The Week in Medway Politics: Tax, Momentum, solar panels

Medway MPs in Parliament

The fun police
All three Medway MPs voted in support of scrapping student maintenance grants this week, after a debate was forced on the issue. All three of them also voted to ban ‘poppers’ too, so lots of people will be thrilled about their work this week.

Tolhurst on Tax
A pretty incredible exchange in Parliament this week, where Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised concerns about the burdens of changes to the tax system on small businesses. All well and good, if it were not for the fact such changes hadn’t been proposed, as the minister helpfully informed her.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst is concerned that the officers at facilities such as the recently scandal hit Medway Secure Training facility might be having a tough time of it. Also, Friday was Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch’s last regular day in Parliament until July, as she takes some time off for maternity leave.

Medway Council

First meeting of 2016
Thursday saw the first full Medway Council meeting of 2016. Unfortunately we were unable to provide live coverage this time. If you’d like to experience the whole thing yourself, an MP3 of it is available at the bottom of this page. Not much of any interest seemed to occur, other than the little issue of the council cutting £1.4m of public health funding.

Other council news
The council are sticking 400 solar panels on the roof of Gun Wharf, which will apparently save them £23,000 per year, while neglecting to mention how much the panels will cost in the first place. In happier news, the council was ranked as the 93rd best place in the country for LGBT staff to work.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.

Medway Labour
The first meeting of Medway Momentum took place on Saturday. No signs of any serious conflicts within Medway Labour at this stage, but we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
It’s a little late, but new Chairman of the Medway Lib Dems John Castle has provided a new year’s message of where he intends to take the party.
The party is also jumping on a national campaign about criminal driving which helpfully includes copy and pasted text, and a made up quote from Brake.

Medway Green Party
Those sneaky Greens have managed to take the council solar panel story, and use it as a way of questioning how many of the council’s 30,000 upcoming homes will be environmentally sound.

Medway TUSC
After weeks of us joking that they’ve all gone to join Momentum, they popped up to advertise and talk at this week’s Medway Momentum meeting.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman is definitely slowing down his photo opportunities this year, but he still found time to have his photo taken with the Austrian ambassador, a Pakistani news team, staff at Medway Hospital, Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally, and a charity sleep out he wasn’t actually taking part in.

The Week in Medway Politics: G4S, traffic, tax dodging

Medway MPs in Parliament

Medway G4S scandal reaches Parliament
A remarkable exchange in Parliament this week between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Tolhurst decided to point her ire less at G4S themselves over the recent Medway abuse scandal, instead questioning why the BBC didn’t reveal the evidence earlier. In response, Gove helpfully explained exactly how journalism works.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst again popped up, this time to raise concerns about congestion at the Dartford Crossing in a debate on the subject.

Medway Council

That awkward moment
Medway Council had to slightly awkwardly announce this week that one of it’s own employees had been convicted of dodging council tax. The council doesn’t have a brilliant record of chasing outstanding council tax, so it’s nice to see them have something of a win here.

First meeting of 2016
The first full council meeting of Medway Council will take place this Thursday. Following the council’s changes to public questions, we’ve gone from around 20 being asked at the last meeting, to only 3 this time around. Highlights of the meeting this week include Cllr Shaw raising the #medwaybincrisis, Cllr Stamp wanting the noise team to clamp down even more, and Cllr Bowler’s attempt to allow public questions at planning meetings. You can read the full agenda here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Kent Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott popped up to campaign in both Rainham and Rochester this week. Cue several pictures of local Conservatives standing around in the cold next to a slightly lonely looking ‘six point plan’ sign.

Medway Labour
Missing, because they probably need to pump themselves up for the big council meeting this week.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, and if their website is anything to go by, I wouldn’t expect much out of them before March.

Medway Green Party
Helpfully, the Greens noticed and raised a consultation about improving the area around Chatham rail station that everyone else seemed to miss.
The party are also a bit wary of the environmental impact of the Lower Thames Crossing that may skim around the edge of Medway.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman still isn’t back up to full selfie power, but this week he was able to have his photo taken running in the rain, with a TV camera, literally off the TV, with a guy called Neil, with a sick child, and with the aforementioned Matthew Scott and his sign.

