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.”

 

Crossing News Welcome - But Dartford Needs Action On Gridlock Now

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”

Gareth Johnson is Out of Touch With Dartford Rail Users

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’

The Tories Should Drop Opposition To A Better Rail Service For Dartford

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.

 

Crossing Debate "A Wasted Opportunity" - Dartford Labour

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

Statement from Kent Labour Leaders in Local Government:
 
As Labour leaders of local government across Kent we are concerned that our 1.8 million residents will lose out if the devolution agenda is not extended to our county
 
In other parts of the country we have seen devolution to local councils and combined authorities of all political persuasions.  Although this does not always mean new money, it does mean a greater influence and ability to shape key services on issues like transport, employment and skills & health. 
 
We are calling on all leaders in local government across Kent to work on a cross party basis to ensure that, whilst the "Northern Powerhouse" and "Midlands Engine" are getting support and bringing greater potential for their residents, we here in Kent are not left behind
 
We hope that as 2016 progresses, we see real and tangible opportunities for improvement across Kent.
 
Cllr Gordon Cowan - Kent Labour Group Leader
Cllr Vince Maple - Medway Labour Group Leader
Cllr Brendan Chilton - Ashford Labour Group Leader
Cllr Alan Baldock - Canterbury Labour Group Leader
Cllr Jonathon Hawkes - Dartford Labour Group Leader
Cllr Mike Eddy - Dover Labour Group Leader
Cllr John Burden - Gravesham Labour Group Leader
Cllr Malcolm McKay - Maidstone Labour Group Leader
Cllr Michael Hogg - Sevenoaks Labour Group Leader
Cllr Claire Jeffrey - Shepway Labour Group Leader
Cllr Roger Truelove - Swale Labour Group Leader
Cllr Iris Johnston - Thanet Labour Group Leader
Cllr Alain Lewis - Tunbridge Wells Labour Group Leader

Kent Labour Leaders Call for More Progress on Devolution

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 Tories Have Not Been Straight With Residents On Litter

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 Conservatives Have Put Local NHS Services Up for Sale

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

 

 

Notes:

 

Fare Increases Show the Conservatives are Letting Down Dartford Rail Passengers

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

Tories Are Reversing Progress On Tackling 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.

The Bridge

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

You can the read my speech to table the motion; and also speech that Labour’s Deputy Leader, Daisy Page intended to make, but was prevented from doing so by the actions of Dartford Tories.

 

Image: The Bridge. Hemingway Design http://houseofhemingway.co.uk/hemingway-design/projects/bridge/

Dartford Tories refuse to debate motion

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

"The news that Robin Cooper, the Chair of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has left after just five months in the role is concerning. Ebbsfleet Development Corporation are the body that going to oversee the construction of Ebbsfleet Garden City.

The new Garden City has the potential to provide huge benefits for the local area – but as the plans are developed,  local people want to know that their concerns will be listened to and their voice will be heard. The news that the Government now wants the new chair to be someone  with “fewer close connections to the county” will do nothing to reassure residents that this will be a development will prioritise the delivery of housing for local people and benefits to our community.  Robin Cooper was someone who recognised the importance of affordable housing for local people being a key element of the new Garden City. We hope his successor - and the government - are ready to show the same commitment.

It’s now important that the government and Dartford's Conservative MP act quickly to end any uncertainty, provide clarity for residents as to the reasons for Robin Cooper's departure and the impact on the future of the Garden City project."

 

Link to press story http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent-business/county-news/garden-city-boss-sacked-47918/
 

Ebbsfleet latest

"The news that Robin Cooper, the Chair of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has left after just five months in the role is concerning. Ebbsfleet Development Corporation are the body that going to oversee the construction of Ebbsfleet Garden City. Read more

Yesterday, George Osborne delivered a smoke and mirrors spending review that spelt bad news for Dartford. Instead of tacking the key issues facing our community, we got a combination of U turns and further cuts that won’t move Dartford forward – it will simply leave working people worse off and fails to address the big challenges on housing, public services and transport infrastructure that need to be tackled to provide a secure and prosperous future for Dartford.

