An overly annotated, abridged, potted internet history of the Medway Unitary Authority

The Kent (Borough of Gillingham and City of Rochester-upon- Medway) (Structural Change) Order 1996

18th July 1996

Constitution of a new District of the Medway Towns

-A new district of the Medway Towns shall be constituted and shall comprise the areas of the existing Kent districts of Gillingham and Rochester.

-There shall be a new non-metropolitan district council for the district of the Medway Towns.

Structural Change

-The functions of the county council in relation to the districts of Gillingham and Rochester shall, be transferred to the Medway Towns Council.

Constitution of New County of the Medway Towns

-The District of the Medway Towns shall cease to form part of Kent.

Existing Local Government Areas

-The existing districts of Gillingham and Rochester shall be abolished.

Electoral Areas in the Medway Towns

-The District of the Medway Towns shall be divided into 34 wards, which shall comprise the areas and bear the names of the wards described in the Borough of Gillingham order 1976 and the Borough of Medway Order 1976. Each ward shall be represented by two councillors.

Signed by authority; David Curry. Minister of State, Department of Environment.

Medway is a conurbation* and unitary authority**, constituted under the Local Government Act 1992***. Following the structural review the commission then reviewed electoral arrangements in English local authorities, rewarding**** based on population changes. The Boundary Committee for England was a statutory committee, abolished in 2010, with functions assumed by a new Local Government Boundary Commission*****, The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.****** Continue reading “An overly annotated, abridged, potted internet history of the Medway Unitary Authority”

New social media code of conduct for Medway councillors

At this week’s full Medway Council meeting, Medway councillors will agree to add a new section to their Code of Conduct, specifically around councillor’s use of social media.

The process of introducing this code began a year ago, when we published a story on the controversial tweeting of Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield, Michael Franklin. The Medway Labour group lodged a formal complaint over the matter, and while no direct action against Franklin was taken, the council have drawn up a new section to the Code of Conduct (above) to emphasise how seriously such matters are taken.

While many councillors maintain rather boring accounts, and others avoid it altogether, there are some who are ‘colourful’ in their use of social media, and we look forward to seeing how they react to the new rules.

An indication might come from the aforementioned Councillor Franklin, who has spent recent days calling celebrities ‘silly cows’ and demanding black people thank him for ending slavery. With the change in policy, it’s probably best he gets it all out of his system now.

The Week

Return of the Igwe
After leaving their selection for the Strood South by-election to the last possible moment, Medway Labour picked former councillor in the ward, Isaac Igwe to contest the seat. Thanks to the archaic way Labour selects it’s candidates, it was left in the bizarre position of having six candidates, and barely more than that many members making the choice. Igwe is a curious choice though, not supported by the new left of the party, and plenty of others uncomfortable with his views on social issues like equal marriage.

Greens recycle candidate
The Green Party also selected their candidate for the Strood South by-election this week, announcing that local party leader Steve Dyke will fight the battle. The Greens didn’t stand in Strood South in 2015 (Dyke stood in Strood North), so the fact they’re putting forward a candidate indicates some improvement in local organisation.

UKIP? Uwhat?
Proving that Labour aren’t the only party wrapping themselves up in petty infighting, there seems to be a kerfuffle within UKIP locally over their Strood South candidate selection. Karl Weller announced himself as the candidate some time ago, while former local chairman Chris Spalding claimed no selection process had been followed and announced he also wanted to be the candidate. As it stands, Weller remains the candidate, but it seems unlikely the local party divisions will be healed anytime soon.

Regressive alliance
Huge news this week for the structure of Medway politics, as Medway TUSC announced that they will no longer field candidates against Labour. Aside from leaving a question of exactly what the point of a political party that doesn’t field candidates is, one has to wonder how much impact this will have on the upcoming Strood South and Rainham Central by-elections. Given they got a combined vote of about 300 in both seats, it would seem very little is the most likely.

Brace yourself, it’s good news from Kelly Tolhurst
It’s not often we write something positive about Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, but she’s putting forward a Private Member’s Bill that seems to be doing something genuinely positive. She’ll be moving a bill in Parliament that will enshrine a 12 months ‘breathing space’ window for those in debt to be able to get themselves back on their feet. You can find out more about the bill here.

