By Chris Cornell / Latest News / 0 Comments

As part of its’ response to the Council Budget, Labour Councillors won a concession forcing the Conservative Leader of the Council to write to the government highlighting the precarious nature of local government funding and the impact of austerity on Canterbury City Council and its’ work.

Councillor Rob Thomas wrote to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the 13th February but failed to adequately explain the problem. Below is the text of our letter written by Councillor Jean Butcher highlighting what he should have said:

 

Dear Rob

Thank you for writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in line with the Labour motion to Council on 13th February. Unfortunately, while you have complied with the letter of our request you have predictably failed to capture the spirit of it. In so doing, you have utterly failed to adequately address the growing concerns of the people of our District about the decline in Council services which is becoming more apparent every day.

You rightly highlight the pressure on Council finances which results from the withdrawal of the Rate Support Grant for student homes, the impact of residents having to fund services for students and over 7 million visitors, and the negative effects of the outdated valuations and banding constraints on Council Tax.

However, while setting out the scale of the cuts that have resulted from this, you have failed to explain that even more cuts are coming. The purpose of my motion was for you to highlight to Government, with the Council’s full support, that this position is not sustainable, and to do so before we reach a crisis point. However, the tone of your letter seems rather to suggest that while all this shortage of money is jolly inconvenient, we are doing our best and we’d like to show you how very well we are coping.

This is a disservice to the people of Canterbury. Entirely due to the policies of the Conservative Government since 2010, we face a crisis in the Housing Revenue Account which is preventing us bringing homes up to an acceptable standard, as well as preventing us building enough homes to meet the needs of local people.

We face a crisis in homelessness, as Universal Credit impacts on people’s ability to pay rent to private landlords, and to some such landlords refusing to accept benefits recipients as tenants. Homelessness is increasing and we are struggling to deal with it.

We face a crisis in the environment, which we lack the funds to effectively address, resulting among other things in increased flood risk and excessive carbon emissions.

We face a crisis in the condition of the public realm, unable to adequately clean or maintain even the most prominent streets in this World Heritage City.

We face a crisis in transport and pollution, with our partner council, Kent, unable to adequately maintain our roads or invest in much needed traffic improvement schemes.

Residents’ health, including that of many children, is suffering through the resulting pollution. Public transport is prohibitively expensive for many people. We face a crisis in our economy, as Brexit bites and our ability to attract tourists and to promote business is eroded.

In every aspect of this Council’s work, 10 years of sustained cuts to funding streams and limitations on our ability to raise taxes to compensate have taken a terrible toll on our services, our staff and our residents. Complacency of the sort exhibited in your letter does nothing to deal with this.

On behalf of the Labour Party in Canterbury Council, and all our residents, I moved a motion asking you to spell all this out to the Government and to seek an immediate change in policy to allow our services to be properly funded. Instead, you’ve offered the minister a day out in Canterbury to see our “ambitious Council” and our “truly amazing” District, and suggested there are opportunities as well as challenges ahead. All that may be true, but unless you take the serious steps necessary to demonstrate to Government the damage which 10 years of austerity have done to our District – as to so many others – we will never get to a position in which we have the ability to realise our collective ambitions and release the potential of this wonderful District.

Your letter avoids the essential presentation of all these facts, and as such the Labour Group condemns it and your failure to adequately defend the people of the District.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Jean Butcher

 

By Chris Cornell / Environment / 0 Comments

When the City Council declared a Climate Change Emergency 8 months ago, the Labour Party insisted that its new Climate Change Group to should consider as a priority the option of creating a Citizens Assembly to address Climate Change.

This priority has not been addressed thus far. While there has been some discussion on the use of forums and the creation of a survey there has been a reluctance from the Conservatives to commit to a Citizens Assembly, despite the Government and numerous other local authorities having done so.

The Labour Party believe that Climate Change will not be prevented unless we all learn to change our behaviour. How those changes take place cannot be left to Council committees or pressure groups alone. To engage the public fully and reach acceptable solutions, the issue must be addressed by an independently selected and representative cross-section of citizens from the whole Canterbury district. All the evidence is that such Assemblies reach innovative, informed and widely acceptable solutions, which is what we need to address the diverse and specific challenges in Canterbury district.

The Council has recently allocated a further £500000 for climate change. One purpose that some of this money could be used for is to engage the people of Canterbury in discussing Climate Change.

