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Press releases


15 July 2013

Dartford Labour calls for action to protect Dartford’s Children’s Centres

Dartford’s Labour councillors have called for two Children’s Centres in the borough to be saved, describing plans for cuts as “political cynicism of the highest order.”

Tory-led Kent County Council (KCC), in proposals announced earlier this month (4 July 2013), plans to close Maypole Children’s Centre and halve the hours of the centre at Temple Hill – despite the latter being in one of the most deprived areas in the county. According to Child Poverty Action Group, a third of Temple Hill’s children are now living in poverty – compared to a 19% child poverty rate for the borough as a whole†.

Plans to cut the centres which, between them, help over 1,300 children every year, come just two months after an election campaign during which the KCC Tory Cabinet Member responsible, Cllr. Jenny Whittle, said, “there are no plans to close any children’s centres.”*

The plans for Dartford form part of a wider plan by Kent County Council to close up to a quarter of Children’s Centres across the county.

Established by the previous Labour government, Children’s Centres are an essential means of helping to break the vicious cycle of poverty, and of giving children a decent start in life. The centres have proved incredibly popular among parents and have been described as a “vital lifeline” by children’s charities.

Labour in Dartford has called upon the town’s politicians to come together to fight tooth and nail to keep these essential centres. As a first step, Labour has urgently raised this issue with Dartford council’s Conservative administration – at a meeting of the full council on Monday 15 July.

Cllr. Matt Bryant, the Dartford Labour Group’s Deputy Leader, raised the issue at the council – saying beforehand:

“Children’s Centres are recognised by politicians from all parties as playing a massive role in tackling child poverty, and giving parents who wouldn’t receive support elsewhere a helping hand.

“In the ward I represent, on Temple Hill, one in three children live in poverty, and yet parents simply want to do the best by their kids. I’ve seen the positive role our Centre plays in breaking that vicious circle – for Kent’s Tories to propose taking them away from people who need them most is political cynicism of the highest order.

“I’d urge anyone concerned about the threats to this service to respond to the consultation, which closes on 4 October 2013, and to tell the Tories at County Hall why these vital services should be kept.”

Cllr Geoff Prout, Leader of Dartford’s Labour Group, said:

“This attack on children and families comes despite repeated assurances from Tories over the future of Children’s Centres and the Sure Start programme. Now the truth is out; it’s clear that local Tories are out of touch and can’t be trusted.”


Notes for editors

*Tory councillor, Jenny Whittle, Cabinet Member responsible for Children’s Centres at KCC, claimed there were no plans to close any centres following agreement of the 2012-13 KCC budget:

†Neighbourhood statistics for child poverty levels are available at:

The Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, in commenting on the proposed closures, described Children’s Centres as a “vital lifeline” and said “It is a real tragedy to hear about this happening in Kent” –

Figures on children’s centre usage in Dartford can be found at:




24 May 2013


The Dartford Labour Party has selected Dave Baker as its prospective candidate to contest the forthcoming council by-election for Newtown ward. The election will take place on 27 June and was called after Tory councillor Gary Reynolds, elected in 2011, resigned – leaving the seat vacant. Dave Baker is a resident of Newtown and, between 1991 and 2011, served as a Labour borough councillor for the ward.

Dave Baker plans to campaign on the issues that really matter most to Newtown residents and which have been neglected for too long by the Tories. That will include the acute parking problems which afflict much of the area, as well as the state of the roads in some parts of the ward. But he’ll also focus on wider issues – such as cuts to local police numbers and the pressures on Newtown’s commuters from above inflation rail fare hikes.

Speaking after his selection, Dave Baker said:

“I’m proud to be given this opportunity and hope that people in Newtown will choose me to stand up for them. I’m always here to listen and have been doing so even without being a councillor – passing on problems to the Labour group on the council.

I really want the chance to represent Newtown again. I feel I’ve got a really good idea of what needs doing; of all the things that have been neglected recently.”

Commenting on Dave Baker’s selection, Cllr. Geoff Prout, shadow leader of Dartford Council said:

“For too long, Newtown has been neglected by largely absent Tory councillors with, apparently, little time for the job they’ve been elected to perform. The ward desperately needs a committed and active councillor – Dave Baker has a superb track record of being both.”

Newtown resident Dave Baker has served as one of the ward’s councillors for 20 years and is well known amongst residents as having been one of the most effective, committed and active councillors that Newtown has ever had.”






22 March 2013


The Dartford Labour Party’s campaign to end legal loan-sharking in the borough has received a boost this week after a Labour sponsored motion – setting out measures to tackle high-priced lending practices in Dartford – was successfully adopted by Dartford Council on Monday (18 March 2013).

The motion* welcomes the UK-wide campaign to end legal-loan sharking and pledged the council to use best practice to promote financial literacy and affordable lending – through community based organisations that offer affordable credit, such as the Kent Savers credit union. It also commits the council to urge the government to waste no time in using recently-passed legislation to take action to cap the cost of credit so people can avoid falling into a pernicious debt cycle. In addition, the motion commits the council to call on the government to give local councils the power to veto licences for high street lenders that are engaged in usurious practices, such as offering payday loans at sky-high interest rates.

Speaking after the meeting Geoff Prout, Labour’s shadow leader of the council said:

“This is a major success for Labour’s campaign to end legal loan-sharking in Dartford. High-cost lending products, such as payday loans, are pushing far too many people into a viscous debt spiral from which they can’t escape – we’ve now won the council’s backing in the fight against these practices.”



*The motion was passed unanimously at Monday’s General Assembly of the Council after the inclusion of some minor Conservative amendments to acknowledge the role played by Kent County Council in establishing the county-wide credit union, Kent Savers. The full text of the motion can be viewed on the council’s website:



1 March 2012



Speaking at Dartford Borough Council’s annual budget meeting on Monday night (25th February), Cllr. Geoff Prout, Labour’s Shadow Leader of the Council, called upon the ruling Conservative administration to “lend a hand”  to residents – by helping them to get onto the first rung of the property ladder, through the establishment of a Local Authority Mortgage Scheme (LAMS).

Cllr. Prout says:

“First-time home buyers in Dartford are struggling to gain a toe hold on the property ladder because of the huge deposits demanded by lenders*, which are way beyond the means of many people.”

“Dartford’s Tory-run council needs to follow the lead of Labour councils around the country, including nearby Gravesham, who have signed up for LAMS – a scheme which enables young people to realise their dream of owning their own home. Why haven’t the Tories chosen to lend a hand to first-time buyers in our borough?”

“A Labour council in Dartford would prioritise participation in LAMS which will bring a crucial kick start to the stagnant local housing market, as every first-time buyer unlocks on average four or five further transactions and can help free up much needed affordable homes for the hundreds on the council’s housing waiting list.”

“LAMS will reduce the pressure on families living with parents or in overcrowded conditions; the council will get its investment back in five years plus a premium for further reinvestment – everyone is a winner, so there’s no excuse to hesitate.”


Notes to editors

LAMS allows first-time buyers who can afford mortgage repayments, but do not have the 20–25% deposit usually required by a lender, to obtain a mortgage with only a 5% deposit. The borrowers are assessed as if they had sufficient deposit and, if found to be eligible, are advanced a mortgage of up to 95% of the property value, but on favourable terms. The local authority then makes up to 20% available in the form of a cash-backed indemnity to the mortgage provider.

The borrower still repays the loan as if it were a 95% mortgage, but at a more favourable interest rate than is normally available. In the event that the borrower defaults and the property is repossessed and sold at a loss, the shortfall will be paid by the local authority up to the 20% indemnity limit.

The average age of an unassisted first-time buyer has risen to 37 and property transactions have fallen by around 50% since their peak in 2007.

*Deposits required by most mortgage lenders are typically 20-25% of the purchase price or, on average, around £40,000.



18 February 2012



The Dartford Labour Party has today condemned the Tory-run borough council for its shambolic approach to the vital regeneration of Dartford’s town centre after a record emerged of inaction and doubtful spending priorities.

Despite being granted £79,500 in so called ‘Portas’ money last May to support the regeneration of the town, it has come to light that the council has so far spent little more than a fifth of it – yet the need to act quickly to stem the town’s decline has never been greater. Moreover, it seems that the council has spent funds on projects that are highly unlikely to make any tangible difference to the town*. Such inaction and dubious spending decisions appears not to have impressed Mary Portas – she had been due to take part in an event at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre late last week but pulled out at short notice. With businesses, such as Mothercare, having left the town or others, like Clintons and Peacocks, having simply gone bust as the recessionary conditions continue, Labour has called on Council Leader Jeremy Kite to get a grip on this issue and to take urgent action to stop Dartford from becoming a ghost town.

Shadow leader of the council, Labour’s Cllr. Geoff Prout said:

“Dartford’s town centre is facing a crisis and it beggars belief that Cllr. Kite thinks blowing the Portas money on a man in a Peppa Pig suit, or shopping in Waitrose, is going to solve the town’s problems. It’s shambolic, wasteful and has made Dartford a laughing stock.”

