In which Stuart Bourne laments how often Medway Council meetings descend into childishness and ponders what needs to change..
If you are reading this then chances are you are as big of a political nerd as I am, and the odds are that you also tuned in to see Medway Council’s budget meeting on 18 February. A moment each year that the current administration updates all the council members of the status of their finances and sets out their plans for the next 12 months. This is of course is a serious occasion, where the opposition has a chance to rationally critique the administration’s plans and set out their alternatives. What it shouldn’t be is hours of whiny and immature complaints about each other, interspersed with unnecessary political point scoring and childish insults. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
I won’t got into too much detail in what was said in that meeting, The Political Medway’s coverage of the depressing meeting is an accurate record of the events, but there were some notable highlights. Council leader Cllr Jarrett spending his entire speech complaining about Labour playing politics during a crisis, whilst simultaneously ignoring the irony that he was doing exactly the same in his speech. Opposition leader Cllr Maple listing everything the national government had done wrong, not exactly relevant to a Medway budget meeting, then hinting at suing Cllr Jarrett for libel. Cllr Doe telling Cllr Osborne to go and sit in the dark, presumably to contemplate how he shouldn’t try and cram so much in a 5 minute speech. And finally Cllr Potter saying that we shouldn’t trust Cllr Maple because he couldn’t remember that there wasn’t a Top Shop in Chatham High Street, as if accurately recounting all the high-street shops Medway is part of the Medway Conservative Party’s approval process.
You Medway political nerds will also know that this isn’t the first time that council meetings seem to be just an immature slanging match between the Tories and Labour. We can all remember the now infamous late night council meeting about the name of the John Hawkins carpark, and how it also spiralled into a bizarre and hard to watch display of immature and childish tit for tat insults. Instead of having a constructive and rational debate on a relative simple idea of whether to change an insensitively named carpark, hours of precious time was wasted in insults and name calling by both sides. Watching that meeting you could not help but see that Medway politics needs a timeout and a sit on the naughty step.
And the real losers out of all this is Medway’s residents. So many of us are facing so many problems right now, high-street shops closing every 5 minutes, hospitality businesses brought to their knees, schools and GP practices overcrowded and underfunded, not to mention the rising threat of climate change and the destruction of our environment. These problems need to be debated and studied, with solutions that help the majority of our town and that cut across party politics. To solve them we need all our local leaders to stand up and do what we voted them to do, lead us!
Therefore it’s clear to me that if we are to get these issues resolved for the betterment of all of Medway, we need some fresh blood in Medway Council. For too long it’s been the same two parties fighting with each other. There are no other parties that can sit between them, to calm things down and make them work together. For too long the children have been running around unsupervised and now we need the adults back to sort out their mess. We need elected councillors whose primary focus isn’t scoring political points against the opposition, it’s looking after the residents they represent. We need more people on the council who will put people before politics!
Stuart Bourne became politically active in 2005, helping to re-elect the Chatham & Aylesford MP Jonathan Shaw. He became the branch secretary for Chatham Labour Party, and stood as a Labour candidate for the local council elections in 2007 and 2011. He moved away from Medway in 2012, but has now moved back as a Liberal Democrat.