"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
General Secretary of the GMB
Friday 28th November 2014
7.30pm at Darenth Village Hall
Bring your own drinks and nibbles
Members, supporters and friends are invited to the all members' night on Friday 28th November at 7.30pm in Darenth Village Hall.
Click here for a map.
Our guest speaker will be Paul Kenny, the General Secretary of the GMB. We are delighted that Paul, who is one of the leading figures in the Labour movement, is able to come and speak at this event.
There will the customary raffle and the 100 club draw.
Members and guests are invited to make a voluntary donation of £5.00 in aid of Labour's 2015 election campaign in Dartford.
This promises to be an excellent evening in the company of the leader of Britain's third biggest trade union.
General Secretary of the GMB Friday 28th November 2014 7.30pm at Darenth Village Hall Read more
Thursday 11th December at the Swanscombe Pavilion at 7.30pm
Click here for a map
On Thursday 11th December there will be a 'Stand up for Labour' comedy night at the Swanscombe Pavilion beginning at 7.30pm. There will be a full bar and the acts will feature Arthur Smith, Norman Lovett and Mary Bourke:
Tickets are on sale and at the moment, they only cost £10 but the price will go up to £12 after October 31st. Tickets are available to everyone - members, friends, family, neighbours etc so first come, first served. They can be reserved through Santha on 01322 525261. However you get the tickets, please make sure you pay for them before October 31st!
Tickets can also be bought online at the Stand Up For Labour website
Stand up for Labour promises to be an excellent night of comedy so please book early to avoid disappointment.
A huge laugh and a career that blends surrealism and one-liners in equal measure are Arthur Smith's signatures. His immense humour, and willingness to laugh himself hoarse at others' jokes make him unusual in an industry eaten up by cool. On TV, he's been a regular Grumpy Old Man. But it's as a stage performer and writer where Smith's strongest talents make themselves felt.
He was well into his thirties before deciding to go into comedy. Best known for the role of Holly in cult sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, he considers himself to be a stand-up comedian who can act a bit, and is yet to appear in a pantomime. His comedy has a quiet, dead-pan surrealism.
She's performed on the comedy circuit for more than a dozen years and the experience shows. Bourke's utterly composed on stage, performing with a relaxed delivery, and the soft sing-song of her Irish lilt contrasts nicely with her punchy and somewhat acerbic material. She punctuates the pomposity of the Mumsnet website with list of unreasonable demands on the Albanian nanny with the refrain 'am I being unreasonable?'
Thursday 11th December at the Swanscombe Pavilion at 7.30pm The Grove,Swanscombe, DA10 0AD Read more
Friday’s traffic gridlock across Dartford was another reminder that the delay in naming the location of a new Thames Crossing is damaging our town. Labour in Dartford have always said that any new crossing needs to be built away from Dartford and we’ve campaigned strongly alongside residents to make the case to rule Dartford out now.
It’s extraordinary that in response to the recent traffic chaos, a local Conservative Councillor has now called for a new crossing to be built at Dartford. We don’t agree with his view and we think the vast majority of Dartford residents won’t agree either.
Building another crossing at Dartford is not the right solution to our traffic problems. It would just make the exisiting congestion and pollution even worse.
This was an issue where we felt we had achieved a degree of political consensus to keep another crossing away from Dartford – however, in recent months the position of the Conservatives appears to have changed. First, we had Dartford’s Conservative MP calling for the decision to be delayed - keeping the threat hanging over the town. Now we have the Conservative Mayor of London and at least one local Tory Councillor openly calling for another crossing at Dartford. We’ve got a big fight to win to make sure we keep the new crossing out of Dartford. The uncertain position of the Conservatives does nothing to help residents and businesses in Dartford caught in the gridlock.
The government can and should rule Dartford out now and get on with resolving this issue. Labour in Dartford will continue to stand up for residents and say no to another crossing in our town.
Friday’s traffic gridlock across Dartford was another reminder that the delay in naming the location of a new Thames Crossing is damaging our town. Labour in Dartford have always said that any new crossing needs to be built away from... Read more
THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE FAILED OUR TOWN CENTRE
Yesterday’s press statement released by the Leader of Dartford Borough Council demonstrates the astonishing failure of Dartford’s Conservative administration to deliver on its promises to regenerate Lowfield Street and our town centre.
We all recognise that Tesco have let Dartford down badly. However, there can be little doubt that the Conservatives have been complicit in the twelve years of delays and excuses that have left Dartford with a decaying town centre and a derelict site scarring the landscape of Lowfield Street.
- It was the Conservatives who stubbornly pursued their road through the park scheme – delaying progress on the Lowfield St site for years
- It was the Conservatives who failed to deliver a credible plan for regeneration –instead trusting the future of the town centre to the fortunes of a supermarket
- It was the Conservatives who have refused to consider a Plan B – even when it became clear that Tesco were not delivering on their promises.
What we need now is action and a plan for the future – not empty words and idle threats.
It is nothing short of astonishing that the council leader now sees fit to announce a lack of faith in Tesco when as recently as August he told residents that he and Tesco had “cleared the last hurdle” to the development starting. We can only speculate as to what has provoked his sudden change of heart, especially since there today appears to be an increase in activity on Lowfield St. Did the Council know this work was due to be carried out?
What we do know is that Labour has consistently challenged the Conservatives to get tough on Tesco and be clear with residents on the plans for the town centre. His sudden conversion, seven months away from an election, to the view shared by Labour and many residents will not do anything to restore trust in the ability of the Conservatives to show the leadership the town needs.
The Conservatives have failed to influence the management of Tesco, failed to prepare a plan B and failed to deliver a long term strategy for regenerating our town centre. They’ve also failed to listen to the people of Dartford. We desperately need a different approach.
Dartford needs to move on from this sorry episode. Labour have sought the views of residents in Dartford and the results of our recent town centre survey show that residents have huge hopes and ambitions for our town, despite their despair at the way the Conservatives have neglected it over the last decade.
A Labour Council will deliver what the Conservatives have refused to do- a plan that recognises that our town centre can only thrive again with the community at its heart. Labour will put residents on the Town Team and ensure we have a plan for rejuvenating the town centre that includes the voice of everyone in Dartford – Business, residents, charities and our artistic and volunteer communities.
A Labour government will empower councils to tell big developers to ‘Use it or lose it”, preventing them sitting on land without building.
The Conservatives cannot build a better future for our town centre as they have no strategy, no alternative to Tesco and no trust from the people of Dartford. A decade ago, it was Labour, working with the community, who made the Conservatives see common sense and abandon their disastrous road through the park scheme. A decade later, confronted with a stubborn Tory council without a strategy and a completely silent MP it will again be Labour who will work with residents to build a better future for our town. We can’t go on like this and we need change.
We are determined to help our community realise its ambitions for our town and determined to work alongside our residents, businesses and community groups to rebuild and repair the pride in our town centre that has been so badly damaged by this sorry episode. Dartford can be so much better than this – together we will make it happen.
Geoff Prout – Leader, Labour Group and Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council
Simon Thomson – Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford
THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE FAILED OUR TOWN CENTRE Read more
There has been a very good response to Dartford Labour Party's Town Centre survey, with some clear threads developing. Read more