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.

Continue reading “iFAQs: Brexit omnishambles”

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.

Continue reading “A Comprehensive Internet Guide to ‘Medway Brexit’”

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.

Continue reading “iFAQs: Min Attendance / Max Council”

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?

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Children, Chairmen, Conduct

The big stories

Matthew Scott is Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
Last week, after an uninspiring campaign period, voters of Kent went to the polls to select a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent after sitting Commissioner Ann Barnes decided to stand down. Matthew Scott for the Conservatives was victorious, beating second placed Henry Bolton of UKIP. We had full analysis of the results, including an awful lot of graphs.

The Medway Council April ding dong – full story
Medway Council held it’s April meeting, which featured such exciting events as a new mayor being selected, and some revelations on the EU referendum. As usual, we were there to livetweet the proceedings, and you can catch up with all of the highlights above.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Save Sod the children
In one of the most remarkable votes of this parliament so far, both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted against allowing unaccompanied child refugees into the UK. Kelly Tolhurst even spoke at length in the parliamentary debate on why taking needy children in would be such a terrible thing to do. Of course, it’s all slightly moot now as it seems the government will u-turn and allow the children in after all, but it’s worth remembering that the first instinct of Medway MPs was to refuse to help children in need.

In, out, shake it all about
Six weeks out from the EU referendum, and our three Medway MPs are still declining to reveal where they stand on this incredibly important issue. It almost seems like they are all attempting to run out the clock and not tell their constituents where they stand, to avoid any awkward confrontations with their local party members.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length on energy generation on the Isle of Grain, while also acknowledging that some will be sad to see the chimney at Kingsnorth power station demolished.

Medway Council

All change
A sudden departure from Medway Council this week for it’s head of children and adult services, Barbara Peacock. Her time at the council can be described as rocky at best.

Curious conduct
A rare outing for Medway Council’s Councillor Conduct Committee this Wednesday. An interesting agenda that focuses on introducing social media guidelines for councillors, while also dealing with a complaint against a councillor. Whatever could it all be about?

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, they don’t really need to bother doing anything.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been ten weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Curious events within Rochester and Strood UKIP as chairman Chris Spalding stepped down from the role. No reason was given for this, but rumours of disharmony within the local party over the actions of Medway UKIP leader on Medway Council Roy Freshwater may well have played a part.
In a rare bout of local campaigning, the very same Cllr Freshwater was out and about in Chatham, encouraging people to leave the EU. Obviously.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Want to meet some local Lib Dems, if only to prove they exist? They’ll be in Strood High Street from 10am on Saturday!

Medway Green Party
As you might expect, the local Greens are a little concerned about Medway’s new local plan allowing housing development on green spaces, particularly after leader of the council Alan Jarrett stated that this would be necessary.

Other news

Reckless move
After being unceremoniously losing his Westminster seat in last year’s general election, Mark Reckless made his return to mainstream politics after being elected to – of all places – the Welsh Assembly. While we wish Mark well in his new venture, we are left wondering what will happen with his wife’s council seat in Strood South. Will she be resigning this to head to Wales, or will Mark be taking in one hell of a commute? Either way, it’s a question that Cllr Andrew Mackness is eager to get the bottom of.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Planning, police, powerhouses

Medway MPs in Parliament

Lower Thames Crossing
The consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing closed at the end of March, so we thought we’d take a look at where our local MPs stand on an issue that has great relevance to the people of Medway. Somewhat surprisingly, most of them don’t really stand anywhere. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch have made little public comment beyond sharing the consultation. Unusually, the only one to take a stand is Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who came out against it, presumably because she doesn’t have to sit in the queues at Dartford every day.

Elsewhere in Parliament
It won’t be all that surprising to discover that both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst both voted for George Osborne’s recent (and not entirely well received) budget. Additionally, in a slightly bizarre intervention following the Brussels attacks, Rehman Chishti demanded more “theological language” to fight terrorists.

Medway Council

Planning palaver
A baffling interlude courtesy of Medway Council’s planning policy this week. On Wednesday, councillors will vote on a range of planning applications, the most interesting being a proposed trampoline centre at Rainham Mark. Despite the proposed building having sat empty for a long time, the centre creating 45 jobs, consultation responses being 3 to 1 in favour, the recommendation is for the committee to refuse the application. The reason? It’s not in the right part of town, whereas the the KFC drive-thru right next door is perfectly fine. In the same week, the Cabinet looks set to wave through a plan to build a giant marina right outside of Gun Wharf.

The Kentish Powerhouse
Some curious comments from Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett, who told the KM that Medway is talking with other councils in Kent about powers and funding models that may be offered from central government. While there has been talk previously of other Kent County Council controlled boroughs forming larger groups, this is the first time Medway has been confirmed as taking part in such discussions.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Kent Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott campaigned in Rainham this weekend, but otherwise, the party seems to be keeping it’s head down.