The Week in Medway Politics: Airport, taxes, bins

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
No votes in Parliament this week, but at least Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti managed to pop up to suggest that Saudi Arabia’s recent executions might not be as bad as they originally seemed, while Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised the issue of biodiversity at Lodge Hill.

Medway Council

Council tax increase
The council announced this week that it would be seeking the largest possible council tax increase without a referendum in this years budget. The 3.994% increase will consist of a 1.994% general council tax increase, alongside an additional 2% to be used to fund social care. Local councils are in a tough position following large cuts in their grants from local government, so it’s likely that Medway will be far from alone in taking this position.

Rochester Airport clusterfuck
The Rochester Airport saga that has been rumbled on for an incredible 417 years now has no end in sight, as the council are once again returning to the planning stage on it. Which suggests someone has messed up somewhere. We’re still going to be covering this one for many more years yet.

#medwaybincrisis
The council’s rubbish collections proved to be pretty rubbish over the festive period, with some areas facing delays of several days for their rubbish to be picked up, leaving many areas resembling a sea of rubbish. The council hasn’t really explained why this was the case, but let’s all be grateful that our long unitary authority nightmare is now over. The above hashtag also managed to become a thing, so at least one good thing came out of it.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
The party decided to protest outside of Medway rail stations over expensive rail fares, as part of a national campaign. Kind of hard to go wrong with that one in a commuter area.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week saw the funeral of former Lib Dem councillor Stephen Kearney, which the party marked with an obituary on their website.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Medway Greens aren’t too happy about the plans for Rochester Airport.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman eased himself back into his promotional photos after a Christmas break, only managing to have his photo taken with some squash players, some thrilled looking students, himself on the TV, some other students, a plaque, and a solitary resident.

The Week in Medway Politics: Oh come on, it’s Star Wars week

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
As MPs finished up for Christmas this week, not a great deal was going on. Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length about the exploitation of 16 and 17 year olds, while Tracey Crouch answered some questions and gambling, and most importantly, announced the government had no plans to change daylight savings arrangement.

Medway Council

Refugees not welcome
The council this week declared that it would not be taking any Syrian refugees, apparently because they can’t afford to look after them. For context, Ashford Borough Council is taking in 250 refugees. The “can’t afford it” argument is a little hard to buy from a council that was able to spend £16,178 on marketing, £12,152 on CCTV cameras, and £1,647 on Warner Bros studio tours in September.

Booze limit
A licence application for a new off-licence in Chatham was turned down this week as councillors decided the area didn’t need another place to buy alcohol. There are already 93 apparently completely acceptable outlets with 1km of the proposed site, so obviously having 94 would be a step too far.

Who needs houses?
Once again, Medway Council rejected a large scale housing application after throwing out a proposed development of 450 homes in the Capstone area. After throwing out similar plans on various sites in Medway, it’s not clear exactly where Medway Council believes the tens of thousands of new homes Medway needs will go, but hey, at least we’ve got a nice field, eh?

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about the council’s stance of not taking any Syrian refugees.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, because they actually did stuff for the past few weeks and now they need a nap.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re happy the Capstone homes application was thrown out.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
A shockingly quiet week for Rehman this week, with him only managing to have his photo taken with multiple Medway headteachers, a new distillery, barn dancing pensioners, and the only residents of Gillingham shorter than him.

The Week in Medway Politics: Alarms, schools, votes

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes at 16
In an ongoing battle between the House of Commons and the House of Lords on whether or not 16 or 17 year olds should be allowed to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, all 3 Medway MPs voted against extending the franchise. Despite it recently working well in the Scottish referendum, and complaints that the young are too disinterested in politics, Medway MPs decided that things are just fine how they are. This issue will likely return for another round in the near future.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 3 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti apparently had a pretty grim week as he discovered the existence of Boko Haram in Nigeria. In brighter news, he also raised questions in Parliament about introducing automatic compensation for delayed Southeastern trains, a definite vote winner in Medway. Tracey Crouch got to speak at length on the effects of incidents like the recent Paris terrorist attacks on tourism, and Kelly Tolhurst didn’t say anything in Parliament all week.