“Last week the very person spearheading the whole project, Mary Portas, cancelled a visit to the town at the last minute – it’s looking like she’s embarrassed to be associated with such a shambles.”

“The Portas money is dwarfed by the council’s own substantial budget for town centre improvement, yet there’s precious little evidence of action and future priorities remain veiled in secrecy. As Cllr. Kite dithers, the town’s infrastructure is deteriorating and one business after another is leaving – they need to get on with the job.”

“When action is needed to revitalise the town the Tories are simply wasting the Portas money on insignificant low-level schemes. They’re dependent on Tesco building it’s mega store to turn the town around but, despite Tesco having had planning permission since 2011, nothing has happened and the Tories have no ‘plan B’ for Dartford.”

“We believe that the council needs to urgently invest to spruce-up the town’s barren street scene, encourage community and arts groups and small independent businesses to take up the vacant shops, and it must develop a radical approach to the town that actually reflects the rapidly changing trends in today’s retail sector.”


Notes for editors

* Following a Freedom of Information request, it has been revealed that, so far, Dartford Council has spent £5,983 on newspaper adverts, £1,317 on surveys, £1,610 on hiring a person in Peppa Pig costume and £317.46 on “items from Waitrose”.




5 February 2013


Labour’s councillors for Temple Hill have questioned local police and council officials about the background to a decision to impose a three month dispersal order on the area (from 31 January to 30 April).

Councillors Tom Maddison, John Muckle and Matt Bryant met with representatives from Kent Police alongside council officials on 4 February.

The police told the councillors that there had recently been an increase in minor crime and anti-social behaviour in the Temple Hill area involving a very small number of young people. The dispersal order will give police extra powers to disperse groups of two or more people found causing, or likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress within the local community. The order will also give the police the power to return any young person, under the age of 16, to their home (if unaccompanied by a responsible adult between 9pm and 6pm).

Whilst assuring the police of their support, Councillors also expressed to officers their frustration that more had not being done to deter anti-social and criminal behaviour in the area.

Speaking after the meeting, Littlebrook councillor Tom Maddison said:

“Dispersal orders were introduced by the last Labour government to help tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and I wholeheartedly support residents and the police in their efforts to tackle these problems in Temple Hill.”

“Temple Hill is a great place to live and must not be spoilt by a tiny minority who are determined to engage in crime and anti-social behaviour.”

“That this action is needed, however, does raise doubts about the Tory council’s crime and anti-social behaviour policy. As well as being tough on anti-social behaviour in Temple Hill, it’s also important to tackle its causes – and sadly, when we have raised residents’ concerns in the past, for example the need for better lighting, the Tory council leader didn’t want to know.”

“Our concern is that if the council continues to turn a blind eye, there’s a risk that the problem could spread to other parts of the borough, such as Newtown. Labour will work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.”


Contact: Cllr. John Adams

Tel: 07802434918, email:


Notes to editors:

Cllr Maddison raised issues relating to the lighting of garages in Temple Hill in August 2012, which was covered in one of the local newspapers as follows:



7 December 2012


Dartford’s Labour Party believes that all people living and working in Dartford should receive a salary that is sufficient to enable them to provide adequately for themselves and their families. Accordingly, Dartford’s Labour councillors have today called upon Dartford’s Tory-run borough council to follow the example of many other councils across the UK by introducing the nationally recognised living wage – currently set at £7.45 per hour (outside London) – for all council employees. As part of that commitment, Dartford’s Labour group is also seeking the council’s support for the principle that any companies contracted to supply services to the council should also work towards the objective of introducing the living wage for their staff.


At present, almost all council employees are paid above the living wage. In fact, Labour understands that fewer than 10 staff are presently paid below this level and has calculated that the total cost to the council to bring these employees’ salaries up to the living wage level could amount to less than £15,000* per year in total. Such a modest extra cost could be easily afforded within the council’s existing budget and without any increase in council tax – by, for example, making use of a small portion of the significant salary-related savings that the council is currently generating when staff resign or retire but  are not always replaced. For very little cost, Dartford council could make a very big difference to the quality of life of a group of its least well paid staff. While paying the living wage would generate clear benefits for the council – by helping to create a more committed and motivated workforce that would be capable of greater levels of productivity.

Labour also believes that the council has a moral duty to encourage those companies that are contracted to provide services to it to also bring their staff salary levels up to at least the living wage. Naturally, this will involve a cost and – in today’s difficult economic conditions – Labour recognises the need to work flexibly with contractors in reaching this objective. Accordingly, Labour is proposing that existing contractors should be given up to five years to implement the living wage. Although, Labour is proposing that  any new contracts entered into by the council after 5 April would, as far as the law allows, require contracted staff to be paid at, or above, the living wage level from the start of the contract. Moreover, Labour believes that the council has a responsibility to use its influence to encourage other employers in the Dartford area to pay their staff at, or above, the living wage level.

Cllr. Geoff Prout, Labour’s shadow leader of the council said:

“Too many hard working people are bringing home poverty level wages and that’s unacceptable. The council has a moral responsibility to help tackle the problem of poverty pay in Dartford and it should make a start by ensuring that all of its own staff are paid a decent living wage. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it would help create a more committed and productive workforce.”

“Very few council employees are presently paid blow the living wage and bringing their salaries up to that level would involve a total cost of less than £15,000 a year. Such a modest extra cost is easily affordable within the council’s existing budget and would certainly not involve any kind of council tax increase. Not to adopt the living wage would therefore make no sense, yet it’s a move that would make a huge difference to the lives of a group of the council’s lowest paid workers.”

“Labour believes that the council should also work with its contractors to ensure that their staff are also paid a decent living wage. We know times are tough and, naturally, we’re realistic about the costs that companies would need to absorb to do this – that’s why we’re proposing that contractors should be given up to five years to pay their staff a living wage.”


Notes for editors

Labour’s resolution to the council, proposing the introduction of a living wage with effect from 5 April 2013, will be debated at the next General Assembly of the Council on 17 December 2012. The text of the resolution is attached.

*For example, some cleaning staff are presently paid £6.23 an hour.

The Dartford Labour Party, in partnership with Unison, is planning to launch a public campaign to encourage local employers to adopt the living wage. The launch event for the campaign will take place in Dartford High Street on 15 December. The press are invited to attend – more details are available from John Adams (see below for contact details).

Resolution for Dartford Borough Council to adopt the Living Wage

Dartford Borough Council believes that all people living and working inDartfordshould receive a minimum level of pay which affords them the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Accordingly this council resolves that it:

a. will ensure that all staff employed by this council will be paid at or above the nationally recognised Living Wage of £7.45 an hour as from April 5th 2013

b. agrees to the principle that all employees working for companies with whom this council has a contract for the delivery of a council service should be paid at or above the nationally recognised Living Wage

c. will seek to ensure that, as far as possible within the law, all employees of those companies with whom it currently has a contract for the delivery of a council service are paid at or above the nationally recognised Living Wage within the next five years

d. will review the council’s procurement, contract and best value policies to ensure that, as far as possible within the law, it is a requirement that all employees of the successful bidder for the delivery of a council service by an external operator are paid at or above the nationally recognised Living Wage

e. will use its influence to encourage other employers inDartford– public, private and voluntary – to pay their employees at or above the nationally recognised Living Wage

f. will seek national accreditation as a Living Wage employer



29 October 2012


The Labour Party has condemned Tory-run Dartford council’s double standards over its attitude toward the Dartford crossing local resident discount scheme. Labour has called upon the council to unequivocally support the scheme and to do all it can to help encourage take-up.

At a council cabinet advisory committee meeting on Monday 22 October 2012, the council presented – for discussion – a draft response to a Department for Transport questionnaire setting out the council’s views on the discount scheme. One of the questions related to measures to improve take up which, presently, is low. The council’s response urged the government to do more to improve take up. Yet – since former Dartford Labour MP Howard Stoate negotiated the discount scheme for local residents in 2008 – the council itself has done nothing to promote the scheme. It admitted as much at the meeting by insisting that the primary responsibility for promoting the scheme lay with relevant government bodies – not with the council. But that’s in sharp contrast to the council’s willingness to promote other government-sponsored schemes, such as energy conservation measures. To fail to promote the discount scheme, therefore, is totally inconsistent and falls short of the council’s wider wellbeing responsibility.

With the Tory government in the process of hiking the tolls by 66% for non-scheme members, the scheme provides local residents in Dartford andThurrockwith much-needed help. It is clearly in the interests of all local residents (who use the crossing) to apply for the discount – especially in today’s tough economic times. Dartford council is therefore failing local people by refusing to publicise the scheme. It is also hypocritical to submit views to the government urging it to do more to promote the scheme when it’s not prepared to do so itself. This attitude stands in sharp contrast to the approach adopted by Labour-run Thurrock Council which has made all relevant information about the scheme available on its website – including a function for downloading application forms. If Thurrock residents can be supported so well by their council, why not in Dartford?

