Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Poor economic recovery in Medway???

Today the Medway Labour twitter feed posted the following tweet and graph.

Now I'm not an economist, nor am I a mathematical whizz especially as it took me 3 attempts to get a C at GCSE having wracked up two Ds on the higher paper. One thing I did learn was graphs, in fact I love graphs and they can be used to show anything without resorting to dull tables.

What I see when I look at this graph is falling unemployment in the Medway towns across 2014. See the Orange line slowly descending? 

When we get to January '15 it does raise, I'll give them that, but only a small amount considering the number from which it fell in January last year.

What can we tell from this? Not much. 

We don't know if this is a continuing trend as February's figures aren't out yet. It could be a case of seasonal workers who were employed in retail expressly for the Christmas period, which now apparently starts in August or September, have been let go. I certainly would not say that this was a true indicator of a poor economic recovery in fact looking at this graph alone all you can say for certain is that unemployment is still down on what it was last year.

Is Labour trying to find a cloud on a silver lining? 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Letter to the Messenger about Policing in Gillingham South

My letter to today's Medway Messenger regarding the anti-social behaviour and policing in Gillingham. This is the letter in its original format.

There is growing anger in the Residential areas of Gillingham where residents are feeling abandoned by the local police. Time and again there is antisocial behaviour on Sturdee Avenue, Valley road, Franklin road and on the High street. Alleyways are haunted by youths smoking and under aged drinking and sometimes worse.The Forrester's hall on Sturdee Avenue was broken into and vandalised regularly and this has been reported to the Police on more than one occasion including by myself on 5th January.

However it took the neighbourhood watch meeting, which I attended as a resident, and the pressure of LibDem councillors Diana Smith and Geoff Juby that the council has acted. More importantly a WPC and PCSO were spotted securing the property on the 28th January the day after the meeting!
I tend to agree with one of the residents that if we were living Rochester then the Police and indeed Council officers would have acted more swiftly and attended the neighbourhood watch meeting in the first place!

The people of Gillingham South ward deserve better from both the council and police.

Chris Sams, Sturdee Avenue

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Anti-social behaviour in Gillingham South

Police patrolling Valley road tonight
Last night I attended the Valley Road neighbourhood watch at the Sturdee Club on Sturdee Avenue. Though I don't live in Valley Road, it was suggested I went along by Lib Dem Cllr. Diana Smith as I knew about a couple of the issues from first hand experience. 
Forrester's Hall sits opposite the Cricketers pub and has been used in the past as a polling station and general hall for hire, indeed two of my daughter's birthday parties were held there. In June 2013 the caretaker told me that he hoped to sell it but I never heard more than that until January 5th this year. On my way home from work I noticed the side door open and the lights on. Further investigation showed the extent of the damage with windows smashed, floor boards ripped up and evidence of a fire and alcohol consumption. I duly dialled 101 and informed the police. In the following week I saw students of Robert Napier school (in uniform) entering the hall before school though being late for work I did not have time to confront them and the hall has since been locked.
On other occasions I've encountered groups in the alleyways and garages between Sturdee and Valley who have either been confrontational or exceptionally sheepish but never thought much about it, except on one occasion when I was walking my children home from Woodlands. 
Last night proved the situation has become much worse. According to the residents of Valley Road, a street I had experienced as quiet and sleepy, a group of youths were causing mayhem. There was vandalism to vehicles, property, theft, dangerous driving of scooters, foul language, under aged smoking and drinking and even drug abuse. They use the alleys and garages as a rat run away from the main roads and escape route from the police should they turn up. The sense of outrage among residents was very clear to see and action is being demanded.
Gillingham South Liberal Democrat Councillor Geoff Juby, together with his two fellow ward candidates for the forthcoming 2015 Local Elections and Cllr. Diana Smith, with her fellow Lib Dem candidate for Watling ward listened and contributed to the meeting by promising to look into the cost of gating up the alleyways and the effectiveness of the consultation process. The Community Warden for Rainham North, who was also in attendance at the invitation of Cllr. Diana Smith also agreed he would pursue the matter and was a useful source of information.
Residents have been advised to report ALL anti-social behaviour on 101 and all public property damage to the council on 01634 333333. There were a lot of individual experiences of the antics of a small minority of youths but as a community everyone needs to stand up and say ‘No’ and this is what happened last night.
There was no police attendance at the meeting last night and despite the PCSOs letter of apology stating that not only was it his off duty night but he had prior plans (all understandable), there was anger that no stand-in would come. The residents are feeling abandoned and not important enough, strongly suggesting that if we were living in Rochester then this would have been sorted out very quickly. 
We will be following these matters up and collectively updating residents at an early future meeting.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Rochester and Strood by-election results

