Medway Labour councillors are proposing a motion at next week’s Council meeting, which calls on the Council to support moves towards Equal Marriage. The motion will propose that the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council write to Medway’s Conservative MPs, urging them to vote in support of Equal Marriage in any forthcoming parliamentary vote, and to also lobby the government for equal civil partnerships.
Cllr Teresa Murray, who is moving the motion, said;
“It is important the Council sends a clear, united and cross-party message that we back the Coalition Government’s policy for Equal Marriage, which is supported by Labour. Following the progress this country made under the last Labour government in terms of rights for same-sex couples, this is the next and right step to take.
“We expect the rest of the Council to offer their clear and unambiguous support for this motion, because this is about whether they represent a modern and diverse Medway, with the same rights for all citizens.
Labour councillors are delighted that a meeting is to go ahead this month between the council and the Gambling Commission, to discuss the growing problem of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in Medway.
Last month Labour revealed that there are at least 135 registered FOBTs in Medway, with over £200m gambled across the Towns each year.
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Labour Group said;
“I have been championing this issue in recent weeks as it has become clear to me that – as with high interest payday loans – high stakes betting is becoming a big problem for many people in Medway who struggle with personal debt. I’m delighted that this meeting is going ahead, and I hope we can work with the Gambling Commission to come up with some positive actions the council can take to start to tackle this issue.
“As I’ve said before, this is not about stopping people who want to bet casually for fun, but about making sure there is more done to safeguard against the huge risks involved – many people have referred to FOBTs as the “crack cocaine” of gambling, because there are few restrictions, the stakes are high, and it is possible for one person to lose thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes.”
Medway Labour councillors are welcoming proposals that would see Rochester railway station relocated further into the historic town.
Plans, to be approved by the Council, are for a new station on part of the present Corporation Street car park, with improved facilities and longer platforms, which would open in 2015.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Medway Labour spokesperson for regeneration, said;
“This is good news for Medway, as it has long been thought that Rochester’s railway station needs updating, and relocating to a more central part of Rochester. Particularly for commuters, this is finally another step in the right direction following the installation of the HS1 line by the last Labour government, which has so benefited Medway.”
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“Though I absolutely welcome these plans for more investment for Medway’s rail network, many commuters may find this positive news tempered somewhat by the crippling fare rises that came into force just this month. With a high speed annual ticket from Rochester to London now costing £4,596, sadly that will be the main thing on many people’s minds.”
Following a campaign by local Labour councillors, businesses and residents, the future of Rochester’s King St Car Park is looking more secure.
The Council’s Business Support committee have agreed to recommend to Medway’s decision makers at next month’s Cabinet that the sale of the land be deferred, until after such time as the nearby former police station site has been developed. This would allow usage levels of the car park to be reassessed in light of the development, with decisions on its future made accordingly.
This recommendation followed an item submitted to the committee by Rochester East ward councillors Teresa Murray and Nick Bowler, who voiced local concerns that removing the car park would exacerbate the existing lack of parking in the area, which has already been affected by nearby redevelopment.
Local resident Joanne Alsop said; “We have long argued that this vital amenity will be in even greater demand once the 20 or so spaces around the old police station site, currently free to park, disappear. The developers are now on site. Once the site is developed and populated we will have a better idea of the impact on local parking.”
Ward councillor and Medway Labour’s Deputy Leader, Teresa Murray said; “We will be urging Medway’s Conservative Cabinet to take on this recommendation.
Luton & Wayfield Councillors are calling on Medway Council to extend the Chatham Alcohol Control Zone into Luton as a result of PACT petitioning and resident questions to full council.
Medway Council, in partnership with Kent police, controls anti-social behaviour and street drinking in Chatham through an alcohol control zone but the zone finishes at the Luton arches. Labour Councillors want to see this zone extended into Luton.
Residents and businesses were consulted before the original zone was established in 2007 and we believe they would support an extension.
The Luton & Wayfield Councillor’s have recently secured additional funding for CCTV units for the area and are working with PACTs to combat anti-social behaviour in the locality.
The alcohol control zone in Chatham has helped reduce anti-social behaviour and made a real difference for people living, working and shopping in the area. The zone was the second in Medway. The first was introduced in Rochester in 2003.
The order does not mean a blanket ban on drinking in public but does mean a police officer or authorised council officer can prevent anyone drinking alcohol if they are behaving anti-socially. They also have the power to confiscate and dispose of alcohol and fine people.
