within the ward he lives. This meant the councillor for Penisula Ward and leader of UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP group (delete as appropriate) left the council and the group lost it’s leader. UKIP have appeared rudderless in full council so far. They have already lost one member who become an independent and have made no meaningful contribution.
It’s the belief of this writer at least that Irvine’s absence is a bigger loss to ofpposition within council then that of Geoff Juby.
Fourthly; The Medway Green Party’s inabilty to build on its by-election profile and mount a credible challenge for a ward seat. Whilst they achieved a larger vote then Medway TUSC, TUSC have – angered by the Rainham North result – been more vocal in their opposition, at full council meetings at least.

The current administration seems angered by the audacity of an member of the council or the public who dares to question them and hold them accountable, going so far as to seek to change the process.

Forgetting that members of council not part of the administration were also elected to do exactly that, and that the administration works for the public, and should answer to them. Frankly more then six times a year at full council and once every four years at the ballot box.

The administration should respect the role of opposition. Whomever holds it. They should not seek to diminish it. Or undermine the politial process, through an ineffective oversight and scrutiny committee, chairing all other committees, and placing all decision making power within a ten person cabinet that meets for ten minutes.

Critical feedback is not a negative experience and any opposition should have an opportunity to contribute to the creation of policy and legislation.
They should oppose proposals they legitimately disagree with, be given an opportunity to voice that disagreement and not have that voice dismissed as sour grapes.

Democracy thrives when there is a peaceful rivalry and a balance between a majority, winner of the election, who is in a position to govern, but not monopolising all the power.

Whilst we can be relieved that there is no likelihood of the police being called to remove minority parties from council (though we should wait for the results of Cllr Mackness’ constitutional review, to be fully sure), there is a concern held by this site about the monopolisation of power with cabinet and the charing of committees.

The oppositions role is to oppose and to do that they must be able to participate in the political process. They then must do this effectively and responsibly. It is this area looking forward that needs to be monitored over the course of the administration. 

If there is to be any true power in opposition the Medway electorate and elected needs to accept that:
1) Medway Unitary Authority is not a two party system.
2) They should not be dismissive of any smaller group seaking to gain a ward seat at the table.
3) A Liberal/liberal voice is needed.
4) As is a Green one.
Saying that, the two party system providing 3 & 4 only works if they actually do.

As the largest group in opposition, Medway Labour needs to also be held accountable for the positions they take on issues. Not opposing for opposing sake and ensuring they offer credible alternatives.

UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP (delete as appropriate) has a spokesperson woman and they need to find their voice with council and represent the people that voted for them and continue to oppose anti-xenophobia.

Mark Joy’s first council meeting, as a councillor and an Independent councillor, gave an interesting dynamic as he opposed one Labour motion and supported another. Ignoring for this piece the purpose of either motion, this is a positive of opposition, voting on a case by case basis, with or against the opposition. Not along party lines. This is easer when you dont have a party line to follow, obviously.

I understand there is a position of group whip to stop people voting against the party line, but until member and public opposition amounts to more, then any opposition is purely for the record – decisions will continue to be made behind closed doors and outside of democracy.

quote-love-is-the-opposite-of-power-that-s-why-we-fear-it-so-much-gregory-david-roberts-46-62-43

 

First They Came For The Supplementary Questions..

It might come as a surprise, but Medway Council meetings are fairly lively affairs compared to some councils. A turnout of 50 people in the public gallery is hardly unheard of (though few last to the end!), public questions will often overrun their allotted time, and it’s not unusual for the council to receive heckling, jeering, or other forms of protest. It’s those last couple of points that are most relevant here, as the council has decided it’s had enough of those pesky members of the public who want to ask questions.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get an answer out of your local councillor, but it can be a pretty trying exercise. Granted, if you want them to come and cut the ribbon at your fete, they’ll be there double quick, but if you actually have questions, things get tricky. Email or tweet them and you’ll likely get no response. Attend one of their occasional ‘surgeries’ and you’ll almost certainly get a non-committed, evasive, if polite, response to your concerns. One of the few ways to publicly make a point to a councillor is at one of the six public meetings of Medway Council that take place each year.

