Saturday, 12 November 2011

An Appeal to Reason - No to City Status

Five towns, not One city.
Before I start this I should make clear that I am not writing this as a Liberal Democrat party member or on behalf of the party. I know as a group the Medway Lib Dems are opposed to city status but I have arrived at this position by myself and just happen to agree with them. I am instead writing this Appeal to Reason as a citizen of Gillingham who was born here, lived the first few years of my life here and the last four years, whose family lived here for at least a century, the Great grandson of Cpl G W Bone whose death is commemorated on the Boer war memorial in Brompton Barracks and Grandson of  (the then) Corp A J Pullen who helped build the defences in Chatham town centre and along the Great Lines in 1940-41 to stave off invasion.

I am writing to urge Medway Council to rethink their plans and bid for uniting the Medway towns into one Medway City.

The Medway towns, as I'm sure many know have long historic Individual identities and have slowly, since the Second World War, been pulled together until eventually formed a Unitary authority but maintained their individual names. This bid would see the last buttresses collapse and see their amalgamation and eventual disappearance.

The five towns have their own individual character, communities and up until the twentieth century boarders. With the growth of the towns the villages of Brompton, Luton, Horsted, Borstal, Wayfield, Hempstead... I could go on! These villages now exist as nothing more than names on a map if not borough's within the larger Chatham, Rainham and Gillingham areas. Is there not a danger that within fifty, sixty years the same would happen to the other Medway towns? How long before I'm supporting Medway City FC instead of Gillingham?

Any city that was created out of the towns would be an artificial construct like the formation of Great Britain from the four original states with their own separate identities and community and that has begun the slow unwind to separation. History shows us artificial unions cannot stay together.
Unlike other City contenders there is a NO campaign based on this. I cannot imagine the people of Reading saying;
"No thanks, we'd rather stay as a town."

I am saying; "No thanks I'd rather be a town rather than several towns masquerading as a city."

So what of Rochester? That was a city and that was OK.

Yes, it was part of the Medway towns, a cooperative group.

But the area is known as Medway anyway.

Yeah, but as a short name. I live in Gillingham, my Grandfather in Chatham, I have a friend who lives in Strood and ministers the Rochester baptist Church. Medway is the umbrella term, a shorthand if you will but we live in individual areas that should remain thus.

It is a glorious waste of money. Medway Council have to save £5 million over the next five years, they have overspent on their original budget for the new bus station, spent an extra 500k on a straight path into Medway park, other finances have been mismanaged and now they want to pay for the City of Medway?
I know we've been promised that it costs no more than 8p each but on a quick stats check;
Rochester pop. 27,000
Gillingham Pop. 99,773
Chatham pop. 70,540
Strood Pop.33,182
Rainham pop.6,394
= 236889 X 8 = 18,952.12 (on 2001's figures.)

This cannot be accurate. I've been through three Company rebrandings in my working life and all of them have vast amounts of hidden costs.

Uniforms, signs, advertisement, leaflets, maps, stationary, motifs, sponsorship etc all need replacing.
Sure some will continue to be used until they need replacement which is fine and relatively inexpensive.

BUT you can't tell me that the road signs, office stationary at Gunwharf and the Council's vehicles won't immediately get re branded? How many man hours will have to go into this? Time is money and wages for someone. Is this an expense that the people of Medway can afford to take on?

I'm all for the betterment of Medway which is why I would love see this money put into the regeneration of Chatham and Gillingham town centres and make them nicer than the current Eastern Bloc-esq ruins they seem to have become rather than pump the money into a massive White elephant. There have been No concrete bonuses for being a city. There is the promise of better business opportunities and investment but there is nothing yet on the books. Also why are these companies not already investing in the Medway Towns? What is truly in the name and is it not the same area? The only plus that I have seen so far is that Councillors will get to call themselves City councillors.

The people of the Medway towns haven't been consulted about this and I sincerely doubt they want it, or are even that bothered.
Yes I know there was a phone survey that spoke to all of 0.01%  of the Medway population (and only found 65% of them were in favour!) but what about the rest of us?
The people of the towns have followed blindly as the Council has taken us by the hand and led us or even dragged us into things we've not agreed to or wanted in the past, like the tunnel purchase, the Medway test, etc.. but now the people need to stand up and say "NO".
Of course if I am wrong and I am the minority I will shut up, stop my campaigning and sit silently in the corner keeping my opinions to myself and let the democracy rule as it should. But who knows if I am the minority?
I know referendum's are expensive, and although it is one option, a cheaper one would be a survey through the door or ask councillors to as their constituents at their surgeries over the upcoming months? That's almost free - a price Medway Council can afford!

So please consult the people and think long and hard about this! It is a big issue, something that needs addressing and local Conservative and Labour Groups to think about... Stop- Listen and think again.

As I said, if it is truly the will of the people then yeah I'll be quiet and go away but until the Council can turn around and demonstrate that I will continue to fight and kick up a stink about this.

1 comment:

  1. A very well written article. Made me think. I live in Hempstead.