Voice of the Leader: February

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 Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group.

Alan Jarrett

‘Going forward I promise that we will protect Medway from those who seek to close down facilities and services; against those who belittle Medway and its hard-working people; and against those who snub our military heritage and insult our monarchy.’

Recently I said “the first casualty of an election is the truth!” That followed the distribution of a scurrilous leaflet from Labour claiming that no investment had been made in Chatham. Utter nonsense!

In reality there has been massive investment in Chatham: the new bus station; Chatham Placemaking; investment in the railway station; scoping and planning preparation for new housing at Chatham Waterfront and Whiffens Avenue; Chatham Community Hub and library; improved green spaces along the river front including a new riverside walk; and the Command of the Heights project to open up the Great Barrier Ditch to connect the waterfront to Fort Amherst They really should have gone to Specsavers!

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Medway Tories suspend councillor three years late

In January 2016, we published an article on Luton and Wayfield Conservative councillor Michael Franklin’s offensive tweeting. Throughout 2015, Cllr Franklin published and shared a number of Islamophobic, transphobic, and racist tweets on his personal Twitter account. Following our article, the issue was raised at a full council meeting, and gained some wider media attention, and a new social media policy for councillors was introduced.

Crucially though, no action was taken against Cllr Franklin for his actions.

Until he found himself suspended from the Conservative party, three years later.

So what changed to make the party take action now when they didn’t in the previous three years?

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Voice of the Leader: January

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 Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group.

Alan Jarrett

‘Going forward I promise that we will protect Medway from those who
seek to close down facilities and services; against those who belittle
Medway and its hard-working people; and against those who snub our
military heritage and insult our monarchy.’

This was the promise I made in my first article for The Political Medway, and it is relevant to reinforce it here as most of us celebrate the incredible success achieved by Gillingham Football Club in defeating Premier League club Cardiff City in the FA Cup.

Gillingham FC is Kent’s only Football League club, this year celebrating its 125th anniversary, and as such has a special place in the history of Medway. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest cup competition and for these two things to coincide is noteworthy in itself.

When we agreed the shirt sponsorship deal for this season with Gillingham FC it was on a nil cost basis to Medway tax payers. But still we had our Labour opposition firstly trying to stop the sponsorship, and secondly to criticise and denigrate it. We’ve been here before, and it is another shabby example of how Medway Labour disrespect our heritage.

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Voice of the Leader: December

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 Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group.

Alan Jarrett

This is the first of my monthly contributions to the Political Medway, and I read last week’s contribution by the leader of the opposition with a sense of déjà vu! For this is what I have been listening to ever since we took control of the council 18 years ago; but this time carefully setting out the ‘achievements’ of his Labour colleagues.

One by one the members of the Labour Group were named, and one by one we can now see just what they have achieved over all these years. NOTHING!

Whilst we read a list of what Labour had been trying to stop from happening in Medway, my contribution is going to set out all the things that the Conservative administration has actually done.

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iFAQs: Brexit omnishambles

One of our popular features on The Political Medway is inFrequently Answered Questions, where we’d send off questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply. This week, we kept things nice and simple by sending the following two questions to every Medway councillor:

Q1. What is your preferred option for Brexit? May’s deal, no deal, or no Brexit?
Q2. What do you think of Medway Council’s Cabinet decision not to prepare for Brexit?

 

 

We told every councillor that they had a week to respond, and that we would publish their responses entirely unedited. All responses are published below, in the order that they were received by us.

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A Comprehensive Internet Guide to ‘Medway Brexit’

Medway Council’s ruling Conservative Cabinet have rejected calls to investigate the effect of Brexit on The Medway Towns.
So Keevil set out to find answers, bestowed with the knowledge that everything is available online, including knowledge. Keevil went armed with a search engine and the words ‘Medway Brexit’.
We present to you almost everything we found in all it’s visual (and helpful?) glory.

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iFAQs: Min Attendance / Max Council

One of our popular features that we used to have on The Political Medway was inFrequently Answered Questions, where we’d send off questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply. As we get going on this project again, we’ve decided to start asking some questions of our esteemed councillors once again.

To get us going, we started with an easy one, and sent all 55 Medway councillors the following question:

What should be the minimum attendance percentage of full council meetings for a councillor to retain their position?

We told every councillor that they had a week to respond, and that we would publish their responses entirely unedited. All responses are published below, in the order that they were received by us.

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Cllr Mackness’ alleged conflict of interest referred to police

The previous allegations about Councillor Andrew Mackness and a possible conflict of interest between his paid employment and his Medway Council Cabinet role have escalated, with the matter being referred to the police.

