It’s good news that the new Lower Thames Crossing won’t be in Dartford – but we need urgent action right now to tackle our growing traffic gridlock.
The news that the government have finally recommended that Dartford should not be the location of the new Lower Thames Crossing is rare relief for everyone impacted by the pollution and congestion at the existing crossing. It’s also a victory for residents who kept up the campaign against a new crossing in Dartford over several years.
It’s taken far too long for the government to make this decision. Almost 2 ½ years after the start of the consultation on a new crossing and a year after local people were promised a decision would be made, it’s unacceptable that residents and businesses have had to put up with this uncertainty for so long.
Leader of Dartford Labour Cllr Jonathon Hawkes commented;
“Building a new crossing away from Dartford is a step in the right direction. However, all the while the government have been dithering over this decision the problems at the existing crossing have got much worse and traffic gridlock is now a regular occurrence. With the new crossing not due to open for at least a decade, Dartford needs action right now to get our town moving again.
So while the news about the crossing is welcome, Dartford can’t afford complacency from the council or the MP. We desperately need a new traffic plan for Dartford to tackle to congestion and pollution we are living with right now. However, with a 37% cut in the Department of Transport budget and Kent County Council finances being slashed by £46m, there are real concerns that traffic chaos in Dartford is going to get worse under the Conservatives.”
It’s good news that the new Lower Thames Crossing won’t be in Dartford – but we need urgent action right now to tackle our growing traffic gridlock. Read more
Yesterday, Labour asked if Dartford's MP Gareth Johnson was going to continue to oppose the idea of Transport for London taking over the failing Southeastern rail franchise. Today, he confirmed he will continue to "resist" TfL.
We think that Dartford's MP couldn't be more out of touch with rail users in the town. We just want a rail service that works - and its clear that Southeastern isn't working. Is Gareth Johnson interested in what works? Or just that the Dartford rail franchise stays in private sector hands?
Cllr Daisy Page - Dartford Labour's Deputy Leader and member of Dartford Council's transport committee commented;
"In continuing to oppose the possibility of TfL taking over the failing Southeastern franchise Gareth Johnson has shown himself to be completely out of touch with rail users in Dartford.
Mr Johnson should seeking solutions and a way forward to improve Dartford rail services, not putting up barriers by clinging to the same outdated, ideologically driven position Dartford Conservatives have always taken.
He raises concerns about accountability but Dartford rail passengers feel there is no accountability from Southeastern at the moment. There certainly wasn’t any accountability 18 months ago when the Conservatives rewarded Southeastern with an extension to their current franchise.
Gareth Johnson doesn’t seem to get that Dartford rail users are crying out for change on our railways. We need an MP that is going to stand up for Dartford, rather than only standing up for Southeastern”
Yesterday, Labour asked if Dartford's MP Gareth Johnson was going to continue to oppose the idea of Transport for London taking over the failing Southeastern rail franchise. Today, he confirmed he will continue to "resist" TfL. We think that Dartford's MP couldn't... Read more
Dartford Labour has welcomed the news that TfL are set to take over the Southeastern Franchise in 2018. It's now time for Dartford Conservatives to drop their long standing opposition to the plan.
After years of the unreliable service, overcrowding, heating problems and delays passengers have experienced, particularly recently after the works and chaos at London Bridge, it’s clear we need a change in the way our rail services are operated.
It's not yet clear if this announcement will mean TfL will run London bound services from Dartford stations, although the potential to do so has been set out in the proposal.
Dartford commuters just want a train service that they can rely on. That’s why we are calling on Gareth Johnson and Dartford Conservatives to drop their opposition to TfL running train services from Dartford. We need a service that works for Dartford and it’s clear that Southeastern just isn’t working.