As it stands, any resident of Medway can submit a question to the council, and as long as it’s somewhat relevant to the authority, a response has to be given. Any person can submit multiple questions (though those with one take priority over a second etc.), and a substitute can ask the question at the meeting if you can’t attend due to work or ill-health or the such. Most importantly, after asking your question and getting a response, you’re allowed a ‘short, supplementary question’. While the first question can have a carefully prepared answer, the councillor will not know what the supplementary question will contain, so it’s the one time they won’t always be speaking in the boring shared voice of the council.

All of which means the administration has had more than enough of this kind of challenging behaviour.

Council questions

This recommendation will be put to the council this Wednesday, following absolutely no consultation whatsoever. It’s vague, it’s heavy handed, and it’s a borderline affront to democracy. You can read the full report on the changes here.

There is certainly a place for limited reform of public questions. The rule limiting answers to three minutes is sensible, if only for the sake of Cllr Chitty’s incredible ability to go on and on and on and on in response to questions. There’s even a case to be made for limiting each member of the public to one question. The council is often faced with large numbers of questions covering the same topic worded in different ways, and so a compromise could be found there.

Where it all falls apart is the removing of the supplementary question. As mentioned earlier, this has been a long-standing method of asking a councillor a proper question, and it’s removal is deeply worrying for the way that Medway Council would like to conduct business. Removing substitutes has no real practical purpose at all other than to limit the number of questions that can be asked. More concerning is vague rule of limiting any ‘organisation’ one question per meeting. In three years of attending these meetings, I’ve never seen a question come from an organisation, only members of the public. Unless the council is going to get into the very dangerous business of defining questions from members of political parties as such.

One legitimate complaint that some have with public questions is that opposition parties have their members submit questions that challenge the council to make a political point. All parties do this to a certain extent (with the exception of UKIP who were never that organised) – Labour are masters of the craft, the Lib Dems manage a few questions at every meeting, and even the Tories do so when they need an easy political point or to raise awareness of potential future councillors. It’s a bit of a crap way to do things, but it does still raise legitimate political issues, and is often the only route a smaller party will have to gain any attention for their issues. From the text set out in the report above, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible for the administration to deem swathes of questions as being from a single political organisation, and thus rejecting them en masse. There’s no suggestion that this is the council’s intent, but the fact it can’t be ruled out from the document demonstrates how sloppily this idea has been put together.

The reaction from the Medway Twitterati has been fierce, with members of Labour, UKIP, the Lib Dems, and ordinary members of the public lining up to condemn the move.

https://twitter.com/RC_Garrick/status/628588853167788033

https://twitter.com/ci247/status/628591199314649088

https://twitter.com/jerijerod14/status/628594989036109824

There’s little doubt that these limits to public democratic discourse will be adopted by the council – the ruling Tories hold a substantial majority which allows them full control over all scrutiny and decision-making, and there’s little incentive to face public questions when the average person takes little notice of these things. But an important part of the democratic process is being chipped away, and if they get away with this part unnoticed, who knows what will be the next thing to go?

Jennings

Democracy and Rainham North

A much needed review of the local election result in Rainham North.

As reported by the local newspaper:

Medway TUSC had valid concerns about the result:

And as our own Ed Jennings said, this wasn’t about a result for Medway TUSC:

Dave Nellist is national Chair of TUSC:

The Medway TUSC group took legal advice and discussed the situation with the National Agent Clive Heenskirk, who researched electoral law and advised that the legal position was a matter of private law and not going to change the result, even if it raises concerns about the whole count.

Paul and four other residents were all willing to sign a legal affidavit and this would have to go through the High Court, which would require the hiring of a QC, which would have significant costs.

Medway TUSC insist that they did question the result on the night, but no recount was called. Medway Labour’s Vince Maple recognises that this is an issue caused by a long count and Rainham North being the 21st of 22 results, and that electoral law does little to support if nothing is done on the night.

ITV Covered the story here.

