Toll Hurts Kelly’s Constituents

Recent readers of the Medway Messenger (August 7) may have been shocked to read that newly elected Member of Parliament for Rochester & Strood, Councillor Kelly Tolhurst, was being stopped from doing her bit to help out the local community:

A group of business people set up to improve Rochester will lose out on tens thousands of pounds due to financial red tape.

Kelly Tolhurst wanted to donate her council allowances to the Rochester Town Centre Forum after she became MP for Rochester and Strood and also held onto her council seat in Rochester West in May.

Of course, a councillor choosing to donate their allowance to a good cause is a noble endeavour. So what “financial red tape” was stopping Kelly from donating her council allowance to the Town Centre Forum?

Tax law.

Because council allowances are paid directly to councillors, they are taxed like any other income. Just like they would be if you or I or anyone else decided to donate some money to a good cause. You pay tax, and then you can do what you like with whatever is left. Apparently this is an outrage to the esteemed Member of Parliament though.

The numbers

Rochester Town Centre Forum claims to currently have around £2,000 per year, that it mostly spends on Christmas lights.

Kelly Tolhurst wanted to donate her full council allowance of £8,730, which would have given the Forum £10,730.

Having to pay income tax, like the rest of us, would result in Cllr Tolhurst “only” being able to donate £5,238 to the Forum, leaving them with a measly £7,238.

As this would only be a mere 262% increase for the Forum, Rochester West’s Councillor has decided not to bother donating the money, and as such it will remain in the council account for no particular purpose.

If Cllr Tolhurst had followed through on this donation over her four year term, the Forum would have received nearly £21,000 in additional funds. But this won’t happen, all so she can avoid paying some tax.

The beneficiary

Although it’s rather moot at this stage, it is rather curious that Tolhurst would select the Rochester Town Centre Forum as her intended beneficiary. While any town centre can always use additional funds, her constituency also contains Strood town centre, Cuxton, Halling, and the villages of the peninsula. Surely any of these centres would benefit as much as, if not far more than, the town centre of Rochester.

The solutions

It would appear that rather than grandstanding on this issue, if they really did want to support the town centres of her constituency, there are a number of possible solutions:

The most logical would be to accept the council allowance, pay the legally required tax, and donate the remaining £21,000 to either Rochester Town Centre Forum or between the town centres in her constituency. After all, this money is urgently needed:

“The High Street Forum are working on projects around promotion, increasing footfall and tidying up the high street but there’s no money left to do any initiatives.

They are working on starting a Saturday artisan market and this money would have helped.”

With this being the case, there is a larger gesture that Tolhurst could make: Replace the £3,492 per year that is lost to tax with a donation from her parliamentary salary.

After all, MPs were recently given a raise of £5,588. Tolhurst could make up the figure lost, provide a nice boost to the town centres, and still be left with a yearly salary in excess of £70,000.

What do you say Kelly?

Once Upon a Time in a Medway Constituency

Democracy pt 1

As part of the Vote for Policies test, Jennings held to type the Liberal Democrat, whilst Keevil showed support for Labour’s policies on democracy.

So what Democracy do the residents of the Medway Towns have?

 

Parliamentary Constituencies

As you should be aware, there are 3 Members of Parliament representing Chatham & Aylesford, Gillingham & Rainham, and Rochester & Strood. But it wasn’t always this way!
We have mostly stuck with 1997 as the line in the sand date for this blog, but not anymore..

Chatham & Aylesford
An electorate in 2010 of over 68,000. Half of the constituency is based in Medway and the other half in Kent.
Stay with me..
The Chatham & Aylesford constituency was created in 1997 from parts of the Mid-Kent and Tonbridge & Malling seats. The first incumbent of the newly formed seat was Labour’s Jonathan Shaw who was returned to the seat in the subsequent 2001 and 2005 elections, before the aforementioned boundary changes and Conservative’s Tracey Crouch win in 2010.
Tonbridge & Malling, like Aylesford, is outside of Medway, and therefore outside of our understanding.
The Mid-Kent seat was created in 1983 from parts of the Rochester & Chatham and Maidstone seats. The only winner of the seat was the Conservative’s Andrew Rowe from 1983 to 1992. Rowe won the newly formed Mid-Kent and Faversham seat in 1997, showing that Conservative’s could win seats in 1997. However the seat doesn’t represent Medway, and so like Maidstone, we don’t care. Rochester & Chatham was a parliamentary seat created in the 1950’s from the Chatham Constituency.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw several elections, except for 1959, return the Labour candidate, before 1970 when the constituency was won for the Conservatives by Peggy Fenner, the first polititian, outside of the Prime Minister, that Keevil remembers, which is impressive considering he wasn’t born until 1979. Anyways..
Fenner held the seat, with the exception of the snap election in Oct 84, winning it back in 1979, until the seat was abolished in 1983. Fenner won the newly formed Medway seat in 1983, and we’ll come back to that. Because as the name suggests, it represented Medway.
The Chatham Constituency was created in for the 1832 general election. I think we’ve gone back far enough there! But a clear record of Chatham going back and forth between Labour and the Conservatives doesn’t look like changing, though there’s a good chance that the constituency will.

Tangent Alert

The Government’s plans for boundary review in 2013, which would have reduced the number of seats failed to pass through Parliament. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act would have cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, but was opposed as gerrymandering, which we will come back to at a later date.


