Voice of the Leader: January

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.

Alan Jarrett

‘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.’

This was the promise I made in my first article for The Political Medway, and it is relevant to reinforce it here as most of us celebrate the incredible success achieved by Gillingham Football Club in defeating Premier League club Cardiff City in the FA Cup.

Gillingham FC is Kent’s only Football League club, this year celebrating its 125th anniversary, and as such has a special place in the history of Medway. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest cup competition and for these two things to coincide is noteworthy in itself.

When we agreed the shirt sponsorship deal for this season with Gillingham FC it was on a nil cost basis to Medway tax payers. But still we had our Labour opposition firstly trying to stop the sponsorship, and secondly to criticise and denigrate it. We’ve been here before, and it is another shabby example of how Medway Labour disrespect our heritage.

How proud most of us feel to see on the front page of national broadsheets pictures of Gills players in triumph sporting their home livery with Medway Council emblazoned across their chests! That sort of coverage is almost beyond price, and does so much to spread the word that Medway is a great place to live, work, learn and visit.

So while most of us share in the reflected glory of Gills historic win, others sit in their bunkers and think up their next way to belittle all that goes on in Medway.

In the 4th round of the FA Cup Gillingham FC have been given a tough draw away to Championship side Swansea. We in the Conservative administration in Medway wish them well – bon voyage!

These have been difficult financially straightened times for all of us, with Medway Conservatives grappling year on year to balance its budget and retain the same high level of services our residents have come to expect. It is to our credit that those services have been maintained, and high levels of resident satisfaction continue to be recorded.

But we need to think back to the days after the General Election in 2010 to find the reason for our financial troubles. Those happy days when Gordon Brown’s dour, spendthrift government was consigned to the history books. But like all governments that Labour government left its legacy.

The note left by Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the outgoing Labour government said it all: “There is no money – good luck!”

That was the start of austerity as Labour had spent money like a child let loose in a sweet shop, without any regard for the future sustainability of that spending. Today austerity is coming to an end, but only because we have had a Conservative government forced to tackle the financial mess left by Labour – improving the UK economy as only Conservatives know how.

But the ever present danger of a future Labour administration hangs like a dark cloud over this great country of ours. Whether that would be at a national or local level the dangers are ever-present, the consequences of a successful Labour election campaign dire.

Let’s just briefly reflect on some of Labour’s election ideas in the 2017 General Election. More spending – on pretty well anything they could think of. That spending to be funded by more borrowing. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

So more borrowing, more national debt, higher taxes, and ultimately another financial mess for the following Conservative administration to clear up. It has always been the same throughout history: Labour leaving a mess for us to clear up with the British people footing the bill.

How about Labour plans for a Garden Tax? Marxism writ large: if you own a large property Labour will tax you for the privilege.

Here in Medway I was an elected councillor when we last had a Labour administration from 1998-2000. During that time Labour profligacy reigned supreme, with huge draw down on financial reserves, massive budget overspends and hemorrhaging of services in the shape of a £400,000 cut in the street cleaning budget.

After only two years of a new unitary council Medway people had seen enough of Labour. They have turned to the Conservatives these last 19 years to run their council for the benefit of the people, rather than in pursuit of some socialist dogma.

So in Medway as we enter 2019 our unemployment figures are lower than ever; the value of Medway’s economy has risen to over £5.1 billion, and is growing faster than the rest of the South-east; with our business sector booming with over 14,000 businesses operating in Medway providing jobs and wealth for all.

Of course there have been tough times, but the direction of travel is upward. That has been achieved by a determined focus on improving Medway; on listening to the concerns of residents, businesses and those who learn here; and on working in partnership with others.

Medway Conservatives recognise the vital importance of working with others: with business; with our higher and further education providers; with health providers, with our military; and yes with our football club.

That is why our agenda to put Medway on the map is so important; important that we are recognised for all the good things we are doing, particularly in the corridors of power at Westminster. That is how we have been able to lever in multi-millions over the last 19 years to improve Medway and to continue to turn it into the 21st century city most of us want to see.

