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Dear friends,

 

Happy new year to everyone in Dartford Labour Party.

For many of us on the progressive side of politics, saying goodbye to 2016 was the best thing about it. Many column inches have been devoted to the disastrous setbacks of Brexit and Trump, but what's clear is the challenge for all of us on the left is to renew our politics and produce new answers for the decades to come.  We know those answers can’t come from the cheap populism of Farage or Tory backbenchers –  and with Theresa May floundering around with no plan – Labour has the chance to set the post Brexit agenda in 2017.

 

For our Labour family, 2016 will always be scarred by the senseless, political murder of Jo Cox. Jo made such a difference to so many people – as a dedicated MP, as a campaigner on human rights, but most of all as wife and mother. The courage and dignity shown by Brendan in the weeks and months following Jo’s death was incredible and still humbles. There can be no more worthy reason to continue to fight for our values than the memory of Jo and her conviction that we have more in common than divides. Let it be all our mottos as we enter 2017.

 

There were positives to celebrate – most notably the election of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor. Running a campaign that sought to unite, not divide Londoners, his victory showed that progressives win when we deliver a positive message that speaks to the majority. The action Sadiq is taking on tacking the housing crisis, pollution and affordable transport reminds us of the changes we get to make when Labour wins elections.

 

In Dartford, 2016 may well be remembered for what didn’t happen. We still did not get a decision from the government on the building of a new Lower Thames Crossing and previously promised progress on our neglected town centre once again failed to materialise. However, as a community, we came together to celebrate the fantastic achievements of Adam Gemilli at the Rio Olympics and we once again showed the generosity of our town with another successful Christmas Toy Appeal – organised by our very own Kelly Grehan.

 

As Leader of the Labour Group, I am enormously proud of the work our Labour Councillors do  at County, Borough and Parish level.  Standing up for residents, standing up for Labour values and holding the Conservative administration to account. We punch above our weight and the Tories know that everything they do will be subject to robust scrutiny.

 

At this time of year our thoughts are with those who find themselves on the streets. In light of the tragic deaths of two rough sleepers in Chatham, Dartford Labour Councillors have called on the Conservative Council to do more to protect those left in vulnerable and dangerous conditions when the temperatures drop close to freezing. However, the Tories have not triggered an emergency protocol designed to prevent the deaths of homeless people on the streets – despite a request to do so from Labour. We'll continue to press the council to do the right thing, but you can also help by volunteering for the Dartford Churches Winter Shelter. This project depends entirely on volunteers and does fantastic work supporting the homeless in Dartford. The Volunteer Information Sheet and Volunteer Application Form are attached.

 

Dartford's a great town - but it could be so much better. We see potentially exciting growth all around us. Sadly, we have a council that have their heads in the sand when it comes managing that growth so it benefits our community and addresses the challenges of a modern town. Where will our children go to school? Where will our sick and elderly be cared for? How do we get Dartford moving? How do we create new local businesses and welcome newcomers to our town so that people moving here want to stay and raise their families, creating a new generation of proud Dartfordians?

 

I want to lead Dartford Borough Council because I believe it’s us - The Labour Party - who have the right answers to these questions. It’s only a Labour Council who will take Dartford forward as a modern, optimistic and vibrant 21st century town. It’s only a Labour Council that knows that our town prospers when we are more inclusive, more equal and provide opportunities for everyone.


Everything I see from the Tories in Dartford – from Gareth Johnson, to KCC, to Dartford Borough Council tells me they will continue to hold this town back. Dartford has not been served well by the Tories. We deserve better than more years of no ambition, no vision and a council that continues to be more interested in PR stunts than doing the day job and getting the basics right.

 

Let's make 2017 the year of Labour in Dartford. That starts with Kent County Council elections in May. We've got fantastic candidates across Dartford, and in our target seats Tom Maddison will make a strong defence of the seat he's served so well. In Catherine Stafford and Claire Pearce we have a fantastic chance to make gains. They all need your support to make that happen so I look forward to seeing you out on the campaign trail - we'll be out talking to residents every Saturday from mid- January. If you've not campaigned before - why not make it your new year resolution in 2017? We've got great candidates, a great team of activists and a message that needs to be heard.

 

2016 may have been tough year but 2017 can be the year our politics and our values fight back. I look forward to working with you all to make it happen.

 

 

Best wishes,

Jonathon

New Year Message From Jonathon Hawkes, Leader of Dartford Labour Group

Dear friends,   Happy new year to everyone in Dartford Labour Party.

