Dartford only succeeds when working people succeed - that's Labour's message for the General Election.
Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of time knocking on doors in Dartford listening to people and their concerns. I’ve seen first hand that many local people are still struggling to make ends meet. I’ve also seen they’ve not given up on hoping for a change.
We need real change in Dartford and real change in our politics. We need to take action on the cost of living crisis. It cannot be right that under the Conservatives the rich are getting richer while we all pay more in taxes. It cannot be right that the Tory top down re-organisation of the NHS has meant that nurses and doctors are struggling with ever increasing workloads and lack of support. It cannot be right that after 5 years of a Conservative led government, the next generation is faced with being worse off than their parents. I think it is time for change and a better plan.
Dartford needs a better deal. Last week, Labour announced five pledges that are at the heart of our plan for a better future. It’s based on a simple idea: that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. That’s as true in Dartford as it is in the rest of the county. The five pledges set out a clear vision about what type of society Labour wants to create - a fairer, more equal, more prosperous society.
· A strong economic foundation: Labour will balance the books and cut the deficit every year while securing the future of the NHS.
· Higher living standards for working families: Labour will freeze energy bills until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter, ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8 and provide 25 hours free childcare a week.
· An NHS with time to care: 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs. Labour will join up services from home to hospital, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
· Controls on immigration: People who come here won’t be able to claim benefits for at least two years and Labour will introduce fair rules making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.
· A country where the next generation can do better than the last: Labour will reduce tuition fees to £6,000, and guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and deliver smaller class sizes for 5, 6 & 7 year-olds.
As your MP, I’ll work hard every day to help restore pride in Dartford and make sure that everyone benefits from our town's revival.
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
Dartford only succeeds when working people succeed - that's Labour's message for the General Election. Read more
As some people are already aware, I will, reluctantly, not be seeking re-election as councillor for Joyce Green Ward at the next election.
It’s been an honour and a privilege to serve the ward, and the Borough, for the last thirteen years. I hope I’ve done both justice. Over the time I’ve been lucky enough to work with and for many local residents who are committed to improving their community, as well as those who’ve had their fair share of problems.
I wanted to explain, in my own words, why I’m not carrying on after May.
Balancing the life of a councillor with a busy work life is sometimes a near-impossible task, and I continue to be in awe of the many councillors who do it successfully. Add a new family into that equation, and, in all good conscience, and despite the enormous support I’ve had from them, something has to give. Obviously it can’t be my family, and whilst I’m lucky to have a job I enjoy, it’s also necessary to pay the bills. Which sadly leaves only one option.
I continue to be passionate about the Labour Party, both in terms of its values and its people.
Growing up within the local party, I have come to view it as an extended family, with all the positive things that come with that. Nevertheless, the fact remains that my own new family does, and will always, come first.
I also remain passionate about Dartford, a town I am proud to call home, and one which my wife and I have chosen to lay our own roots.
It’s certainly not goodbye to the Council forever, and I hope to represent the party and the community again at some point in the future.
I am genuinely sorry to be leaving, and will miss my colleagues and my constituents tremendously.
But my departure is made a great deal easier by the fact that we have two fantastic, dedicated, hard-working candidates for Joyce Green in Mark Maddison and Bachchu Kailesh Kaini, who have already spoken with many local residents and are listening to the problems they face. Problems like the regular tailbacks on the A206 which cause misery for residents on The Bridge; or the lack of affordable housing, forcing many residents on Temple Hill to live in cramped conditions.
I know that they will make brilliant councillors and will continue to stand up for people in our ward.
I’d like to thank the leader of the Labour Group, Geoff Prout, for his advice and encouragement over the years. And I’ve been fortunate to serve on the Council alongside my mum, who together with my dad, have been a huge source of inspiration and support.
I’d also like to express my gratitude to the other councillors for Temple Hill for their support – Tom Maddison, Daisy Page, and in particular my ward colleague for the past 13 years, Ann Muckle.
Ann doesn’t always get the recognition she deserves, but seeing at close hand how hard she works to support people who come to her with problems, she’s an example to us all. Ann is also standing down in May, having been doing this far longer than I, and we all wish her a long and peaceful retirement.
And finally, I’d like to pay tribute to another long-serving councillor for Temple Hill, John Muckle, who we sadly lost last year. John was Ann’s husband, and the two of them made a formidable double act.
We all miss John tremendously, not just as a friend, but as someone who delivered positive change for Dartford. He helped build homes for families, he created jobs, he changed the way people and businesses thought of our Borough. He helped build the foundation for a prosperous, vibrant town, and it’s a legacy all future leaders have a duty to uphold.