But running Medway is also about courage: about standing up for Medway and Medway’s people. When our partners deserve support and credit we give it. When they are wrong – as with current NHS plans to remove acute stroke services from Medway Maritime Hospital – then we tell them.

It is about putting Medway first.

Alan Jarrett is the leader of Medway Council, leader of the Medway Conservative group, and councillor for Lordswood and Capstone.

3 Replies to “Voice of the Leader: January”

  1. Half this article is about Football!!!!
    Supporting the local team is only a very small part of putting us on the map.
    We are on the map already as we have the 2nd oldest Cathedral in England. We have Rochester and all it’s associations with Dickens festivals et al. we have the Dockyard where the Victory was built plus many others right up to 1970.
    Rochester is not a city anymore because a form wasn’t completed in time!!!! If being on the map is important to yoy Mr Jarrett why has medway council done about that?

  2. The first two words were almost enough for me “Moving forward” the latest key phrase in the modern idiom. Then a tedious passage about football ( which is business not a local community asset) in which I lost all interest policing matches in the 70s. There are so many issues unresolved regarding a failing infrastructure that should have been addressed before “Moving forward” .. Traffic in every area especially the main A2 from Rochester into Strood, with the premature demolition of the Civic centre and historic building an opportunity was missed to put a relief road from the bridge out towards Cuxton Road for example. Medway City Estate issues could be relieved to some extent by opening the buses only route in Canal Road if development hadn’t obstructed that possibility. Our Council need to think bigger and outside the box and consolidate what we have before further catering to London overflow and the greed of developers.

  3. I could have been quite mystified by Councillor Jarrett’s rewriting of history, but I realise what Tory thinking must be: churn out the same fairy story often enough and it might become fact.

    It’s strange, though, to call Gordon Brown “spendthrift” since the Tory opposition promised to keep to Labour’s spending plans – until the world economy crashed, allowing Tories to revert to type and reveal their true antipathy to funding public services (except where private business can profit).

    When Labour came to power in 1997 this “spendthrift” government had to restrain itself for two years, while Gordon Brown brought down the debt left by the Tories (in those days of high rates, the cost of interest payments equalled the spending for two big government departments). Once that was achieved, Labour could set about rescuing the public services that had been run down and neglected by the Tories: NHS in crisis; schools crumbling and short of teachers; public safety at risk due to lack of police resources, along with tackling the growing poverty and homelessness (All history repeating itself today!). Unemployment stood at 2 million, but Labour halved that.

    As well as repairing the damage wrought by the Thatcher and Major governments, there were Labour innovations such as: Sure Start; Child Trust Fund; School Sports Partnerships … all since trashed by Tory (and Lib-Dem) governments.

    This supposedly “reckless” spending was simply financed by good stewardship of the economy, bringing years of steady growth in the economy (no more boom and bust – as promised) up until the world economy crashed. We were badly hit by the crash owing to Thatcher’s decimation of manufacturing industry, replaced with service industries – particularly financial services. Our banks weren’t as well regulated as they should have been – but Tories said there was too much regulation!

    Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s emergency action not only saved the banks (and our money in them) but kept the subsequent recession from slipping into depression. Governments across the developed world followed their lead (a Nobel prizewinning American economist declared that Gordon Brown “saved the world”). Among the remedies, infrastructure projects were brought forward, the car industry was rescued and measures were taken to help people avoid losing their homes. Any borrowing to invest in supporting the economy was fully justified and successful.

    When Labour left office the economy had started growing again, unemployment – never having reached the predicted 3million – had started to fall and borrowing was coming down. The election of the Tory/LibDem coalition put all that into reverse; it took them three years to get us back to the position they inherited. The promise to eliminate the deficit by 2015 was broken, and we’re still waiting. Borrowing kept on rising.

    Using the crash to justify austerity was a cruel excuse to cut services and benefits (though not my state pension?). Other cuts were to income tax for high earners and corporation tax for big business, a loss to The Treasury in spite of austerity. The greatest burden of austerity had to be carried by the poorest and most vulnerable (mind you – they’ve changed the way they measure poverty).

    They can try rewriting history – but some of us remember.

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