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.
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.
There is no more appropriate place to start than with sport, for I attended the Medway Sports Awards on Friday 14th December held at Mid Kent College. It was an evening to showcase all that is good with Medway sport, with a succession of stories to demonstrate what Medway people can achieve.
We have provided the £11 million redevelopment of Medway Park, which allowed us to host training camps for teams competing in the London Olympics. Then £2 million of investment in Strood Sport Centre followed, including new football provision.
Medway has been able to host a heat of the Tour De France, and we will be following that up with hosting the UK Cycling Circuit Championship in 2019. Add to that we will be levering in more investment to provide even more artificial football pitches.
Mentioning Mid Kent College earlier it is important to recognise the enormous improvement in education in Medway over the last 18 years. Not only was that college invested in, but we brought four universities to Medway hosting over 12,000 students.
Underpinning further and higher education our results for educational attainment are the best in Medway’s history – with 85% of schools good or outstanding. Add to that Medway’s academy programme being kick-started by £75 million of investment.
A massive programme of over £300 million of investment has taken place in Medway over the last 18 years, with regeneration well underway in Chatham, Rochester and Strood.
At last we have found a way of bringing additional improvements into Gillingham. Improvements to Britton Farm will follow on from earlier work to make the Great Lines Heritage Park the marvellous facility it is.
Our investments include renovation of stations in Gillingham, Chatham, Rochester and Strood, making them more appealing to those travelling by train to London and beyond. The £26 million new station at Rochester was only able to happen after we made part of the Corporation Street car park available to Network Rail.
The new bus station in Chatham has now been complemented by the £4 million Chatham Placemaking improvements which link Chatham bus station and Chatham train station, ensuring those arriving in Medway have the best possible experience.
Conservative determination to save Rochester Airport from the closure and redevelopment planned by previous Labour administrations is now set to pay dividends. Enterprise Zone status has been achieved and with it comes the opportunity to bring forward development whilst maintaining the airport as a viable operational airport.
Innovation Park Medway at Rochester Airport will ultimately provide up to 1,400 jobs, bringing more employment and prosperity to Medway, and is a real example of how Medway Conservatives are supporting our growing business community.
Part of the work at Rochester Airport will see new hangers and control tower built. Importantly new facilities will be provided for Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS). The hard-working volunteers at MAPS were rewarded with the Queens Award for Volunteering.
It is tragic to record that their wonderful work restoring some of our iconic military aircraft would have ceased with the planned closure of the airport.
This is symptomatic of Labour’s disdain for our heritage, our military history and indeed our monarchy. Some members of the Labour group openly disrespect the monarchy, by not even singing our national anthem at public events.
The Labour boycott of the Battle of Medway commemorations was an insult to our military and naval heritage. British and Dutch royalty and senior naval officers attended that landmark event, but no sign of local Labour.
During the last 18 years Medway Conservatives have maintained the quality of our street scene, not least by retaining weekly kerbside collection of waste. Few councils in the whole of England offer a collection service for all waste – both recyclate and residual waste – which is a testament to our effective husbandry of resources.
We maintain our library service as one of the best in the country, including our popular mobile library. Our libraries are gradually being converted into community hubs, bringing council facilities to local people.
Our offer of over 30 days of festivals and events continue despite difficult financial times. Indeed in 2018 we introduced four new festivals. Our Focus On festivals were designed to take the council out of town centres to meet and entertain local communities as part of our Growth For All programme.
In difficult times we Conservative have maintained and indeed increased spending on social care, providing the services that are needed for children and adults alike. It has been a constant theme of this Conservative administration these last 18 years to do all we can for vulnerable children and adults in Medway.
In closing I need to remind readers that despite the financial difficulties we have faced we maintain the lowest council tax in Kent, by a factor of almost £100 a year.
To provide the high-quality services we do within a low-taxing environment is testament to the hard work and diligence carried out by your Conservative administration in Medway.
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.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Alan Jarrett is the leader of Medway Council, leader of the Medway Conservative group, and councillor for Lordswood and Capstone.