Whilst the Medway Greens Gillingham Candidate told us;

“As a newcomer to politics and the election process, the 7th May 2015 was an eye-opener for me. Especially the archaic vote-counting process at Medway Park. I expected a long night but to be there until 8.30 the next morning was a bit of a shock.
Therefore it is no real surprise to me to learn that something could go wrong in the process. However, for the unfortunate TUSC local election candidate for Rainham North, Paul Dennis, not to register a single vote did seem unfathomable to me. Had he forgotten to vote for himself or spoilt his ballot paper? What about his friends, family, supporters….?
It is very important to investigate every issue that is raised to keep that image whiter than white and for Medway Council to be fully supportive and transparent when questions are raised.”
Neil Williams Medway Green Party

Medway TUSC started a campaign on the issue:

IMG_2008

We covered the protest creating the following short video

38 Degrees provided support with a petition that has now attracted over 750 signatures:

Ultimately though, things aren’t looking good:

However, questions do still remain:

Medway Council’s response has not changed:

 “I can confirm that having double-checked our records, the paperwork confirms a zero return for TUSC in Rainham North. Whilst I accept this is unusual, now that the result has been declared, I am afraid there is nothing else we can do to investigate the matter further as we are bound by the rules of election law.”
Neil Davies, Acting Returning Officer

Medway TUSC are now relying on a public support, to lead to a public enquiry rather than a recount.

“The legitimacy of the result has been called into question, the system is a shambles, there were people under enormous pressure with small resources.”
Chas Berry,  Medway TUSC

And then things became more complex in Rainham North:

IMG_2070 (1)

Medway TUSC made this revelation at the Council AGM, approaching ourselves and Medway Labour Group leader Vince Maple.

Medway TUSC Gillingham Candidate had this to say:

https://twitter.com/jacqui_berry/status/603589294805098496

“Regarding the nominations process in Rainham North, there was no agent query and questions to be asked. I have spoken with senior officers and am awaiting a response.”
Vince Maple, Leader Medway Labour

Medway Council have made the following statement, as if the previous concern’s regarding the Rainham North vote hadn’t occured.

“Rainham North is a two-member ward which was contested in our elections on 7 May 2015.
“It has been brought to our attention by TUSC that one particular individual has signed more than the maximum number of nomination papers for the ward.
“Having looked into this, the individual concerned has signed nomination papers for three candidates in the election, which should have meant the last nomination paper submitted would have been invalid.
“If it had been invalidated, there was time for the affected candidate to have completed and submitted a new nomination paper. The affected candidate was not either of the two successful candidates in the election for the ward.
“Whilst this is clearly a matter of concern, the outcome of the election in the ward is not in doubt.
“We are conducting an in-depth review of our systems and procedures to ensure that this will not occur again.
“This clearly should not have happened, and we are very sorry it did. We have advised the Electoral Commission of the situation.”
Neil Davies. Returning Officer

Keevil

A Short Film Audioboom Union and Socialist Coalition

On Saturday, members of Medway Trade Union Socialist Coalition (TUSC) were in Rainham precinct following the zero vote result they got in the local elections for their candidate Paul Dennis in Rainham North.

We will be posting a more detailed look into those events and following events as they unfold.

So, farewell then..

So, farewell then to no less than 20 Medway councillors.

Between councillors losing their seats, retirements, and deselections, over a third of councillors who were in office two weeks ago no longer are. I thought it’d be nice to take a look at those who will no longer be gracing the council chamber. Consider this like the ‘in memoriam’ section at the Oscars, just without the glitz, glamour, and likeable personalities.

The Stand Downs

This is the group that didn’t even try to fight their seat. Some quietly slipped into retirement, either through their own volition, or their party deciding for them. Others went on to better things.

Ted Baker (Rochester West, Con) – One of the longest serving members of the council, it’s been clear for some time that his reign has been coming to an end. He was giving a nice send off at his final council meeting, and will be awarded an honorary title on the council in recognition of his service.

Matt Bright (Princes Park, Con) – Cllr Bright not fighting his seat was a curious one. One of the younger members of the Conservative group, in a relatively safe seat, who never rebelled against his party in the chamber, he should have been a rising star. Alas, it was not to be.

