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.
After a missing month, there is a lot to write about, both here in Medway and nationally.
The biggest national furor of course continues to relate to Brexit, this time the decision to prorogue Parliament with an awful lot of hysteria surrounding that. However, by standing back and sniffing the coffee we can see the prorogation relates to four days with Parliament traditionally closing down for the party conference season anyway.
As I write this there is a row within my party over voting. It is no coincidence that most of the usual suspects promising to undermine the will of the British people in the 2016 referendum have been recently fired from the government. “Hell hath no fury…….!”
There are varied views about what should done with those people who vote with the Opposition against their own party, and the threat of deselection has been mooted. Good!
Conservative whips have been at work essentially sacking the rebels that are hell bent on stopping Brexit, and it seems on bringing down this government.
The theatricals of deserting the Conservatives to join those arch opportunists the Liberal Democrats (hold that thought!) is unpleasant and shows a callous disregard for the electorate. Nothing very democratic about defying the will of the people as expressed in the referendum vote!
It is my firm belief that anyone who votes with the opposition to wreck the main policy of their own government should be consigned to the history books, and never again be allowed to stand for the Conservative Party.
Our Prime Minister is adamant that we will deliver Brexit on 31st October. I have not always been his biggest fan, but support him 100% in his determination to honour the result of the referendum.
The intention to seek a General Election is the only route out of this mess – even if both politicians and electorate are probably thoroughly fed up with elections at the moment. But even more fed up with the refusal to honour the result of the referendum.
No doubt by the time this pops up online events will have overtaken me. Ever thus!
In Medway the biggest problem which as Leader I have to grapple with is the hugely disappointing findings from Ofsted that our Children’s Services are Inadequate. Even more disappointing was some of the commentary in the report, overall stating that our services have deteriorated.
My disappointment was matched with anger, for we politicians had been consistently led to believe that the status quo of Requires Improvement (RI) would be attained. Let me be clear that RI isn’t great, but is a lot better that Inadequate, and gives a strong platform on which to build.
My first action on hearing the disappointing news was to ensure that there was accountability. Next was to develop an action plan to re-energise the process of improvement. Crucially to drill into every aspect of that service to find out why we are not getting better results from the £35,000,000 a year we are spending.
This week I met the newly appointed Commissioner with whom we will be working over the next three months as we seek to turn this service around. We are determined to do so, and are well equipped to achieve what must be lasting and sustainable change in the way this service is run.
The report was not all bad, and there are some valuable building blocks upon which to improve the service. Not least among these are the committed and dedicated staff who work so tirelessly with our children.
Despite the pressures, morale amongst staff was found to be high. It is now up to us politicians to ensure the required improvements are delivered.
The Ofsted report has for the moment cast a shadow over us here in Medway. It is a shadow not a blight, and we must continue with all the good work being done across our towns and villages.
Anybody who says we cannot do ‘x’ or ‘y’ because we have had a poor Ofsted will get short shrift from me. There is so much that is good in Medway, and our almost 280,000 people rightly expect a lot from us.
By the time this appears I will have been speaking at a reception in Parliament to promote our bid to be the City of Culture in 2025 to Peers, MPs, and other stakeholders. This bid will represent an important milestone for Medway, as the benefits in terms of financial and social value to be gleaned from a successful bid can be enormous.
It is important to think what Culture means for Medway. It is far more than culture in the literal sense. It is about people and place; it is about hope and aspirations; it is about identity, community and a collective sense of purpose. It is about making a place great for all its people.
The great place that is Medway continues to evolve and improve, and it is the proud duty of this Administration to drive those improvements forward.
At last we are seeing the developments in Chatham coming to fruition. With new homes to be built at both Chatham Waterfront and Whiffens Avenue. Also at White Road in Chatham and at Britton Farm in Gillingham.
At Rochester Airport work is at last underway. Firstly to refurbish one of Medway iconic features at the Airport; secondly to bring forward the job and wealth creating development that will be Innovation park Medway.
Our bid to government for the Future High Streets fund will if successful allow even more investment into our town centres. The trading environment for town centre traders is challenging, not least due to the impact of the internet and online shopping. It is a challenge we must rise to.
Overcoming these challenges is going to accelerate the process of revitalising important parts of Medway. Making Medway a better place for all its people. City of Culture would really be the icing on the cake.
Alan Jarrett is the leader of Medway Council, leader of the Medway Conservative group, and councillor for Lordswood and Capstone.