Monday, 25 January 2010

David Cameron In Medway

On Friday I was amongst a group of local councillors and community leaders invited to attend David Cameron's speech on social justice which he gave at the Sunlight Centre in Gillingham.

This was the second visit to Medway for David Cameron, the man who will, I hope, be our next Prime Minister, in as many years. For me the most noticeable thing about David Cameron's visit this time, setting aside the speech for one second, was the manner in which David was able to communicate the Conservative message to those present.

It certainly seems that the 50+ Cameron Direct meetings David has undertaken up and down the country over the past couple of years have certainly put him in good stead for the forthcoming live television debates between the party leaders. I certainly can't see Gordon Brown being able to communicate so effectively, let alone give a straight answer.

Following David's poignant speech on social recession in which he cited the absolutely shocking case in Doncaster, members of the audience were invited to take part in a Q&A session.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear through my work as a councillor in the Rochester West ward is the level of anti-social behaviour and rowdiness on Rochester High Street caused by alcohol. As a High Street resident myself I am only too well aware of the misery this causes to local residents on, mainly, Friday and Saturday nights. Despite the best efforts of our local Police to ensure people are able to enjoy the many and varied pubs and bars in Rochester in a friendly and sensible manner, and the sterling effort of all the volunteers who man the SOS Bus, there is still, unfortunately, a small element who seem hell-bent on inflicting misery on the decent, law-abiding majority.

So I was glad to hear David Cameron confirm, in response to my question, that, if the Conservatives are elected to power, we will take the necessary action to amend the licensing law, giving the Police more power to intervene, more power to local authorities to clamp down on irresponsible pubs, and, if necessary, to tackle the problem of shops selling alcohol at less than cost price.

This last point should also help the many pubs in Rochester and Strood who simply can't compete with the large supermarkets on their doorstep selling alcohol at hugely discounted prices.

Of course, no-one should be under the illusion that merely changing the licensing law will somehow miraculously repair the damage caused through Labour's sustained assault on the moral fabric of our society. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet. It will take a lot of hard work and sweat to undo 13 years of rampant social engineering, but, as with all things, we have to start somewhere. I am confident that, thanks to the great work that has been done behind the scenes by the likes of former Conservative leader Ian Duncan-Smith, we are the only party ready to tackle head-on the problems that are blighting our society, and the future hopes of all our children.

With the general election now looming on the horizon, the choice for residents of Rochester and Strood is becoming increasingly stark. Vote for more of the same, or vote for the real change our constituency needs. As David Cameron said in his own words, "The Government won’t do it but we will."


Nimbus Lighting, 144 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1ER.
Great Lighting At Great Prices.
Tel: 01634 407724


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Congratulations To Rochester Coffee Company

I have been delighted to support Rochester Coffee Company, who recently launched on Rochester High Street, with free advertising* on this website as part of my 'Support Our Small Shops' campaign.

It is fantastic news to hear that Rochester Coffee Company are now set to launch a flagship new store at Chatham Dockside, including the hiring of 22 new staff. I am particularly impressed with their ambition in this economic climate and really hope that they will succeed as a small business in spite of that background.

There is real demand for quality service from locally based and sourced businesses. One of the great advantages of Rochester High Street is that we have retained a good mix of local traders.

It will be wonderful if, as well as maintaining the diversity of our high street in the face of national chains, we see local operators, such as Rochester Coffee Company, expanding more widely.

Congratulations and best of luck to Rochester Coffee Company.

*If you run a local, independent shop and would like to take advantage of FREE advertising on this website, please contact for more details


The Rochester Coffee Co. 45 varieties of tea, freshly ground coffee, freshly made Panini and so much more. 146 High Street, Rochester, Kent. ME1 1ER (Opposite Eastgate House)
Tel: 01634 540032


Friday, 15 January 2010

Council Unites Against 'Boris Island'

At its meeting last night Medway Council considered a report on the 'feasibility study' into an estuary airport commissioned by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the council's ongoing campaign against the proposal.

Mark told fellow councillors:

"The council can be proud of the measured and united opposition which it has put forward to this proposal for an estuary airport.

As someone who was closely involved in the No Airport at Cliffe campaign, I am delighted that this latest proposal has not led to the property blight and fear we saw on the Peninsula last time.

In part that is because it is only proposed by a local mayor rather than having the full weight of government behind it.

I suspect that it also owes something to Boris's rather unique personal style. Although the council is right to work to oppose the plan, I do find that many of our residents find it difficult to take 'Boris Island' entirely seriously.

Boris has a further problem in that it appears he lacks the legal power to build this airport.