Labour councillors are relieved that a solution has been found enabling the Balfour Day Centre to remain open.
It was agreed at Medway Council’s Conservative Cabinet meeting this week that the centre would be run in ‘co-production’ with social enterprise Medway Community Healthcare for 6 months, whilst plans are developed in conjunction with service users to provide a new service. After this period, a new service will be created in a location as yet undisclosed, which will merge the existing day centres at Balfour and Walter Brice.
This decision follows a longstanding campaign to keep the much valued day centre open, after its closure was threatened by the Tory administration. Labour councillors supported service users and their families in a highly emotive campaign to keep the centre open.
Cllr Teresa Murray, Labour spokesperson for Health and Adult Social Care said;
“It is such a relief to all the service users, staff, carers and supporters of Balfour that a solution was found at the final hour. The consultation showed how much the centre means to so many people in Medway, and even in other areas – the Cabinet couldn’t continue to ignore their needs.
“The Balfour Centre has the potential to expand, and many more people could benefit from the great services and companionship offered there.
Medway Labour councillors are pleased that the green light has been given for the proposed Chatham Waters development, after plans were approved at last week’s Council planning committee.
The approved plans propose to transform the 26-acre site at Chatham Docks into a £650m development, including homes, offices, university facilities, conference spaces and a hotel.
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Labour Group said; “It is still early days but we are pleased these plans have been given the initial go-ahead. A lot of regeneration projects in Medway have stalled in recent years, but we hope this is a step in the right direction.
“These plans could create up to 3,500 jobs, which would give a real boost for Medway. At the same time we want to protect Medway’s existing businesses and preserve our high streets, so we intend to monitor developments to help ensure this project is mutually beneficial for all of Medway, and does not have any adverse impact on the surrounding areas as feared by some residents
“We will be keeping a close eye on the project as it develops, to ensure it delivers the best for Medway.”
Medway Labour are deeply concerned by the news that a research project to look at the personal finances of Medway residents, led by Medway’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), is to be funded by Wonga.
Wonga are a money-lending company famous for their excessive charges, levying interest rates of up to 4,214% APR, known to trap vulnerable individuals into spirals of personal debt. However, part of their success is that Wonga utilise aggressive marketing tactics to mask the reality of this less palatable aspect of their product.
They have been criticised across party lines, as well as by third sector organisations dealing first hand with the fall-out from Britain’s personal debt crisis, including the CAB themselves.
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of Medway Labour Group, has fought a longstanding campaign to raise awareness about the growing problem of Legal Loan Sharks. This included getting the Council to agree, on a cross-party basis, to an ‘End Legal Loan Sharks’ motion which has culminated in a Council task group specifically to look into the issue.
Medway Labour joined campaigners outside the London Assembly AGM at City Hall today to oppose Boris Johnson’s plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary.
Campaigners were represented from all parties, including Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones, Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Assembly, and Labour’s Murad Qureshi.
Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Vince Maple said, “It’s great to see strong cross-party opposition to the Estuary Airport so soon after the Mayoral elections.
“This sends a strong message to Boris Johnson that there is widespread opposition to his ludicrous proposals for an airport in the Thames Estuary.
“Medway Labour will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone, regardless of party politics, to oppose this potentially devastating plan.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne, who attended the rally, said, “It was great to see such cross-party support at the rally.
“The rally today was timely as it coincides with the publication today by Kent County Council of its Aviation Paper opposing an Estuary Airport.
“This has been a longstanding campaign for Medway Labour, which we will continue to fight.”
Dave Arthur, the former Green Party parliamentary candidate for Chatham and Aylesford in 2010, has today joined the Labour Party.
Dave, who is 41 and lives in Chatham, decided to join the party following the election of Cllr Vince Maple as the new Medway Labour Group Leader last week.
Dave said; “I see this as a political homecoming – the Labour Party are offering a clear alternative to the Tory-led coalition’s programme which is damaging the community I care about. Having a fair deal on issues like energy, transport, jobs and tax is important to me and I look forward to campaigning with the Medway Labour team on progressing these and other policies.”
Vince said, “It is great to welcome Dave to the Labour team. It shows that our party is offering a positive alternative. Voters from across the community can see Labour under Ed Miliband’s leadership nationally, and the new Medway leadership team locally, standing up for a fair deal in these tough times.”