Audit combo
An interesting story that hasn’t received a large amount of attention about how Medway and Gravesham Council have combined their audit services to save £230,000 between the two councils. This kind of thing is seemingly becoming more common, and when savings of that scale can be made relatively easily, I expect we’ll be covering plenty more such changes in the future.

The Week

Reviewing the Boundary Review
On Tuesday, the Boundary Commission for England unveiled their proposed new constituency boundaries. There were no huge changes for Medway, but a fair number of little ones. Higham will be brought into the Rochester and Strood constituency, Lordswood and Capstone will move to Gillingham and Rainham, and Chatham and Aylesford is set to become Chatham and the Mallings. The proposed boundaries are now subject to a lengthy consultation period, so it’ll be next year before we hear any final plans.

Radicalised French Radicals
It’s been a whirlwind week for the internal machinations of the Labour Party. We reported earlier in the week on the suspension of long time member and Momentum activist Alan Higgins, who was planning to stand as the Labour candidate for Strood South. Since this, Medway Momentum endorsed a new candidate, Brian Kelly, but now Higgins has been reinstated by the party, so we’ve no idea what’s going on there now.

Cherry picked
In a rare bout of organisation, the Medway Lib Dems managed to be the first party to select their candidate for the Strood South by-election. In an even more unusual step, they’ve selected a new – and young – candidate, 18 year old activist Isabelle Cherry. Cherry’s campaign will apparently focus on issues like school improvement, litter, and public transport, so all fairly safe, but at the least the Medway Lib Dems are putting up a fight once again.

Return of the Iles
In perhaps the least surprising Strood South selection, the Conservatives have selected Josie Iles as their candidate for the Strood South by-election. Iles is a former mayor of Medway, and was the Councillor for Strood South up until losing her seat to UKIP last year. Going into the election, she remains the odds on favourite to retake the seat.

Other Strood South candidates
Not much else to report on the Strood South by-election front, despite the fact that the election is a mere 31 days until the election takes place. UKIP have two candidates to choose between (one being former local chairman Chris Spalding), Medway Labour have about 800 people putting themselves forward, and the Greens apparently have a candidate, but are busy filling out the paperwork to announce who it is.

Councillor allowances
As per their legal obligations, Medway Council recently published the details of councillor allowances paid for 2015-2016. The small problem with this is that they seemingly did a horrifically sloppy job with it, as Medway blogger Alan Collins covered in forensic detail. The sheer number of errors in the document raises serious concerns about the openness and transparency of Medway Council.

Cabinet reshuffle
Following last week’s sad passing of Councillor Mike O’Brien, a necessary reshuffle took this week within the Cabinet. Councillor Andrew Mackness will take over O’Brien’s education portfolio, with new Councillor Martin Potter taking on the new portfolio of educational improvement. The former corporate services portfolio of Councillor Mackness will be split amongst several other Cabinet members.

Medway MPs in Parliament
Remarkably, Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised concerns in Parliament about the consequences that the EU referendum that she voted for has had on small businesses in her constituency. Meanwhile, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti once again spent his time banging on about laser pens.

The Week

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, UKIP councillor for Strood South Catriona Brown-Reckless this week resigned from the council, having been elected only 16 months ago. This triggers a by-election in the Strood South ward, with a three way fight between UKIP, the Conservatives, and Labour for the seat taking place on October 20.

Remembering Mike O’Brien
Sad news this week as councillor Mike O’Brien, Conservative representative of Rainham Central and portfolio holder for Children’s Services, passed away. Mike had been a longstanding member of the local political scene, first being elected to Gillingham Borough Council in 1976 and Kent County Council in 1979.

Cabinet record
Not for the first time, the ruling Cabinet of Medway Council managed to conduct their business in record time this week. Despite having to discuss discretionary business rates relief for local charities and not for profit organisations, government proposals on the distribution of business rates, and a recruitment freeze, they managed to have everything wrapped up in 15 minutes. Because that’s how open and transparent democracy is done.

Boundary review
Plans that could quite literally change the shape of Medway politics will be unveiled on Tuesday, as the Boundary Commission release the first stage of their 2018 boundary review. The review is intended to reduce parliament to 600 seats from 650, and create constituencies of roughly equal size. Reasonable enough at first glance, but previous proposals have suggested moving Hempstead & Wigmore into Chatham and Aylesford, and Luton & Wayfield into Gillingham and Rainham. We’ll be pouring over the proposals in detail once they’re made available.

