Last night the Borough Council met to set its budget. Labour has expressed regret that vital funds for new housing have been kicked into the long grass, after the Conservatives withdrew £2m previously allocated for new homes from this year’s budget. The budget headlines are:
- Money set aside for new homes needed sooner
- Labour votes for freeze in Councillor Allowances, funding for new homes and greater transparency
- Labour attacks budget riddled with “stunts, gimmicks and hypocrisy”.
While supporting the 0% rise in the small Dartford Council element of council tax, Labour also condemned the Conservative cynicism of promoting a ‘council tax freeze’ after their leader recently voted to hit Dartford residents with a 2% increase to their bills.
Conservatives’ broken promises on New Homes
Dartford Labour has criticised a Tory proposal that saw £2m allocated for new homes promised in last year’s budget withdrawn from this year’s budget. At last night’s budget meeting, Labour tabled an urgent amendment demanding that the Tories keep their promises and that these vital funds be included in this year’s budget. Sadly, not least for residents in need of housing, this amendment was rejected by every single Conservative Councillor at the meeting.
Leader of the Labour Group, Geoff Prout, said:
“The Tories just haven’t got their priorities right. Too many families in Dartford are living in cramped conditions in homes that are in need of repair. Young people are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder and we desperately need new affordable homes to meet that need.
“I’m calling on the Conservatives to keep their promises and use this budget where it is needed now – not kick it into the long grass. A Labour council in 2015 will make housing a priority.”
Families in Dartford Need Action – Not Tory Gimmicks
This was a Conservative budget short on detail and lacking in transparency. At a time when families in Dartford need action and certainty – what we got instead was a smoke and mirrors budget with no transparency for residents to see how their money is being spent. Specifically, Labour asked -
- Why is there a lack of transparency on the redevelopment of Fairfield Pool – The council recently announced a £8m investment, yet none of that money was detailed in this year’s budget. Where is the rest of the money coming from?
- Why does the budget contain no information on how the fund for identified initiatives was spent last year or how it might be utilised this year? Even more worryingly, the budget includes plans to hand over power for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money to unelected officers –without reference back to elected councillors. We think this is unacceptable and Labour requested this be put back under the control of elected councillors so it can be scrutinised by residents.
Yet, this sensible proposal was rejected by Conservative and Independent Councillors. Cllr Prout commented:
“We’re disappointed not to get agreement on this important principle of accountability. This measure means officers now effectively have a blank cheque to spend how they like. Labour councillors think this is wrong, and is why we voted against the budget last night.”
Why has nearly £10m been kept back for so-called ‘community projects’ when the council refused to give residents any information on what these are, little over a year before the next council election?
Labour councillors made the point that residents are being denied a say in how their money is being spent, as a result of the lack of information being presented to them. It’s typical of the approach of the Conservatives, where decisions are announced to the local press before councillors have had a chance to agree them. A Labour council in 2015 will take urgent steps to make our council more open, transparent and accountable to residents.
Labour also backed an amendment to stop Councillor allowances being used to score cheap political points. In the middle of a cost of living crisis, we don’t believe any party wants Councillors’ pay to go up, and voted to amend the budget to remove any possibility of them rising at all. It’s disappointing to see the Tories proposing and then rejecting a rise as a political stunt, and shows they are more interested in gimmicks than the real issues facing Dartford residents.
Don’t believe Tory spin – Council Tax Bills in Dartford are going up
Conservative claims to have frozen council tax bills in Dartford are the most cynical element of a disingenuous budget. No amount of spin will prevent residents being hit with a council tax hike in April after Tory controlled Kent County Council voted to increase its share of Dartford by 1.99% – the maximum they can get away with.
The leader of Dartford Borough Council, Jeremy Kite, voted for this increase, meaning he has supported a rise in council tax for every family in Dartford. For those living in Band D homes, this represents a hike of over £20 on their council tax bill.
The hypocrisy doesn’t stop at County Hall. The majority of Dartford’s Parish Councils have also voted to increase their share of residents’ council tax – measures voted through by several Conservative councillors.
Labour’s Deputy Leader, Matt Bryant said:
“As usual, the Tories say one thing while doing another. They’re boasting about a government-subsidised council tax freeze on a small part of the bill – which we support – but voting for massive hikes elsewhere.
“The fact is, under the Tories, Council Tax bills for Dartford households are going up at a time when people are struggling to make ends meet. The least that the Conservatives could do is be honest about it.”
Continuing on from the Kent Freedom Pass, pupils aged 11-to-16 will now benefit from school-day bus travel from 6am to 7pm, for a fixed fee of £200, under a proposal developed by Kent County Council.
The new scheme – the Young Persons’ Travel Pass, which mirrors many of the benefits of the Kent Freedom Pass – would allow pass holders to travel by bus Monday to Friday, from 1 September to 31 July.