A Conservative government would give councils the general power to do things in their area that will be to the general benefit.

It certainly won't be giving Boris the power to build an airport on an island seventy miles from central London.

As the leader rightly told the media Boris would be well advised to confine his activities to London.

This council, on a united basis, will work to ensure he does just that."

To support our campaign please sign this petition against an estuary airport


Rochester Fireplaces - Home Sweet Home
139 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1EW
Tel: 01634 408 007


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Scholarships For Children Of Deceased Military Personnel

George Osborne and Liam Fox yesterday announced that a Conservative government will provide university and further education scholarships for the children of servicemen and women killed while on active duty.

These scholarships will pay for the full tuition fees and other costs as they study at vocational college or university.

Commenting on the policy announcement, Mark Reckless said:

"From the Rochester and Strood perspective I am particularly delighted that the children of Royal Engineers who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan so recently may benefit from this initiative."

This policy will apply from day one of a Conservative government - and it will also apply retrospectively to the children of all military personnel killed since 1990. This will provide reassurance and financial help for the families of servicemen and women killed while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

The scholarships, which will cost a maximum of £1.5 million per year, will be fully funded from the £455 million annual Widening Participation budget. They complement existing Conservative measures to support the military and their families, including doubling the operational allowance to £4,800 for a six-month tour, and piloting a Mental Health Service for veterans who have been deployed on operations.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, said "I've just visited our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan, and witnessed their commitment and determination at first hand. That's why I'm so determined to provide more help for the families of military personnel who have lost their lives serving our country."

Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox added that this was "a clear sign" of "our commitment to the Military Covenant".

"Our duty of care extends not only to those serving in our Armed Forces but to their dependants. For those fighting for our security, they have a right to know that if the worst happens their families will be properly cared for."


Xtremity - Stockists of Windsurfing, Snowboarding and Skateboarding Hardware and Fashion Items for Men and Women
2A Crow Lane, Rochester, Kent ME1 1RF
Tel: 01634 402944


A New Generation Of Sure Start Centres

David Cameron yesterday announced Conservative plans for a new generation of Sure Start Centres to focus on the neediest families and involve organisations with a track record of helping parents.

Welcoming the announcement, Mark Reckless said:

"I worked for the Conservative Policy Unit between 2002 and 2004 and helped develop our policy of early intervention to support parents of the most at risk children. It is fantastic that we have confirmed that we are following through with this as part of Sure Start on the basis of programmes which are proven to work and delivered through the voluntary sector".

The new model of Sure Start Centre will deliver dedicated support to disadvantaged and dysfunctional families as part of the Sure Start programme.

They will be similar to Academy schools in that they will be independent institutions which operate outside local government control and are funded directly by central government.

Speaking yesterday in London, David Cameron said he was committed to keeping Sure Start, but he will also seek to improve it by taking it back to its original purpose - namely "early intervention, increasing its focus on those who need its help most and better involving organisations with a proven track record in parenting interventions".

He said we already know what works in terms of parenting interventions, citing research done by the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners and others. "They have identified models with proven success - from family nurse partnerships, an intensive programme for vulnerable first-time parents that ends when the child is two to parenting support groups for parents with learning difficulties."

With this mind, he announced that the Conservatives would "invite independent organisations that have a proven track record in these areas – like Lifeline and 4Children and Homestart and contract them to run children’s centres and reach out to dysfunctional and disadvantaged local families. They will then be paid - at least in part - according to the results they achieve."

Read the full speech here


The Rochester Armoury - Bringing The Past Back To The Future
2B Crow Lane, Rochester, Kent ME1 1RF
Tel: 01634 845526


Friday, 8 January 2010

It's Snow Joke For The Elderly - Update

Further to my last post I would like to say thank you to everyone who has been helping us to deal with the weather conditions, the many people who have voluntarily been helping others, but also those who work for the council who have put in hours beyond the call of duty.

I should also congratulate my ward colleague, Councillor Ted Baker, on all the work he has been doing to help our constituents and ensure that gritters are brought in for particularly dangerous areas that might not otherwise be recognised.

We are not sure if it was in response to my earlier call for volunteers but Ted is very pleased that, notwithstanding everything he has been doing for everyone else, one of his neighbours has called round on him as an 'older person' to ask if he would like any help with his shopping!

If you have urgent needs because of the bad weather with which the council may be able to help please call Customer First on Medway 333333 during business hours or Medway 304400 if it is an emergency out of hours.

Apologies to any constituents who have had difficulty contacting me on my usual home number of Medway 406536 which appears to be subject to a fault currently. BT say they will try to get my phone working properly again as soon as possible. In the meantime Ted, with whom I am in contact regularly, can be reached on Medway 847415 as usual.