Shadow leader of Dartford council Cllr. Geoff Prout said:

“It’s double standards. The Tory council complains about the tolls, even though it’s a Tory government that’s hiking them by 66%, yet they refuse to lift a finger to help local people to benefit from the hefty discount that’s available. But, bizarrely, they’ll help promote other government initiatives.”

“It would be easy, and with no cost for the council, to just make available a supply of application forms and, like in Thurrock, make sure all the necessary information about the scheme is on the council’s website. It beggars belief that they won’t.”

“Their whole attitude looks politically motivated. It was Dartford’s former Labour MP, Howard Stoate, who negotiated the hefty discount for local residents and they’ve always done all they can to gloss over that triumph.”





18 October 2012


At a dinner organised by the Dartford Labour Party on Monday 15 October 2012, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Harriet Harman, presented a merit award to Councillor Ann Muckle – in recognition of a lifetime spent serving her local community, including (since 1983) as a Labour borough councillor, representing Joyce Green ward.

At the packed event, which was attended by a great many Dartford Labour Party members, Harriet Harman praised Cllr. Ann Muckle’s life-long commitment to public service and invited her to become a member of Labour’s newly-established Commission on Older Women†.

Speaking during the dinner, Harriet Harman said:

“It’s great to see such a hard-working group of Labour Party members and to be able to present this much deserved award to Ann Muckle, who has been a Labour Party member for 51 years.”

“I believe that a woman with Ann’s long experience still has a huge amount to offer and that’s why I am inviting her to become a member of Labour’s Commission on Older Women.”

In an emotional response, Cllr Ann Muckle said:

“It’s an honour and a privilege to receive such an award and it’s very much appreciated that my efforts have been recognised – and it is far more than I could ever have expected to have Harriet Harman present it to me.”

“This award wasn’t something that I ever expected. Everything that I have done during my years in local politics reflected my belief in Labour’s ability to really improve people’s lives and I’ll keep on working for Labour’s vision.”

Speaking after the dinner, shadow Dartford council leader, Cllr. Geoff Prout said:

“It’s great that Harriet Harman was able to present this award to Ann and to take such an interest in Dartford. It’s clear that Dartford is at the forefront of the national party’s thinking and I’d expect to see plenty more senior Labour figures taking a big interest in the town.”

Notes for editors:

Ann Muckle – brief biography

  • Joined the Labour Party in 1961, but was active as early as 11 years old, in 1948, helping to deliver Labour literature.
  • Mayoress ofDartford: 1973-74
  • Borough councillor for Joyce Green: 1983 to the present
  • Chair, borough council’s Quality Services Committee: 1999-03
  • School governor since 1968. Chair of Temple Hill School Governors: 1983-03. Secretary of Temple Hill School Parents Committee: 1972-83.
  • Committed trade unionist since 1974.
  • Council representative on the Citizens Advice Bureau: 1995-2000.

†The Commission will be chaired by Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman MP and will look into the pressures faced by a new generation of older women, whose lives are very different from those of their mothers.




Labour conference 2012

5 October 2012


Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s shadow minister for Communities and Local Government (and Tony Benn’s son) has told the Dartford Labour Party that the town remains a top priority for the next Labour government.

At a policy seminar for the party’s plans for 2015, held at Labour Party Conference in Manchester last week, Hilary Benn told Dartford Labour Party’s conference delegate Julian Bryant that “Dartfordwas very much in mind while we develop our policy.” During the exchange, Julian Bryant raised the issue of the need to support the new communities that were developing in Kent Thames Gateway. Hilary Benn made it clear that the Thames Gateway was very much in his thoughts and that “the question of infrastructure to support the way new communities live is vital to what we believe is important.” Hilary has been invited toDartfordto see for himself the challenges that local people are facing.

Speaking to Dartford Labour Party members after the seminar Julian Bryant said:

“As soon as I mentioned Thames Gateway, you could see his eyes light up. Hilary is really on top of his brief and understands the challenges we face here, with a decaying town centre, hard-pressed communities and a Tory Council that just doesn’t seem to care about anything except prestige projects.”

“As if to press the point home, the next morning Harriet Harman name-checked Dartfordin her list of towns that are key to Labour’s thinking.”

More generally, Labour’s conference in 2012 looks set to become an historic turning point for the party – which is immensely important forDartford.

“Ed Miliband was nothing short of inspirational: the One Nation concept, which underpinned so much of the week, will have real resonance for us in Dartford, where some communities are privileged at the expense of those who are hardest hit by the double-dip recession.”

“And it was great to see former Dartford councillor Andy Sawford getting so much support for the by-election in his home area of Corby and East Northants.”




28 August 2012


The Dartford Labour Party has selected Hayley Reece as its prospective candidate to contest the Castle ward borough council by-election that will be held on 27 September.

Dartford resident Hayley Reece, aged 24, has been a member of the Labour Party for the past two and half years and believes that the residents of Castle Ward need an active and committed councillor who understands the local issues and will act as a passionate advocate. Her core election pledges are as follows:

  • Campaign against the hefty rail fare increases introduced by the Tory-led government and which are hurting too many local commuters. Work for better local public transport and oppose the Tory toll hikes at the Dartford Crossing.
  • Work with local residents to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour – and to oppose Tory cuts to local police numbers.
  • Explore measures to tackle recession-induced youth unemployment in the ward – push for a youth fair inDartfordto help young people find work and to access training and apprenticeship schemes.
  • Campaign forDartfordcouncil to play a proper leadership role in delivering town centre regeneration – that needs large scale strategic planning, in coordination with local businesses.
  • Support hard working families in the ward against the impact of heavy Tory cuts to core local services.

Speaking after her selection as Labour’s prospective councillor candidate for Castle ward, Hayley Reece said:

“I will bring energy, commitment and passion to the job of representing the residents of Castle ward in the borough council. The ward faces significant and growing problems – unemployment, crime and anti-social behaviour – and local people deserve better than Tory failure.”

“For years, the Tories have taken the support of residents in Castle for granted. But it is Tory policies, such as cuts to police numbers, huge toll hikes at the Dartford Crossing, painful rail fare rises, or measures to make higher education virtually unaffordable, that are really hurting hard-working families in Castle. This by-election is an opportunity to tackle Tory failures and to choose a fresh start for the ward – only Labour can deliver that.”

Cllr. Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of the council said:

“Hayley Reece will be an excellent candidate who is determined to offer the residents of Castle Ward a clear alternative to Tory failures and to deliver the fresh start that they need and deserve. She will fight hard to win this by-election and will bring energy and commitment to the work of the council.”


Notes for editors

Basic biographical details: After passing her ‘A’ levels, Hayley was educated at WinchesterUniversity (primary education – B.Ed) – 2007-8. She is employed as a resident liaison officer for a private social housing contractor and has worked as a professional carer. Hayley is also two years into a part-time course at the Open University – she is studying for degree (BSc) in psychology with the view to becoming a clinical psychologist.



17 July 2012


Days before the Olympic torch brushes past Dartford, and following the shambolic organisation of a key event to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Dartford’s Labour councillors have hit out at the Conservatives’ apparent determination to ruin local residents’ fun.

In a year where it was hoped that events such as the Olympics and the Jubilee would capture the public’s imagination, and provide some fun and respite from the current economic gloom, Dartford’s Tory-led Council has squandered opportunities to do this every step of the way.

Labour raised these concerns at last night’s council meeting, as it emerged that the Conservatives’ original excuse – that hosting the torch would cost too much – is far wide of the mark. Neighbouring Labour-run Gravesend, which will host the torch on 20 July, received a £30,000 grant to cover its costs and to pay for 10 big screen events – meaning the council there incurred virtually no costs at all.

Dartford is the only borough in Kent not to be welcoming the Olympic Torch – despite being the home town of one of Team GB’s hot prospects for the Men’s 100m, Adam Gemili – local residents are once again forced to miss out.

Labour’s leader in Dartford, Cllr Geoff Prout, commented:

“There was no reason not to bid for the torch to come to Dartford- excuses about the cost have proven to be unfounded, it would have boosted the town’s regeneration work and, crucially, local residents would have been included in a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

“At a time when our town centre in desperate need of regeneration, I find it bizarre that the Tory leader told us that residents wanting to see the torch should go to Bexley or Gravesend. They will no doubt welcome them and their wallets with open arms, but we could do with them spending their money locally.”

It has also been revealed that the current administration are happy to spend money on other celebrations that involve just a handful of people. An enquiry from the council’s Labour Group has revealed that a total of £8,000 was spent on the exclusive event to light the beacon – which many people knew nothing about – with nearly £2,000 spent on fireworks. And with just 300 people attending, that equates to more than £25 a ticket – subsidised by the rest of Dartford’s council taxpayers.

Cllr Prout added:

“With no publicity at all, at first we were told the beacon lighting was by invitation only, then it wasn’t, then it was a focused community event – the whole thing was bungled from start to finish. Even our local Labour councillors, representing those residents, weren’t told about it – this is an oversight at best, deliberate exclusion of elected representatives at worst.