Dartford Labour Deputy Leader and member of Dartford Borough Council’s Transport Committee Cllr Daisy Page commented;
‘Like many local residents I have signed the online petition to remove Southeastern and I am glad to see the voice of local residents is being heard. This could be a much needed change for passengers and one that Labour and local residents have been calling for some time, but I am concerned that Dartford Conservatives have opposed it. Gareth Johnson must now tell us if he’s going to support a better train service for Dartford, or if he and his colleagues are going to continue to oppose local residents getting the service we need and deserve’
Dartford Labour has welcomed the news that TfL are set to take over the Southeastern Franchise in 2018. It's now time for Dartford Conservatives to drop their long standing opposition to the plan. Read more
Dartford Labour leader Jonathon Hawkes has accused the Conservatives of “wasting the opportunity” of a debate held in Parliament this week on the delays at the Dartford Crossing.
Cllr Hawkes commented - “The debate was a huge wasted opportunity to make progress on an issue that is causing misery for thousands of people across Dartford. What Dartford residents wanted to see from this debate was a clear plan of action to start to ease the delays that regularly cause congestion across our town. Instead, what we got was just warm words, complacency and no plan to start to address the problem.
The truth is that the Conservatives in Dartford have presided over the growing traffic gridlock and they have no idea how to resolve it. It’s easy for Gareth Johnson and Jeremy Kite to criticise Dart Charge today, but they were the people overseeing its introduction and predicting that congestion would be reduced. Unbelievably, earlier this year Cllr Kite was still claiming that the removal of the toll barriers at the crossing had been “an unqualified success”. The compliancy of the Conservatives has contributed to dire situation we see today.”
At the last election, the Conservatives promised a joined up transport plan for Dartford. So far, we’ve heard a lot of talk but seen no action. Residents sitting in traffic jams will rightly ask why that promise is not being delivered.
We need a different approach. That’s why Labour are calling for a new traffic plan for Dartford focused on delivering;
- · Additional investment to bring forward delivery of promised improvement works and to ease the bottlenecks that cause congestion
- · Improvements to our public transport. Our local bus network is struggling to cope in the congestion and we need to ensure that Crossrail is extended to Dartford.
- · Action to tackle the delays at the Crossing. Simply holding meetings and debates isn’t good enough– local people need to see a credible plan of action that includes the views of motoring and freight industry groups, local businesses and residents.
- · A decision on the location of a new crossing. We need a new crossing away from Dartford, built as soon as possible.
The Conservatives are failing Dartford – residents deserve better than to be stuck with gridlock. We need to get Dartford moving again.
Dartford Labour leader Jonathon Hawkes has accused the Conservatives of “wasting the opportunity” of a debate held in Parliament this week on the delays at the Dartford Crossing. Read more
Labour leaders across Kent including leader of Dartford Labour - Jonathon Hawkes, have come together to call on the government to extend the devolution agenda to Kent. You can read their statement below
Labour leaders across Kent including leader of Dartford Labour - Jonathon Hawkes, have come together to call on the government to extend the devolution agenda to Kent. You can read their statement below Read more
Dartford Council’s new plan to use a private company to undertake ‘Litter Patrols’ won’t address the root causes of litter in our town.
The Conservatives have failed to tackle Dartford’s litter problem and after 13 years of Tory control, litter in Dartford is getting worse and fly tipping isn’t being tackled. The truth is that the Council have always had the ability to fine people who litter our community. They just haven't been doing it.
The Council are now employing a private company to step in where they have failed to act and carry out litter enforcement on their behalf. That means for every £75 fine issued, £42 is going directly into the pockets of the private company - it's not going back to the council.
Labour have already raised concerns about how this scheme will operate.
Because there is a financial incentive to issue fines - we need to ensure that there are safeguards in place to ensure residents are treated fairly and consistently. Yes, we need crack down on litter louts, but nobody wants to see people being chased down the street or not being given a chance to pick litter up when it has been dropped unintentionally. The Council need to make sure there are effective safeguards in place. The company being used, Kingdom, has faced criticism in the past for issuing thousands of fines when they have worked for councils in other areas.
Enforcement needs to go hand in hand with prevention and Dartford needs more litter bins. However, with the council handing over the majority of the income generated from fines to a private company we are simply not going to see to investment we need in litter prevention.
