Voice of the Opposition: October

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 Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.

One of the things you find when it comes to politics is that, on certain issues, it can be difficult to not fall into a bunch of clichés. When it comes to young people; they really do only get one chance in life, they absolutely do deserve the very best support available and they really are the future.

There are three examples of young people in Medway that I want to focus on this month. I can’t start in any other place than the recent Ofsted into Children’s Social Services which rated Medway Council as inadequate, the worst possible rating. In my more than a decade as a councillor it is truly one of the worst Ofsted reports I’ve seen. It is important to note that those in the front line of the service are given positive recognition in the report. Despite some social workers having caseloads of up to 55 – dramatically larger than you would anticipate considering the government figures show the average number of cases held by a children’s social worker is 17.4.

Members of the Labour Group are angry and heartbroken at this damning report. We are also determined to play our role in getting this service to the position it needs to be. Medway Council could, by the end of the year, be in a position where an external commissioner is recommending that the service is not delivered by the Council – that would be completely unacceptable and the service must be turned around.

This is where the impact of austerity can be seen most explicitly – cuts to local government funding have seen councils lost around 60p in every £1 – and there is no doubt in my mind that the serious issues highlighted by the report are a direct result of a lack of appropriate resources.

This Ofsted report states unequivocally that some of Medway’s most vulnerable young people are simply not getting the help they need – Medway Council must do better.

Over the summer we have seen the launch of Medway Young Labour – something which has had a few different iterations over the years (even I was young once!) but I don’t recall such a well-attended opening AGM where a committee was formed and positive discussions were had about next steps.  I congratulate all those who have put themselves forward and for all the young people involved.

I know from speaking to some of the young members issues including Climate Change, equality of minimum wage, and tackling austerity are high on the agenda.  If you want to find out more about their ongoing activity give them a follow on Twitter @MedwayYL.

Talking of Climate Change, Labour colleagues and I attended the excellent local Global Climate Strike rally on Friday 20th September. This was locally organised by Medway Youth Climate Change Movement – a new local organisation set up by pupils at the Victory Academy, which is looking to bring the community together to send the loudest possible message on this most urgent of issues.  The Strike was a great success; with a huge variety of people from toddlers to Trade Unions in attendance, the message to the government was loud and clear – we will keep making noise until you take action on the climate emergency. I pay tribute to the Medway Youth Climate Change Movement for the commitment and dedication they’ve shown by organising this event. If you want to find out more about MYCCM check out their website.

As many Political Medway readers will know, the reason I ended up in Medway in the early 80s is because my Dad was serving in the Royal Navy. I’m proud that Medway welcomed HMS Medway for its formal commissioning last month, as well as receiving the freedom of the borough shortly after. Despite the closure of the Chatham Dockyard under Margaret Thatcher in 1984, the links between the Royal Navy and our community continue to run deep. Thousands of residents joined in the celebrations and I think I speak for all of them when I thank the men and women who will serve our country on that ship. There may often be decisions about war and conflict that politicians disagree on, but the dedication and commitment of our armed forces is unquestionable.

It isn’t just while they are serving they deserve our support but afterwards too which is why I’m hoping for cross party support for my motion seeking the government to remove charges for Indefinite Leave processes for Commonwealth Service Personnel who have served UK armed forces for 4 years or more.

Finally, Labour Party Conference took place in Brighton at the end of September. The annual gathering is not only a great opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues and comrades from across the country but it is where the Labour Party sets its policy for the campaigning ahead. With the change of rules last year, we saw a multitude of important policy decisions being debated through motions. It is our party’s sovereign decision-making body which means, by virtue of being member-led, it is members who will create the policies for the party moving forward.

There were many excellent motions agreed at conference, but one that I’m most excited about is Labour’s commitment to a radical new climate policy – the Green Industrial Revolution – which would see a Labour government commit to achieving leading the world in tackling the climate emergency with target of net zero carbon by 2030.

Alongside the formal business of the conference hall, the wider fringe was a great opportunity to hear from experts and campaigners in a wide variety of areas with hundreds of fringe meetings taking place. One such fringe event on the topic of ensuring our council chambers reflect the diversity in our communities was outstandingly chaired by Medway’s very own Naushabah Khan.

I was proud to second the USDAW motion on High Streets recognising the sad news on the future of Debenhams in Chatham and the need for free to use ATMs in Rochester.

Policies like Green Industrial Revolution or free prescriptions which can be taken from the conference hall to doorsteps in communities like Medway.

Vince Maple is the leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition party on Medway Council, and a councillor for Chatham Central.

One Reply to “Voice of the Opposition: October”

  1. The lack of progress in making improvements from the previous Ofsted report is the real disgrace given the reassurances by Cllr Jarret.
    Well done for keeping up pressure to hold them to account. Children only get one chance and they have already failed 10 years of children in their care. One can only imagine the stress and strain experienced by the social workers trying to manage this workload but for the children the effects will last a lifetime.

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