“We’ve got no problem at all with money being spent on celebrating the Diamond Jubilee – as long as it involves the whole community. It’s a disgrace that the Tory council excluded most of the borough’s population from being able to take part. Surely the Jubilee was for everyone, not just a handful of residents – but sadly this Council seems intent on ruling for the few, not the many.”




1 June 2012


Labour has welcomed news that Dartford’s application to become one of the 12 so called ‘Portas towns’ was successful – any help to try to reverse the town centre’s decline since the Tory council was elected in 2003 is to be supported. However, Labour notes that just £79,000 of Portas-related funding with be forthcoming to support a range of council measures that are far too modest and low-level to tackle Dartford’s problems.

Not only is the Portas money dwarfed by the council’s own funds for town centre regeneration – over £335,000 in 2010/11 for example – but it’s totally insignificant compared to the regeneration funds made available to Dartford by the last Labour government. That included.

  • £3.7m for the purchase of the Acacia Hall site
  • £0.9m for the Darent Valley Path
  • £1.5m for works covering the railway station, the high street and the Orchard Theatre
  • £0.5m for the town centre heritage scheme
  • £2m for the Dartford Greenheart scheme, for Central Park
  • £2m for regeneration of the Northern Gateway – principally around Victoria Road

All such government-led support for Dartford has come to a grinding halt since the Tory-led coalition took power in 2010 and the scale of Labour’s investment in Dartford in recent years leaves £79,000 of Portas-related money looking like a drop in the ocean. What’s more, the money is to be spent on a collection of low-level schemes – such as buying a handful of pop-up market stalls, some training for local shopkeepers and some kind of drop-in advice centre – that are just too modest to make much difference to a town where one on five shops are empty. It’s also not clear why, if the Tory council felt such a collection of such low level and low cost measures were enough, that it didn’t get on with them years ago – it certainly had the funds.

The town centre is also suffering as the scale of the Tory-led government’s austerity measures continue to hit families and businesses hard – as proven by the 0.3% contraction in the size of the UKeconomy in the first quarter. The government’s failure to support growth is forcing businesses to close and is boosting unemployment across the country – including here in Dartford, which has seen such shops as Peacocks already close recently and where other retailers, such as Clinton Cards, could be under threat. Surely, a key policy for regenerating town centres is to get the UK firmly out of recession.

Cllr. Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of the Council said:

“The Portas money is just a sticking plaster and the council’s proposals are just too modest to make much difference to a town where one on five shops are empty. It’s far too little and much too late – Dartford needs a coherent long-term regeneration plan to attract businesses back into the town and to generate new jobs for local people.”

“Under the Tories, the town centre has been in decline for years while a new Tesco was presented as being the great hope. But that’s still years away and, instead of a coherent regeneration plan, all we’ve got are some small scale gestures from the Tory council and some spare change from the Tory-led government.”

“All town centres, Dartford included, would benefit from policies that support economic growth – but this Tory-led government’s determination to push through swinging spending cuts, regardless of the consequences, is a recipe for recession.”




21 May 2012


The Dartford Labour party has condemned the decision† – apparently to be announced shortly by the Tory-led government – to build a second crossing inDartford.

Labour began campaigning against a second Dartford crossing some months back and believes strongly thatDartfordis the wrong choice. The people of Dartfordhave made it clear that they have suffered enough from the traffic congestion and air pollution that has resulted from the first bridge – a second crossing, whilst possibly needed, should be built elsewhere.

The ineffectiveness of local Tory MP Gareth Johnson has also been sharply criticised by Labour. Gareth Johnson has failed to defend Dartford from the threat that is posed to its communities from a second crossing and he has failed to deliver on his general election promise to campaign to have the tolls axed at the existing crossing – his own government wants to hike the tolls by 66%. He has let the people of Dartford down and has no influence whatsoever with his Conservative colleagues in the government.

In sharp contrast to the Tories, Labour will fight plans to build a second crossing in Dartfordand Labour strongly opposes any increases in the tolls at the existing crossing.

Cllr. Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of Dartford Council said:

“This decision is a disgrace –Dartford has suffered enough from the congestion and air pollution that has come with the first crossing. The Tory government must be mad to build a second crossing here; they clearly don’t care at all about what people in Dartford want.”

“People are becoming very angry with Tory MP Gareth Johnson’s constant failures and he obviously has no clout at all with his own government – since he became MP his Tory government colleagues have pushed hefty toll hikes past him and are now forcing through a second crossing. He must be the most ineffective MP ever.”


Notes for editors:

†News of the decision was recently broken by Tory Kent County Council cabinet member for transport, Councillor Bryan Sweetland, at a public meeting where he said that a second Dartford bridge would probably be announced by the government in the next six months.





Dartford Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee Chairman, Cllr. Geoff Prout – also Labour’s Shadow Leader of the council – intends to raise the council’s last-minute bid for Portas funding at the next meeting of the Scrutiny Committee, on 24th April.

While he, and the Dartford Labour Party more generally, hope that the bid is successful, he’ll be seeking answers from Tory council leaders over why the suggested measures – many of which are not new – are only now being pursued. He’ll also be seeking answers as to why the proposals are so relatively modest in their scale – the £79,000 of Portas-related funding being sought is dwarfed, for example, by the £335,719 that was set aside from the council’s own resources for town centre-related improvements in its 2010-11 budget. The adequacy of these proposals, therefore, needs to be scrutinised given the likely effort needed to turn around the fortunes of a town where one in five shops are currently empty.

Speaking before the meeting, Cllr. Prout said:

“Many of the measures being proposed hardly represent new thinking and the council has in the past set aside enough funds – over £335,000 in 2010/11, for example – to take these kinds of projects forward, so why has the Tory council, which was elected in 2003, waited so long to take action?”

“In a town where one in five shops are empty, and is struggling as the Tory-led government’s painful cuts begin to strike, the plan – to fund such measures as some pop-up market stalls or a drop-in ‘shop’ for training and mentoring – just look far too small-scale to turn the tide.”

“Naturally, £79,000 of extra funding can only help the town and I – and the Dartford Labour Party – very much hope that the bid is successful. But it does look like a case of much too little and far too late.”

Labour Councillor, John Muckle – the Leader of Dartford Council until 2003 – added:

“None of the principles here are new and many of these types of measures were being considered when I was leading the council. Surely, after having been in power for nine years, the Tory council could have made more progress.Dartford deserves more ambition than this.”

20th April 2012




8 December 2011


In response to recent news that youth unemployment now stands at over 1m nationally, the Dartford Labour Party recently held a day of action† in the town centre in order to collect signatures for a petition – demanding that the government takes action to tackle this problem.

In Dartford alone, the number of young people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance has increased by an eye-watering 89% between January and October this year and Labour is demanding action to rescue the prospects for this lost generation. It’s a sentiment that was clearly shared by a great many local people – in the space of a just few hours, 227 local people signed Labour’s petition. Labour also condemns Tory MP Gareth Johnson’s silence and inaction over this hugely important issue – which is central to the long-term prospects of so many young people inDartford.

Labour says that Tory-led government inherited an economy in which unemployment was coming down but, because of their decisions to cut too far too fast – including scrapping Labour’s successful Future Jobs Fund which created over 100,000 jobs for young people – unemployment is now rising again, with youth unemployment at a 19-year high.

In response, Labour has set out a clear five-point plan to create jobs and help the next generation. This plan includes:

  1. A £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people – which they would be required to take-up – and build 25,000 more affordable homes.
  2. Bring forward long-term investment projects in schools, roads and transport to get people back to work and to strengthen our economy for the future.
  3. Temporarily reverse January’s damaging VAT rise – an extra £450 for a couple with children would provide a boost for our high streets and help struggling families.
  4. A one-year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements, repairs and maintenance to help homeowners and small businesses.
  5. A one-year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers would help small businesses to grow and create jobs.

Councillor Geoff Prout, shadow leader of Dartford Borough Council said: “It’s terrible news that so many young people are now unemployed and unable to find work. David Cameron’s Government have been given a million reasons to change course on the economy – and they need to do so before it’s too late.”

“There is a better way. Labour’s five-point plan for growth will get our economy moving again, help get the deficit down in a steadier and more balanced way and create thousands of jobs for the next generation.”

Notes for editors

†The event took place on 26th November and was part of a national day of action organised by the Labour Party.



28 November 2011


In response to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) announcement on 24 November 2011 that plans to increase the tolls at the Dartford Crossing are to be delayed, the Dartford Labour Party has called up the government to stop stalling and simply abandon the toll increase entirely.

Mike Penning, the parliamentary undersecretary at the DfT, has said that there will now be no increases to the tolls either this month or in April 2012, but that “a final decision on the timing of future rises ….will, subject to cabinet committee clearance, be announced early next year.”  It’s therefore clear that – despite the anger that Dartford residents have clearly expressed over the plan to hike the tolls by hefty 66% – this move is nothing more than a delaying tactic and that the government has every intention of eventually increasing the tolls by a rate that far outstrips inflation.