David Colman (Gillingham South, Lab) – The Man Who Never Planned To Be A Councillor. The legend goes that at the last elections, Cllr Colman was merely a paper candidate, who was never supposed to win, but the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in Gillingham South saw him home. He served out his term, but seem to do very little during this time, and his replacements should be far more effective for the party.

Jane Etheridge (Strood North, Con) – Cllr Etheridge was widely liked but not necessarily the most forceful voice in the chamber. That all changed at her final council meeting though, where she made it adamantly clear to the discomfort of her colleagues that she was not stepping down of her own accord, and her party had deselected her.

Paul Harriott (Twydall, Lab) – Cllr Harriott has been a councillor in Medway for a couple more decades than I’ve been alive. After 52 years, he decided to call it a day, and he remained a force in the chamber right up to the end. Like Cllr Baker, he will be given an honorary title from the council to salute his remarkable council career.

Craig Mackinley (River, Con) – Left Medway, went to stand for Parliament in South Thanet, and became the almighty Farage slayer. (What’s a South Thanet? – Keevil)

Ray Maisey (Cuxton & Halling, Con) – I genuinely don’t think I know anything about Cllr Maisey. He rarely seemed to speak, and when he did, it was fairly unremarkable. (I never even heard him speak. – Keevil)

Tony Watson (Peninsula, Con) – One of the younger, more thoughtful members of the Conservative group. It’s unclear exactly why he didn’t stand again, but it’s worth noting that he was the only Conservative Councillor to vote against his group, standing up in favour of equal marriage, in a vote in the chamber some time back. Rebellions are so rare his is the only one I can remember during the past few years, and now he isn’t a Councillor. Not that I’m suggesting there’s a connection or anything. (Well done for clarifying that. – Keevil)

The Losers

Slightly harsh perhaps (accurate – Keevil), but these are the Councillors that tried to maintain a seat, but couldn’t manage it. Some were unexpected, some less so. Interestingly, every Councillor who recently switched parties, or tried to change the seats they stood in, lost. So if you become a Councillor, you should never, ever take any risks apparently.

Christine Godwin (Luton & Wayfield, Lab, lost by 70 votes) – One of the upsets of the night, as the Tories managed to take a seat in Luton & Wayfield, nearly taking down parliamentary candidate Tristan Osborne at the same time. Instead though, Cllr Godwin ended up as the casualty, after only one term on the council.

Patricia Gulvin (Princes Park, tried to fight Chatham Central, Con) – It seems that Gulvin intended to stand down regardless, as she moved from the relatively safe seat of Princes Park to the Socialist Republic of Maple. She did fairly well in that seat, but still didn’t really trouble the counting agents.

Vaughan Hewett (Rainham North, UKIP, lost by 765 votes) – An unfortunate tactical error for Cllr Hewett, who after leaving the Conservative group last year, decided to throw his lot in with UKIP. I suspect that isn’t where his allegiances truly lay, and he didn’t get the support he needed, so he lost by a large margin. A shame as he was one of the more reasonable voices on the council.

Stephen Hubbard (Strood North, Lab, lost by 297 votes) – A decent local Councillor taken out by the rising Conservative tide. Hanging on in a split ward is always a challenge, and Cllr Hubbard bore the brunt of the national swings.

Isaac Igwe (Strood South, Lab, lost by 627 votes) – The man who famously hid in the toilet purely to avoid having to vote on equal marriage lost his seat. No tears will be shed.

Josie Iles (Strood South, Con, lost by 118 votes) – The UKIP march on Strood meant that while the Conservatives were able to win one seat in Strood South, they couldn’t win them all. Unfortunately for Cllr Iles, her record has a local councillor wasn’t strong enough to see her hang on.

Chris Irvine (Peninsula, tried to fight Rochester East, UKIP) – One of the more baffling decisions of the election was that of UKIP group leader Cllr Irvine to give up a safe seat in Peninsula to fight Rochester East. He attests that this was the right thing to do as it’s the ward he actually lives in, and that’s very noble, but it does mean the likely collapse of the UKIP group on the council, and a valuable, if antagonistic, voice being lost from the chamber.