The next few days are likely to be particularly tough for rough sleepers in Dartford. Sadly, the response of Conservative run Dartford Borough Council this winter has not been good enough.

 

As temperatures dive to below zero, Dartford becomes an extremely hostile environment for the rough sleepers as they attempt to keep warm. Two recent tragic deaths of rough sleepers in Chatham serves as a stark reminder of how dangerous it can be in cold temperatures. As we enter 2017, It is totally unacceptable to have people dying on our streets due to the cold.

 

It’s a time when Local Councils can play a vital role in providing the support homeless people need to stay off the streets and keep safe. Sadly, the response of Conservative run Dartford Borough Council this winter has not been good enough.

 

Dartford Borough Council employ a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP). This is formally triggered when the forecast is for sub - zero temperatures to occur on three consecutive nights and enables rough sleepers to be provided with emergency accommodation.  The Met Office forecast for night time temperatures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week are -2'c and 1'c and 1'c. However, wind-chill means that feels like temperatures are actually -4, -2 and -1'c. Public Health England have also issued a level 3 cold weather alert.

 

The next few days are likely to be particularly tough for rough sleepers in Dartford. That’s why, in light of the severe weather warning and recent tragic events in Medway, Dartford Labour Councillors have asked the Council to consider, triggering SWEP with immediate effect. If SWEP is not triggered this weekend, we believe that it needs to be in place on Monday due to the ‘feels like’ temperatures forecast for next week.

 

In response to our request, Dartford Council has told us that they do not envisage triggering the emergency protocol over the coming three to four days.

 

It cannot be right that a policy– which in its current form provides no more than the bare minimum of support – does not meet the needs of the homeless population in Dartford in periods of cold weather. The need is real and urgent. A recent report by Shelter confirmed that Dartford now has the highest number of homeless people relative to population in Kent.  We need to see the right response.

 

 That’s why Dartford Labour are calling on the Conservative Council to:

 

·         Provide support to more people, more often. We would like to see a change to the current SWEP to also take into account instances of high winds, severe snow, heavy rain and when the ‘feels like’ temperature is below zero. The purpose of this policy is to prevent death and protect the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people. The current policy in Dartford should be more flexible to ensure it can meet this aim.

 

·         Provide support quickly. We want to see a firm commitment that the Emergency Protocol is always activated on the first night of cold temperatures occurring. Emergency accommodation should be provided to vulnerable people as soon as possible

 

·         Provide more emergency accommodation local to Dartford. Currently, the emergency accommodation offered is likely to be multi-occupancy housing in Gillingham. There is no council supported emergency shelter in Dartford.

 

In the current cold weather, it remains our view that the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol should be invoked immediately.

 

Local charities and churches in Dartford do fantastic work to help and support the homeless especially at this time of year. Dartford Churches together have a cold weather shelter that is run by volunteers who help to care for the homeless over the winter months.

 

But it cannot be right if the hard work of charities begins to fill a gap created cuts to funding to local councils and polices that are not fit for purpose.

 

There is little doubt that the sharp rise in homelessness is a direct result of the government’s indiscriminate welfare reforms, an unregulated private rental sector and crucially, massive cuts in funding to the councils who need to provide vital support.

 

However, with Dartford set for bitterly cold temperatures over the coming days there is more Dartford Council could and should be doing.

 

If it is cold enough for the Dartford Churches Winter Shelter to throw open their doors early, cold enough for Porchlight to ask people to refer rough sleepers to their emergency support, it is surely cold enough for Dartford Borough Council to invoke the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and provide rough sleepers in Dartford the protection and support they need.

 

We can only hope it won’t take a death on the streets of Dartford for the council to act.

 

Dartford Labour Councillors

 

Links and Resources

You can contact Dartford Churches Winter Shelter on office.dartfordwintershelter@gmail.com

Porchlight are a a charity working across Kent, we help vulnerable and isolated people get support with their mental health, housing, education and employment needs. http://www.porchlight.org.uk/

The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness is a nationwide network of Labour activists who are determined to get out on to the streets and hand out supplies to those who need them most – rough sleepers. You can contact them at http://lceh.org.uk/

 

Labour Call For More Protection For The Homeless In Dartford This Winter

The next few days are likely to be particularly tough for rough sleepers in Dartford. Sadly, the response of Conservative run Dartford Borough Council this winter has not been good...

Many people will be having a tough time over the Christmas Holidays. Citizen's Advice have produced a short guide to what help is available.

Christmas emergencies 1

Christmas emergencies 2016

Many people will be having a tough time over the Christmas Holidays. Citizen's Advice have produced a short guide to what help is available.

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