Saturday, 24 September 2011

Medway City status - Undemocratic move that will cost too much

Were you one of the lucky 0.1% to receive a telephone call in April last year from Medway Council above City status?

Did you know the council are making a THIRD bid for city status in 2012?

The only reason I found out was when the Advertising Standards slapped a fine on Medway for prematurely using "City of Medway" badges on civil apparatus.

As for the telephone survey only 68% of the 0.1% of us asked were in agreement of creating a City of Medway. (http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/ielistdocuments.aspx?cid=122&mid=2134 )

What does it mean though? Well Basically Gillingham, Ranham, Chatham, Rochester and Strood who cease to be individual towns but rather districts of the City of Medway. There will be no change to the council (except the can call themselves City Councillors) or your wards. The place will be run as it has.

Councillor Chambers is predicting that a city will draw in big business as it has in Sunderland and Middlesborough. This money would help further rejuvinate the city and bring about real positive change.

However, when asked what benefit city status made to Brighton, a senior councillor said- None, save the debt. Indeed the debt is interesting - especially in the current economic crisis. After all Medway Council have to save £15 million by 2015, the bus station is wildly over budget by a couple of million, Woodlands school has had to be bailed out by a couple of million, the Advertising Standards agency had to be paid off, they're wasting £500,000 on having Gas works moved so that "Medway Park" can have a straight path into it, also there is the whole problem of finding money for essential repairs to Medway tunnel... How can the people of Medway afford it? Is this part of the "Better for Less scheme"?

Councillor Chambers said after the second failed attempt that it was in no ones interest, especially the Conservative Group's, to push for it again but here we are on the third attempt! Labour are backing it to as a group and only the Lib Dems and Green party are arguing against it. If you read the blog comments from members of the public on the KM website [ http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway_messenger/news/2010/september/10/city_status.aspx ] the general gist is negative. I'm not sure many people in the towns know, or care, about the change. Medway Council have failed to consult properly with the people they represent. Although the phone poll was covered to more generous levels than Yougov or parliamentary polls it still wasn't enough considering this is supposed to face of the Medway towns and I really don't recall seeing any party saying it would push for city status in the manifestos that arrived at my doorstep during the May election so how do they have a mandate for it?

I took a lengthy read of the Medway Council sponsored brochure that is set to officially launch the Medway City Status and could find nothing that suggested what the benefit to the Medway towns is. I notice that the epicentre of the city is Central Chatham and Rochester which leads me to ask; What is in it for Rainham, Strood and importantly (For me) Gillingham?

Each of the Medway towns has its own separate identity and its own role in the history of this land. Gillingham has the Park fire, Chatham the dockyard, Rochester the siege of 2015... In time this would be eroded surely? Much in the way Brompton has been absorbed. I know it is an aesthetic thing as well but Medway city? I know the river is the only thing we have in common but really?

I'm all for the bettering of the Medway towns as an area and a community however I have to ask is this the way? Could we not spend the money more wisely else where like on our roads that desperately need resurfacing or on schools, the bus station or the tunnel which has failed its safety specs?

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