I will be holding our surgery tomorrow as planned from 9.30am to 11.30am at St Margaret's church for anyone who would like to brave the elements and meet in person.


Nimbus Lighting, 144 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1ER.
Great Lighting At Great Prices.
Tel: 01634 407724


It's Snow Joke For The Elderly

As I struggled to get home to Rochester this evening on one of the few Southeastern mainline services still running out of London, the one thing that struck me was how we as a community still manage to find strength in adversity.

I think it is fair to say that the snowy conditions we have experienced in Medway over the past few days have been particularly challenging. Whilst our frontline services have done their best to keep the roads clear, traffic moving and businesses open, it is obvious that we as a country are currently not equipped to cope with the severe conditions we have seen in recent days.

The arguments for and against our response to the extreme weather and who is to blame is for another day. The plain fact of the matter is that it is here now and we need to deal with it.

As I said earlier the one thing that has struck me over the past few days is our continuing ability to deal with these adverse conditions, and how we still manage to come together as a community to deal with the problems we face together. Reports of the demise of the Dunkirk spirit have been greatly exaggerated!

To that end I would like to take this opportunity to call on local residents to please take the time to check on their elderly or vulnerable neighbours to make sure they are safe and well. Even if we see a cessation in the snow in the next few days, our roads, streets and alleyways will remain virtually impassable to our less able residents for quite some time due to the icy conditions that will no doubt follow.

If you know anyone locally who you think may need some assistance then please call in on them. It really doesn't take long to just have a quick check on how they are and see if they need some help with shopping or clearing their paths. And you never know, you may just be treated to a very nice cup of tea for your trouble.

So what are you waiting for? Make the difference.


The Rochester Coffee Co. 45 varieties of tea, freshly ground coffee, freshly made Panini and so much more. 146 High Street, Rochester, Kent. ME1 1ER (Opposite Eastgate House)
Tel: 01634 540032


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sir Hugh Lays Down The (Wrong) Law

I don't want to intrude on the Labour party's private grief, so I will instead respond to Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) who, for some reason, has taken it on himself to lay down what should happen regarding Islam4UK's threatened march through Wootton Basset.

Sir Hugh is quoted today in the
Telegraph as saying that the extremists "have the right to march ... people might not like it but that is the law".

Leaving aside whether that is consistent with the postion Sir Hugh took as Chief Constable in Northern Ireland, my first reaction is what on earth has it got to do with him.

Sir Hugh Orde heads an organisation which is a private company and has never been given any right to seek to interfere with police operational decisions, any more than it has a right to determine police policy.

By saying he would be "surprised" if they were to block the protest, Sir Hugh applies quite inappropriate pressure to Wiltshire's Chief Constable, Brian Moore, and his excellent deputy, David Ainsworth, with whom I worked when he was an Assistant Chief Constable in Kent.

Sir Hugh is always terribly keen to assert the independence of chief constables when there is any suggestion that they should do what someone who has been elected wants, yet here he is sticking his nose into their operational decisions.

Second, there is a strong argument that Sir Hugh has got the law wrong. Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986 states as follows:

13. - Prohibiting public processions.

(1) If at any time the chief officer of police reasonably believes that, because of particular circumstances existing in any district or part of a district, the powers under section 12 [imposing conditions] will not be sufficient to prevent the holding of public processions in that district or part from resulting in serious public disorder, he shall apply to the council of the district for an order prohibiting for such period not exceeding 3 months as may be specified in the application the holding of all public processions (or of any class of public procession so specified) in the district or part concerned.

(2) On receiving such an application, a council may with the consent of the Secretary of State make an order either in the terms of the application or with such modifications as may be approved by the Secretary of State.

Contrary to Sir Hugh's view, the police in Wiltshire therefore do potentially have the power to ban a march - if the democratically elected local council and the democratically elected Secretary of State agree with them.

Further, it is far from clear that Sir Hugh can rely on the Human Rights Act in support of his view that Islam4UK should be allowed to protest at Wooten Basset in the manner threatened. Section 3(2)(b) states very clearly that the act "does not affect the validity, continuing operation or enforcement of any incompatible primary legislation".

Moreover, the article 11 right is hedged with restrictions such that it should in any event be compatible with the power of Wiltshire police and those whom we elect to ban a march as threatened:

Article 11 - Freedom of assembly and association

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

We will shortly be asking the electorate for a mandate on what needs to be done to make the police properly accountable to the public they serve. Sir Hugh's comments emphasise just how overdue that is.


Rochester Fireplaces - Home Sweet Home
139 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1EW
Tel: 01634 408 007