Friday 1 June 2012

Councillor Stamp's broken promise?

Cllr Stamp Broken pledge?
As anyone with any interest in Politics within the Medway towns will know, there was a vicious split back in 2010 between the Liberal Democrats and their former PPC Andy Stamp who now leads the break away Independent group who represent Gillingham North ward. There has been no love lost between the two groups and despite the Executive committee of the Libdems best intentions there is a lot of bitter feeling between some individuals on both sides. I can say hand on heart that I have never met Cllr Stamp, saw him briefly at the count last year, and have nothing for or against him as I was inactive until last January.

A few weeks ago Medway Council released details of how much its Councillors claimed in expenses and were granted as Allowances. Despite election Promises to the contrary Andy Stamp and fellow Independent Pat Cooper claimed £9025 and £6768.90 (with a further £1310.11 special allowances) respectively. This was a story I didn't want to touch with a barge pole because of the fore mentioned split - it would only look like a Libdem causing trouble and exacerbate the split further when all I would be doing is casting a spotlight upon a possible broken electoral pledge.

A letter in to the Editor appeared in last week's Medway Messenger from Garry Harrison who challenged the Independents:

Lets be clear, there is nothing wrong in claiming their council allowances as they are fully entitled to their pieces of silver, but telling the public they would not , to get elected , and then claiming the cash immediately is and was wrong.

Could Cllr Stamp and Cllr Cooper explain why they appear to have forgone their very public pledge? This promised “new fresh outlook on politics”, seems to have fallen at the first hurdle as according to the council notice they have claimed everything they could since their election.

The letter appeared to pose the questions I would have asked had I been inclined to stick my head into this hornet's nest so again I kept clear. After all why shouldn't an elected representative be held to account by his electorate?

Then came the response:
Garry Harrison has made false claims and personal attacks on the Gillingham North independents.


In order to divert our allowances to the community, we have to claim the allowance in the first place. We are very proud to have been able to set up a £15,000 community fund for the local area, which is our combined allowance ( 2x £9000 approx) after tax deductions. We even sought advice from Medway Council's chief executive to clarify that this was the best way of diverting the funds.

Our allowance will be allocated to the community projects in Gillingham North over the next three years and we will be more than happy to publish what the money has been spent on.

We are disappointed that we've been the subject of unfounded attacks even though we are two councillors who have done the decent thing and given up £9000 each for the past year to fulfil our election promise and help the local community.

Firstly though, and I offer this as an observer;

They aren't unfounded attacks. Lets be honest for a moment Andy and Pat - how are we to know that's what you have done or intend on doing? The information in the public arena is that you have indeed claimed your allowances and there is no information that I've seen and I'm presuming from his letter Garry hasn't seen (and he's a resident of Gillingham North) that you have. I applaud you if you have done what you have said and I think other Councillors (including Jarrett and Chambers who also receive a generous stipend for being "Chancellor" and leader of the Council) should do the same.

I would call on you to do as you have stated in the letter, please publish what you have done and where the money has gone. Worthy causes are to be found through out Gillingham and I'm sure your electorate as well as critics from ALL the parties will be silenced. As a commentator I'm interested in seeing people keep their pledges and I would like you to have done that or face justifiable criticism.

Politicians should keep their promises and the electorate - no matter what their background or political beliefs should be allowed to call you on it in the local press if it is unclear that you have reneged on a promise.

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