Medway Labour
Incredibly, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, despite the party being aware of the issue weeks ago.
The party are also concerned by the seeming hypocrisy between the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett opposing government plans to make all schools academies, while trying to make all Medway schools convert mere weeks earlier.
Labour also hit the streets of Strood South, ostensibly to campaign to remain in the European Union, and nothing to do with a likely by-election in the ward. Interestingly, there was no sign of Strood South Conservative UKIP Independent Labour councillor Mark Joy on the campaign trail.

Medway UKIP
Not to be outdone by Matthew Scott, Kent UKIP Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Henry Bolton campaigned in both Gillingham and Chatham this weekend.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They reported some dumped bin bags to the council. Jolly good.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re still unhappy about the Lower Thames Crossing, and not really sure how to deal with Kelly Tolhurst ultimately being on the same side as them.
They’re unhappy that Medway Council have begun charging for all bulky waste collections too.
They’re also unhappy about a new retail development on Medway City Estate being built without road improvements. Though if the council proposed more roads, they’d probably be unhappy about that too.

Other News

Minor Police and Crime Commissioner candidate roundup
Previously announced Independent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Tim Garbutt may be out of the race as he seemingly didn’t check how much it costs to stand before now.
No such problems for another Independent candidate, Gurvinder Sandher, who has been hitting the campaign trail all over Kent, including a stop in Rochester this week.
We’ve covered the baffling campaign of Fergus Wilson several times before, so we won’t again in detail here, but blogger Jon Patience has been staying on top of latest events.
..and in one of the most jaw dropping twists of the campaign, English Democrat candidate Steve Uncles successfully convinced a judge to delay his trial for election fraud so he could fight this election.

Medway Council Budget Smackdown ’16

Last night, Medway Council held it’s annual budget meeting, which aims to set out the council’s spending for the coming year. Not usually the most exciting affair, this year’s meeting managed to feature a lot of anger about bulky waste, an official investigation possibly being triggered by one of our blog posts, and an interesting revelation about the Leader of Medway Council and Sandra Bullock.
If you missed the full excitement of the meeting, you can catch up via this handy Storify collection:

The Week in Medway Politics: Referendum, meetings, pints

Medway MPs in Parliament: Recess edition

Spending allegations
Following serious allegations about the Conservatives possibly overspending in 2014’s Rochester and Strood by-election, Kent Police have said they will not be taking any action. The suggestion seems to be that this is due to a 12 month statutory limit in prosecutions in such cases, meaning it’s now too late to launch any action.

In/out/shake it all about
With the EU referendum being officially announced for June, we’re delighted that despite all three Medway MPs being Conservatives, we have a full set of differing opinions on the subject. According to this handy spreadsheet of MP positions from Guido Fawkes, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti will be voting to remain in, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch will be voting out, while Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst used to be out, but is now in. Which, frankly, we are shocked by.

Medway Council

Full council on Thursday
This Thursday sees a full council meeting, with the only thing on the agenda being the setting of the budget for the coming year. With a council tax rise of nearly 4% on the agenda, this is likely to be a contentious one. You can come along and watch the fireworks yourself at the St. George’s Centre, Chatham Maritime, this Thursday from 7pm. Medway Momentum are planning to protest the event under the guise of protecting Sure Start Centres from cuts, even though there are no plans to cut them in the budget itself.

Local Plan
Medway Council is continuing to develop it’s Local Plan, where it needs to find room for tens of thousands of new houses over the next two decades. All of the documents for this and the ability to respond to the consultation are available via this webpage. Alternatively, you can go along to a local event to see more detail and discuss it with council officers. We went last week and found a lonely council officer, a solitary information board, and some leaflets. This week’s events are:
Medway Innovation Centre, Rochester – Tuesday (10am – noon)
Strood Sports Centre – Wednesday (2pm – 4pm)
Halling Community Centre – Thursday (2pm – 4pm)
Pilkington Building, Universities at Medway, Chatham – Friday (11.30am – 2pm)

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
In a fairly unusual public move, Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett has, alongside 40 MPs and 150 other councillors, signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the liberalisation of archaic Sunday trading laws.

Medway Labour
The Rochester & Strood branch will be meeting this week to decide whether or not to endorse Tristan Osborne as Labour’s Kent Police & Crime Commissioner candidate. Given it’s his home constituency, this should just be a formality, but it would seem some vocal Corbyn supporters are encouraging members to turn up and vote against him, which was obviously be horribly embarrassing. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s not much going on at the moment that would be relevant to them.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Fancy a fun night out? Medway Lib Dems are inviting all members and non-members alike to a ‘Lib Dem Pint’ this Saturday. In the Rochester Wetherspoons. So many lovely, independent pubs in Rochester, so they arrange a meetup for somewhere that resembles the seventh circle of hell on a Saturday night.

Medway Green Party
Constantly finding new angles to tackle the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, they have dug up an old plan for Shorne which will be somewhat decimated by a giant new road and a tunnel ploughing through the area. We await to see next week’s angle on the subject.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken running a marathon, meeting the King of Saudi Arabia (no word if he raised any pesky human rights issues), in his second home at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre, with some cricket pals, meeting a solitary resident in Rainham, and letting a Gillingham resident decide his position on the EU.