Medway Council

Apocashit
The council created a bit of a panic on the Isle of Grain this week, by accidentally sending everyone an emergency warning message about the gas terminal located there. Seeing as an actual incident at the terminal could be catastrophic for those leaving in the area, it’s unsurprisingly that they weren’t exactly amused by the error.

Edukation standards
It’s hardly even a surprise at this point, but Medway primary schools are once again rated as the worst in the country. Maybe this report will be the one to spur change in the administration, but we expect we’ll be writing the same thing again next year.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about the state of Medway’s primary schools, and have called for the portfolio holder, Cllr Mike O’Brien, to resign over the report.
Fun times ahead as Medway Momentum have popped up on Twitter, and are organising their first meeting for January.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Sad news this week as former councillor and Deputy Mayor for the party, Steve Kearney, passed away.

Medway Green Party
The party raised an interesting question about where Medway Council might have funds invested. We’d quite like to know the answer to that too.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with students from Rainham Mark Grammar School, Reverend Ann from Twydall, the Chief Constable of Kent Police, an exercise bike, a possibly angry resident named Steve, a band, some shitty crafts, Santa, another Santa, some young Tories bowling, some babies, some students from Midkent College, and the Daily fucking Mail.

The Week in Medway Politics: Dickens, bombs, and broadband

Medway MPs in Parliament

Syria Vote
The biggest issue in Parliament this week was the polarising vote on whether or not to launch airstrikes against IS in Syria. All 3 Medway MPs voted in favour of launching airstrikes. Tracey Crouch wrote a detailed explanation for her vote on her Facebook page, while Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst have offered comment via the Medway Messenger.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 8 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 7 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 7 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst claimed that after knocking on thousands of doors (presumably in Rochester and Strood) in the past year, immigration nearly always comes up. Apparently the broadband in Rochester is pretty shit too. Rehman Chishti also won his battle against Islamic State, but in the most pointless of ways.

Medway Council

Dickensian Christmas
This weekend saw the usual tatfest that is the council organised Dickensian Christmas festival in Rochester. The council seemed to think it went well, with just some “minor traffic issues”, which is hardly how most drivers in Rochester and Strood would likely describe things.

Rochester Town Council campaign
Medway Council this week rejected the initial petition for a Rochester Town Council on the rather tenuous reason that collected electronic signatures are not okay, despite previously implying they were. This definitely not a delaying tactic will not deter the campaign though, who now need to collect the signatures on paper and submit them again in the new year.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
Not a busy week for Medway Labour, as they’ve managed to come up with 8 paragraphs on the subject of whether shops should be allowed to put signs on the pavement.
The national strife of Labour may be heading to Medway, as Momentum Medway is holding their first meeting in January, featuring a range of Labour and non-Labour faces.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party this week called for more support for small businesses in Medway. All of which is very noble. The party even had some nice quotes on the subject:
Lib Dems

While the Lib Dem leader on Norwich City Council said the following:
Lib Dems

The moral of this story? If you’re going to take a national campaign and make it local, at least vary the words a bit to something vaguely resembling your own.

Medway Green Party
The Greens made a strong play for the local arts/culture community this week, by supporting the crowdfunding campaign for the fantastic WOW magazine.
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about bombs being dropped on Syria either.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with Eileen from Medway Hospital Radio, the Ambassador of Kuwait, some shipping containers with an invisible George Osborne, a professor in Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Daily Politics green-screen, a Tesco manager in a giant Christmas jumper, some residents all from a similar demographic, former council leader Rodney Chambers in his card shop, a bipolar focus group, some guys from the Bahraini embassy, some windswept residents, Dorris and Dave, some kids at a Christmas fair, the team from a remembrance service, and a squash racquet and a lot of sweat. Imagine what he’d be like if there was an election campaign on.