Geoff Juby (Gillingham South, Lib Dem, lost by 1006 votes) – A crushing defeat for long time Lib Dem group leader Cllr Juby, who saw his party pushed into fourth place in the ward. While his meandering style in the chamber wasn’t the most exciting, it’s a shame to see all representation of the Lib Dems being lost from Medway Council.

Sheila Kearney (Gillingham South, tried to fight Twydall, Lib Dem) – Cllr Kearney has been in poor health for some time now, and it was clear to all observers that her candidacy in Twydall was purely to make up the (small) Lib Dem numbers.

Tom Mason (Strood Rural, UKIP, lost by 262 votes) – Another UKIP defector that almost hung on, but was pulled down by the Conservative surge. Mason only seemed to go UKIP after his Conservative association deselected him, and while he almost hung on, the Conservative surge pulled him down.

Peter Rodberg (Strood Rural, UKIP, lost by 443 votes) – See Tom Mason.

Diana Smith (Watling, Lib Dem, lost by 452 votes) – It’s previously been joked that Cllr Smith could stand under any party banner and easily win, such is her local popularity. While that did see her through previous elections, and she was still the best performing Medway Lib Dem by some margin, it wasn’t enough for her to hang on. Her abstaining on important issues will be sorely missed.

20 councillors gone means 20 new councillors in their place. What will they bring us? We’ll be finding out soon enough..

Post #TheOtherElection Analysis

Medway Council

Current Administration: Conservative

Keevil Prediction: No Overall Control
Jennings Prediction: No Overall Control

Result
Conservative Administration

Thoughts
Our 3 months of political punditry showed that we knew less then Jon Snow (Game of Thrones reference rat fans (80’s reference)). Conservatives not only maintained control, they strengthened it.

Council Groups

Conservative: 31 Members
Labour: 17 Members
UKIP: 4 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

Keevil Prediction:
Conservative: 24 Members
Labour: 23 Members
UKIP: 6 Members
Liberal Democrats: 2 Members

Jennings Prediction:
Conservative: 23 Members
Labour: 20 Members
UKIP: 9 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

Result

Conservative: 36 Members
Labour: 15 Members
UKIP: 4 Members
Lib Dems: 0 members

Predictions Result
Keevil 38 of 55 = 69%
Jennings 39 of 55 = 71%

Thoughts

Even Cllr Rodney Chambers OBE (Conservative leader of the council) admitted to being a little surprised by the result!
None of the councillors who defected to UKIP held their seats! Of the 4 who won, how many were ‘paper candidates’ and will soon do or say something UKIP regrets and find themselves independent councillors before 2019?
Will Catriona Brown-Reckless be the leader of the UKIP Medway group?
Although it was felt it wouldn’t be a good night for the Lib Dems, nobody expected a wipe out. Diana Smith was expected to win on reputation alone. They almost did as well in the wards they didn’t campaign in than in their long held Gillingham roots.
Whilst we felt that Labour would not gain control of the council, we expected them to reach 20 candidates, but in the end they reduced their number, including in Twydall, which has been solid Labour for as long as both authors of this blog can remember!
TUSC were the only small party to stand a candidate in ever ward, well done to them for that. One candidate Paul Dennis in Rainham North, received 0 votes, which is shocking, especially when you consider he lives in the ward and claims he voted for himself. TUSC are currently protesting this with the council. Will TUSC stand again in 2019, or will Left Unity have a go at it?
Chris Irvine, Peninsula councillor, bravely/foolishly stood in Labour held Rochester East. He not only did not win, but came behind former English Democrat Sean Varnham.
Of the 22 wards UKIP stood candidates in 18 of them. Of those they won in 2. Of they remaining 16 wards, they came second in 10!
Paul Monck, UKIP Cuxton parish councillors, is one to watch in 2019.
SDP Mike Walters got move votes for ward councillor than for MP.
UKIP’s average vote share overtook Labour, and Medway Greens average vote share overtook the Liberal Democrats.

