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From our gridlock crisis, funding social care or supporting small business, todays' Conservative budget offered no help and no vision for Dartford.

There was, once again, no announcement about if and where a new Lower Thames Crossing will be built. Despite the signals coming from Tory ranks earlier this week that an announcement was imminent, Dartford residents are still waiting. It’s simply unacceptable that year after the government were given a clear recommendation by their own experts that a new crossing east of Gravesend should be built, the Transport Secretary is still dithering over the decision. Dartford needs the government to end the uncertainty and make that decision now.

Given the chronic traffic congestion and resulting air pollution that continues to blight our town, we hoped the Chancellor would invest in getting Dartford moving. Once again, Dartford was overlooked by the Conservative government. There was no commitment of funding to ease congestion on Dartford's roads – although the Chancellor was willing to announce £90m for the north of England and £23m for the Midlands to tackle congestion ‘pinch points’.  Maybe Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Phillip Hammond might wish to visit Dartford to see our ‘pinch points’ for themselves. Dartford should have been included in the package of investment announced today. Coming after the extraordinary revelation that pollution levels around the Dartford Crossing have been wrongly excluded from government air quality assessments, this is another sign that Dartford's air quality crisis isn’t being taken seriously by the Conservatives.

At the 2015 election, the Conservatives promised not to raise national insurance. Today they broke that promise. The Tories national insurance increase on the self-employed will hit around 10% of Dartford’s workforce. This is a tax on growth and our local economy. For towns like Dartford, growing with entrepreneurial talent, its a Tory tax on ambition. The government should be looking at how we can encourage small businesses and start ups so that Dartford can become a ‘go to’ place for those with ambitions and ideas to start their own business. Instead, the Conservatives have delivered a tax on growth to SMEs and the self-employed in our town.

The Chancellors announcements on Social Care fell way short of what was needed. The Tories cut £4.6bn from social care budgets in the last parliament. The extra money announced today doesn’t even begin to address the funding gap and the care crisis. And there was no clarity at all about how this was going to be paid for. The chancellor’s U-turn on rising business rates masks a growing black hole in local council finances. Local government nationwide is facing a 63% real terms cut to core government funding in the period 2010-2020.. The last grant settlement provided to Dartford Council by a Labour government amounted to £7.5m. By 2019/20 that grant will have reduced to zero. If we were looking to today’s budget for clarity on how business rate retention will actually work to fund local public services, we were once again, sorely disappointed.

This was a budget that was bad for the council, delivered nothing for the country and had no answers to the challenges facing our community in Dartford.

Dartford Forgotten In A Tory Budget With No Answers

From our gridlock crisis, funding social care or supporting small business, todays' Conservative budget offered no help and no vision for Dartford.

This evening Dartford Labour Councillors voted against a Conservative budget that will see local people paying more but getting less, will see cuts to vital services like CCTV and failed to set out a vision for the future. The full text of the speech made by Dartford Labour leader Jonathon Hawkes in response to the budget is below.

·     This budget has been written following a consultation with the people of Dartford. Unfortunately, there is very little in the budget report that gives an indication of what they said.

 

·     Luckily, we do have the views of Dartford residents available to us courtesy of the Dartford Messenger who have published a poll asking the question “Do you feel you get value for money from your Dartford Council Tax bill?”

 

·     The answer is a very resounding ‘no’. 4 out of 5 people felt they are not getting value for money from their council tax.

 

·     And who can blame them for feeling that way?

 

·     This is a budget that risks breaking the contract between the Council and people of Dartford.

 

·     People can accept the need to pay more for improved services.

 

·     This is a budget that will see Dartford residents paying more and getting less.

 

·     We know – because the budget book tells us on page 19 – the priorities of the Conservative administration. Keeping Dartford safe, town centre regeneration, tackling flytipping and waste and street cleaning.

 

·     The Conservatives are falling short on every measure. Failing on their own terms.