In sharp contrast to the Tory-led government’s determination to sidestep the views of Dartford residents on this highly significant local issue, Labour in Dartford thoroughly opposes any attempt to increase the tolls at the crossing and has made its views clear to the government as part of the Department for Transport’s consultation process*.

Labour has already said that, in today’s tough economic conditions, hard-working people pay enough as it is to use the crossing. There is no justification whatsoever for increasing the tolls – and to do so by way more than inflation is nothing more than a cynical attempt by the government to raise revenue through the imposition of yet another burden on hard-working families. The move has also led to fears that the local resident discount scheme – won forDartfordresidents by former Labour MP, Howard Stoate – could eventually face the axe.

Labour also condemns Dartford Tory MP Garth Johnson’s apparent U-turn over this issue. At the 2010 general election, he left local people in no doubt that he would campaign to get the tolls axed† but, instead, residents are still facing a huge toll increase.

Labour says:

  • No increase to the tolls – struggling families pay enough.
  • Defend the local resident discount scheme – won by former Labour MP Howard Stoate
  • Tackle queues, congestion and pollution – by using congestion zone-style collection technology to make toll booths unnecessary.
  • Relieve pressure onDartford– by ring-fencing revenue to pay for a second crossing further down river.

Geoff Prout, Labour’s shadow leader of Dartford Council said:

“It’s obvious that the Tory-led government has every intention of increasing the tolls by a hefty 66%, regardless of this delay. This is just a tactic to manage the huge level of local anger over this issue.”

“We call upon the government to hear what local people have been saying and simply abandon this plan to increase the tolls – hard working families and local businesses already pay enough to use the crossing.”


Notes to editors:

*The Dartford Labour Party’s submission on the proposed increase to the tolls is available at:

†In his maiden speech to the House of Commons on 3 June 2010, Gareth Johnson said he would “never stop campaigning for the tolls on the Dartford crossing to be scrapped.”  Yet, on 13 September 2010, he conceded that “the Treasury…..are unlikely to give up the £42m revenue raised from the tolls each year.”




1 November 2011


Tory-run Kent County Council (KCC) is proposing to cut £0.5m from the youth service budget, axe 64.5 full-time staff positions and – here in Dartford – almost certainly close the high regarded, purpose-built and KCC-owned Bridge Youth Art Centre. Labour in Dartford thoroughly opposes these savage cuts to local youth service provision and has, therefore, recently submitted its views to KCC regarding these published proposals†.

Labour’s core concerns

  • KCC plans to focus on commissioning services from local providers – but acknowledges that such an approach could spell the end of the Bridge Centre. That is both wasteful and short-sighted given the demographics at the Bridge – the youth population there is set to growth faster than elsewhere in the borough. Labour says that any proposals from KCC should guarantee a long-term future for the Bridge Centre.
  • KCC is proposing that the Dartford Thames Gateway YMCA building is designated as the borough’s main hub for the provision of youth services – yet the rationale for that decision is both unclear and unexplained.
  • Commissioned services certainly have a place to play in the provision of local youth services, but KCC’s proposals suggest a huge and risky over-reliance on that model. This could undermine the co-ordination of local services and lead to much poorer service quality overall.
  • The proposals follow the closure of Dartford’s Highfield Youth Centre some years ago – and without any apparent compensatory increases in youth service provision in the west of Dartford and on Dartford’s Tree estate.

Commenting on KCC’s proposals, Geoff Prout, shadow leader of Dartford Borough Council said:

“Youth engagement has never been more important, especially after the summer’s riots, yet these KCC proposals would see savage cuts to youth service provision here in Dartford. These proposals prove that Tory-run KCC views youth provision as of secondary importance and as a soft target for cuts.”

“The Closure of the Highfield Centre some years ago has already left youth provision looking very stretched in Dartford. But KCC’s latest proposals, which will almost certainly lead to the closure of the purpose built youth facility at the Bridge, will only make matters much worse.”


Notes for editor

†During the summer, KCC published proposals to reorganise youth services in the county and also launched a consultation exercise. The deadline for submitting views as part of that consultation exercise was 29th October and Dartford Labour Party’s full submission can be viewed at:




7 October 2011


The Dartford Labour Party has today submitted a petition to the local MP – supported by 375 ordinary members of the public – opposing the tolls hike at the Dartford Crossing.

The Conservative-led government intends to raise the toll from £1.50 to a massive £2.50 by next spring. And it comes despite a commitment during the 2010 general election from Gareth Johnson – a Conservative MP – to campaign to get the tolls scrapped; a commitment that he repeated in his maiden speech† in Parliament.

Yet, three months after that speech, his own party announced its intention to raise the tolls by 66%; vastly above inflation and at a time when families are paying hefty prices for petrol and suffering from the government’s rise in VAT. Local people are justifiably angry and outraged over this U-turn.

Labour in Dartford thoroughly opposes any attempt to increase the tolls at the Crossing and has made its views clear to the government as part of the Department for Transport’s consultation process (available at Labour believes that, in today’s tough economic conditions, hard-working people pay enough as it is to use the crossing.

There is no justification whatsoever for increasing the tolls – and to do so by way more than inflation is nothing more than a cynical attempt by the government to raise revenue through the imposition of yet another burden on hard-working families.

The move has also led to fears that the local resident discount scheme – won for Dartford residents by former Labour MP, Howard Stoate – could eventually face the axe.

Labour says:

  • No increase to the tolls – struggling families pay enough.
  • Defend the local resident discount scheme – won by former Labour MP Howard Stoate
  • Tackle queues, congestion and pollution – by using congestion zone-style collection technology to make toll booths unnecessary.
  • Relieve pressure on Dartford – by ring-fencing revenue to pay for a second crossing further down river.

Geoff Prout, Labour’s shadow leader of Dartford Council said:

“We adamantly oppose any increase to the tolls – it’s a burden that people just can’t afford in today’s tough economic times – and we’ll be doing everything we can to stop any attempts by the Tories to axe the local resident discount scheme.”

“Instead of burdening people with heavy extra costs, we should instead be looking at practical ways of tackling queuing, pollution and congestion at the crossing, by using the best available collection technology to scrap toll booths. Pressure on Dartford also needs to be relieved through a firm commitment to a second crossing further down river.”

John Adams, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford during the 2010 general election, said:

“At every one of our hustings meetings during the general election campaign, Gareth Johnson left people in no doubt that a vote for him was effectively a vote against the tolls. Yet, instead, they’re going to be hiked 66% by his own government and without much protest from Gareth. Local people won’t forget this U-turn from their MP and they certainly won’t forgive it.”


Notes to editors:

†In his maiden speech to the House of Commons on 3 June 2010, Gareth Johnson said he would “never stop campaigning for the tolls on the Dartford crossing to be scrapped.”  Yet, on 13 September 2010, he conceded that “the Treasury…..are unlikely to give up the £42m revenue raised from the tolls each year.”

Attachment: Copy of John Adams’ letter to Gareth Johnson.


Gareth Johnson MP

House of Commons



Dear Garerth


In your capacity as Dartford’s MP, I am writing – on behalf of the Dartford Labour Party – to submit a public petition to you (attached) opposing the government’s planned increase to the tolls at the Dartford Crossing.

Getting on for 400 ordinary members of the public put their names to our anti-toll increase petition over the course of several weeks and it is worth pointing out that very few people who came into contact with us declined to offer their support. Indeed, most enthusiastically ‘signed-up’ and it is very clear that the government’s intention to increase the tolls is deeply unpopular and has angered the overwhelming majority of people in Dartford.

We also detected a sense amongst many people that they had been let down  on this issue – many cited your 2010 general election campaign, which certainly left people with the impression that a vote for you would, effectively, be a vote to campaign for the tolls to be scrapped. That was certainly how I and many others interpreted your public comments on this issue; especially at the various hustings meetings in which we both participated during the election. I also note from your maiden speech in the House of Commons in June 2010 that you undertook to “never stop campaigning for the tolls on the Dartford crossing to be scrapped”. Against this background, it is wholly understandable that local people feel as they do – instead of the tolls being scrapped, they are actually to rise by 66%! And there has been no sign of any campaign led by you to work to get the tolls scrapped.

Most people know that no government will be easily persuaded to scrap the tolls; the revenue raised is simply too attractive. In this sense, I don’t think people would necessarily blame you for having been unsuccessful regarding any attempts to achieve this. I believe they do, however, feel disappointed that you appear to have been so unexpectedly inactive on this key local issue since your election. Not only has there been no obvious post-election anti-tolls campaign but your attitude to the planned increase seems unusual for one so apparently opposed to the tolls. I accept that you recently handed a petition to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, organised by the Dartford Messenger, opposing the toll increase but, beyond this fairly reactive move on your part, we’ve heard little opposition to the proposals from you.