U Turn on Tax Credits

The Chancellors U-turn on tax credit cuts is good news for the 4,000 working families in Dartford who were facing Christmas knowing their incomes would be cut next year. The U turn is also a huge victory for everyone, including the Labour Party in Dartford, who campaigned against this unfair cut – the Chancellor was forced to listen to the thousands of voices telling him to think again. Although the change of mind is welcome, we will be looking carefully to at the introduction of Universal Credit next year – we don’t want to see the same cuts dressed up in a different way.

Cuts to Council Funding

The Government has announced a reduction of 24 per cent in funding for local government. The news that the grant given to councils is being scrapped means that there is real risk to public services in Dartford as a result of this spending review.

We need to see the detail on the announcement that councils will now be able keep all the income from business rates, but the news that the government are now going to force councils to sell their assets to continue to funding public services is concerning. That cannot be a sustainable approach and is a threat to services the council provides for local residents.

 

Smoke and Mirrors on Housing

 The Chancellor may try to convince us he’s now a champion of housebuilding but the actions of the government tell a very different story. The truth is that the Conservatives have presided over the lowest level of house building in peacetime since the 1920s and the consequence is that local families are being priced out of the housing market in Dartford. First time buyers in Dartford would need to earn at least £50,000 a year to afford one of George Osborne’s ‘starter homes’ – completely undermining his claims to be providing ‘affordable housing’.

The Chancellor had nothing to say to those in Dartford in rented accommodation. There was nothing in the spending review to help those in the private rented sector and the extension of right to buy to housing associations risks further reducing the amount of social housing in Dartford which is already too low.

The government’s announcement of additional funding to develop Ebbsfleet is welcome but there are still real concerns that not enough resources are being put into the extra infrastructure we need to support this development. Residents are concerned that there won't be enough school places, sufficient hospital capacity or that our local road network will be able to cope. The government need to do much more to address these concerns.

 

Bursaries for Student Nurses Scrapped

The announcement that student nurses will now have their bursaries scrapped and replaced with loans is a particularly pernicious cut. We should be investing in our student nurses – at Darent Valley Hospital as with other hospitals -  not saddling them with debt. This news will do nothing to address the severe shortage of trained nurses in our NHS.

 

No help to Get Dartford Moving

The Chancellor announced that the Department of Transport budget will be cut by 37%. This spells bad news for Dartford. We are already waiting to key infrastructure projects such as the upgrade to the Bean junction to start and we are still no nearer a decision on the location a new Lower Thames Crossing.

Above all, today’s news means that there is huge doubt the government will help ease the traffic chaos and tailbacks we regularly experience on Dartford’s road network. Local people were looking for a plan to Get Dartford Moving – these massive cuts to the transport budget risk Dartford continuing to be stuck in gridlock.

 

Spending review and Dartford

Yesterday, George Osborne delivered a smoke and mirrors spending review that spelt bad news for Dartford. Instead of tacking the key issues facing our community, we got a combination of U turns and further cuts that won’t move Dartford forward... Read more

6,500 children in Dartford could be pushed into poverty as a result of the Conservatives tax credit cuts. That's the verdict of the Children's Society who have warned of the impact should the government carry out the their threat to cut tax credits. Their warning was reported by the Dartford Messenger this week: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/gravesend/news/dire-poverty-warning-by-the-46850/

Labour has been pressing the government to think again on their plans – which will see families will lose on average £1,300 next year.  We are opposed to the changes – they are unfair and will reduce the household income for thousands of working families in Dartford.

 

The Children’s Society report gives a stark warning on the impact of these changes on levels of child poverty, which is already at unacceptably high levels in our borough. 20% of children in Dartford are already living in poverty – that’s 1 in 5. In many areas of our Borough such as Littlebrook, Joyce Green and Princes, the figure rises to over 30%. 1

Labour’s leader in Dartford Cllr Jonathon Hawkes voiced his party’s concerns: 

“The Children’s Society have given a stark warning on the impact of the Tories cuts to tax credits on working families in Dartford. Child poverty in our Borough has been too high for too long – these unfair changes to tax credits carry a real risk of making the situation worse. At a time when we need to focus on reducing levels of child poverty in Dartford, this is not the right way to reduce the benefits bill and we urge the Government to think again.