Labour members on Kent County Council welcome the Tory plans to U-turn on their unpopular proposals to make the Freedom Bus Pass less helpful to families and young people in Kent.
It is now intended that the pass will be open for use the whole year round,
….. Continue reading Freedom bus does U-turn
Residents and businesses in Swanscombe are taking their fight for better flood protection and improved drainage to County Hall with the support of their local Labour councillor
Peter and Donna Williams have lived in Milton Street for 23 years. And in that time they say they have been flooded most winters. Mr Williams says: “It’s cost us thousands over the years. The front wall’s going to go soon because that’s all cracked now. The front room and hall have been decorated twice. We’ve stopped claiming on the insurance because it costs us too much”
“Our neighbour has lost three cars,” Donna Williams said. “ One of them was literally floating up the road. It’s like a torrent when it rains
….. Continue reading Flooding in Swanscombe – Jan 5
Steve Doran writes:
I ran for councillor for Swanscombe because I wanted to help this community and the people here. Why then, people ask, did I run as a Labour Candidate? Why not run as an independent? What does national politics have to do with the local community?
The answer is, I joined Labour because I know that the national Coalition government are hurting local communities across the UK, including this one. People are rightly upset that the Oast House is closing. They’ve been contacting me every day, asking who is responsible, who they can complain to, what they can do.
I’d love to blame the Tory run local council, but it isn’t their fault. It wasn’t their service,
….. Continue reading Why politics matters.
Gordon Cowan with Tom Maddison and Geoff Prout
Concerted action from Labour councillors on Kent County Council, supporting local community actvists, has earned a reprieve for SureStart services in Dartford. The proposed hours cuts to Temple Hill, and the closure of Maypole Centre have been rethought.
On a visit to Dartford, Labour group leader Gordon Cowan said:
“This is a fantastic result for all of the community, and for the Labour Party in Dartford, to see such a great result in return for all the hard work.
“I was delighted to be able to help in a small way you achieve such a great result and been able to convince the cabinet member how important Temple Hill was to
….. Continue reading SureStart protected
On a low turnout, in appalling weather, Swanscombe today elected Steve Doran as their councillor by one vote. The result: Lab 274 Con 38 Independent 138 UKIP 200 S&GRA 273.
Steve tweeted “I am now the Labour Councillor for Swanscombe. I am so very happy and proud. I haven’t words enough to thank @Dartford_Labour for everything they’ve done on this campaign. Every step counted!”
County leader Paul Carter has stopped the publication and discussion of report that is critical of benefits changes as they are impacting on Kent residents. But thanks to Kent Online, the report is available to read online.
Although the report says they are tentative, it lists key findings:
Increasing debt and debt management is a concerning issue – more welfare claimants getting into debt Housing benefits cuts are leading to an increase in rent arrears, as a result of the Spare room tax/subsidy Increasing delays in processing appeals for incapacity benefit Changes mean claimants increasingly need more help with forms or online Homelessness in Kent up by 25% over last year Families in B&Bs up by 22% Use of Kent’s
….. Continue reading County Tories hide bad news
Steve with some of the Labour team in Milton St.
In a vigorous campaign, Steve Doran and the local Labour party have knocked on nearly every door in Swanscombe, underlining her commitment to being an active local councillor. Steve says:
“Over the last four weeks, I and the local Labour team have called on every house in Swanscombe.
“And this is clear. Swanscombe people have a great sense of solidarity.
“Yes, there are problems: antisocial behaviour and low-level crime; flooding around Milton Street; parking on grass verges; poor street lighting. But there’s a will to get things put right.
“Labour’s team is already working on these local issues, which the Residents Association, and the Tories on Dartford Council have
….. Continue reading Swanscombe decides
It’s clear some people have swallowed the line that welfare payments are being seriously abused. In fact, the proportion is 0.7%; but on the basis of the myth, the Tory/Libdem government is picking on those most in need. Here’s a short video from the TUC:
Their agenda is clear:
“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
David Cameron, annual speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London’s Guildhall, 10/11/13
Meanwhile, the Public accounts committee this month gave a roasting to Iain Duncan Smith’s
….. Continue reading The Benefits System: EXPOSED
by Steve Doran
“You’ve got to cap the overall cost of credit.” Of all the people I thought would say those words – and many people have been saying exactly that, for a long time – I was surprised to hear them from George Osborne. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been.
For a start, I should be used to surprises. If anyone should be expecting the unexpected, it’s me. A few years ago I was trapped in the payday loan cycle, resolutely private about it and entirely at a loss as to what to do. Back then, I never expected I would be telling my story in a national paper, or discussing regulation with Stella Creasy and Ed Miliband.
….. Continue reading Grassroots Activists Forced the Government to Act