 

·     And even worse, this budget gives no indication and no detail of how the additional council tax people are being asked to pay will be used to address these issues.

 

·     The Conservatives tell residents their priority is keeping Dartford safe. Yet, this budget proposes to cut the budget for CCTV.

 

·     With Anti social behaviour in Kent at a three year high that’s a budget that needs increasing not cutting. And only last month, Councillors were told there would be no additional resources to enforce the public spaces protection order for the town centre.

 

·     We hear the words from the Conservatives but there is no action to back them up.

 

·     It feels like Groundhog Day to be at yet another budget meeting and hear the town centre regeneration is on the agenda.

 

·     Yet this is a budget that has literally nothing to say on attracting new businesses to Dartford, no ideas on creating local employment and no initiatives to drive growth in the local economy.

 

·     Our town is growing with entrepreneurial talent – both long standing and newer residents. This council should be looking at how we can encourage small businesses and start ups. Dartford could be a ‘go to’ place for those with ambitions and ideas to start their own business.

 

·     But the Conservatives don’t even have a plan for economic growth. Worse still, there isn’t a Cabinet member with responsibility for producing one.

·     The waste collection service – once spoken of with such pride by members opposite – is in a critical condition.

 

·     Residents increasingly experience their bins not being collected on the day they should be and we see newly purchased waste collection vehicles breaking down while out on their rounds. It’s just not good enough.

 

·     The service is under severe strain but there is no detail in the budget of how these issues will be addressed.

·     The proposal to allocate an extra £71,000 for street cleaning is a sign that the Conservatives much heralded litter enforcement scheme is failing. Well – it’s succeeding in lining the pockets of Kingdom Security.

 

·     But there is no evidence that the scheme has reduced the amount of litter on our streets and that is demonstrated by the need to now put additional resources into street cleaning.  

 

 

·     The Conservatives have failed to tackle Dartford’s litter epidemic.

 

·     When residents are asked to pay more council tax but the council are still relying on voluntary litter picking groups in order to keep our streets clean you know that the Conservatives are falling down on the day job and not getting the basics right. People are paying more and getting less.

 

·     I never thought I would feel sympathy for the Conservative members opposite. And I was right – I don’t.

 

 

·     But I do think we can all feel sorry that clearly there has been no ‘sweetheart deal’ for Dartford in this budget.

 

·     But there is no doubt that they have been given a hospital pass from the government when it comes to funding.

 

 

·     The Conservative government has all but abandoned its commitment to local government funding.

 

·     The budget we are being asked to vote on tonight contains a massive cut to our Revenue Support Grant. The last grant settlement provided to this council by a Labour government amounted to £7.5m. By 2019/20 that grant will have reduced to zero.

 

 

·     No council, no business, no organisation can withstand that level of income reduction without an impact on the services it provides.

·     But if imposing a council tax increase to respond to the funding challenge and growth of our population it is safe to assume this will be the first of many rises to come.

 

·     The Conservatives have presided over a growing ‘black hole’ in our finances. The budget gap in 2018/19 is approximately £1.2m, rising to nearly £4m by 2021/22. The budget claims the Conservatives will “explore all options in managing the gap” but realistically the options are

1.) Increasing Council Tax

2.) Raiding our reserves.

3,) Cutting Services. 

·     The question residents need to know is   - what’s it to be?

 

·     The Conservatives have failed to answer that question tonight as they have failed to meet even their own priorities.

 

·     This should have been a budget that set out how the council was going to address the challenges we face as a community

 

·      Instead the Conservatives have no answers, no details on how money is going to be spent and no vision for the future.

 

·     The Conservatives are asking hard working people to pay more, but get less. That’s why it’s a bad budget for Dartford.

 

Dartford Labour Vote Against Tory Budget That Will See People Pay More But Get Less

This evening Dartford Labour Councillors voted against a Conservative budget that will see local people paying more but getting less, will see cuts to vital services like CCTV and failed...

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.

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