5 6 Wards to Watch

Gillingham South
Keevil said: 2 of the 3 current councillors are not standing for reelection. A busy polling card, will see Lib Dems reduced to one councillor, and I wouldn’t put money on that being Goeff Juby! 2 Labour Councillors, 1 of which you would expect to be Khan. A telling ward for the development of the smaller parties.
Jennings said: Labour are throwing the kitchen sink at Gillingham South, as it’s a ward they need to even come close to taking control of the council. They almost managed it in 2011, but if the Lib Dems are ruthless enough in their campaigning, Juby’s name recognition should be enough to help him hang on, but I definitely wouldn’t put any money on it.
Result: 3 Labour
Thoughts: Khan won as predicted, but Juby didn’t. Gillingham now under the watchful eye of Labour. Will Lib Dems return in 2019?

Peninsula
Keevil said: I was preparing to predict 2 UKIP councillors returned by the Penisula word, but with Irvine not standing in the ward, I think it is a big ask for two new UKIP candidates.
Jennings said: Peninsula appears to be very fertile ground for UKIP, with them handily winning the by-election there in November. That said, their most recognisable candidate, Chris Irvine, is attempting to move wards, so they face a slightly tougher battle here, but they should at least be able to defeat the two new Conservative faces.
Result: 1 Conservative, 2 UKIP
Thoughts: Cllr Filmer held his seat and UKIP added to their by-election result. A ward to watch over the next 4 years!

Princes Park
Keevil said: Seems a site for an actual contest. Current Councillor Pat Gulvin not standing for the seat currently held, adds to the interest in this ward and a seat changing to Labour.
Jennings said: A curious ward where both sitting councillors are standing down, with both Conservatives and Labour putting forward serious candidates. I’d be inclined to say Labour can take both seats, but the Conservatives are putting forward respected former councillor Tashi Bhutia, a split ward appears to be looming.
Result: 2 Conservative
Thoughts: Not only did the Conservatives take the ward by a good margin, Labour didn’t even come 2nd!

Rochester East
Keevil said: To turn half purple! This is based on no rational look at the numbers. Only that the UKIP group leader has given up the Penisula seat he won with a healthy majority for a strong Labour ward. There MUST be something we don’t know otherwise the UKIP group are in serious trouble.
Jennings said: The most baffling thing about this ward is the decision for Medway UKIP group leader Chris Irvine to stand here. This ward has been safely held by Labour for some time, so to give up a reasonably safe position in Peninsula to stand here is one hell of a gamble. Still, these things aren’t done lightly, so UKIP must be confident that they can win here. If not, the Medway UKIP group could well be thrown into chaos post-election.
Result: 2 Labour
Thoughts: We readily said our prediction at the time was crazy and we were willing to accept we got it wrong. And we did.

Rochester West
Keevil said: I am going to predict a labour seat gain here, but I think Tolhurst will win a #GE2015 bounce which will keep her safe until 2019.
Jennings said: The Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens are all putting forward strong candidates here. Under normal conditions, this ward may well have been a strong contender to go red, but Kelly Tolhurst’s status as PPC, along with the Green’s Clive Gregory taking votes away from Labour, should be enough to see her home here.
Result: 2 Conservative
Thoughts: Cllr Tolhurst MP kept her seat and then some. Labour candidates Garrick and Scudder are two to watch for the future. An increase but still disappointing result for Medway Greens, who will need to re-evaluate their council seat strategy if they are to ever hope to become more then a protest vote locally.

Strood Rural
Keevil said: UKIP are working well in Rochester & Strood and this will lead to seats being held here, and if Mason does hold his seat that will be embarrassing for the Conservatives who deselected him.
Jennings said: The only ward that I’m predicting to go completely UKIP, almost wholly on the name recognition of sitting councillors Mason and Rodberg. They’ll face a tough fight, but they should be able to pull off the clean seat sweep.
Result: 3 Conservative
Thoughts: Sitting councillor recognition came to nothing, and UKIPs experience on the council was wiped out. As was any potential for embarrassment for Cllr Mackness.

See you in 2019.