And, whilst my role on the council is coming to an end, I’ll still be a Dartford resident, watching with great interest as the next era in this town’s history takes shape.
Obviously I hope that will be under a Labour council, but whatever happens in May, I wish everyone who is elected well, and hope that they feel the same pride I have had in representing this great Borough.
As some people are already aware, I will, reluctantly, not be seeking re-election as councillor for Joyce Green Ward at the next election. Read more
Increasing numbers of people in the Dartford area are struggling with debt and are only just able to meet their living costs, according to new figures released by StepChange, a Debt Charity. The figures are released as part of the charity’s Debt Awareness Week.
During 2014, the charity’s helpline was contacted by 1476 people from the Dartford postcode area. Those contacting the charity’s helpline on average owed £12,970 in unsecured debt such as credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts and they only had £36 left each month after paying their debts and household bills.
Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity said:
“More and more families in the Dartford area are falling into debt and struggling to make ends meet. For those living on the edge of their financial means, taking control of the situation can seem a daunting, if not impossible, prospect, but taking positive steps towards tackling debt is crucial to getting back on your feet. We urge those who are worried about their debt problems to seek free confidential advice as soon as possible."
Simon Thomson, Parliamentary Labour Candidate for Dartford said:
“StepChange provide vital support for people in Dartford struggling with debt. This a problem that has got worse in the last four years and shows that too often the economy is just not working for local people.”
“Working people are £1600 worse off under the Conservatives and these figures highlight what many people have told me on the doorstep - far too often it’s still a struggle to make end meet. Dartford needs a pay rise and real help with the cost of living. That’s why a Labour government would deliver a fairer economy by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills until 2017 and create more jobs, including a jobs guarantee for young people out of work."
Notes for Editors:
Figures from StepChange Debt Charity, based on helpline calls in 2014.
Simon Thomson is the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford. He can be contacted for further comment on 07941 679353
Increasing numbers of people in the Dartford area are struggling with debt and are only just able to meet their living costs, according to new figures released by StepChange, a Debt Charity. The figures are released as part of the... Read more
"The news that Tesco have today announced they will now not be building a store in Lowfield Street will surprise few people in Dartford. The saga of Lowfield Street has been a well documented story of delay, frustration and a failure to deliver for local people.
The Conservative Council chose to ignore our warnings not to gamble the future of our town centre on the fortunes on a supermarket. There can now be little doubt that local business owners and residents have been badly let down by both the actions of Tesco and the council’s misjudgement and failure to manage the project effectively. Both owe Dartford a huge apology for how this has been handled over the last few years.
Labour have repeatedly asked the council what their ‘Plan B’ was should Tesco pull out. That day has now arrived, but residents are no closer to understanding what the intentions of Tesco or the council now are. Residents should be kept informed and that’s why Labour is today requesting that the Mayor convene an emergency council debate so that everyone is able to hear how we will work together to move forward from here.
What’s important now is that we are able to rescue something from this sorry state of affairs.
Labour will be offering its full support and co-operation to the council in order to find a new solution for Lowfield Street that puts the needs of our community before short term private profit. We should never accept that the interests of a supermarket should come before what’s best for our town and we need to keep up the pressure on Tesco to use the Lowfield Street site in a way that will benefit Dartford. We also desperately need legislation to stop developers sitting on land and inflicting such huge damage on our communities.
Ultimately, we can only achieve a better future of our town centre with the involvement of residents – their voice needs to be heard. Labour are committed to working directly with local people, businesses, council officers and developers to create a new vision for our town.
This has been a hugely frustrating experience for everyone in Dartford and the boarded up properties on Lowfield Street demonstrate the price of Tesco and the Council’s failure. 2015 can be the year when Dartford makes a fresh start. Together, we can all make it happen."
Cllr Geoff Prout – Leader, Labour Group
Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council
"The news that Tesco have today announced they will now not be building a store in Lowfield Street will surprise few people in Dartford. The saga of Lowfield Street has been a well documented story of delay, frustration and a... Read more
Today's confirmation that Tesco has finally dropped plans to build a super-store in Dartford town centre hardly comes as a surprise. Anyone who walks past the boarded up shops in Lowfield Street or has read the company's annual report will realise that.
The Tory council in Dartford has overseen this sorry saga for twelve long years. And the Tory MP has done nothing over the last five years to find a resolution and come up with alternative plans. They've failed Dartford and have left the town centre to rot. It was foolish to solely rely on a supermarket to regenerate Dartford, without a plan B.