It’s also really concerning that the Conservatives have not been straight with residents about this scheme. During the consultation the Tories did not make it clear to residents that the council would be using a private company or the fact that most of the income generated will not be kept by the council. They are still not being clear in their publicity now. Residents have a right to ask why the council is not being as open and honest as they could be about this scheme
Labour will be keeping a close eye on the scheme to ensure that its operated both effectively and fairly. The Council simply haven't been clear with residents – Labour will be.
Dartford Council’s new plan to use a private company to undertake ‘Litter Patrols’ won’t address the root causes of litter in our town. The Conservatives have failed to tackle Dartford’s litter problem and after 13 years of Tory control, litter in... Read more
The decision to award a contract to run local community health services in North Kent to Virgin Care shows that NHS has effectively been put up for sale by the Conservatives.
While there can be a role in the NHS for the private and voluntary sector where can add extra capacity or provide a different service, in this case millions of pounds of public money is being handed to a private company to run an existing NHS service. Even more concerning is the fact that in the tender process, the NHS bid scored higher than Virgin Care on quality – which raises real questions about whether the decision to award the contract has been made on what delivers the best outcomes for patients – or on simply who was the cheapest.
The NHS needs to change and evolve but what shouldn’t change is that our NHS is run on a very simple principle – that the care of people come before profit. That principle is being undermined by deals like this and it makes the governments claims to be committed to a publicly owned NHS seem very hollow.
The Livingstone Hospital in Dartford is one of the hospitals where services will now been run by Virgin Care. Labour will be asking what scrutiny will in place to ensure there is no degradation of the service and what protections will be in place for the hard working staff at The Livingstone. Virgin Care need to be accountable to public in running this service.
The last Labour government increased investment in the NHS. Everyone accepts the need for the NHS to evolve and change to meet growing demand and changing needs. We believe the NHS can meet that challenge but decisions like this show do show a lack of faith from the government in the NHS clinicians, doctors and nurses who are among the best in the world. The government should be getting behind the NHS not starving it of investment. The Conservatives are failing the NHS and deals like this means that we are seeing the gradual privatisation of our health service. Labour will always fight to keep the NHS free at the point of use and in public hands.
The Leader of Dartford Labour - Jonathon Hawkes highlighted these concerns on BBC Radio Kent this week – you can hear the interview here
The decision to award a contract to run local community health services in North Kent to Virgin Care shows that NHS has effectively been put up for sale by the Conservatives. Read more
Labour have today criticised the government and Dartford’s Conservative MP for failing to tackle rising fares and poor performance on our railways.
Fare increases that come into force today mean that the cost of an annual season ticket from Dartford to London is now £2,356 while the price from Greenhithe has risen to £2,396. These rises are bad news for families at the start of a new year and mean that the government has overseen an increase to regulated fares of a staggering 25% since 2010.
What frustrates local rail passengers is that while we are being asked to pay more, we don’t see a corresponding increase in performance.
Not only have Dartford passengers had to put up with a severely reduced and disrupted service over the Christmas and New Year period, the most recent performance figures from Southeastern show that less than half of trains are arriving at their destination on time.
We are just not getting a good enough service from Southeastern, but Dartford’s MP and the Rail Minister Claire Perry, despite promising to get tough on punctuality and delays, have done nothing to hold Southeastern to account and push for a better service for Dartford passengers.
In fact, it was the Conservatives who rewarded Southeastern with an extension to their franchise until 2018. Labour in Dartford has always said that passengers are frustrated with Southeastern appearing to be rewarded for their poor performance and when the franchise comes up for renewal we’d welcome other operators, including those from the public and not for profit sector, submitting bids.
Commenting on todays’ fare increases, Leader of Dartford Labour , Councillor Jonathon Hawkes said:
“The annual hike in rail fares has become an unwelcome new year tradition for train passengers in Dartford. Under David Cameron, regulated fares have increased by a staggering 25% since 2010 and passengers in Dartford are just not seeing a corresponding improvement in service from Southeastern Trains.