Labour have been urging Dartford Borough Council to move forward on the local Child Poverty Strategy that was committed to earlier this year. The Council made a start on this but now I’m concerned progress has stalled. Now is the time to focus on delivering our strategy for combatting child poverty in Dartford and it’s vital that the considering the impact of government policies on our Borough is part of that work.”

  1. Figures taken from http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area/#map

Child poverty in Dartford

6,500 children in Dartford could be pushed into poverty as a result of the Conservatives tax credit cuts. That's the verdict of the Children's Society who have warned of the impact should the government carry out the their threat to... Read more

Kent County Council has recently secured funding to convert all of its street lights to LED technology. LED’s are significantly more efficient than the existing lights. 

Labour in Dartford welcome this move – we made the case for it during last years ‘Street Light Switch Off’ scheme which was trialled in many areas of Dartford.

Street_light_against_a_streak_of_pink_sunset_cloud

Over the last few weeks, KCC have been running another consultation. As they move to LED lighting they want to know how you would like your streets lit. They have proposed two options:

  • Part-night lighting - Under this option, street lights are switched of between the hours of 12.00 midnight and 05.30
  • All-night lighting

KCC are also seeking your views on the dimming of street lights when roads are less busy.

We’ve got concerns about part-night lighting in Dartford. First and foremost, the impact of switching off street lights on the potential risk of crime needs to be properly considered. We are clear that KCC should not make any changes to lighting that impact public safety.
Switching off streetlights in the early hours of the morning might seem OK if you are asleep in bed but KCC should also understand that not everyone works 9-5. Night and shift workers should expect to have their streets lit when they go to and come from work the same as everyone else.
The public consultation closes on 29th November. You can make sure you have your say by visiting http://consultations.kent.gov.uk/consult.ti/streetlighting/consultationHome

 

 

Image: Leon Brooks, Wikimedia (Public domain)

Street lights update

Kent County Council has recently secured funding to convert all of its street lights to LED technology. LED’s are significantly more efficient than the existing lights.  Labour in Dartford welcome this move – we made the case for it during... Read more

Dartford Labour leader calls on Tories to stop arguing.

Local Conservatives are not showing leadership on the issues facing the Dartford Crossing. With delays and traffic congestion on the Dartford Crossing getting worse, Dartford Labour have called on the Conservatives to stop the inaction and infighting that are getting in the way of a solution for local people.

Leader of Dartford Labour, Councillor Jonathon Hawkes commented:

“Almost 2 ½ years after the start of the consultation on a new crossing, despite receiving nearly 6,000 responses from residents, motoring organisations and local businesses, the government has still not made a decision. While the current situation continues queues get longer, pollution gets worse and suppliers and traders find it harder to use the crossing to do business.

The delay and uncertainty from the Conservatives is damaging the local economy in both Dartford and Gravesend but the local MPs are doing nothing to stand up for residents and businesses to provide the certainty they need.  In fact, this week we saw the splits in the Conservative Party come to the surface with Conservative MP Adam Holloway and Tory leader in Gravesham John Cubitt urging the Transport Secretary to abandon the idea of building a new crossing east of Gravesend. Meanwhile, Dartford Conservative MP Gareth Johnson and council leader Jeremy Kite seem to prefer to sit on their hands instead of pressing the government to make a decision.

The Tories do not have coherent position on the crossing and their lack of leadership on this vital issue is letting local people down.

Let’s be clear – We need a new Lower Thames Crossing to reduce the traffic congestion at Dartford and the government needs to make an urgent decision on where it will be. 

While the dithering on the location of the new crossing continues, local Conservatives are simply not getting to grips with increasing traffic and congestion at the existing crossing. I’m calling on the Conservatives in Dartford and Gravesham to stop arguing amongst themselves and start working together to resolve this issue.