 
Labour Councillors are therefore proposing that there should be a Citizens Assembly convened as soon as possible and have written an open letter to Council Leader Rob Thomas today demanding it. Running concurrently with it should be a Young Persons Assembly to ensure the voice of future generations is heard and acted on.
 
In all this, as well as our support for the Climate Change Action Partnership, for local tree planting initiatives and for the Canterbury Repair Cafe which opens this Saturday, Labour is leading the case for creating genuine behavioural change and for supporting all our communities to achieve reductions in carbon emissions as quickly as possible. 
We urge the City Council to act on these ideas.
By Canterbury Labour / Latest News / 0 Comments

I first met Nick in 1981 when joining the Labour Party.  Nick’s total dedication to the Party is widely acknowledged.  Joining as a young man, most of his life was spent in its service.  During a membership of more than 60 years, Nick held almost all of the offices in his local constituency and, in all those years, as a LP campaigner and activist he was always willing to look at new ways to present and promote the Party, continually staying abreast of new computer technology. 

In 1983 Nick was elected to the Canterbury City Council to represent Westgate Ward in Canterbury which has recently suffered the sad loss of our Labour Councillor Gill Gower.  As a councillor Nick was always prepared to present the case of the working man and woman.  He was a staunch supporter of the small trader and market traders earning their respect when he stood up for them in a dispute with the council. In addition, Nick was a long-term stalwart of the Co-Operative Party, still active in recent times.

It is true to say that Nick was at his best when working behind the scenes.  Not one to seek public recognition with rhetoric and public speeches, Nick’s true expertise lay in his organisational skills.  As an organiser and election agent he was exemplary, one to whom people turned, and were referred to by Regional Office, for advice and knowledge on election strategy.  Nick became highly respected by organisations in other constituencies and nothing was too much trouble for him to undertake.  When door to door campaigning became more physically difficult, Nick spent considerable time at his computer producing sheets and sheets of guidance notes, canvassing/voter ID sheets, and other election and promotional material.  He could always be relied upon to respond to requests for assistance. In some past elections Nick was producing door to door leaflets once a month, then in the last month once a week, several in the last week with an eve of poll leaflet, and on polling day, three, i.e an early bird, a midday reminder and a don’t-be-too-late leaflet.  During Emily Thornberry’s election the Tories hated driving into Whitstable because every route was overwhelmingly plastered with red and yellow Labour bill boards and window posters erected by Party members and supporters but produced by Nick.

Nick was a strong proponent of gender equality in the LP and in the selection of candidates.  In his time as an election organiser or agent he supported female parliamentary candidates for the Canterbury Constituency among them Jeannette Gould, Linda Keen, Cheryl Hall and Emily Thornberry.  In 2001 Nick led the campaign to help Emily push the Tory MP Julian Brazier into a marginal position. On hearing of his death, Emily said, “we all come across people who change our lives and Nick was one of those for me. His kindness, knowledge and support made all the difference to my confidence and effectiveness when I stood in Canterbury, which in turn gave me the confidence to stand in Islington.”

If he was your friend Nick was loyal and utterly dependable.  As a councillor and election organiser I always felt supported by Nick who was readily available with wise counsel in regard to election strategy.  So in 2012 I was pleased to be asked to present the Labour Party Long Service Award signed by the then leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband.

I knew Nick, not only as a Labour comrade but as a devoted family man immensely proud of his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchild.  In a long life of loyal service to the Party Nick was always supported by his amazing wife, Doreen, at his side.  Her presence in the background enabled him to give the time and energy that he did to the Labour Party.  Many were the times that their home was turned upside down with election material or as a Committee room on election day and on many more occasions it was Doreen who sustained ‘the troops’ with hot and cold refreshments at training days or other party events.  It wasn’t possible to see Nick as the key activist he was without recognising Doreen’s role behind him.  In addition to his family life and the work he undertook for the Labour Party, he still found time to pursue his other interests.  An avid book reader he could be relied upon to pass on his much loved books, particularly political biographies and thrillers.  An accomplished bridge player, in his more recent years Nick played an active role in the Pilgrims’ Bridge Club – still utilizing his organisational skills at which he excelled. 

Farewell dear Nick. You will be sadly missed but never forgotten.  Rest in Peace.