Local plan
The local plan stumbled forward slightly this week, with a meeting held in parliament to discuss it between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and, er, six other Conservative councillors. Given that the local plan is a vital document that will shape the direction of Medway over the coming years, it’s a shame that the direction is seemingly being directed by the Conservative benches and not a cross-party group.

Medway Labour website hackwatch, day 7182
After months and months of the Medway Labour website being hacked by someone dodgy, and the party doing nothing to fix or take down the site, councillor Tristan Osborne declared this week that something new is on the way! While we’re delighted to hear that something is actually happening, the Medway Labour group will have to excuse us if we don’t expect much this side of Christmas.

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: Referendum Special

Well.

That was something, wasn’t it?

We haven’t written an actual post about the referendum, because what can you say, really? We try and remain impartial with this site, yet this was a decision we cared greatly about, and impacts our futures in a big way.

In the next couple of days, we’ll get something up on the exact results from Medway and what it might mean, but for now, let’s do what we always do: snark mercilessly about what each of the parties have been up to in the past couple of weeks.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Neverendum
When it all came down it, our three Medway MPs managed to provide three different stances for where they stood on the referendum. Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst decided to focus on her career by endorsing remain, which will have seemed like a horrible mistake by Friday. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti went for leave, which probably sets himself up nicely for this post-Brexit world. Finally, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch decided to vote, but not tell us how. Which is absolutely her right, but we wonder how that might go down with her constituents down the line.

Also in Parliament
Unusually, Kelly Tolhurst asked a half arsed question about the balance of privacy and security in the Investigatory Powers Bill, and asked what turned out to be her final question to David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Medway Council

Oh, the humanity
The EU referendum saw a Medway turnout of 72.1%, and a split of 64.1% for leave to 35.9% for remain. Special shout out to the 27 Medway voters that managed to vote to both leave and remain in the EU. Various councillors and other folks weighed in on the referendum results here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The referendum bitterness reached the local Conservatives with Cllr Andrew Mackness, who acted as the election agent for Kelly Tolhurst, questioning the mandate of any MPs that supported remain. MPs like Kelly Tolhurst, for example.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 17 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. And yes, we are going to mention this every single time until they do something about it.
It’s hard to keep track of all of the animosity between Labour councillors and activists on Twitter at this point, but it’s worth noting that three councillors – Tristan Osborne, Naushabah Khan, and Andy Stamp – all called for Corbyn to step down this week. Which went down with certain activists like a cup of warm sick.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because.. wait, why the hell would they be missing at this point?

Medway Liberal Democrats
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t thrilled about the referendum result, and dealt with it the best way they know how: a 60,000 word essay about it on their website.

Medway Green Party
The Greens are now jumpy about what the consequences are for the environment once the EU is out of the picture.
They’re also focussing on trivial issues like local homelessness too. We don’t know what’s got into them.

The Week in Medway Politics: Sell offs, Saudi, snooping

Medway MPs in Parliament

Rehman probed..
It’s from the Daily Mail, so probably best you treat it with a supersize pinch of salt, but Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti is facing a formal complaint in relation to his work for a Saudi think tank. Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat MP, has written to parliamentary authorities asking them to investigate the matter, suggesting Rehman’s often pro-Saudi comments in the Commons may be influenced by his £2,000 per month paydays from the Kingdom.

They’re listening
Unsurprisingly, the Investigatory Powers Bill swept through the Commons this week, after Labour decided to support the Conservatives on the mass collection of everyone’s communications data. Equally unsurprisingly, both Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted in favour of the plans. It’s rather tempting to cc our MPs on every email that we send, given they’re so interested in reading the content.

Medway Council

Get your surplus council resources here! part II
As expected, the Cabinet met this week to decide whether or not to sell seven sites around Medway for development. These range from the only disabled car park in Rochester to a building used by a charity in Gillingham to the library and community centre in Hook Meadow. Unsurprisingly, they began the process of disposal of these sites, in a move that looks to be hugely unpopular with many residents.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
An action packed week for local Conservatives as both Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Minister Michael Fallon came to visit.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 15 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
Still missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
A busy week ahead for the Medway Lib Dems as this week they’re be out both leafletting and with a street stall in Gillingham on Saturday! We can’t remember the last time they were so active.

Medway Green Party
A rare quiet week for Medway Greens, but they were apparently out on Rochester High Street campaigning yesterday. Anyone see ’em?