The government need to end the uncertainty make a decision on the location of new Lower Thames Crossing before the end of the year

MPs and the Council need to work with Highways England to take action on the current delays.  They’ve overseen the botched introduction of Dart Charge and saying they’ve had a meeting is not 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. 

Labour are ready and willing to work with the government and the Council to help get Dartford moving again. But we need a decision on the new crossing and residents need the Conservatives to stop the dithering and arguments and focus on a solution for local people.”

 

Image: The Guardian

Crossing latest

Dartford Labour leader calls on Tories to stop arguing. Local Conservatives are not showing leadership on the issues facing the Dartford Crossing. With delays and traffic congestion on the Dartford Crossing getting worse, Dartford Labour have called on the Conservatives... Read more

One million people across the country could lose their vote - including around 3,500 people in Dartford.  Don't be one of them!

Over the last few weeks, Labour in Dartford has been doing all it can to raise awareness of the impact of the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration – in the press, on social media and on the doorstep. Many people may find they have lost their vote as you must now register as an individual, not as a household. 

Million vbotes

One million people across the country could lose their vote - including around 3,500 people in Dartford.  Don't be one of them!

Over the last few weeks, Labour in Dartford has been doing all it can to raise awareness of the impact of the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration – in the press, on social media and on the doorstep. Many people may find they have lost their vote as you must now register as an individual, not as a household. 

We have been encouraging everyone in Dartford to make sure they are not one of the missing million voters by registering to vote at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote  It only takes three minutes and it’s not too late to register if you haven’t yet done so. The deadline is this Friday November 20th and don’t forget, if you don’t register to vote, not only will be not have your say, you might end up with an £80 fine too.

We want be to as clear as possible about this, because it seems the Conservatives in Dartford are getting a bit confused.  A couple of weeks ago they criticised Labour – accusing us of ‘scaring people’ when we raised awareness of voter registration. This week, they are publishing similar information. A couple of weeks ago, the leader of the council told residents “there is no deadline” but this week the council has sent an email to residents stating “Time is running out to register”. Mixed messages? You bet! Maybe political sniping is more important than getting the message across.

So – don’t be confused – be clear! If you’ve not yet registered  at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote please do so before Friday 20th November. Make sure your voice continues to count.

Don't lose your vote

One million people across the country could lose their vote - including around 3,500 people in Dartford.  Don't be one of them! Over the last few weeks, Labour in Dartford has been doing all it can to raise awareness of the impact of the... Read more

 3,500 people in Dartford are at risk of losing their vote due to changes to the electoral registration system. 

 

Dartford Labour Leader, Cllr Jonathon Hawkes, responding to the news that the Government plans to bring forward by 12 months the full implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) to the 1 December 2015; commented: 

“Changes to the system coming into force on 1st December mean that around one million people across the country will be taken off the electoral register this year, including approximately 3,500 people in Dartford. 

Many people may find they have lost their vote as you must now register as an individual, not as a household. Labour supports the move to individual electoral registration, having legislated for it while in government. But we also recognise the enormous challenges the changes pose, which is why we put in place a transition period with strong safeguards. The Tories have botched and rushed through these changes and risk disenfranchising eligible voters. This is key for the future of our democracy and Labour will not stand by and allow people to lose their voice. 

That’s why over the coming weeks, the Labour Party will be doing all it can to raise awareness of the impact of these changes – in the press, on social media and on the doorstep. We are encouraging everyone in Dartford to make sure they are not one of the missing million by registering to vote at gov.uk/register-to-vote. It only takes three minutes and don’t forget, if you don’t register to vote, you might end up with an £80 fine. 

Soon we have a big choice to make about whether Britain stays in the EU. But if people aren’t on the electoral register, they will not be able to vote and have their say. 

No one wants to see fewer people vote in elections. The Government should be doing all it can to encourage people to vote – not pushing through changes that make it less likely that they will take part. 