I was also surprised to read in the local press, shortly after the government first announced its intention to increase the tolls, of how you now seemed to welcome the opportunities this policy may provide to fund free-flow charging technology, which would allow the crossing’s barriers to be removed. That’s certainly not how I remember your stance in the run up to the 2010 general election and such comments could hardly be described as vehement opposition to the tolls, or to the toll increase. I further believe that many local people feel your reluctance to rigorously oppose the government’s plans regarding the tolls reflects the fact that your party now leads that government – even though these particular proposals are not felt by the vast majority to be in Dartford’s best interests.

It is for these reasons that Labour in Dartford felt the need to organise this petition and submit it to you – rather than simply to the government directly. (The Dartford Labour Party has already provided a detailed submission to the Department for Transport setting out its opposition to the toll increase – in the current difficult economic climate the party sees no justification whatsoever for adding to the burdens already faced by hard-pressed families and local businesses.)

In view of this, we would remind you of your past line on this issue and strongly urge you to take on board the concerns expressed to us by a great many local people. At the very least, Dartfordians are expecting you to play a rigorous and highly visible role in opposing these unfair toll increases.

Yours sincerely

John Adams

Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford


8 September 2011

Labour calls for action on Dartford Town Centre decline 

Dartford’s Labour councillors have joined with Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government and Chuka Umunna MP, Shadow Minister for Small Business, in calling on the Tory-led Government to back Labour’s four point plan* to save our high streets, following today’s release of figures by the Local Data Company which show that shop vacancies in Dartford have reached a staggering 26.3% – well above the national average of 14.5%.

These figures follow the statistics† released on Tuesday which showed retail spending is stagnating with UK retail sales 0.6% lower on a like-for-like basis from August 2010.

Labour’s Deputy Leader in Dartford, Cllr Matt Bryant, said:

“Dartford’s a great town with a lot going for it. Unfortunately under the Tories, the town centre has been in a permanent state of decline. The Council’s past mistakes on Lowfield Street mean it has been boarded-up for years and it just looks drab – no wonder retailers want to invest elsewhere. That needs to change.

“We’ll be pushing the Tory-run council here to make sure that, whatever happens with the Tesco plan, it helps restore pride to our High Street and doesn’t just make us another one of Tesco’s clone towns.”

Jack Dromey MP said:

“These figures show the damage the Tory-led Government is doing to our high streets. The Tories have opposed Labour’s plan to give local people a real say over the future of their high street.

“We need to put the heart back into Britain’s high streets. Healthy and diverse high streets are the heart of local communities. The Tory-led Government should change course – they need to support growth and jobs by backing Labour’s four point action plan to revive the high street.”

Chuka Umunna MP said:

“These new figures on shop vacancy rates demonstrate how a lack of confidence in the economy, coupled with the VAT hike and the squeeze on family incomes, is hitting the high street. The Tory-led Government needs to take urgent action to help retailers and stop our high streets stagnating.

“A temporary cut in VAT would help consumers and businesses now, kick-start the stalled recovery and so help us get the deficit down.”


Editor’s notes:
†BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor covers August 2011

*Labour’s four-point plan to save Britain’s high streets is as follows:

  • Enact a temporary cut in VAT from 20% to 17.5%, giving struggling retailers a boost and putting £450 back into each family’s pocket.
  • Introduce a retail diversity planning clause, putting communities in charge of the future of their local high streets. Local people and local retailers would have a say on any retail plans for their area, giving them the power to put the heart back into the high street.
  • Create a ‘competition test’ in the planning system, leading to greater choice and lower prices for shoppers. The test would ensure a level playing field between small and large shops.
  • Repeat Labour’s empty shops initiative, enabling councils to pursue innovative uses for empty shops and reinvigorate high-streets, such as using vacant units for cultural, community or learning services, rather than leaving them empty.



22 July 2011


Dartford’s Labour Group of councillors has this week spoken out against the projected loss of 513 police officers across Kent – in stark contrast to local Conservatives who shocked a recent council meeting by admitting they plan to do nothing.

Last week, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published an analysis of plans to cut spending and police number at Kent Police – entitled Valuing the Police: Preparedness Inspection.

The report revealed that Kent Police must find £50m of savings over the next four years and that this will be partly delivered though axing 513 police officer positions throughout the county. That represents a 14 per cent decline in frontline officer numbers for the county as a whole during that period – assuming this reduction in police numbers is evenly distributed over Kent’s 17 constituencies, that suggests Dartford could lose roughly 30 police officers.

Labour in Dartford knows that, sadly, fewer police officers in Dartford will mean more crime in Dartford, and more victims of crime. Academic research has shown that for every 10% reduction in police numbers, crime can go up by 3% – figures that are bound to impact on our area[1].

Labour is therefore urgently calling for measures to protect frontline police numbers in Dartford, yet Dartford’s Conservative-run council is not prepared to take any steps to help keep maintain police numbers.

Indeed, at a full meeting of Dartford Borough Council on Monday 18 July – and in response to questioning from Labour’s councillors – Tory Leader Jeremy Kite admitted that he had made no representations to the government in order to protect police numbers locally and that he had no plans to do so.

Dismissing the threat to police numbers as a “national issue”, Cllr Kite went onto to express the view that the Tory-led government’s plans to cut police numbers represented a necessary saving. He also defended the Tory-led government’s intention to waste millions of pounds by introducing a system of elected police commissioners.

Labour councillor Geoff Prout, shadow leader of the council said:

“It’s clear that Tory Council Leader Jeremy Kite doesn’t intend to lift a finger to defend police numbers in Dartford – he even sounds comfortable with the cuts. Yet fewer police offers can only mean increased crime and reduced security on our streets. Local people have a right to expect a more responsible approach from the leader of their council.”

Labour councillor Matt Bryant, deputy shadow Leader of the council said:

“The Tories say that it’s essential to axe police numbers to make savings, yet they plan to waste millions introducing elected police commissioners. Local people won’t understand why their safety must be compromised to pay for this red-tape driven Tory experiment.”


[1] According to research undertaken in 1997 by the University of Chicago economist, Steve David Levitt, a 10 per cent reduction in police numbers can lead to a 3 per cent increase in property crime.



12 April 2011


Dartford Labour Party has this week launched its manifesto for the borough council elections on 5th May. Entitled ‘Labour: Your Voice in Tough Times’, it sets out the following core aims as top priorities for Dartford.

  • Protecting police numbers – NOT cutting them while wasting £100 million on a new tier of politicians with elected police commissioners.
  • Supporting jobs – NOT pushingworkers on to the benefit bill as Government cuts and the VAT hikes boots unemployment.
  • Protecting frontline local services – NOT axing them to satisfy hard-right Tory ideology.
  • Standing-up for young people – NOT kicking away the ladder for our next generation: by tripling tuition fees, scrapping EMAs, slashing Building Schools for the Future, and by undermining school sport.
  • Identifying sensible savings – NOT cutting too far, too fast. Labour would start by streamlining the council and tackling the culture that has developed under the present Tory administration that has seen extravagant allowances and perks being paid to leading councillors.

While the manifesto’s detailed proposals for Dartford are as follows.

  • Promote Dartford town centre regeneration by the introduction of new retail shopping and sympathetic housing
  • Protect funding for Neighbourhood Policing schemes
  • Campaign to protect our Sure Start Centres from funding cuts
  • Establish a Business Forum to encourage business enterprise and new jobs
  • Streamline the management of Dartford Council
  • Provide more resources for front line services by reducing the extravagant allowances and perks paid to leading councillors
  • Fund Ward-specific measures chosen by councillors
  • Promote greater community arts activity and introduce an Arts Week and Youth Festival
  • Increase community work among young people
  • Introduce an improved recycling scheme
  • Support Dartford becoming a Fair Trade Borough
  • Increase efforts to bring much needed empty homes back into use and work with housing providers to promote more social housing and greater access to the housing ladder
  • Protect the tenure of tenants of social housing
  • Pressure KCC to take tougher action over the condition of local roads
  • Improve public access to public facilities
  • Decentralise services to local communities along Co-operative principles

The full manifesto can be found at the following link:

Commenting on the launch of the manifesto Councillor Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of the Council said:

“The Tory-run council has presided over the town’s decline. Dartford needs an active council, providing leadership and working with local businesses, in order turn the town’s fortunes around and regenerate the area around Lowfield Street – only Labour can provide that vision.”

“Dartford needs local councillors who will stand up against the Tory-led government’s plans to cut vital services. Our manifesto proves that there is an alternative to Tory cuts – we have the fresh ideas, energy and commitment to get Dartford working again.”

John Adams, Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford (and a Labour councillor candidate for Stone) said:

“The town centre is in desperate need of regeneration, yet the Tories wasted precious time trying to force through highly unpopular plans for a road through the park. Enough is enough – after eight years in power, the Tories have clearly failed Dartford. It’s time for a change.”




23 March 2011


Dartford’s Labour Party has branded George Osborne’s budget as not being fit for purpose. Dartford is facing ongoing pain as the Tory-led government continues with its programme of extreme spending cuts and this budget does nothing to tackle that. Not only are these cuts hitting essential services in Dartford, but they are depressing the local economy – which is bad news for local businesses and local jobs.