But we don't have to watch our town centre die. We need a new vision and fresh start for Dartford.
We need local politicians who have the confidence to stand up to developers, and tell them what our town needs, not the other way around. That's why a Labour government would give local councils the power to tell developers to "use it or lose it" -- to build or give back the land.
Many small businesses complain that they're struggling because Dartford council is always putting their costs up. Labour would cancel the government's hike in small business rates due this year and freeze the rate in 2016.
If elected Darford's MP in May, I would support initiatives to create an alternative shopping space by helping independent traders, new start ups and young entrepreneurs to open premises. For example, we could be offering them rate free premises for the first couple of years - isn't it better to see shops occupied than empty or boarded up?
Other towns have turned themselves around. So can Dartford. It just takes vision, a "can do" attitude and a fresh start.
Today's confirmation that Tesco has finally dropped plans to build a super-store in Dartford town centre hardly comes as a surprise. Anyone who walks past the boarded up shops in Lowfield Street or has read the company's annual report will... Read more
On a rainy November day, Littlebrook returned Daisy Page as its new councillor, while Mark Maddison increased the Labour share of the vote in Brent.
That being said, there was little enthusiasm for an election from the public, with low turnouts in both wards. And UKIP fared worse than they expected.
Lab 358 47.7%
UKIP 220 29.3%
Cons 172 22.9%
Cons 579 44.6%
Lab 402 30.9%
UKIP 316 24.3%
Geoff Prout, Labour group leader, commented:
"Congratulations to Daisy on her election as Labour's new councillor. Commiserations to Mark who fought a great campaign and who will surely win a seat next May.
"Thanks to all voters whotruned out, and to Labour's campaign team for all the hard work undertaken over the last few weeks. "
On a rainy November day, Littlebrook returned Daisy Page as its new councillor, while Mark Maddison increased the Labour share of the vote in Brent. Read more
Labour's campaign teams, led by Simon Thomson, Daisy Page, and Mark Maddison, have been working hard. Between them they have talked to over 60% of voters in Littlebrook and Brent before today's by-elections.
The message from residents is clear - they have talked to us about their dismay at the Town Centre, and the difficulties of getting round and parking with the tunnel chaos. They have talked to us about the cost of living, of the problems faced by the Health Service, of the targeting of those most vulnerable: disabled people, people with mental illness, people without adequate housing.
Support for Labour is growing again; and it's clear that Dartford people, whether in Brent or Littlebrook, are resisting the narrow, inward-looking, and strident messages coming from right-wing parties.
The final verdict comes in the ballot box. Simon Thomson, Labour's candidate for Parliament, commented "Let's get behind Daisy and Mark, and get two more sensible and informed councillors for Dartford."
Labour's campaign teams, led by Simon Thomson, Daisy Page, and Mark Maddison, have been working hard. Between them they have talked to over 60% of voters in Littlebrook and Brent before today's by-elections. Read more
Today, former Dartford Councillor and Labour MP for Corby, Andy Sawford introduced a bill to parliament that would allow public and mutual rail operators to bid for rail franchises and I was happy to see it progress to a second reading.
Currently the Conservative led government bans anyone but private operators bidding for franchises. This perverse rule has resulted in the not-for-profit public operator currently running the East Coast line - which has achieved record passenger satisfaction and service levels, invests it’s profits in better services and has returned over £800m to the taxpayer - being prevented from continuing to provide that service in order to allow a private operator to take over.
Andy’s bill is important for rail passengers here in Dartford. We continue to put up with the failing performance of the Southeastern franchise – consistently ranked as one of the country's poorest train operators. Expensive fares, delays and cancellations and poor customer satisfaction have contributed to years of frustration for passengers.
We shouldn’t have to put up with it. However, instead of holding Southeastern to account, Dartford’s MP Gareth Johnson and his Conservative colleagues decided to reward them with a new contract – meaning Dartford is stuck with Southeastern until 2018. Dartford deserves better than an MP that puts the interests of train bosses before passengers.
We need a real fresh start. We need a railway which puts passengers first, not profits. That’s why I support Andy Sawford’s bill and why today Labour MPs delivered more for Dartford’s rail users in a single day than our own Conservative MP – who didn’t vote today - has achieved in four years. If elected Dartford’s MP next year, I’ll join them to work to for the rail service that Dartford and the country needs and deserves.
Today, former Dartford Councillor and Labour MP for Corby, Andy Sawford introduced a bill to parliament that would allow public and mutual rail operators to bid for rail franchises and I was happy to see it progress to a second... Read more