With more than 18,000 people joining the Labour Party since the General Election, it shows that people are not apathetic. It is therefore worrying people could have lost their vote without realising. It is important that everyone in Dartford registers to vote. It’s quick and easy - you can register in just three minutes by going to gov.uk/register-to-vote.” 

 

Thousands in Dartford could lose their vote

 3,500 people in Dartford are at risk of losing their vote due to changes to the electoral registration system.    Read more

Todays’ announcement that Tesco have finally sold the land at Lowfield Street. concludes a very sorry story for the people of Dartford. Years of promises of a new superstore and housing have come to nothing.

 

We all recognise that Tesco have let Dartford down badly. However, the failure of this project, which left the Lowfield Street site derelict for years, should prompt important questions and lessons for everyone who has been involved – including the Conservative Council. This simply cannot be allowed to happen again. It’s vital that what now comes next on Lowfield Street can become a development of true community value.

It’s good news that the sale has finally gone through and we welcome the new owners, Meyer Bergman to Dartford. It’s great to hear that they want to make a positive contribution to our town. I’m sure they will recognise, as we all do, that Dartford town centre can only thrive again if the needs of the community and the aspirations of local people are placed at its heart. There is now an opportunity to start building that with a new plan for Lowfield Street. The new owners, and councillors from all sides, need to work together to create something from the ashes. There will be lots of different views on what should happen now and as owners of the site, Meyer Bergman will clearly have their own ideas and we look forward to hearing about them. However, what everyone in Dartford will be agreed on is that after the way our town has been let down over the last decade, the voices of local people– retailers and residents, need to be heard.

Let’s hope this is new start Lowfield Street needs. Labour in Dartford will be playing our part to make it work. 

Jonathon Hawkes – Leader, Dartford Labour

Image:  DCLP

Labour welcomes Lowfield St sale

Todays’ announcement that Tesco have finally sold the land at Lowfield Street. concludes a very sorry story for the people of Dartford. Years of promises of a new superstore and housing have come to nothing.   Read more

Labour press Dartford Borough Council to take action on legal highs

Dartford Labour Party will this week demand that Dartford Borough Council take action against the use of ‘Legal Highs’ in the borough.

Nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’ is the second most popular recreational drug amongst young people, with 7.6% of 16-24 year olds responding to the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales reporting nitrous oxide use in the last year.

The law currently does not address possession and usage of this drug. Signs of the use of legal highs, such as Nitrous oxide in Dartford, have become common in locations such as our town centre, Central Park, Temple Hill Square and Darenth Country Park. Residents have expressed their concerns to Labour Councillors regarding the on-going nuisance of litter and anti-social behaviour.

The leader of Dartford Labour, Councillor Jonathon Hawkes said:

“We know that Legal highs are dangerous to those who use them and a major cause of concern for local residents. We believe that the council has a duty to do all it can to combat the use of legal highs in Dartford and that’s why we’ve asked for this debate. I believe we should work together to address the concerns of residents and protect the community.”

Labour wishes to see the council raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs. Labour is also asking the council to consult with residents of Dartford about the implementation of Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), throughout Dartford Borough, with the following prohibition:


Person(s) within this area will not:
⦁ Ingest, inhale, inject, smoke, possess or otherwise use intoxicating substances.
⦁ Selling and supply is also prohibited.


PSPOs are powers available under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and they are only available for local authorities to use. A PSPO is designed to stop individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space.


Labour’s motion on Legal Highs will be debated by councillors on Monday evening, 12th October.

Action on legal highs

Labour press Dartford Borough Council to take action on legal highs Dartford Labour Party will this week demand that Dartford Borough Council take action against the use of ‘Legal Highs’ in the borough. Read more

Dartford Labour Councillor leads the call for more school places in Dartford at Labour Party Conference

Cllr Daisy Page, Councillor for Littlebrook ward in Dartford and Shadow Deputy Leader of Dartford Council, gave a passionate speech at Labour Conference to thousands of delegates and millions of viewers across the country, about the shortage of school places in Dartford for its residents.