Dartford needed a budget that would make the following areas top priorities:

  • Improve access to decent affordable housing for hard-working families – there was no recognition of the housing crisis in the budget and only token help in tackling the problem of unaffordable mortgages for first-time buyers.
  • Boost employment prospects for local people – unemployment in the UK has hit a 17-year high as public spending cuts depress economic activity.
  • Defend essential public services. Kent will see 1,500 police jobs axed and – despite Tory promises – the NHS is facing big cuts. Dartford needs better, not underfunded, public services.

The main element of this budget was the hefty downgrades to the government’s economic growth forecasts. At a time when other countries are seeing economic recovery gather pace, the UK’s recovery is losing momentum. That’s entirely because the Tories and the Lib Dems are cutting public spending far too deeply and far too quickly. Such extreme austerity is depressing economic activity and is boosting unemployment. The need to tackle the deficit is clear – Labour would have halved it in four year. But a measured approach is required that reflects the need to support economic recovery and defend essential public. This government needs to think again – the cuts are hurting, but they’re not working!

John Adams, Labour’s former Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford said:

“The best way to help people in Dartford is for the Tory-led government to ease up on spending cuts. That it refuses to do so proves that the Tories are still the party that thinks mass unemployment is a price worth paying.”

Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council said:

“The bleak forecasts contained in this budget prove that the government’s plans just aren’t working – but they’re certainly hurting. As we approach the local elections on 5th May, we’ll be making it clear that only a Labour council in Dartford can defend local services from Tory cuts.”




7 March 2011


A team of Dartford Labour Party activists visited the Newtown area of Dartford on Saturday 5 March and went door to door seeking local residents’ views on plans to axe 1,500 police post across Kent – with inevitable cuts to police numbers in Dartford. Specifically, and as recently announced by Ann Barnes, Kent Police Authority chairwoman, 1,500 police posts will be lost as Kent Police struggles to push through a 20% budget cut.

It was clear that Newtown’s residents are vehemently opposed to the proposed Tory-led government cuts. Almost all of the people questioned strongly disagreed with the 20% cut and say that policing in their local area is a top priority for them. Indeed, most people think that more police – not fewer – are needed to make their streets safer. One of Newtown’s neighbourhood watch activists expressed considerable concern over the planned cuts and took the opportunity to praise the work of the local Police Community Support Officers – they have become a valued local police presence that is also under threat from the proposed drastic cuts to Kent’s police budget.

Councillor Geoff Prout, shadow leader of Dartford Borough Council – and who led Labour’s consultation work in Newtown on Saturday – said:

“This proves just what a danger this Tory-led government is to the people of Dartford. These deep cuts to police numbers in Kent will inevitably hit police numbers in Dartford and local people clearly reject that – they need, and demand, a robust police presence on their streets in order to feel safe.”

“The last Labour government put more police officers on the streets – helping to cut crime overall – and people in Dartford are telling us clearly that they vehemently reject any attempt to cut police numbers.”

John Adams, Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford – and who also took part in Labour’s consultation work in Newtown – said:

“It’s shameful that Dartford’s Tory MP Gareth Johnson is so voiceless over this key issue – does he support cuts to police numbers, or will he summon the courage to challenge his government and demand that police numbers in Dartford are protected? Standing up for a robust police presence is, after all, what his constituents expect of him.”




10 December 2010

Dartford Labour group leader launches ‘NHS Winter Watch’ campaign

Councillor Geoff Prout, leader of Dartford Council’s Labour group, has today launched an ‘NHS Winter Watch’ campaign to track the signs of stress in the NHS over the winter.

The NHS is likely to face increased pressure on frontline services throughout the winter, as a result of normal seasonal pressures as well as the Government’s unprecedented financial squeeze.

The Government has put enormous pressure on the NHS by breaking its promise on NHS funding. By switching £1bn from the NHS to social care, the health service receives a 0.5% real-terms cut over the next four years, breaking the Prime Minister’s promise.

Cllr. Prout has today written to Susan Ascott, chief executives of the Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust and Marion Dinwoodie, chief executive of West Kent PCT, asking them to detail the steps that are being taken to prepare for winter pressures, and to publish the changes that are resulting from the financial squeeze on the NHS, including:

  • patient waiting times increasing
  • hospital beds being cut
  • wards being mothballed
  • some operations being slowed up or stopped until next Spring
  • discharges being delayed
  • freezing of frontline staff posts.

He has also written to the local representatives of health unions, asking them to provide feedback on the cuts being made to frontline services, the effects of which their members will be seeing firsthand.

Cllr. Geoff Prout said:

“Inevitably, the NHS faces increased pressures during the winter, but the Tory led government’s combination of cuts and reorganisations will undoubtedly leave local services here in Dartford substantially less able to meet those challenges.”

“The Tories and their Lib Dem side-kicks promised to ring-fence NHS spending and people will be angered to learn that they are actually taking the axe to the health service. We plan to keep track of the pressures that are now mounting in our local health service as a result of government cuts.”

John Adams, Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford added:

“Tory MP Gareth Johnson has done nothing whatsoever to stop his own government from undermining the ability of Dartford’s health service to tackle the challenges that it always faces during the winter. It’s yet more proof that the Tories – and the Lib Dems – just don’t care about the NHS.”

Rt Hon John Healey MP, Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“The Government is cutting money for NHS healthcare not increasing it over the next four years, as they promised. At the same time, health secretary Andrew Lansley is forcing the NHS through the biggest internal reorganisation in its history, at a cost of £3 billion which should be spent on better patient care. Faced with these pressures, NHS staff will do their best but patients will suffer.

“Andrew Lansley is forcing GPs to take on the job of planning, buying and managing the rest of the NHS’s services – an £80 billion a year task, and twice the size of Britain’s defence budget. Mr Lansley’s plans are high-cost, high-risk and reckless. And it’s exactly what the Prime Minister promised not to do in his Coalition Agreement programme for Government.”

The Royal College of Nurses has already surveyed it’s members and determined that at least 27,000 jobs were due to be cut in the coming years. Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the RCN, said: “We fear a recipe for serious destabilisation … [even] if you did not have the cuts and have the white paper on its own. But put this together and you have a real cocktail for instability.” 12 November 2010.

Notes to Editors

David Cameron and his Government said they were committed to ‘ring fencing’ the NHS Budget and committed to real term increases in health spending:

  • “We will guarantee that health spending increases in real terms, in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision will have on other departments.” Coalition Agreement: our programme for government, 20 May 2010
  • “The NHS – protected.” David Cameron, Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 6 October 2010
  • “This Coalition Government made a commitment to protect the NHS, and increase health spending every year. Today we honour that commitment in full. Total health spending will rise each year over and above inflation.” George Osborne, Spending Review statement, 20 October 2010

However, the Government has double counted the additional funding for social care, by including it in both the extra social care money and the NHS budget. This amounts to a real terms cuts in the NHS budget according to third party sources:

  • “The effect of including and excluding this social care funding is shown in the table below. Including the funding is critical to the description of the settlement as a ‘real terms increase’; without it, funding for the NHS falls by £500m (0.54%) in real terms.” The House of Commons Library research note, 1 November 2010
  • “The Spending Review also allocates £1 billion a year from NHS funding to social care. The real-terms change in NHS funding, net of the social care support, is therefore a reduction of 0.5 per cent over the next four years.”
  • The Nuffield Trust, ‘NHS resources and reform’, October 2010

David Cameron and his Government promised to stop top down reorganisations of the NHS:

  • “With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS.” David Cameron, Speech to the Royal College of Pathologists, 2 November 2009
  • “We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.” The Coalition: our programme for government, 20 May 2010

However, the Government’s reorganisation plans have come under attack from all sides, including doctors’ groups and independent research organisations:

  • “It is the end of the NHS as we know it, which is a national, unified health service”, Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, The Guardian, 20 November 2010
  • “The Biggest organisational upheaval in the health service, probably, since its inception.” Prof Chris Ham, Chief Executive, The King’s Fund, 17 July 2010.



21 October 2010


Dartford’s Labour Party has today condemned the Coalition government’s plan to increase the tolls at the Dartford crossing by nearly 70%.

As part of yesterday’s Spending Review, the Department for Transport has announced its intention to hike prices from £1.50 to £2.00 in 2011, then to £2.50 in 2012.

The full details of the announcement can be found at: (page 13).

“The Tories in Dartford focused their election campaign here on ending the tolls. Now they’re in government, between them and the Lib Dems, they’re increasing the tolls by a massive 66%. This just goes to show that the Tories nationally, as they do locally, say one thing but do another,” said Councillor Geoff Prout, Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council.

“The people of Dartford deserve an apology from Tory MP Gareth Johnson. Only last month he was still telling people that he wants the tolls scrapped and he fought the general election on that basis. At best, he’s proving to be completely ineffective as an MP – even though his own party is in government,” said John Adams, Labour’s Candidate for Dartford in the General Election.

