Voice of the Leader: June

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

Hmm! Tough choice to make this month: spend most of my 1,000 words whining about Medway Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees, and who is Medway’s Mayor, or get on with discussing the things that really do have a major impact on the lives of Medway people.

May 23rd saw the Euro elections we were never supposed to have. Those elections were the electoral equivalent of having sand kicked in our faces. Like all of us the electorate does not like having sand kicked in its face, and decided to kick back.

It unsurprisingly saw the Conservative vote plummet, with The Brexit Party winning by a substantial margin. This is precisely what happens to a political party when it so blatantly breaks is promises to the electorate – in this case leaving the EU on 28th March.

Labour did not fare much better, and rightly so as it was equally culpable in breaking electoral promises. Parliamentarians as a whole let down the people, and the response says it all.

The one thing neither Conservatives nor Labour would have wanted was a resurgence of the Liberals. They became the depository for the Remain vote. Whether they will survive the rigours of a national election that really matters remains to be seen.

Happily the bunch of renegades in Change UK got short-shrift from the electorate, and that initiative is finished before it hardly got started. Its fragmentation continues!

For me as a firm Conservative and Brexiteer, the good news was the departure of the current incumbent as Leader of our party. Now the battle is on to choose a new Leader, who will then become our Prime Minister.

Writing this before the next round of voting on Tuesday means events will have overtaken my comments. However, for good or ill – depending on your viewpoint – Boris Johnson won the first round of voting with a landslide, with four contenders dropping out as a result.

Whoever the eventual winner is the next milestone is 31st October. That is when we are yet again supposed to leave the EU. Hopefully the 23rd May served as the ultimate wakeup call and this time we will see the result that the majority of us voted for.

Meanwhile, back at the day job it has been an interesting few weeks since 2nd May as we plan the next four years of a Conservative administration. Not least with our flagship frontline service waste collection and disposal.

This Conservative administration has always been clear that it will put Medway first, and this was never more clearly demonstrated than in the debate over who uses our Household Waste Recycling Centres (tips to you and I!). In Medway we have three tips, and very well used they are too.

One of the issues is they are not just popular with Medway residents, but it seems with a large number of residents living outside of Medway. Nothing wrong with that some say, but we have to remember that it is the Medway tax payers who are footing the bill.

When Kent County Council (KCC) announced it would start charging for the disposal of hardcore, soil and plasterboard it was expected that Medway would follow suit. Nope! A free waste service in Medway is exactly that – free!

However, we caught a financial cold last year when KCC had to temporarily close its Pepper Hill tip, meaning the throughput at our Cuxton site showed an enormous increase. KCC did foot some of the bill, but the thought of this pressure becoming permanent meant we had to act to protect Medway’s interests.

In February we acted to make changes to our tips to allow us to turn away people from outside of Medway. An allocation of £233,000 was made in order to achieve that – even though Medway Labour voted to allow people from outside of Medway to use our tips willy-nilly without paying for the privilege!

KCC were already paying £300,000 per year as a contribution to Kent council tax payers using our tips, primarily the Cuxton and Capstone sites. Negotiations between our two councils to arrive at a more acceptable figure came to nothing.

As the day for the KCC charges approached we broadcast the news that non-Medway residents would be turned away from Medway tips. This brought an inevitable reaction, with letters and emails from outside Medway, including from a couple of MPs.

Few from Medway complained, apart from one or two objecting to showing their I.D. at tips. The fact that people were coming from as far afield as Larkfield and Aylesford demonstrated the scale of the problem was larger than we had first thought. 

Incoming complaints from outside Medway were referred to THEIR councillors, and we remained firm in our view that people from outside Medway would not use our free facilities unless we were paid a realistic sum.

It took a sensible discussion between myself and the Leader of KCC to resolve matters. KCC are now paying Medway Council £675,000 per year until it has new tip arrangements in place. (Remember, Medway Labour did not want the changes to be made which eventually forced the new deal to be put in place!)

Medway residents still have to show I.D. at our three tips. That is so we know how much pressure is coming from KCC areas, and that will inform future negotiations. The waste message in Medway remains the same. If you live in Medway waste collection and disposal is free.

Other big news to deal with include: vacant space at The Pentagon shopping centre has been let, with lease renewals also occurring; we ARE NOT broke as reported locally; new housing developments at Chatham Waterfront, Whiffens Avenue and White Road are being brought forward this summer; and it seems highly likely that HMS Medway will be commissioned in Medway in September.

There is so much that is good in Medway, setting us out as the place to be in North Kent. More next month.

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

One Reply to “Voice of the Leader: June”

  1. We have a Parliamentary democracy, so our MPs are representatives and not deligates. They are supposed to consider all the points surrounding an issue and then decide based on what they feel is in the best interests of the electorate as a whole.

    Part of the arguments used in support of leaving the EU was that the UK needed to regain its sovereignty. One of the good things that has come from the vote to leave Europe (if not the only one) is that the sovereignty of Parliament is beginning to be re-established. That it had lost it in the first place was nothing to do with the EU, but the malign influence of the party system and the use of whips and patronage to force through government policy regardless its impact on the country as a whole. Hopefully these changes will outlive leaving the EU and along with an improved, more representative electoral system, and a higher quality of independently minded MPs, rather than the party place holders (from all parties), and the UK might just be ready for the 21st century.

    But what is good for national level is also good locally. For this reason I am a worried that Councillor Jarrett seeks to play down the important and necessary role of scrutiny and oversight committees play in the good governance (or otherwise) of our own council. The activities of these committees also have a major impact on the ‘people of Medway’ (It ‘really’ does) and concern for it should not just be dismissed as whinning. It might not be as popular a choice as writing about waste disposal, but I for one would have been happy for Councillor Jarrett to have spent at least some of his time addressing the issues raised by the article.

    For example, do councillors from other parties or independance sit on these scrutiny committees, as is the case of Parliament and even in the EU? If this is not the case then all protestations about ‘democracy’ and broken manifesto promises (as if this has never happened in the past) are just lip service.

    I must compliment on Councillor Jarretts slowly improving tone. All that vitriol can’t be good for someones well-being. Baby steps

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