When the Conservatives handed Southeastern an extension to their franchise Dartford was promised “a fresh start”. Passengers being hit with today’s fare increases on top of worsening performance will feel that’s turned out to be a hollow promise. Gareth Johnson has failed to stand up for Dartford – he hasn’t held Southeastern to account and its passengers who are paying the price”
- · Annual Season Ticket prices taken from Southeastern trains website on Saturday 2nd January
- · Performance Figures taken from http://www.networkrail.co.uk/about/performance/
Labour have today criticised the government and Dartford’s Conservative MP for failing to tackle rising fares and poor performance on our railways. Read more
Figures published this week show reveal the number of people sleeping on the streets in London has doubled in the last five years.
These figures are a damning verdict on the Conservatives who have completely failed to tackle homelessness during their time in government.
This is not just a London issue either. The number of people housed in temporary accommodation in Dartford reached a two-year high last September and that’s of real concern. Some of that increase will be a knock on effect from the increased number in London and its now clear that the governments housing benefit cap is a contributing factor to increased levels of homelessness. Dartford Council need to ensure that we are providing the support that is needed to those in our town who find themselves without a roof over their heads in the new year.
Labour reduced homelessness by 70 per cent when we were in government and its hugely disappointing to see that progress being undone by the Conservatives.
Charites in Dartford, in common with many towns in the country are doing fantastic and valuable work helping the homeless and its important they receive the support they need.
It’s also important that we recognise that homelessness is a symptom of the housing crisis. We are not building enough affordable homes in Dartford, or elsewhere in the country. Only when we address the shortage of affordable homes in our communities will we begin to tackle the root causes of homelessness.g to see that progress being undone by the Conservatives.
Homelessness is a symptom of the housing crisis. We are not building enough affordable homes in Dartford, or elsewhere in the country. Only when we address the shortage of affordable homes in our communities will we begin to tackle the root causes of homelessness
Figures published this week show reveal the number of people sleeping on the streets in London has doubled in the last five years. These figures are a damning verdict on the Conservatives who have completely failed to tackle homelessness during their... Read more
Dartford Tories Refuse to Debate Labour Motion on the Housing and Planning Bill
This week, Labour Councillors tabled a motion for debate at Dartford Borough Council on the governments proposed Housing and Planning Bill. You can read our motion here.
We tabled the motion because we feel that if the bill becomes law it risks not only delivering a hugely damaging impact on the amount of affordable housing in our town, but also takes power away from the council and local people to deliver more affordable housing in the future. It's important that Dartford Council debates the impacts of this bill - as many other councils up and down the country have also chosen to do.
This is a piece of Conservative legislation, so we expected a robust defence of the bill in the debate from Dartford Tories. But we didn't really get that. Instead, after the Leader of the Council had spoken, the Tories used their majority on the council to force through a 'closure motion' – shutting down the debate and preventing other councillors from all sides of the chamber having their say.
I’ve been a councillor for five years and this was the most cynical attempt to play politics with an issue and stifle debate that I’ve witnessed. The actions of the Conservatives demonstrated a real lack of respect for the council and the importance of open debate, and a disregard for residents who are concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Dartford. It's not how our council should be conducting itself.
The Tories clearly did not want to debate the Housing and Planning Bill with us and we can only speculate on the reasons for that. However, Labour’s view remains unchanged – we feel this bill represents an attack on affordable housing and an attack on the aspirations of those in our town who simply want a home to call their own. We remain ready to have that discussion and if the Tories don't want to debate it in the Council Chamber we are happy to debate with them any time, any place
Image: The Bridge. Hemingway Design http://houseofhemingway.co.uk/hemingway-design/projects/bridge/
Dartford Tories Refuse to Debate Labour Motion on the Housing and Planning Bill This week, Labour Councillors tabled a motion for debate at Dartford Borough Council on the governments proposed Housing and Planning Bill. You can read our motion here. Read more