“The toll is high enough as it is and this increase isn’t necessary to tackle the pressing issues of congestion and pollution. I now worry for the future of the local residents’ discount that was hard won by our former Labour MP, Dr Howard Stoate,” added John Adams.



15 July 2010


Dartford Labour Group Leader, Cllr Geoff Prout, and John Adams, Labour’s former Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, have joined Alan Johnson, Shadow Home Secretary, in welcoming crime figures today which show that crime in the UK has continued to fall.

Cllr Prout said:

“Overall crime is down 12% in Kent from last year, with violent crime down 11%, which is very promising news.”

“But the Tory-Liberal coalition government is putting this reduction in crime at risk. There can be no justification for coalition cuts to front-line policing either nationally or here in Dartford.”

John Adams said:

“During the general election campaign I can remember Gareth Jonson, at a hustings meeting, effectively denying that a Tory government would cut the Home Office budget at all. But we now know that this new government is considering cuts of at least 20% and potentially cuts of up to 40%.”

“Such swingeing cuts can only mean fewer police on the streets here in Dartford and I think local people need to know whether Gareth Johnson, as Dartford’s new Tory MP, plans to oppose such dangerous cuts. Does he care that his coalition government’s plans will lead directly to increased crime in his constituency?”

Shadow Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP responding to today’s figures which show crime has continued to fall said:

“These figures again demonstrate how impressively the police and other agencies tackled crime under the Labour Government. But rather than congratulating everyone who has worked so hard to make our country safer, we now have the bizarre spectacle of Tory ministers trashing the official figures which show undeniably that crime has fallen.”

“These statistics are from a period of recession, refuting Ken Clarke’s argument that falls in crime were solely down to greater prosperity.

“The coalition is putting all this good work at risk by reducing police numbers, restricting police powers, removing Police Authorities and reducing prison places.”



5 July 2010


The Dartford Labour Party notes the announcement† in the House of Commons at the end of last month from junior transport minister Mike Penning that the coalition government remains committed to retaining tolls at the Dartford crossing but, to tackle congestion, is considering the adoption of a plan – first proposed by Labour – for an electronic charging system. The announcement is in sharp contrast to Dartford Tory MP Gareth’s Johnson’s campaign promise to fight to have the tolls axed. But instead of criticising the government’s support for tolls, Gareth Johnson was quoted as telling Kent News that “measures like electronic tolling would help free up congestion at the crossing so it has to be a welcome thing.”

In honest recognition that no government – regardless of its political complexion – was likely to scrap the tolls, John Adams, Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford, campaigned on precisely those congestion-cutting measures during the general election. During that campaign he promised to fight to get high-technology charging systems introduced that would allow the barriers at the crossing to be scrapped. That would help tackle queuing traffic and cut the resulting air pollution. It was an approach first suggested by former Labour MP, Dr Howard Stoate, who worked hard to lay the groundwork for such measures.

In commenting on the news, John Adams, Labour’s former parliamentary candidate for Dartford, said:

“This is a remarkable u-turn on Gareth’s behalf – during the general election his campaign literature could leave no one in doubt that a vote for him was a vote to scrap the tolls. But his Tory-led government has not only reaffirmed its commitment to the tolls, but is even thinking of introducing measures first proposed by Labour to tackle congestion. Did he even try to get the tolls axed?”

“Given the practical reality of the situation with the tolls, we welcome news that the Tory-led government is considering adopting Labour’s high-technology charging measures to tackle congestion – but people who voted for Gareth Johnson believing he would work to get the tolls scrapped have every right to feel deeply let down.”

“As this government is so determined to wield the axe, the worry now must be for the future of the hefty local resident toll discount – hard won by former Labour MP, Howard Stoate. That discount, combined with measures to tackle congestion, could effectively deal with the main concerns associated with the crossing – but if the discount gets the chop, local people will be very angry. The Tories opposed the introduction of the discount – will Gareth Johnson commit to defending it now?”

Councillor Geoff Prout, Leader of Dartford Borough Council’s Labour Group, added:

“Dartford residents benefit significantly from the 10p toll charge won by Howard Stoate after a long battle with the Treasury. Gareth Johnson needs to fight hard to defend this major concession from the grasp of George Osborne who seems intent in undermining the many achievements of the last Labour Government in this area.”


†Responding to a question in the House of Commons about congestion at the Dartford crossing, junior transport minister Mike Penning said that: “the £40 million net we recover from the crossing is a significant income, but we need to consider technology that is being used in other parts of the world – particularly in Australia – so we can remove the barriers and increase the speed at which traffic comes through while also picking up the revenue.”


19 June 2010


The Dartford Constituency Labour Party has today warned that recently announced Tory-Lib Dem government spending cuts represent a huge threat to the economic recovery in Dartford. The coalition government has announced £2bn of further spending cuts nationally – with £23m axed from the Kent Thameside Strategic Transport Programme and £20,000 set be cut from the government’s grant to Dartford Borough Council.

Taking the axe to the Kent Thameside Strategic Transport Programme, also known as the Homes & Road Programme, is a particular worry. The programme is designed to deliver the transport infrastructure in the Thames Gateway region that’s essential to support proposed levels of growth. And it is widely perceived as being key to unlocking such core developments as the presently stalled Eastern Quarry housing scheme. The £23m that is being axed represented the first tranche of the funding – cutting it, therefore, casts doubts over the government’s commitment to the entire scheme. That in turn could leave big private sector contributors – notably Land Securities – thinking twice about its involvement.

Commenting on the cuts, Labour’s Cllr. Geoff Prout – Leader of Labour Group – said:

“I am bitterly disappointed that the new government has chosen to make this cut which will be a major blow to the regeneration of Dartford. The prospect of many new jobs and much urgently needed housing for local people has been dashed by this ill-judged, rash decision. The new Tory MP for Dartford says he is battling for the area; he needs to prove that by fighting to reverse this announcement urgently.”

Labour’s Cllr. Matt Bryant added:

“This is a massive blow to Dartford – it might save a few quid in the short-term but this seriously jeopardises Dartford’s long-term economic future.”

“It’s a case of short-term gain for long-term pain, and I fear there’s more pain to come. We were astonished to hear

Dartford’s Tory councillors defending the government when we raised concerns about this and other projects recently – but they have to realise that this is indefensible.”

And John Adams – Labour’s former Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford – said:

“We need new and affordable homes for hard working local families, but we also need the stimulus to the local economy and the job creation that comes with getting such major schemes as Eastern Quarry back on track. Taking the axe to the Homes & Roads programme will therefore be a huge blow to Dartford’s economic recovery.”

“And this is just the start – we still have the budget on 22 June, when we can expect more cuts and big tax rises. While the £6.1m of funding provided by the former Labour government for the refurbishment of Dartford’s train station, along with a further £1m from Network Rail, must also be at risk from the Tory-Lib Dem axe.”

“Despite the treat to Dartford’s economic recovery from such cuts, the new Tory MP remains strangely silent – people need to know if he plans to fight these cuts.”


17 June 2010


The Dartford Constituency Labour Party has today urged the Tory-Lib Dem government not to cut support for jobs and the economy as the most recent figures show that unemployment in Dartford, as measured by those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, now stands at 2,183 (or 3.5% of the resident working age population).

Labour’s Future Jobs Fund has created over 4,500 youth jobs in the South East and has been a huge support when helping young people into work in Dartford. But the government is scrapping this help and axing future opportunities for local young people.

Labour believes these figures show that we are not out of the woods yet and now is the wrong time to cut support for the economy and help for people looking for work.

Cllr. Geoff Prout, Leader of the Labour Group, Dartford Borough Council, said:

“This announcement shows that the new government has failed to appreciate the message that the way to beat the recession is to continue to invest in essential job creation at this critical stage rather than jeopardize the fragile recovery by withdrawing support to the unemployed.”

John Adams, Labour’s former Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford – and a committed activist in the local party – added:

“The Labour government was determined not to repeat the Tory mistakes of past recessions. That’s why I – and Dartford’s former Labour MP, Dr Howard Stoate – backed the Future Jobs Fund and the opportunities it created for local young people.”

“Now the Tory-Lib Dem government say they will axe around 3,000 Future Jobs Fund jobs in the South East; wasting the talent of an entire generation. Yet the new local Tory MP remains silent on this threat to employment opportunities for young people in Dartford.”

“We in the local Dartford Labour Party will fight these cuts and not let them turn their backs on our area again.”

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said:

“These figures show why it would be mad to cut support for jobs and the economy right now.”

“Unemployment is slightly lower this month and it’s still half the level of the 80s and 90s recessions because of the action the Labour government took.”

“But unemployment is still too high. That’s why it would be crazy to axe 90,000 Future Jobs Fund jobs and cut support for the economy now as the Tory Liberal government plans. Independent experts have warned that their actions risk pushing unemployment up to 3 million. We believe that unemployment is never a price worth paying.”