 

Dartford Council’s youngest, and first female, Deputy Leader spoke about her own constituents who have been allocated school places miles away from their homes. Some have been allocated school places in London Boroughs, just months after Kent County Council received nearly a total of 119 million pounds to meet the need for more school places across Kent.

Cllr Page said in her speech that the smoke and mirrors of increased funding from the Department for Education to meet the need for more school places does not fool me, it doesn’t fool the people of Dartford and I know it does not fool you either, Conference’.

After delivering her speech Cllr Page said ‘I am sure I looked a site waving a t-shirt in my hand and dancing to get the chairs attention during the Education debate today.  However, I was determined to get up on that stage and speak to my fellow Delegates, Councillors, Ministers, to everyone watching - to let them know that we will continue to speak up for fellow Dartford residents and for better school place provision in the future’.

Cllr Jonathan Hawkes, Shadow Leader of Dartford Council said ‘I was very proud to see and hear Cllr Page speak today about the real issues that are effecting the education of children in Dartford, especially the lack of school places available locally’.  Cllr Page’s speech came just hours after Gareth Johnson MP released a statement about the risk to Dartford schools caused by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, as the newly elected Leader of the Labour Party.  The Shadow Leader went on to say that ‘Dartford residents, but most importantly our children, have been let down by Kent County Council and this Conservative government.’

Kent County Councillor, Tom Maddison said ‘It was fantastic to see my fellow Littlebrook and Temple Hill Councillor putting Dartford on the party conference map this year.  Daisy and I have worked hard to do all we can to help local residents who are suffering as a result of the lack of school places in Dartford.  As a Kent County Councillor, I shall continue to do all I can to help residents at Kent County Council’.

Full text here

School places sham

Dartford Labour Councillor leads the call for more school places in Dartford at Labour Party Conference Cllr Daisy Page, Councillor for Littlebrook ward in Dartford and Shadow Deputy Leader of Dartford Council, gave a passionate speech at Labour Conference to... Read more

Everyone in Dartford should be able to own their own home. But home ownership is now at its lowest level since the 1980s and the average deposit has risen to over £40,000.

Although we see new developments springing up around the town, for many families and would be first time buyers, home ownership remains out of reach. The Conservatives have presided over the lowest level of house building in peacetime since the 1920s and the consequence is that families are being priced out of the housing market.

We think that much more should to done to ensure local people can get on the housing ladder. For example, we want to see first time buyers given priority when new homes are built in Dartford. All local people should have a home to call their own.

Dartford Council should be ensuring that all new housing developments deliver at least 30% of affordable housing. However, too often we see them fail to hold developers to account when affordable homes are not delivered. They need to get tougher. In Dartford, the number of affordable houses being built is woefully inadequate. That means local people find it increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder. 34% of all homes in Dartford are rented and we know that many people want to buy, but are simply priced out of the market.

This Saturday, Labour will be out talking to local people about their concerns. Are you struggling to get on the housing ladder? Do you feel there aren’t enough affordable homes in Dartford? We’ll be in the high street and on the doorstep on Saturday morning – it would be great to hear from you.

Even better – if you want to help us with our campaign– come to 99 Kent Road, Dartford at 10.30am. Everyone is welcome.

PS - Labour has launched a petition calling on the government to build the homes families need. The petition is available at:

labour.org.uk/housing

A Home To Call Your Own

Everyone in Dartford should be able to own their own home. But home ownership is now at its lowest level since the 1980s and the average deposit has risen to over £40,000.Although we see new developments springing up around the... Read more

On 7th May the people of this country went to the ballot box and delivered a clear success for the Conservatives. This result was mirrored here in Dartford. To everyone that cast their vote for Labour; thank you. We are sorry that we were unable to deliver the result you wanted.

In the run up to the election we spoke to over 7,000 local people on the doorstep. Our parliamentary candidate Simon Thomson fought a passionate, positive and engaging campaign. There is no doubt that many people wanted to see change in our town and our country. However, more people chose the Conservatives over Labour to deliver it.

