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impact of residents having to fund services for students and over 7 million visitors, and the negative effects of the outdated valuations and banding constraints on Council Tax.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 Chris Cornell / Latest News / 0 Comments

Canterbury Labour Party is devastated to announce the sudden death of Councillor Gill Gower, 65, Member for Westgate Ward.

Councillor Alan Baldock, Leader of the Labour Group, said “this is such terrible news. Gill was a key part of the Labour family here in Canterbury and just settling into her role representing the people of Westgate. She believed passionately in green issues, in the need to fight to ensure our most vulnerable had a voice, and will be terribly missed”.

Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, said “Gill has been a wise and kind friend to me over many years. This is a great loss, not only for me personally, but also for our community, who have lost a hard working and dedicated councillor.”

Gill lived in Canterbury for 30 years and had three children and two step-children, who grew up locally. She was an Occupational Therapist who worked in the NHS for 30 years, managing the Occupational Therapy services at the Kent and Canterbury Hospitals and serving as a union shop steward. Before retiring in 2017, she was a senior lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Gill was elected to Canterbury City Council in May 2019, where she sat on the Regeneration and Policy Committee. She was an active campaigner, a much-loved friend to many, and a formidable woman. If there was a community group running, Gill was involved, whether it was knitting circles, book groups, or being Tree Officer for Canterbury Residents Association, and was well-known for hosting street parties. She had a warm smile, great kindness and knew when a hug was necessary. Close friend Paul Todd, Chair of Canterbury Branch, said “she looked out for others more than herself. Whenever you spoke to her, you felt like you were the most important person to her at that moment in time.”

Gill is survived by her son Nick and daughters Ellie, Hannah, Merren & Ceinwn. The family have asked for time to mourn privately. Details of the funeral will be available at a later date.

Further press requests should be forwarded to Alan Baldock via email at [email protected]