Well, after a very long night and a couple of hours snatched sleep I thought I’d write about what the heck happened yesterday.

Firstly the UKIP victory in the Parliamentary By-election. To be honest it was no big surprise. A month ago when it was announced there was a belief that it was all flash in the pan and that Mark Reckless would be handed an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his former masters or even Labour.

As the time has gone on the amount of UKIP activists, doners and support has grown (or been bussed in) and Rochester has been worked hard. This was met by the Tories and Labour who have had MP after MP down and even the Prime Minister. This was never going to be a normal election.

Ultimately the majority attained was nothing to significant. With a turnout of over 50% Mark only managed to get a majority of 3000 over Kelly Tolhurst (his majority back in 2010 was 10,000). The Tories were celebrating this last night. They know that come May when UKIP will be spreading their activists and money over a larger area of North Kent, especially if Farage is going to stand in Thanet, that Mark will see this lead eroded.

What does this mean for Medway politics in the local election (held on the same day as the General)? Well it could lead to one of two outcomes.

The first is that this victory may buoy up the local party and they will make a valiant charge snapping up council seats drastically altering the shape of the local authority. This is their aim.

The second is that with the removal of resources could force them to make tough decisions. As Mark’s lead is fairly tenuous they may be forced to through what resources they have available to keep him at the cost of local councillors.

This of course is fairly hypothetical we’d have to see.

Needless to say that the Tories are stung and will be coming for them.

As will the Labour party. Naushaba Kahn fought a tough campaign with a lot of support from the local party and Westminster elect. If anything there was a belief that this was Labour's chance to regain the swing seat with the usual right of centre voters torn between UKIP and Tories.

Although they worked hard and attracted a lot of support they failed to make much of a media imprint and ultimately ended well shy of Mark scoring only 6.713 votes.

This has massive ramifications for Ed Miliband and the Labour party, not necessarily the hard working local party.

Labour's main definition at the moment is not the Coalition and let's face it the Tories (and we've signed off on them or are guilty by association) have pushed through some really nasty stuff - badger culls, ATOS, cuts to services, tuition fees... the list is exhaustive and all along, week after week we have to suffer Ed saying he and Labour would never agree to any of this and Ed Balls promising that Labour's economic plan (whatever it is) was much better.

With the extreme views of UKIP and the unpopularity of the  Conservative Government you would have thought the swing seat may have swung back to Labour. The fact it didn't suggests another two things.

The first that voters saw the Conservatives with Kelly Tolhurst's Local girl, local issues campaign as the best alternative and didn't want to split the anti UKIP vote or, and perhaps more alarmingly for Labour, that there is a serious problem with their message.

The whole situation must be even more concerning for the Conservatives. They threw the Kitchen sink at UKIP and although performed really well coming short by a small margin in both the parliamentary and the Hoo Peninsula ward by-election (Ron Sands (CON)  got 1965 against Chris Irvine's (UKIP) 2850) they still failed, despite the resources flung, to make it closer.

As I've said, this could be a temporary blip or it could be the opening of the flood gates. Already some of the old stalwart supporters of the Medway Conservatives have already jumped ship and it might be the beginning of a landslide. There is also a general malaise against the local Tories and should UKIP erupt like a tumour with a handful of Tory Councillors going purple between now and May it could change the face of Medway's Council.

Now with heavy heart I turn to the Libdem result.  It looks awful. Geoff Juby got under 1% in the parliamentary and I gained just over 1% in the Hoo by-election. Geoff's share of the vote collapsed by 15% of its 2010 share. It is being hailed as the worse performance of the Liberal Democrats in a By-election ever...

