The unitary authority was created when amalgamating the City of Rochester-upon-Medway and Gillingham Borough Councils, with part of Kent County Council, independent of Kent County Council.
Unlike most areas that have multiple tiers of local government (borough, town, district etc.), a unitary authority means that all local services are overseen and operated by Medway Council. While some rural areas of Medway still retain parish councils for certain issues relevant to their communities, Medway Council is, for most people in the area, the only point of local governance.
On it’s creation in 1998, the Labour group was the largest group on the council, holding almost half of the seats, while the rest were roughly equally split between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. By 2003, the Conservatives had taken a majority of the council, with Labour as the main opposition and the Liberal Democrats a distant third, which is broadly the composition it has maintained ever since.
Recent years have proved more turbulent, even without elections, with the (only) two independent councillors joining the Labour group, and three of the majority Conservative group leaving the party (two of them to form the UKIP group, one to sit as an independent). All this has played out against a backdrop of Conservative MP for Rochester Mark Reckless defecting to UKIP, triggering a by-election which saw him retain his seat, and giving UKIP their second parliamentary seat in the country.
As we head into the 2015 elections, the battle for Medway Council is looking increasingly unpredictable, with no shortage of possible outcomes seeming perfectly possible.