Archive for Council Report

Council Leader Roger Truelove’s first speech as leader of the Co-operative Alliance

In announcing the Coalition administration I would like to indicate the background thinking and the sense of direction behind the posts.

The elections in May offered a graphic illustration of the fact that Councils are not self perpetuating hierarchic medium sized businesses but a forum of democratically elected Councillors all doing their best for their communities.

The Coalition direction of travel will be determined by what we heard on the doorstep. 

One thing we encountered was a frustration that many Councillors were limited in what they could do because of a top down decision making structure.

Consequently, the Cabinet is initiating a constitutional review that we intend will lead to a committee based system of decision making.

You will see from your agendae that Cllr Baldock will lead on this but he is most anxious that PDRC plays a real and significant part in this process.

An enhanced and credible role for PDRC is one of three immediate signs of a change in style. A second concerns the role of Scrutiny, which is a vital part of a Cabinet led system for as long as it lasts.

It was an egregious failing of the previous administration that the Chair of Scrutiny was denied to any of the opposition parties and we are righting this wrong immediately so that a Conservative can Chair Scrutiny.

Thirdly, there will be a change at Full Council meetings. The elongated grandstanding circus around the Leader’s statement is going to stop. It reached an ultimate depth when an answer given to a reasonable question was “if Labour ever get in control Swale will be turned into Venezuela”. In future there will be a verbal statement from the Leader, a response from the Leader of the Opposition and then, hopefully, we can move on to serious and constructive motions from around the Council.

Another concern amongst voters was reflected in repeated references to the poor ratio of GPs to patients in Swale. This spoke to a  wider concern about inequalities and deprivation, equally underlined by levels of child poverty.

A number of portfolio holders will be working to reverse this trend

  • Cllrs Ben Martin and Whelan will lead on a drive to reduce homelessness and to provide more social and affordable housing
  •  Cllrs Harrison and Perkin will give Swale council a higher profile in public health
  •  Cllrs Palmer and Saunders will be strengthening our local communities, making them safer and more inclusive
  •  And Cllrs  Bonney and Sarah Stevens will be working for a local economy that makes employment for local people better paid, more stable and more rewarding  

 Planning and the Environment naturally were key election issues.

  • Cllrs Baldock and Gould will conduct a radical review of our Local Plan- housing allocations of course but also design, landscape protection, meeting real local need not developer aspiration and providing infrastructure
  •  AND Cllrs Valentine and Eddie Thomas will be improving our environmental services, such as street cleaning,  but also seeking to reflect so many local people’s real concerns about our global environment  

Finally, whatever we do, Cllr Carnell and I will be making sure that it is within a sound fiscal framework. In this context there are two risks to accommodate. First is the continuing uncertainty about Government support to local government. The second is the investment viability around the Sittingbourne Town Centre which, more than ever, I hope is sound but about which I remain exceedingly cautious.

Can I say personally, I am glad of the change, of course I am. But the past is the past. It’s another country as is unfathomable path of Westminster politics. Let’s concentrate on going forward with robust debate but not vindictiveness. Let’s build on what is sound and innovate to improve the lives of our people in Swale. 

11 Councillors Elected in our best result for years!

Labour won 11 seats in the recent Swale Borough Council elections, doubling our number of sitting Councillors. Here are our Sittingbourne and Sheppey Councillors:

CHALKWELL

Councillor Ghlin Whelan

HOMEWOOD

Councillor Simon Clark
Councillor Roger Trulove

MILTON REGIS

Councillor Steve Davey
Councillor Tony Winkless

ROMAN

Councillor Tim Gibson
Councillor Ken Rowles

SHEERNESS

Councillor Mark Ellen
Councillor Angela Harrison

And Two Labour Councillors in St Ann’s Ward, Faversham

Councillor Carole Jackson
Councillor Julian Saunders

Think Again!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Labour Activists were out in force on Saturday to ask for signatures on the ‘Think Again’ petition. This is asking Tory-Led Swale Borough Council to think again about their decision to borrow £28 Million ( now increased to £60 Million) to fund the building of a Cinema, shops, restaurants and a Multi-Story Car Park (didn’t we used to have one of those?) that they are calling ‘regeneration’.

Now you can sign the petition online at http://services.swale.gov.uk/meetings/mgEPetitionListDisplay.aspx?bcr=1 . Please do and help us reach the target which will trigger a Council debate on this subject.

Will Council Scrutiny Meeting Throw Fresh Light on Regeneration?

 

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Or is it?

The relatively brief report going to the Scrutiny Panel next Wednesday ( 31 Aug ) gives Councillors a much more frank and realistic assessment of where we are with town centre regeneration than we have been used to. It shows us that progress has been made, though very slowly, but that there are continuing question marks about the ultimate viability of the project. The developers will have to go to the markets in the autumn to secure funding for the leisure and retail elements of the scheme and if that is not secured the scheme will begin to unfold. Without the leisure funding, the residential development on the car parks must not proceed and if that occurs, there is some doubt about the need for the multi storey car park. Elsewhere, it is clear how important it is to get a legal understanding with Network Rail over the road realignment and the station forecourt, and the former is running up against serious time constraints with the government grant running out at the end of this financial year.

Things may very well fall into place but it is refreshing now to get a more honest appraisal of where we are. It looks like a 50/50 chance of success. The central business rational for this project, that residential development would fund leisure investment, has always been open to question in the local housing market. This is a very long drawn out process and the phase 2 element seems a long way ahead. The Council also needs to give urgent thought to the many other land holdings in the town that need regenerating but are not part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne project.

Roger Truelove, Leader of Labour Group on Swale Borough Council

brexitAt the meeting of the Kent County Council on Thursday 14 July, the Cabinet member for Economic Growth, Mark Dance, confirmed that Brexit posed a threat to KCC’s aim of securing £100 million for the Kent economy by 2020 from European Growth funds.

Mr Dance was answering a question from Labour’s Roger Truelove about the danger of Kent not reaching its target.

Mr Dance said the situation was full of uncertainty. It was not certain that current contracts would be fulfilled. It was possible that funding might be maintained during the period of Brexit negotiations, probably over the next two years, or beyond that if the negotiations took even longer. Much would depend on the UK’s approach during the negotiation period.

The European Regional funds help businesses in Kent, both large and small, the rural economy, creative industries and the skills economy. They help to increase trade between Kent and NW Europe.

For Labour, Roger Truelove says,

” We heard quite a lot during the referendum campaign about how the UK’s contribution might be recycled back into our economy. There was the promise to pay it all into the NHS. Farmers who voted Brexit apparently think they are going to receive the same subsidies from our Government. I only hope there will be some funding left to support the local economy and I hope Kent will try to expand its export trade to other parts of the World.”