Friday, 17 February 2012

Response to criticism to Lib dem stance against City Status

At the end of January the Medway Liberal Democrats wrote to Nick Clegg regarding Medway Council’s application for City status – the Letter is (here) and the Press statement (here) and other articles on the subject (here)

Councillor Jarrett was quite scathing in Dan Bloom’s article that appeared in the Medway Messenger stating the following;

Cllr. Alan Jarrett (Con) said there was support from most parties and residents claiming, the letter was by “a couple of local activists” who “want to do Medway down.”

After reading the comments in the article, editorial comment and the odd letter in the KM’s letter page I decided to write a response to defend one of the accusations. Tony Jeacock, our Group Chair wrote to defend the accusation that this was a “couple of activists” two weeks prior to that and I've attached that after mine.

Just a quick note on the letter itself. Italicised text was edited out and Bold text was added or reworded text by the Messenger – I’ve left in the original text for comparison.

I am writing in response to Cllr Jarrett’s comments regarding the Liberal Democrat’s letter to Nick Clegg regarding City Status. (Article appeared 27th January.) FOR MEDWAY

Councillor Jarrett says that the Liberal Democrats are “doing Medway down”  I can assure the Councillor that considering my family’s (edited to MY FAMILY HAS A STRONG) involvement with the towns; My great-great Grandfather is commemorated on the Boer War memorial, my Grandfather built defences here and my Great Uncle worked in the dockyards. I am proud to be from Gillingham and the thought of “doing Medway down” has never entered my mind.
Unlike Councillor Brake’s account, times have changed and in this time of austerity and cuts, including the possibility of Care homes and other front line services facing severe cuts, how can we justify the cost for “potential gains”?
The brass tacks of the matter is that the Council will lose it’s Central Government grant for 2013/4, Council tax may have to rise and there will be a deficit and shortfall resulting in service cuts and pay freezes but they will need to pay out hefty sums for rebranding road signs, uniforms, stationary, this really can’t be another Council overspend.

As a father with a mortgage and Council tax to pay I’d like “Value for my money”. When I see services being cut and my taxes going up and money being wasted I, and many residents don’t see it.  Local Government must do what they have to do before they can do what they want to do and City status is a want rather than a have when spending from the Public purse.

Edited to Read as:

As a father with a mortgage and Council tax to pay, I’d like value for my money. Local councils must do what they have to do before they can do what  they want to do and City status is a want rather than a must-have when spending from the public purse.

(I should state that the letter was not written with the knowledge of the Executive Committee, neither was this article so all criticism should be directed to me alone.)
Tony's response;

Councillor Jarrett, in his response to the Lib Dems opposition to the city-status bid, couldn’t be further from the truth when he suggests the letter was by “a couple of local activists” who “want to do Medway down”. On the contrary, we hold the people of the Medway Towns very much at heart. The decision to take such a stance and submit the said letter to the DPM was as a result of a democratic vote taken by the whole of the Medway Lib Dem executive committee and ordinary voting members in attendance, which whilst not unanimous was nonetheless decisive.

Councillor Jarrett says we have no evidence to support our claims. The fact is, the issue of city-status featured prominently in our local government election campaign on the doorstep last May, further evidenced within our campaign literature. On the doorstep in each of the wards in which we campaigned, we found lamentably little support at all for city status and such that we did find was rather less than robust. The negatives far outweighed the positives, but an even greater majority expressed their total disinterest, which is hardly an endorsement for the local council to proceed when there are far more urgent needs to address.

And where is the evidence that the Tory council secured an overwhelming level of support from the local populace for city status? I would suggest they have become blinded by their own propaganda.

Finally, as a group, we have not said that we should not ever again consider city-status in some form. We simply do not believe it to be appropriate at this time when there are far more important issues at stake, such as saving our residential care homes and day centres caring for our elderly who are no longer able to safely look after themselves, instead of selling them off to the private sector where their future cannot be assured. To refer to our democratically elected course of action as “cynical” is a bit rich coming from a group that goes through the motions of conducting a so-called “consultation” on the proposed closure or sell-off of these establishments, knowing full-well in advance that their decision has already been established.

Tony Jeacock (Chairman) Medway Liberal Democrats


  1. I cant ever remember you using the words 'brass tacks' and the letter alas did not read like your blog pieces.

    Either it was written by someone else in your name or you just write so very different on your blog to real life...

    I suspect one.

  2. I don't generally use the words "brass tacks" but they just popped up in my head as I wrote the letter.

    No they are two differing styles. When I write letters to people I don't know or to companies, MPs, Deputy Prime Ministers etc I tend to write in a snootier style where as with the Blog posts, I am a lot more relaxed. After all its my Blog. I often write the blog in essay style too.

    Just out of Curiousity, who made the comment? I'm guessing its someone I know well.

    All the best