The Week in Medway Politics: Ofsted, Oldham, and alcohol

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes
Out of a maximum of 4 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst asked a meaningless question about Syria, and asked about job losses at the Chatham HMRC site, while Rehman Chishti banged on yet again about what to call Islamic State. Meanwhile, Tracey Crouch ended up answering a lot of questions about the Big Lottery Fund.

Medway Council

OFSTED report
An Ofsted report into Children’s Services in Medway has ranked them as ‘requires improvement’. Medway Council post an article on this with the title ‘Ofsted report confirms Medway’s children’s services are improving‘. Impressive chutzpah.

Airport action
There’s an apparent “jobs boost” for Medway as Rochester Airport has been granted Enterprise Zone status. At least it kind of has. Along with half the other places in Kent.

Traffic fines
Some FOI digging has revealed that Medway Council has raised almost £1 million in traffic fines since 2013, a number all the more staggering given they only have 5 active cameras.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
The party responded to the Autumn Statement. You’ll be shocked to discover they weren’t happy about it. They’re also a bit grumpy about the Ofsted thing.
The Medway Labour away team also took a trip up to sunny Oldham this week to campaign for this coming week’s by-election.

Medway UKIP
Not specifically Medway related, but UKIP have now selected a candidate for next year’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party held their AGM this week, and apparently had a record turn out. They even needed extra chairs and plates. Bless.

Medway Green Party
The Green took the bold step of coming out in support of Chatham’s new distillery, and made a pretty good joke about a new council office that would make it even harder for the public to ask questions.

Medway TUSC
Medway TUSC reemerged this week to get a bit annoyed that they weren’t invited to a Young Person’s Question Time. As you do.

Other News

Rochester Town Council
The campaign for a Rochester Town Council held their ‘Making It Happen’ meeting this week. Jennings went along and live tweeted it, and left believing that it’s now more likely than not to happen.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with a microphone, the Ambassador of Bahrain, the High Commissioner of Pakistan, the Chairman of Senate of Pakistan, some constituents in Parliament, Big Ben on BBC News, Big Ben on ITV News, some guide dogs at Dobbies, the local Conservatives ladies lunch, Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, the Managing Director of Southeastern, several pensioners advising him on how to bomb Syria, the Hempstead Christmas tree lighting, and some Gurdwara celebrations. He seems to take more pictures of himself every week.

The Week in Medway Politics: Candidates, housing, and buffets.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes
Out of the 7 votes in Parliament this week, Rehman Chishti voted in 4 of them, Tracey Crouch in 5 of them, and Kelly Tolhurst in 5 of them.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst asked a meaningless question about policing, and Rehman Chishti banged on about calling Islamic State ‘Daesh’ again. Tracey Crouch, in her role as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Culture, Media, and Sport answered lots of questions about betting and gave some fantastic statistics about how many people visit the seaside.

Medway Council

Vaping violators
This week, the council sent trading standards officers to visit 8 vaping shops around Medway, and found 7 of them sold items they shouldn’t to children. They’ll be sorting this out by sending them each a sternly worded letter.

Housing headaches
Medway Council agreed planning permission for 131 new houses near Chattenden, despite the usual NIMBY opposition. Given Medway needs to build tens of thousands of houses in the coming years, expect lots more of these battles in the future.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Conservatives have selected Matthew Scott as their candidate for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner. His experience of policing seems to consist of the fact his family have been police officers.

Medway Labour
After weeks of mysteriously talking about policing issues and holding various policing related meetings, Luton and Wayfield Councillor Tristan Osborne announced he was indeed running to be the Labour candidate for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner. He at least has experience of being a Special Constable, which makes him marginally more qualified than Matthew Scott.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, presumably still not entirely sure what they should be doing.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week Medway Lib Dem anger is focussed on cuts to policing.
If you fancy a party and a half, members are invited to their AGM at the swanky Roffen Club on Thursday, where there will be (brace yourself) both a buffet and a social. Phew!