Later this month the newly elected council in Dartford will begin a new term. The Council will have tough choices to make. Be they on how we continue to fund our services in the face of unprecedented cuts, to reversing the decline of our Town Centre or how we deal with our Borough’s shameful level of child poverty. Where we can, we will seek to support the Council but we will also scrutinise and oppose if we feel the choices being made are not in the best interests of our community. Both before and during the campaign, promises were made to the people of Dartford and Labour will hold the administration to account if they do not make good on those commitments.

In those early hours of Friday morning Dartford lost some dedicated and hard-working Labour councillors and to them we give our profound thanks. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Geoff Prout, who has led the Labour Group in Dartford which such dedication and distinction. Geoff worked harder than anyone to build a better and fairer community and his contribution to our town cannot be understated. Councillors Catherine Stafford, Steve Doran and Dave Baker served their communities with dedication, passion and commitment. They can all be proud of their time as Labour Councillors and we hope that they will return in the future.

Although the result of the election was a disappointment, there are many reasons to be hopeful. The campaign reinvigorated our activists and also inspired a new generation of supporters. In many places we fielded a new generation of council candidates who fought fantastic local campaigns. We have seen an increase in our membership and more people than ever decided to play an active part in our movement.

Our party will never stop working for social justice, fairness and prosperity. Our challenge now is to make sure that Labour is seen as a force for those values in Dartford and in the country. To rise to that challenge we will need to do things differently. There are changes that we will need to make. However, we have risen to the task before and we will do it again. A strong Labour party, rooted in our local communities, can be a force for good in Dartford. We start work today.

2015 Elections - Dartford Labour Statement

On 7th May the people of this country went to the ballot box and delivered a clear success for the Conservatives. This result was mirrored here in Dartford. To everyone that cast their vote for Labour; thank you. We are... Read more

May 7th was a disappointment for many in Dartford. Clearly we have much to do over the next five years. Well done Simon Thomson for an inspiring campaign, and to our 7 local councillors who will be keeping the flame alive. Commiserations to unsuccessful candidates. Most of all, thanks to over 13000 people who voted Labour.

Labour held on to its core vote; but failed to break through; in the process losing Council seats won in by-elections since 2011. We're particularly sad to lose Labour leader Geoff Prout from Princes ward; and Simon Thomson would have been an outstanding MP.

Here's the parliamentary result, from the council website:

Dartford - results
Election Candidate Party Votes %  
 Gareth Alan Johnson The Conservative Party Candidate 25670 48.97% Elected
 Simon Tobias Thomson Labour Party 13325 25.42% Not elected
 Elizabeth Eirwen Jones UK Independence Party (UKIP) 10434 19.91% Not elected
 Simon James Beard Liberal Democrats 1454 2.77% Not elected
 Andrew Danny Blatchford Green Party 1324 2.53% Not elected
 Steven Thomas Uncles English Democrats - "Putting England First!" 211 0.40% Not elected

 Labour councillors are now:

Tom Maddison

Daisy Page 

Bachchu Kaini

Mark Maddison

Pat Kelly

Josh Jones

Jonathon Hawkes.

Elections

May 7th was a disappointment for many in Dartford. Clearly we have much to do over the next five years. Well done Simon Thomson for an inspiring campaign, and to our 7 local councillors who will be keeping the flame... Read more

Simon Thomson, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dartford met with Southeastern's MD David Statham yesterday - as part of an event organised by Dartford Rail Travellers Association.

simon-dfd-station.jpgSimon said “It was a useful meeting and I was keen to raise the issues many long suffering Dartford commuters have raised with me – particularly the cramped conditions on trains and the shortage of carriages. It’s clear that as a result of the Conservatives failure to invest in our railways, Southeastern simply doesn't have enough rolling stock. If elected the MP for Dartford I will work with the DfT to support Southeastern's request for more rolling stock.

We need more 12-car train services through Dartford to get our increasing number of commuters to work and to get Dartford moving again.