Rehman Chishti voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Tracey Crouch voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Mark Reckless voted strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
So should boundary changes come back up, theres a good chance, should they get re-elected, they would be in favour.

Where were we?

Gillingham & Rainham
Formed in 2010 with an electorate of over 71,000.
The Gillingham & Rainham constituency was formed in 2010 from the Gillingham constituency.
As far as I can tell there were little actual boundary changes. It’s just nice that Rainham got added to the title. It has only had one MP, the Labour Conservative councillor Rehman Chishti, who beat the Labour incumbent Paul Clark.
The Gillingham constituency goes back to the turn of the 20th century. It was mainly Conservative held until, with the exception of the 1945 election, Paul Clark won and held the seat in 1997. Well, that was simple.

Dagenham & Rainham is a constituency that is somewhere else and so shouldn’t be confused.

Rochester & Strood
Created in 2010, with an electorate of over 75,000.
The Rochester & Strood constituency was created from the Medway Constituency in 2010. The seat has been won by Mark Reckless twice, first for the Conservatives in 2010 and again for UKIP in 2014. As if you didn’t know that..
As Naushabah Khan rightly said on the Sunday Politics South East, there have been boundary changes from when Labour held the Medway seat, with Bob Marshall Andrews since 1997. Andrews won the seat from incumbent and previously mentioned, but now Dame, Peggy Fenner, see how this all comes full circle! Here at least there was at least a reason for the name change as it was found to be confusing with the recently formed Medway Unitary Authority, when the constituency covered only part of the authority.
For History bores, the Medway seat previously existed 1885-1918 when it was held by the Conservatives and Rochester has been sending a member to parliament since the 14th Century and the Medway Lib Dems should take heart they held the seat in 1910 so they are due a comeback.

Which seems a slightly mean joke to finish on, but there you go.

Game of Seats

Note:
This isn’t about preferences which would have shown Medway sending a rainbow coalition of Green, Lib Dems and TUSC (no it wouldn’t – Ed) to parliament, but rather based on our misunderstanding of numbers and how vote swings work.
Also we understand that every party is working to win every seat, and every seat is(nt) a target.
Also anything is possible. But….

Our meaning:
Small Majority: Under 1,000
Medium Majority: 1,000-3,000
Large Majority: Over 3,000

At least 5% of the vote is needed to keep the deposit.

 

Chatham & Aylesford

Conservative win from Labour in 2010.
Labour’s only target seat in the area.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.

Keevil Analysis

It will be close, but not as close as it could have been. A mixture of Crouch being a hard-working and likeable MP and Labour understandably focusing on winning Gun Wharf. Also anything could and maybe does happen in Aylesford.

Jennings Prediction

Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC, and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

It’s a bit of a boring start, but I’m with Keevil on this one. Crouch has proven herself to be an outstanding constituency MP, and her only competitor is Tristan Osborne, who perhaps not put across the best image for his party. He’ll increase the Labour vote compared to 2010 thanks to the electoral winds, but Crouch should be retaining here.

Gillingham & Rainham

Conservative win from Labour in 2010
Not a target seat.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative win. Large Majority.
Greens, TUSC and independent candidates to lose their deposits.
Naushabah Khan, Councillor, to stand and do better in 2020.

Keevil Analysis

A backward step for Labour re-standing Clark, who was soundly beaten by Chisthi in 2010, and nothing since then, not Chisthi’s questionable voting record on equal rights or Clark’s support of a primary school in Twydall has changed that. If Clark has stepped aside for new blood he could have continued to support as an elder statesmen of the local party.

Jennings Prediction

Conservative win. Large majority.
Greens, TUSC, and independent candidates to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

Well this is all a bit boring, isn’t it? Chishti hasn’t been the strongest local MP, but he’s built up a reasonable level of support in the community. Paul Clark, who vanished from the area for a while following his loss, is locally popular, but also too tainted by the sins of Labour past. Again, he’ll improve on his vote from 2010, but it won’t be enough to allow any other than a strong result for Chishti. This is the one seat in Medway where the Lib Dems can possibly retain their deposit, but reaching that 5% of the vote will be a struggle here, but their levels of support in Gillingham should be able to see them through.

Rochester & Strood

Conservative win from Labour in 2010.
UKIP by-election win in 2014.
Conservative (non)-target seat.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative Win. Small Majority
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits

Keevil Analysis

This depends on whether you think there will be a UKIP surge and whether the Conservative machine turns up to vote.
Whilst UKIP will do well in the peninsula, where other parties except TUSC seem to avoid. The Conservative machine will turn out, in spite of, not necessarily because of Tolhurst.
Having bloodied the Government nose in the by-election, a late result will show UKIP should have favoured Proportional Representation, not First Past The Post.

Jennings Prediction

UKIP win. Small majority.
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

Finally, an area of disagreement! UKIP have developed a strong local infrastructure in Rochester and Strood (emphasis on the latter part there). While the national party may not be able to throw the same resources at the seat as in the by-election, the recent publicity from that and the local groundwork will be enough to see them home here, albeit on a wafer thin majority. Which means to say the Conservatives could still squeak it. A lot of that potential depends on convincing tactical voters to come to them purely to keep UKIP out, but if they couldn’t manage that in a by-election, they likely can’t here either. The Greens are the party to watch here, to see if they can capitalise on their strong by-election performance and just about manage to hang onto their deposit.

 

To read our Local Election Predictions