By Charlie Mower / Jobs / / 0 Comments

Over the last eight years, our communities have been destroyed by austerity. We have seen the closure of libraries, of youth centres and of other community spaces. Indeed, it has also led to the reduction of our independent businesses as a result of high business rates and consumers with less money to spend in their pockets. This is why a Labour local authority would prioritise communities and support Community Interest Companies (CICs) across the district.

Community Interest Companies are social enterprises which uses their profits for a public good. A perfect example of this is the Umbrella Cafe in Whitstable, a community cafe that works with Canterbury College to support young people in gaining the skills necessary for employment. It also provides a space for the Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project to give support to parents. Lily’s Bistro, on Palace Street in Canterbury, is also a similar example. The family-owned Bistro offers work experience to homeless people, people with mental health issues and people with disabilities. That notwithstanding, it also uses ingredients which are thrown out by supermarkets because of their sell by dates, but that are still within their best before dates. These two CICs’ act in the interest of the wider community –  something which should so obviously be supported by the local authority.

The social benefit of organisations like this are revitalising our communities in the face of the harshest cuts to local amenities. This is why a Labour council will bring about the necessary measures to support these important local businesses. As it becomes more and more common for independent businesses to shut their doors only to replaced by big businesses, like supermarkets and betting shops, it is clear that this has opened the necessity for businesses which are greater tied to the local communities they are situated in; businesses that recognise the needs in communities and work towards bringing about some social good. A Canterbury City Council led by the Labour Party will be consistent in its support for these important local businesses.

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By Charlie Mower / EnvironmentTransport / / 0 Comments

As air pollution continues to pose a huge public risk to the health of people up and down the country, we must now pose radical solutions to reduce it. As councils like Islington, Hackney and Walthamstow have announced a ‘School Streets’ initiative to cut air pollution in areas where schools reside, it is now time for Canterbury City Council to take up the same mantle and act.

The ‘School Streets’ allows local headteachers and residents to come together and petition their council to prevent vehicles from entering certain streets during school hours or around school pick up/drop offs. By restricting access, school streets prevent the risks of road traffic accidents and health conditions linked to air pollution, which includes lung diseases and a reduction of life expectancy. Children under the age of 14 are one of the most susceptible demographics to these associated health problems, therefore, it is a necessary move to tackle a growing public health problem.

 

Whilst the initiative would be open to all, the council already has a number of ‘Air Quality Management Areas’ where air pollution exceeds the target determined by the City Council. AQMA’s in Wincheap Road and Sturry Road are both a stone’s throw from Wincheap primary and Parkside Community School respectively. If there was the introduction of a similar initiative to those launched in Islington, Hackney and Walthamstow, there could be a huge reduction in air pollution levels, mitigating the associated health risks.

 

Just last year, Canterbury City Council launched their air quality action plan, which put in place fines for drivers who leave their engines running, as well as the supposed intention to endorse a car free day, for drivers to leave their cars at home for one day. Though these measured should not be criticised, it is evident they don’t go far enough. Where is the action around schools? Where is the action around hospitals, given pregnant women are also another demographic particularly susceptible to the associated risks? Where is the action around areas where there is a higher density of older people?

 

If we are to think seriously about tackling this immediate issue, we cannot just deliver miniscule reforms. We need a wide-ranging strategy that looks at the areas and the people most at risk. Implementing a School Streets initiative would begin that process.

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By Charlie Mower / Justice / / 0 Comments

On 18th February, the Conservative-dominated Kent County Council voted down a proposal which would have given £1.4million to youth services. This is just one example in a long-line of instances which shows that the Conservative Party are letting down young people. Though Sean Holden, the Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Development, has argued that “It’s not the worst time it’s ever been and we are not a heartless county council that’s just going to abandon these people’, the evidence shows quite the opposite.

Nationally, between 2012-2016, 600 youth centres were closed down, 3,500 youth workers lost their jobs and 40,000 places in youth centres for young people were cut. These shocking figures show the level of contempt which Tories hold towards young people, but for the ageing councillors, youth services are a far-cry from what they, themselves, would need. In a survey of youth worker UNISON members, 88% felt that the cuts to youth services were causing higher youth unemployment and 84% considered it to have led to an increase in crime. But, for the Conservative councillors, the consistent blindness towards issues facing young people continues.

The failure to invest in youth services, the Tories may claim, is necessitated by the fact that local government funding has been decimated by central government. The great irony, however, is that it is their own Party that has done this to them, but it is the rest of us that feels the effects. The next Labour government will ring-fence funding for youth services, ensuring that this vital service is protected from any future cuts and will develop local strategies to re-invest and develop the work done by youth workers and centres.

Councillor Sean Holden, and the rest of his Conservative colleagues, may not need youth services themselves – but young people do and the effects of not having them are hugely detrimental to communities. Matthew Scott, Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has noted that vulnerable young people across Kent are being targeted by gangs from the London boroughs. It is therefore incredibly disappointing that his own Party on Kent County Council have chosen to make those young people more vulnerable by increasing the chances of them being exploited.

In a week whereby residents have been complaining online about the anti social behaviour of young people during half term, lets remember the important role that youth services play.  Let’s continue our fight to bring back youth services, invest in schools and build proper housing so that future generations of young people won’t be let down like the ones before them.

 

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