I also raised the issue of poor communication and the lack of information provided when there are problems. I’m clear that it’s not the fault of the front line staff who do their best in difficult circumstances. I believe more support needs to be provided by Southeastern management so that staff can keep passengers informed. I was pleased to hear that Southeastern are investing how this can be improved – I’ll be keeping a close eye on progress.

Dartford needs a MP that is going to stand up for commuters and raise the issues that matter to you. If you choose me as your MP on May 7th, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

TRANSPORT
Tue 21 April

Meeting with Southeastern's MD David Statham

Simon Thomson, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dartford met with Southeastern's MD David Statham yesterday - as part of an event organised by Dartford Rail Travellers Association. Read more

The Labour Party in Dartford today launch their manifesto for the local elections on May 7th. The manifesto – “Changing Dartford Together” sets out Labour’s new plan for Dartford following twelve years of Conservative rule in our town that has seen the town centre fall into decline, new affordable housing stalled and the local economy neglected.

The manifesto is headlined by six key commitments that a Labour Council in Dartford will deliver to make our borough a more ambitious, more prosperous and fairer place to live for everyone.

If elected on May 7th, a Labour Council will:

Put Pride Back In Our Town Centre – Labour will take steps to attract new businesses and put pride back into Dartford by investing in the appearance of the town centre.

Rebuild Lowfield Street – Labour will say goodbye to Tesco and set out a new vision for the future. A new Lowfield Street can be a centre for housing, new community hubs and a revitilised night time economy.

Tackle Dartford’s Housing Crisis – Labour will deliver a minimum of 200 new socially rented homes – more than the Conservatives delivered in twelve years-  and work to deliver more affordable housing and stand up for private renters.

Clean Up Dartford – Taking Action on Litter- Labour will launch a new plan to clean up Dartford and introduce stricter enforcement against those who litter and engage in fly tipping.

Protect the Weekly Waste Collection – Labour will raise recycling rates while protecting the weekly waste collection. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour will not ask residents to choose between good services and protecting the environment – we’ll do both.

Put Working People First – Dartford only succeeds when working people succeed. Labour will invest in jobs and the local economy.

The manifesto can be read in full by visiting www.dartfordlabourparty.org.uk/2015

Geoff Prout, Leader of the Labour Group said

Although Dartford is in many ways a success story, it is not equally so for all. Many feel that they are missing out on the opportunities and wealth that others take for granted.

Dartford Labour understands that many people are facing huge challenges, and need the council to take a proactive role in sharing our prosperity more fairly. That’s what a Labour Council in Dartford will do”

Jonathon Hawkes, Labour Councillor in Stone said 

“The Conservatives have failed our town centre and failed local residents. Dartford needs a new start. Local people have told us their priorities – a better town centre, action on litter and more affordable housing. Labour has listened to residents and that’s why on May 7th we’ll be changing Dartford together.”

ENDS 

Geoff Prout is Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council. He can be contacted for further comment on 07944 680864
Jonathon Hawkes is Labour Councillor for Stone and can be contacted for further comment on 07917 696820
“Changing Dartford Together” is Dartford Labour’s manifesto for the local government elections to be held on Thursday 7th May 2015.
Mon 06 April

Changing Dartford Together - Labour Launch Manifesto for the Local Elections

The Labour Party in Dartford today launch their manifesto for the local elections on May 7th. The manifesto – “Changing Dartford Together” sets out Labour’s new plan for Dartford following twelve years of Conservative rule in our town that has seen the... Read more

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.


Simon Thomson


Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford

Tue 17 March

Labour's plan 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.

Matt Bryant
February 2015

Sun 15 February

Statement from Cllr Matt Bryant

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."


Ends

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
FAMILIES
ECONOMY
Fri 06 February - 2 reactions

Debt On The Rise In Dartford

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

TOWN CENTRE
Thu 08 January - 1 reaction

Lowfield Street Statement – Dartford Labour Group

"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.

TOWN CENTRE
Thu 08 January

Lowfield Street - Simon Thomson

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

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