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.
With a little over 50 days to go until May 2nd, the focus now is firmly on the pledges which each main party is putting forward.
I’m proud of the manifesto launch held this past weekend at Dragon Co-Working in the heart of Medway. A packed room heard outstanding speeches from our administration in waiting on the key pledges to the residents of Medway. We were also joined by the Shadow Treasury Minister Lyn Brown MP who gave an inspiring speech, in particular highlighting how austerity has impacted on the community she represents.
I can’t list every pledge here so would encourage Political Medway readers to check out http://www.medwaylabour.org.uk/rebuilding-medway/ where you can find our whole manifesto.
Medway is a fantastic place, somewhere I’m proud to call home. Our manifesto recognises all that is good throughout our communities and neighbourhoods but also where things could be done much better.
From taking on out of town taxis including Uber to increasing the number of affordable housing in developments, seeking to introduce a not for profit, publicly owned bus service to working to reinstate the 100,000 lost Sure Start visits, from taking a partnership approach to encourage GPs to come to Medway to taking back control of council services starting with MCG – the Labour manifesto is truly a manifesto for the many, not the few ensuring that nobody is left behind. As well as making a number of varied policy pledges, we also have a clear section on how we will open up the council to ensure that democracy is an ongoing matter, not just a single vote every four years.
Some of our pledges made formed the Labour budget amendments which the Conservative administration voted against.
Scrapping the vanity magazine Medway Matters and putting the money to use across all 22 wards in Medway as well as supporting both the Medway Foodbank and the Red Box Project which works to tackle period poverty.
We also proposed to fund advice on the process closing Medway Commercial Group (MCG) – if you ever wanted the starkest choice on May 2nd this is it – a Labour administration which will end the failed experiment of MCG vs a Conservative administration which is “comfortable” with MCG running everything except social services. The same MCG which have failed with managing our CCTV cameras, failed in supporting our school governors and have now had the £25 million school project taken off them to be run directly by Medway Council.
We proposed creating a £5 million Invest to Save fund with the proceeds from Rochester Riverside project. This will mean councillors, officers and residents can put forward their suggestions on how to make council services more efficient.
We proposed reintroducing the Annual Visitor Parking Permits and the ending of the Bulky Waste collection charge. We also proposed moving all pay increases to cost of living and away from the councils discriminatory, untested performance related pay scheme. All voted against by the Conservative administration.
By the nature of being the opposition group we simply could not have enough officer time to produce a full alternative budget – but these budget amendments were a clear marker of the alternative approach a Labour administration.
Between now and May 2nd our candidates will be having thousands of conversations across Medway sharing the promises we have made. For those who are unsure on who to vote for on May 2nd ask yourself the following five questions:
1 – What manifesto pledges have the political parties standing put to you for the 2019 election?
2 – Did the Conservatives have in their 2015 manifesto that they would be shutting Sure Start Centres?
3 – Did the Conservatives have in their 2015 manifesto that they would increase parking charges by 133%?
4 – Did the Conservatives have in their 2015 manifesto that they would introduce a charge for bulky waste collection?
5 – Have the political parties shown how they will be accountable not only in 2023 but throughout the four years?
Our manifesto clearly lays out the answer to 1 and 5 from a Labour perspective.
I can’t finish this month’s column without recognising the ongoing issue with Cllr Mike Franklin. The Tories’ inaction regarding the racist, Islamophobic councillor becomes more contemptible with each passing day.
We’ve seen the institutionalised Islamophobia of the Conservative party hit national headlines this week; James Cleverly defended the national party’s action in suspending Peter Lamb, former candidate for Harlow, but mentioned that the suspension didn’t occur sooner because the local Conservative party did not take action.
This is eerily similar to the situation we have with Cllr Franklin, but with one important distinction – Peter Lamb is now a former council candidate.
How long will it be before James Cleverly is on national news attempting to defend Medway Tories inaction on Cllr Franklin?
It seems that the Tories in Medway have the same issue as the Tories nationally; they don’t listen. Baroness Warsi spoke out this week about Teresa May’s lax handling of Islamophobia, claiming that the Prime Minster fails to acknowledge there is a problem, and that she’s burying her head in the sand.
Now I don’t like to spend too much time agreeing with a top Tory, but these accusations are ones we’ve been making against the Medway Tories for years – in relation to cuts to children’s services, in relation to fly tipping and road repairs, in relation to preparing for Brexit, and of course, in relation to Cllr Franklin’s racism and Islamophobia.
I wrote to the Chief Legal Officer, which was delivered during the budget meeting, to consider whether both Cllr Franklin for his repeated inappropriate social media activity and also Cllr Jarrett for his subsequent statement on February 6th following Baroness Warsi’s intervention, which in my view could be in breach of the seven principles of public life, should be looked at by the Councillor Conduct Committee.
Vince Maple is the leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition party on Medway Council, and a councillor for Chatham Central.