By Canterbury Labour Party / Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

An invitation from Rosie Duffield:

As our CLP Women’s Officer, I am thrilled to announce that we have now set up our own Women’s Group which met for the first time at our great Labour Club in Whitstable on 29th November.

Our brilliant activists, Jean Fraser and Rita O’Brien (also CLP Secretary and Whitstable Branch Chair) were extremely pro-active in setting this up and as a result we had a really high turnout for our inaugural meeting from members of both Canterbury and Whitstable branches.

The first meeting was to get an idea of what members would like from their Women’s Group and how we see ourselves in terms of campaigning, training, meeting and being a social group.

Rita and I facilitated, having decided against a more formal style of meeting with a Chair and agenda, etc.

We all introduced ourselves with a brief bit of background history of our involvement in the Labour Party, our work experience and what we want from our new group.

We agreed that we wanted the following:

  • A safe, guaranteed women-only space where it would be easier to speak up and speak out without feeling intimidated;
  • Activism/campaigning – it was widely felt that we can be a strong campaigning arm of the CLP with a focus on women’s issues such as austerity, domestic violence, women’s rights and so on;
  • Training to give women confidence to speak to voters whether on doorsteps, at street stalls or in small groups or wider public meetings. How to tackle those difficult issues and questions.
  • Social events/fun and getting together with other like-minded politically active women; A way of connecting to other CLP Women’s Groups and Labour women;
  • Consciousness raising – wider feminist discussions.

Several members fed back their positive experiences of Women’s Conference. We were all pleased to know that from now on, motions from Women’s Conference will be included at Labour’s main conference.

Our Councillor for Whitstable’s Gorrell ward, Bernadette Fisher, spoke about the difficulties of operating as a Labour woman within the Council environment. She also raised the issue of the need for strong slogans for use in forthcoming campaigns.

Concerns were acknowledged about the increased effect of austerity for women, eg:

  • Sanctions
  • Benefit cuts
  • More pressure for single mothers
  • Closure of Surestart centres
  • Pension cut backs – longer working years
  • Zero hours/part time work
  • Bedroom tax
  • Closing of refuges
  • Legal aid cuts
  • Effects of unmet demands of the Women’s movement e.g. equal pay, free nursery care, abortion on demand.

Actions: Invite LP/LWN trainers to set up training sessions – active training to start from next meeting. Set up CAB style advice sessions at the Labour Club (legal, financial, rights and benefits advice). Mel D will organise an evening of entertainment with her band (possible fundraising event). We will plan a celebration in support of International Women’s Day (March 8th). Rosie to set up complimentary, child-friendly meetings for women unable to attend evening sessions (probably a fortnight after evening meetings on a Saturday morning). Also urged everyone to join Labour Women’s Network http://www.lwn.org.uk

Date of next meeting: Tuesday 24th January 2017

By Canterbury Labour Party / Housing / / 0 Comments

Canterbury Labour Campaigners Simon Warley and Mike Bland attended Canterbury City Council’s Planning Committee meeting last night when the complacent Tory majority on the committee voted through approval of the hybrid outline planning and detailed first phase application for the massive Mountfield development in South Canterbury. Simon and Mike agreed the impressively united ranks of Canterbury Residents Associations from all over the city, together with individual objectors, presented the committee with clear, detailed, and convincing reasons why this application should be rejected or at least deferred while further work was undertaken.

Instead, and against the opposition of Labour and Lib Dem members and one honorouble Conservative, the Tory majority voted the whole application through with only a few conditions. Simon Warley says “This decision is not only a betrayal of all the residents of South Canterbury it has dire consequences for all Canterbury residents and people living in the wider district”.

Simon and Mike agree wholly with the residents’ associations and other objectors that this decision will lead to massively increased levels of traffic congestion and wholly unacceptable levels of pollution with health threatening air particles caused by stationary traffic.

The Tories took this decision without even waiting for a Kent County Council report on the possibilities of improvement to the ring road system, and knowing that there was no funding available from this Tory government and County Council for a completely necessary southern relief road if the problems occasioned by this development are to be avoided. Furthermore, they proceeded to make this decision not having heard whether there were precedents of decisions to reject planning applications on the grounds of unacceptable pollution and congestion risk being upheld.

