There is too much inequality in Kent. For a county in the “prosperous” south east there are too many districts with high levels of deprivation and poverty.
One dramatic indication of this is the vast variation in life expectancy around the whole County.
The areas now being administered by Clinical Commissioning Groups show life expectancy rates in Thanet, Medway and Swale that are below the National average. The National rate is just below 81 years and yet in wards like Margate South (72.7), Leysdown and Warden (73.4) and Gillingham North (74.1) the level of low life expectancy is nothing short of shocking. One particular area of concern is the very high rate of infant mortality in Dover.
However, it is not simply between Kent areas that great variations occur. The impact of deprivation can be seen even more clearly by looking at wards within our districts. For example, in Dartford life expectancy in Joydens Wood is 8.7 years more than in Bean and Darenth and in Gravesham there is an 8.3 years difference between Istead Rise and Northfleet North. In Ashford district there is an enormous 12.5 years gap between Park Farm north ward and Weald North. Nor are such stark variations confined to the acknowledged poorer districts. Shepway South in Maidstone, St James in Tunbridge Wells, Burnham Eccles and Wouldham in Tonbridge and Malling, Edenbridge in Sevenoaks and Northgate in Canterbury all fall below National and District rates.
The Marmot Review in 2010 drew attention to the link between health and general social conditions. It said, “Having insufficient money to lead a healthy life is a highly significant cause of health inequality.” Many local authorities, including Kent and Medway have adopted strategies to fight inequality.
However, as Labour Councillors, we have to say that it is impossible to address the many social challenges involved if Central and local Government abandon the principle that resources have to follow need, and respond instead to the demands for per capita funding, which means rich areas get more and poor areas less.
Health inequalities will continue unless there is decisive and determined political action on jobs, income, housing and education.
Gordon Cowan (Kent) Vince Maple (Medway) Julian Atkins (Tonbridge and Malling) John Burden (Gravesham) Mike Eddy (Dover) Mark Fittock (Sevenoaks) Clive Hart (Thanet) Mike Haywood (Swale) Dianne Hill (Tunbridge Wells) Malcolm McKay (Maidstone) Geoff Prout (Dartford) John Wratten (Canterbury) and Harriet Yeo (Ashford)