Voice of the Leader: November

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, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

What a roller-coaster of a ride it has been since I last wrote in The Political Medway in September. One of delights of being Leader of Medway Council, are the complexities with which I deal with: changing issues; different (and sometimes difficult!) people to do business with; the changing external landscape which confronts us as politicians.

It is always a challenge, but when success comes through it is all the sweeter for that. 

Success is invariably hard fought, requiring dogged determination and the ability to work with others to gain their support.

High among our successes the commissioning in Chatham of the Royal Navy’s latest ship HMS Medway was an historic event, and it was with great pride that we welcomed the ship and its crew here during September. This represented the culmination of a great deal of hard work and persuasion, for it is very unusual for a ship to be commissioned in the place which bears its name.

This was the 11th HMS Medway to bear that name over the centuries, and the whole of Medway had the opportunity to share in the obvious pride in their ship exhibited by the captain and the crew. This was also the opportunity for the ship’s company to exercise the Freedom of Medway bestowed upon it earlier in the year at a meeting of Medway Council, and to see them march through Chatham was a moment to treasure.

The commissioning itself was attended by the great and good of both Navy and our area, and was indeed a memorable occasion. The opportunity for members of the public to enjoy a tour of the ship itself was enormously popular, to such an extent that additional places had to be allocated.

The visit of HMS Medway showed just how engrained in the psyche of Medway’s people is our long and proud military heritage. Which is why we take every opportunity to celebrate both our past and present military traditions.

The celebration of the past continues with our Command of the Heights project, with the work extending from the waterfront at Chatham to the high ground of Fort Amherst. It is an amazing project of over £2,000,000 to open up more of our lost and valuable heritage.

In Medway we celebrate our Rich Heritage and Great Future. Our heritage is in part represented by our navy and army through ship and fort, and the future is represented by the work we are doing all across Medway.

That future is exemplified by the announcement from the government that our long-running bid against the Housing Infrastructure Fund has been a success. We have worked long and hard over many months to produce a bid which meets the high standards set by government.

On 1st November government announced that Medway’s £170,000,000 bid had been accepted. This will now allow us to take forward our ambitious plans for infrastructure improvements on the Hoo Peninsula which will eventually unlock over 12,000 new homes for Medway people.

The successful bid is designed to provide addition capacity with both road and rail improvements, together with leisure facilities and green infrastructure in the form of country parks. Over £85,000,000 will go towards road improvements.

We will be working with Network Rail to bring forward improvements to rail connectivity, with over £60,000,000 for rail improvements including the potential for a new station near Hoo. Rail improvements are essential to complement the new roads. 

Over £14,000,000 will be available for green spaces, including country parks and river front land. More money will be made available for upgraded leisure facilities to serve the growing local population.

Crucially, the successful HIF bid will now enable us to press ahead with the final stages of our new Local Plan. The Local Plan process has been held up while the outcome of the HIF bid was awaited, as the two processes are inextricably linked.

Great news then for Medway as we pursue our Growth For All agenda, ensuring that there will be homes, and associated infrastructure going into the future. There is of course still much to do – not least by the NHS which now needs to provide matching medical facilities to meet the increasing demand.

So, election it is then. (Was that a collective groan from the electorate, or a huge sigh of relief that we shall not have to endure any more torrid Palace of Westminster debates for the next few weeks?).

The run up to the election has been interesting to say the least, with for me the most interesting part of it being the position of the Labour leadership nationally.

We had Corbyn saying over and over again “We want an election”, “We want an election”, “We want an election”. Fair enough – enter Prime Minister Boris Johnson offering an election, in fact just what Corbyn has been crying out for. Wasn’t it?

Ah! Corbyn says “We don’t want an election!”, “We don’t want an election!”, “We don’t want an election!”

Next, rather like some pantomime villains, the Liberal Democrats (LDs) (curious name for a party whose sole reason for being seems to be to deny the democratic wishes of the 17.4 million people that voted for Brexit!), cosying up to the SNP to say they will support an election.

Opps! Corbyn, when faced with losing a parliamentary vote, is forced to agree to an election after all. Would you buy a used car from him?!

All bets seem to be off then. It is only the Conservative Party which can deliver the latest Brexit deal. The Brexit Party wants a pure form of Brexit, but will never be able to form a government to achieve that. 

If you voted Brexit, and have had enough of that awful edifice which is the European Union then you have to vote Conservative. The LDs will scrap Brexit, as will Labour and the rest of them. 

We Conservatives will complete Brexit and honour the majority of people who voted for it.

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

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