In a closed meeting on Wednesday, we’re hearing that the group of councillors tasked with looking at the claims, the Councillor Conduct Committee, unanimously agreed to refer the matter.

The Councillor Conduct Committee is made up primarily of his Tory colleagues, and following an internal investigation by Medway Council, they elected to refer the matter to the police for further investigation.

It remains curious why Alan Jarrett, the Leader of Medway Council, promoted Mackness to the Children’s Services portfolio, even after the original allegations came to light.

We reached out to the Medway Conservative group for comment on this story, and received this response to the situation from Cllr Mackness:

“It is imperative for elected Members to be transparent in their work, as I  am at all times, which is why I declared my interest at Hook Meadow in the first instance, along with my other declarations. The declaration in relation to Hook Meadow was incorrect and was not a pecuniary interest at all  and should not have been listed. I have no financial interest in this site at all and it has been removed. This is pure administrative error on my part.

Whilst I of all people am keen for this to be resolved, there is a process that must be followed, I have co-operated completely with Medway Council’s legal department, and should the Police be in contact, I will be pleased to assist them in any way that I can to conclude this matter.

When this matter is concluded  I will be asking for a review of the whole process, having been unable to comment or be interviewed at any stage by the Councillor conduct committee, which is a ridiculous situation.

The matter raised by the Labour group is a clear attempt to damage my reputation and nothing else.”

The Week

Yeah yeah, it’s been a while. We’re also trying a new format as the old one was a pain in the arse.

Shopmobility shafting
Shopmobility services provide a vital way of disabled people getting around town centres. However, that hasn’t stopped Medway Council spectacularly changing theirs with next to no consultation. On Thursday 25th August, it announced that the existing provision in Chatham would be closing, replaced by a new service on 1st September. The new service is located at the opposite end of Pentagon Shopping Centre to the disabled car park, and charges have been introduced, making it far more difficult for disabled people to make use of the service. Disability campaigners, Medway Labour, and Conservative Chatham & Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch are unhappy about the changes, but we don’t expect much to be done to make this right.

Rochester Riverside plans
The regeneration scheme for Rochester Riverside has been dragging on for roughly 238 years now, but things might finally be getting moving. After appointing Countryside and Hyde to proceed with the project last year, Medway Council will be showing off the plans in a generous three hour window this Tuesday. The project is set to include 1,300 homes, school, hotel, bar, restaurant, offices, retail units, and a new riverside walk. What isn’t mentioned is transport infrastructure, which given the existing congestion on Corporation Street, is conspicuous by it’s absence. If you’re interested in taking a look at the plans for yourself, they will be on display at the Corn Exchange in Rochester on Tuesday 6th September, between 5pm and 8pm

Cabinet kerfuffle
Medway Council’s ruling cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss business rates, and, er, not much else. Being the good little citizen journalists we are, we’d like to be there, but alas they hold these supposedly ‘public’ meetings in the middle of the working day. We’ve looked and struggled to find other councils that make their democratic processes this inaccessible (most hold such meetings around 7pm), and we’ll be doing so in more depth going forwards.

NIMBYism in action
Once again, the Medway NIMBY brigade are out in force, this time objecting to a planning application for a new bar and restaurant on New Road in Chatham. For our money, the application seems to be put together pretty well, with continuous staffing of inside and outside areas, CCTV coverage, and a fairly strict licence request. That hasn’t stopped the locals being outraged at the idea though, claiming it’ll lead to anti-social behaviour and, weirdly, diners being beaten up. The giant boarded up shop that’s currently in it’s place is, of course, absolutely fine.

MedLabHack
Back in February, the Medway Labour website was hacked, with someone sticking some malicious content into it’s code. Remarkably, the website still remains in this state, with Medway Labour having done nothing to fix the issue, take the site down, or even warn users that visiting the site puts them at risk. This whole sorry ordeal has been going for over six months now, meaning the Medway Labour website has been hacked for a longer time than Tim Peake spent on the International Space Station.

“The only thing that cunt wants is a bullet between the eyes”
Interesting times at the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, which has been locked in huge infighting between it’s members. Police have been called to meetings that threatened to get out of hand, and a new report details some remarkable tales of bullying and intimidation (such as the quote above) that took place within the organisation. What does this have to do with Medway, we hear you ask? The former chair of the BASC, who resigned in June, is none other than Alan Jarrett, the leader of Medway Council.

Car-aoke challenge
As part of the September campaign for local charity Danny’s Angels, the Medway Labour group have taken part in a car-aoke challenge. We’ll be curious to see whether the other political groups in Medway take up the challenge, and The Political Medway has offered a generous donation if representatives of all five local political parties – Conservative, Labour, UKIP, Lib Dem, Green – all take part in a joint singalong. Will they accept the challenge?