Mike Bland says “North Canterbury will be badly affected by this decision too, any gridlock in Canterbury’s road system at any point causes a nightmare for all and this will very badly affect people living in Northgate, St Stephen’s, St Duntan’s and London Road areas”. He argued that myopic piecemeal planning which does not take into account the impacts of other planning decisions, for example, the proposed Kingsmead, Hersden and even Herne Bay developments leads to making a nightmare out of existing problems.

But, Mike Bland argues, the outrageousness of this decision lies not only in failing to prevent further pollution and congestion, but also in the fact it will not help many ordinary local people with their housing needs. Labour Leader Cllr Alan Baldock objected during the debate that this application “doesn’t help people struggling to buy or rent a home at a reasonable price”, and he continued there was a clear need to stipulate social housing is required.

What was the Tory response to this? The cynical complacency of the Tories was perfectly exposed when Planning Committee Chair, Jennifer Samper replied saying “I think the land will be too expensive for social housing providers”.

If that’s their attitude, then we simply do not believe the local Tories will ever deliver on affordable and social housing for local people.

Mike pointed out the Tories on the Planning Committee were not just cynical and complacent, they were incompetent too. The Swalecliffe Tory (that’s right he does not live near the centre of impending gridlock and pollution!) who originally moved the application be agreed at the beginning of the debate, by the end wanted to asked for an alteration, not understanding what a hybrid application was.

Mike concludes, “If local people want to see housing built their kids can afford to buy, rent and turn into their homes, and if Canterbury voters want to have a competent council standing up for their rights and fighting for their interests, then they will have to vote this lot out, and vote in Councillors who will do the job”.

Simon and Mike are now on to the job of campaigning for a more effective and responsive Kent County Council who as the Highways Authority have a crucial role in mitigating against the potential hazards this decision throws up. And Canterbury & Whitstable Labour Party will continue its campaign to provide council and social housing local people can afford to rent and ensure there are homes local people can afford to buy.

By Canterbury Labour Party / Welfare / 0 Comments
The Kent County Council leaflet says Kent Karrier is for you if –
‘You have a mobility impairment or other medical condition, are over 85 or live more than 500m from a bus stop or train station.’ Buses are fully accessible, allowing passengers to stay in their wheelchairs, and their experienced drivers will give passengers ‘all the help they need’.

CCC’s funding cut will mean Kent will ‘probably’ reduce the number of buses in our district from 3 to 2.

The scheme has 153 members – 32 in Canterbury and Thanington, 55 in Herne Bay area and 30 in the Whitstable area. In a satisfaction survey, 76% said the service was their lifeline. 20% said that without it, they would have no other means of transport. 50% use the service at least once a week. The ‘majority of people who use the service are disabled’.

The costs of the service per passenger appear high for the lowest occupancy journeys. But isn’t that true of any bus service? If cost is a justification for the cut, then why have more marketing or widening access not been examined? Whatever Kent decides, the cut will inevitably mean fewer journeys on Kent Karrier.

The alternatives available are patchy. In Whitstable it’s the volunteer car scheme. It’s a great scheme but their cars are unlikely to be fully wheelchair accessible or drivers able and trained to provide disabled passengers with full physical assistance.

Some, but not all, the alternative providers may be eligible for grant funding from CCC or the big lottery. So, they are either potentially funded by the district anyway or the lottery.

We are an elected council yet there has been no consultation with users on cutting the service and no assessment of its effect on older or disabled people. This is on grounds that that’s for KCC to do even though it’s the district cutting the funding!

Given that the majority of members of the scheme are people with disabilities, it stands to reason that they would be worse hit than others. Once again, like recent cuts to Enhanced Care and Council Tax Benefit, it’s the poorest and the most vulnerable who pay.

So what does this decision mean?

A cut to a service that three quarters of users see as their ‘lifeline’.
Taking away one out of our three fully accessible buses with experienced, paid and trained drivers who give disabled, very old and isolated people ‘all the help that they need’.
Increased isolation and loneliness for our most vulnerable residents.
Cutting a vital public service when we do not have an equivalent or good enough replacement (which CCC would be likely to have to fund anyway)
without consulting service users.
without assessing the impact of the cut on those the council has a special duty to protect; the very old, the isolated and the disabled.

With isolation, lack of social care support and NHS cuts posing ever greater risks to our older and more vulnerable residents, this is truly a false economy. Yes, it comes from cuts in central government funding but surely we can do better than this?

We lost the vote on this one despite Councillors from all parties voting against the cut. Doesn’t that suggest that the ruling group has got things wrong?