Medway Green Party
The Greens seem to be the only Medway party taking a position on a potential lower Thames Crossing. Of course, they’re opposed.

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Rochester Town Council
The campaign to create a Town Council for Rochester rolls on. The petition signatures have been collected and handed in, so what’s next? The organisers are holding an open meeting tomorrow (Monday) night for anyone wanting to find out more, suggest ideas, or get involved with the campaign.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with someone from the Howard School, a microphone, the Daily Politics green screen, some rather baffling framed photos, some folks at a charity reception, some quality desks, a bunch of young Tories, someone from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, a present as big as himself, and new Police & Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott. Crikey.

The Week in Medway Politics: Bungalows, commissioners, apologies

Medway MPs in Parliament

Recess
Parliament was in recess this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much there, but that didn’t stop Tracey Crouch getting herself into trouble (see below).

Medway Council

Bungalow Bonanza
Medway Council has begun the ‘largest council-built bungalow development’ in the UK. The ‘largest’ being a grand total of 32 dwellings. Which is nice and all, but Medway has thousands on it’s housing waiting lists.

Local Plan
Medway Council will soon beginning drawing up a new local plan, identifying development sites for the coming years. Which will definitely go well.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Conservatives have announced their shortlist for their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner next year. None of the names on the list are particularly relevant to Medway.

Medway Labour
The party have taken the opportunity to crow that changes to Sunday trading rules have been delayed. Despite the fact Scotland has more relaxed Sunday trading, the SNP have decided to block such moves for the rest of us. Ain’t democracy grand?

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumably not entirely sure what they should be doing.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, presumed ignored.

Medway Green Party
The Greens have called for a Medway cabinet portfolio holder to be dedicated to rural areas, wildlife, biodiversity, and all that kind of stuff.
Apparently they’ve also been canvassing in Rochester. Has anyone actually spotted ’em?

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Crouchrage
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch gave a fairly wide ranging and interesting interview to the Spectator, and in one fairly throwaway section, suggesting that certain constituents who are struggling financially should perhaps give up things like Sky TV. Cue the usual outrage machine going into overdrive, followed by the inevitable apology.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with constituents Colin and Carol, the High Commissioner of Bruneiradiographers from Kent Oncology Centre, a distillery with Kelly Tolhurst, stuffed toys at the Women’s Institute, a church Santa, some men at a football match, and folks at the Medway Hindu Temple. Even on his week off, Rehman doesn’t fail to get around.

The Week in Medway Politics: Fireworks, anger, and beer

A fairly quiet week, but this is whats been happening in Medway politics in the last seven days..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Slow week
Nothing much happened from a Medway perspective in Parliament this week. Tracey Crouch answered some questions, Kelly Tolhurst brought up immigration, and all three MPs voted in every vote they were able to.

Medway Council

Fireworks
Seemingly the only thing Medway Council has been focusing on this week is blowing up a bit of the sky on Saturday. They did it pretty well though.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumed hibernating until April 2019.

Medway Labour
Medway Labour want some payday lenders hung, drawn, and quartered.
They also decided Remembrance Sunday would be a good time to make a political point about police cuts.

Medway UKIP
Former Medway UKIP candidate created a Twitter account just to tell us Medway UKIP are still active, but we still haven’t seen much proof of that.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week they’re outraged about roaming charges and Right to Buy.
They also confirmed that they will fight the 2016 Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, after not bothering in 2012.

Medway Green Party
After moaning at us last week for not checking their Facebook page, we’ve now learnt they’re unhappy about development in the Capstone Valley, and excited about a beer festival. Fair enough.

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with Admiral Lord West, the team at St. Matthews Church, Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, Speaker John Bercow, staff and pupils at The Howard School, staff at Medway NHS Trust, the CEO of MHS Homes, a solitary constituent in Rainham, and Santa. Say what you want about Rehman, the man gets around.

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