Sunday, 10 June 2012

Medway's mayoral farce

Mayor Hewett
This may seem like I'm jumping on the band wagon but reading Councillor Jarrett's piece in the Medway messenger infuriated me somewhat. I would also like to echo my agreement with Cllr Osborne's article.

I'm not going to comment on the selection process for the Mayor as. basically I don't know enough about it to make an informed comment and I fear that I would be lining myself up for a battle I couldn't win.

I will, however, add my voice to that of Medway Labour on disputing the celebratory Mayoral dinner which will be held in at a traditional venue with at least a three course meal with wine and will cost the Medway tax payer God knows how much. There has been a concession from the new Mayor, Cllr Vaughan Hewett (Con), that instead of wine the venue will serve Ginger beer which will be a lot cheaper.

Despite this concession Medway Labour has boycotted the Council shindig which has attracted scorn from Councillor Jarrett's article.

Here follows an abridged copy of it.

No matter how difficult times are, one of the enduring traits of this nation is our determination to maintain a strong sense of national pride.


In Medway we have celebrated the Diamond Jubilee in a number of ways. The council has held civic events, whilst beacons and street parties have been ways of recognising a remarkable royal reign. Medway Council remains determined to celebrate our heritage and tradition, which is why we host appropriate rather than extravagant events. Even before the nation fell on hard financial times Medway Council has always been mindful of how it spends public money.

We in the Conservative group have always supported the Mayroalty in Medway - even when the chosen mayor was not of our political persuasion. We have respected the office as well as the person.

Sadly this is not always the case with Medway's Labour group. They regularly snub mayoral events and pour unjustified criticism on the excellent fundraising and representational work done by or
[sic] mayor and deputy mayor every year. Of course the mayoralty costs money but such spending is sensible and proportionate.

It is important to put such modest spending into context. Medway council has a huge budget of over £650 million, and to begrudge modest spending on special occasions really does reveal a bah-humbug mentality by some. It would be sad, dull place if we never celebrated anything.

In Medway we are proud to support our monarch, our mayoralty and our Armed forces. Some things are beyond price, although try telling that to those who seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

I would agree that the position of the Mayor is important and that lots of good work is carried out by their offices for Charity and for the Medway towns in general and it is not the position that I am criticising.

It seems from the article that Cllr Jarrett is comparing the celebrating of the Queen's Jubilee as a tradition that has been upheld by the Council to the Mayoralty and its celebration.

That is pure balderdash and this is why.

Last week I went to my daughter's school's Jubilee party, watched the boats going down the Thames in celebration of the Queen and roads closed of for Street parties. This was an out pouring of public joy and thanks to the Monarch that EVERYBODY could get involved in where as this Mayoral dinner is something only Councillors can enjoy - at our expense!

Councillor Jarrett is right to state that it is a mere trifling amount spent from a massive budget but at the time when you and I are suffering from cuts from National as well as Local government - including outsourcing two care homes, getting rid of the dementia specialising Nelson's Court, rising bus fares, "More for less" spending policy and yet they get to have a grand meal based on our money to celebrate as a group. I am forced to ask - Where's my invite? If this celebratory meal is like the Jubilee and a celebration of the appointment of a Mayor then what is the rest of the Medway towns doing to celebrate it? What events are the council laying on for us the people paying for it?

It seems to me, and others, that this is merely a celebration for the elite rather than a massive out pouring of joy by and for the populous.

I also echo the words of Mr Richard Ford who wrote into the Medway messenger's letter page:

Apparently the new mayor is getting his inspiration and political direction from another source and he guided us to read Luke chapter 15 and the need to 'celebrate even i there had been a lot of problems before'!

Just remember that folks when you hear about the next round of cuts to services.

The easy criticism that I'm sure Cllr Jarrett would throw at me is that I am knocking Medway or have a "Bah-humbug" approach which is again nonsense. I recently wrote about whether the Jubilee celebrations were a good thing and concluded that at this time of need and cuts we as a Nation needed:

A party is just what the Doctor ordered to lift the spirits and to forget all the crap that flies at us on a daily basis. Is it wrong to take a day - or two - and celebrate something? There are so many dark clouds out there at the moment that a day of silver linings helps buck up morale.

I'm all for a celebration to lift spirits, to celebrate the Medway WE ALL can enjoy (especially when its our money) not just the elite.

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