By Michael Prowse / Latest News / 0 Comments

The voters of Canterbury have once again created a political upset after last week’s local poll saw Labour increasing its representation on the city council by 150 per cent. Following on the 2017 success of Rosie Duffield in becoming the first Labour MP for the former Conservative stronghold, the party had its best night in Canterbury for nearly 25 years. Labour now has 10 councillors and will be “a real force to be reckoned with”, said Alan Baldock, the party’s leader on the council.

“The widespread support for our radical manifesto shows that the people of Canterbury are ready for change,” Mr Baldock added. “As the official opposition we will be scrutinising everything the Tories do and making sure that residents’ views are properly listened to.” On a night when the Tories lost both their leader, Simon Cook, and his heir apparent, Benjamin Fitter-Harding, Mr Baldock and Jean Butcher easily held their seats in the Northgate ward taking 56 per cent of the vote in a field that included Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Greens.

In Barton, Labour had a clean sweep with Connie Nolan, Pat Edwards and Dave Wilson taking all three seats up for grabs. The battle for Westgate ward saw Gill Gower winning one seat with the Lib Dem veteran Michael Dixey taking the other.  In St Stephens the multi-talented, saxophone-playing Mel Dawkins ousted one Conservative but the well-known local Tory Terry Westgate took the second seat, leaving him as the sole Conservative councillor in the city itself. “It seems his colleagues paid the price for their neglect of the city. Residents have been let down and ignored by the Tories for far too long,” Mr Baldock said.

Over in Whitstable the Labour trio of George Caffery, Chris Cornell and Val Kenny fought off a strong challenge from the Green Party to take all three seats.

By Michael Prowse / Latest News / 0 Comments

Alan Baldock, Northgate councillor and Labour Group leader, launched the party’s manifesto for the Canterbury City Council elections this afternoon saying “it’s time for a change”.

He told Labour candidates and ward organisers gathered at the Thanington Resource Centre, that the vision was to put local communities first. Labour was not ashamed to promote civic pride and recognise the value of local people’s voice in decision-making. “This is a manifesto that faces head on the appalling housing crisis in this Council that rips hope and security from the lives of too many local families, it offers them change and a better future,” he said. “It recognises the responsibility of leadership that we have to deliver a green and safe legacy for future generations.” He pledged that any Labour-controlled council would operate within a “financially sound administration”.

To applause he added: “Every one of the 39 seats contested has a Labour candidate standing and 19 are women. This simple fact makes Labour wiser, stronger and more inclusive.”

Supporting the manifesto, Paul Todd, standing in the Wincheap ward, said: “The Labour Party is truly part of the communities in which we serve, this manifesto sticks up for Thanington, a place which is special but largely forgotten by our council.” His fellow candidate in the ward, Zoila Santos, said  “I meet people who don’t want have to leave their home to find work. Our manifesto helps secure local work and pay people a decent wage.”

One of the cornerstones of Labours vision for our district is the establishment of a five-year innovation and regeneration plan to invest in the knowledge economy and turn our high streets into the best commercial and  cultural centres in Kent.

Mel Dawkins, candidate for St Stephens, said the current council was “doing nothing to protect us from air pollution”.  Drivers at Canterbury’s level crossings needed to turn their engines off when waiting for trains to pass. “Its a simple message – but strong”, she said. In power Labour would start real-time air quality monitoring and aim
to get the district carbon neutral by 2030. This would hugely improve
public health and save many people from an early death.

Dave Wilson urged candidates and canvassers to spread the message that this Tory-controlled council was a disgrace. “They are hiding behind austerity which is their fault in the first place. We have to get the message across – it’s time for change.

“We can make an absolutely massive change to our city; we can make it more welcoming, more accommodating, more positive. The Tories manifesto is full of things they have failed to achieve over the last 12 years, we have a sensible, considerate plan for tax payers money.” Mr Baldock finished by saying our candidates were “united by a passion for change.”

“Our incredible team brings a very diverse set of skills and talents, they are young, old and in between,  – I am proud of every one of them.  They are determined to ensure Labour’s values will be woven into everything a future Canterbury City Council does. It is time for change.”

Download a copy of our manifesto here

By Michael Prowse / Jobs / / 0 Comments

“Look at this, such a waste, but it’s a perfect spot for a small business hub, or even the council offices.” Richard Scase pointed to the sad-looking, boarded up site of Nasons in Canterbury High Street. Once the flagship department store of the cathedral city, the shop like so many others in the area has ceased trading. A victim of changing consumer habits, the growth of out-of-town retail centres and of course internet shopping.

Mr Scase is Emeritus Professor at the University of Kent. For the past 20 years he has worked with governments, NGO’s and private sector organisations, developing strategies for business formation and growth. In other words he’s an expert. Someone to be taken notice of. Someone who knows what he is talking about.

And in his opinion only a Labour-controlled local council can stop the rot and reverse the decline. “In an internet world, national and global companies are moving their business operations online,” he said. “This means local economies and jobs are vulnerable.”

The passion for enterprise is unmistakable as Mr Scase speaks.  “Canterbury must develop a sustainable local economy for the future. There is the need for local entrepreneurship with businesses owned and controlled by local people. Only in this way can secure and well-paid jobs be created. Today the City’s universities produce highly trained men and women who leave the City after graduation. We need to get them to stay. The council must take the lead here.”

He suggests that a Labour council could create a local enterprise board. This could be funded and run by the local authority with the aim of promoting and investing in new local businesses.
“The role of council is to create the first point of access. It doesn’t need to be too expensive, but imagine the boost if  just six months of working capital could be available to enterprise start ups. Just give people some premises and a bit of funding and watch them fly.”

For all this to happen there needs to be community leadership. A Labour council would set up that enterprise board and back new business ventures. Following the lead of many other towns and cities  it would establish an innovation and enterprise hub in the centre of the city, creating a cluster of high growth, job creating small firms. It would call upon the expertise and talents of local mentors to help young men and women to set-up sustainable businesses, giving them back control and security.”

Mr Scase points to the great location of Canterbury. “It’s less than an hour to London and the quality of life here is so much better. Great countryside and beaches nearby, culture and house prices are much lower. What’s not to like?”

The most important thing, Mr Scase believes, is good leadership. “We need a council that engages the community, that helps our young people to develop their skills and that fosters a wealth-creating local economy.”

Canterbury and Whitstable Labour Party is committed to halting the spiral of decline, creating opportunities and developing the knowledge economy in the Canterbury district. Only with a Labour council can the full potential of the creativity, imagination and skills of residents be realised.