Now this will sound like a lot of excuses but here is the truth.

Geoff worked hard, and I mean damn hard with a dedicated team of local activists with a few visits from Westminster but this was not Eastleigh. This was not to be our battle ground, not a target seat this time around and Clegg et al did not appear with armies of Libdems busing in from across the country bank rolled by HQ and shadowy donors. This was a local battle led by a local candidate backed up by local activists.

This was always going to be a battle between the Tories and UKIP.

As for me. I am ecstatic about my 1% after all I did absolutely no canvassing or campaigning. Hoo was never a seat we could have won, nor did we have any presence out there. As many regular readers know my son was born on 10th October, had his first operation on 13th and I have been busy with my family settling in George. I'm amazed I got that many votes by doing nothing and I would like to thank everyone who did vote for me, next time will be definitely different.

The two great stories to come out of this election was firstly -

Britain first only got 56 votes. This, although depressing that they got more votes than some of the Independents is uplifting (I got more votes than them in one ward by election!!!) because even the Monster raving loony party did better than them! Truly a laughing stock.

The other is the results of the Green party. They fought a good campaign with a good candidate and scored a respectable fourth place with (1692 votes) in the parliamentary and local (314 votes). This was a great result for them and I've already sent my congratulations via Twitter.

Not to take anything away from them but the rise in support may be because they are now the non-UKIP protest party.  Ten years ago that was the Libdem party (though my Mum always voted Green!) but with the Coalition we've become part of the establishment so people tend to vote for a non-governmental party. If you don't want UKIP then the next best choice is Green. We could see some serious gains by the Greens next year if UKIP continue to develop in the towns.

I know a lot of this is all speculation bolstered with educated guesses but there is so much that could happen that at this moment in time (with four hours sleep) I'm not prepared to tie my colours to the mast until February or even April.

I will however close with a warning however to the other parties. The results of last night belay how strong we are in our wards, getting rid of the Libdems in Medway is going to be a tough proposition.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Imperial War Museum to close its library and sell collection

A story lost?
I may have mentioned in previous posts that this year is the Centenary of the start of World War One.

 This was a conflict that changed the world in many ways politically and socially but most of all it was responsible for the deaths of millions of young men across Europe.

The Imperial War Museum was established to tell the story of those who were sacrificed on the alter of Nationalism and in a fight against a perceived evil. This was done with exhibits and collecting a library of books, documents, photographs and sound recordings which have combined into a great resource.

I fear this blogpost might cost me my job or at least find me in a disciplinary but sometimes, just sometimes you should stand up for what you believe in and this is one of those times.

The Museum has been caught up in the cuts issued by Government and had to try and make savings where they can and have brought in someone to evaluate the operation and cut away dead wood.

Recently the Library has been identified as dead wood. As I understand it (I missed the meeting as I was on Paternity leave) the Library will be closed, the librarians let go and the books (not the documents, photos or Sound recordings) will be sold to other libraries and institutions. Basically scattered to the winds though this is under review as some books were donations.

For me, a historian and lover of books, this is an atrocity. The average person probably thinks; what's the big deal?

The big deal is that the collection is there to augment the galleries. In fact many people are now being directed to the new (Only a three or four years old) open library to look up answers to queries. It is also very popular (especially this year) and the amount of telephone enquires per day and walk in enquires is phenomenal. In the last year the museum was closed for six months whilst the refit carried on but the Library was open and attracted a roaring trade.

By closing the library and getting rid of this vital resource in favour of a website service is a massive disservice to the founding belief and purpose of the museum. 

Former Director General Dr Sir Alan Borg wrote;

As a former Director General of the Museum I am horrified by the suggestion that the Library might be closed and dispersed.

If you agree with him, and me please sign this petition to make them rethink.

Thank you.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Local business woman nominated for Active Training Awards!

Now for a slight oddity for this blog....

In local sports and fitness news, local dance and fitness instructor Gemma Quinnell of Gemma Quinnell's Health, Fitness and dance ltd has got through to the final four in the finals of the Active Training Awards Small training provider of the year.

This is a massive achievement for the Gillingham girl who has worked for years as a fitness instructor, choreographer and dancer here and abroad and also offers courses in dance and fitness for anyone who wants to pursue a career in these fields.

My courses are aimed at anyone who is serious about a career in the fitness or dance industries - whether they want to be a studio instructor, dance teacher, personal trainer to Pilates teacher or run sessions for children and more. I tailor my programmes for each individual or group and help with everything from business skills to marketing, social media, confidence building, breaking barriers, innovation and choreography.

I teach my learners the tools to be self-sufficient and start their own businesses or grow their business so they can be at the level they want to be at.

Having done this very successful locally herself Gemma knows what she is talking about and is passing her knowledge back and obviously very successfully. She first established her company a mere four months ago with start up money from Medway Council (£500) and moved her focus from dance classes to training.

With just over a fortnight to go I really wish Gemma all the luck and hope that all her hard work pays off.

If you're interested in Gemma's courses then do check out her website at

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Britain First are Toxic and blight Rochester

I fear the days of Mosley are returning, at least to Rochester
As a liberal, and an opened minded person I firmly believe in the freedom of speech for all. This is tempered with the addendum that you can say what you want as long as it does not interfere with another person’s freedoms.

This said, I am horrified that Britain First have come to Rochester yet again.

Reports say 50 Britain First “activists” in uniformed dress arrived at Rochester railway station attempting to march up the High Street with Union Jacks unfurled but we’re held off by 100 odd locals chanting and the Kent Police line that was trying to defuse violence. As I write this, I understand the BF are back on the train to where ever they have come from and that Rochester is attempting to return to some semblance of order.

I am against any such “organisation” on so many principles.

Firstly the very name is prejudice. Britain First.

Britain is an artificially constructed country spurned on by English military might and economic superiority and based on genocide of the clans and forced assimilation. Britain is in the process of devolution and almost broke itself apart this year and only hung on by a small margin in Scotland.

The other thing is; define a Briton. How long must your family have lived on this island before you are classed as a Briton? Do you have to be a Christian (or non Muslim)? A similar situation grew up in 20s Germany with a certain party saying that Germany was for the Germans and that non-Germans should be expelled or if they remained had rights withdrawn from them and well… we all know how that ended!

Britain is no longer an Imperial power that can dictate world policy, nor is it a homogenously (or majority) white Christian nation of Britons. As the Empire collapsed we have attracted former subjects who wanted to come to the mother land. As we became one with the post War Europe we attracted migrants to our shores, not just as “benefit tourists” but as people who wanted to flee oppression from the Soviets or dictators or came to forge a better life in a land of opportunity for them and their families much as many did to America. Some of them served in the British armed forces to defeat the Nazis but did not or could not return to the Eastern bloc as they had been over run by the Russians – what more do they need to do to be accepted? They are part of us now, second and third generations living in Britain as part of our society.

I thought I may have been overly judgemental so I checked out their Twitter and Facebook page and immediately wished I hadn’t.

Just check out this post….

It made my blood run cold.

The labels being thrown around, Liberals, Transsexuals, Communists...  I mean what the hell?

This is truly the voice of hate and mistrust. A voice I had hoped had been consigned to the waste paper bin of history or consigned to thugs like the EDL not an actual "political party" that is running for a Parliamentary seat - in MY neighbourhood!

This is the hate and prejudice that tore the world apart, cost the lives of so many people and should have died in Berlin in '45. I thought we were better than this, I thought we had evolved past this, the BUF and Mosley are a dark spot on the history of this nation and should have been forgotten and not replayed on the streets of Rochester. What gives them the right to dictate what lifestyle is right? Tell people how to live their lives? This is prejudice of the highest order.

In this Centenary year of the First World War, where nationalistic belief in ones own superiority caused the slaughter of innocence, where young men flocked to the flags of their nations and marched towards their deaths singing patriotic songs. Only 75 years after another nationalistic government that believed in Germany for the Germans and in ubermenschen (Teutons) and Untermenschen (Jews, Muslims, foreigners, Homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses, Communists etc etc...) reopened the same wounds let us remember that we are better than this.

We have evolved past these notions and hate.