Two issues stand out when talking to people in West Whitstable about the failings of Kent County Council. Bus fares and climate change. One is local, the other global but they are linked and need “big-picture” thinking to sort out.
Climate change and our environment
Net Zero 2030
We need to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and not leave it until 2050 as the Tories are aiming for. Labour know that the climate emergency is the single biggest issue facing everyone. For too long prevarication and the needs of big polluting businesses has been put ahead of all our futures.
In our manifesto we commit to making all KCC buildings net zero by 2030 and mandate environmental impact assessments on all decisions. We will renew planning rules so that new homes meet the highest environmental standards.
On the edge of Whitstable West we are about to get the biggest solar panel array in Europe on Graveney Marshes. This has been controversial but we do need renewable energy. However, how will it benefit our local economy? The panels will be made in China and shipped here using huge amounts of carbon. Once installed they are low-maintenance giving few employment opportunities. KCC should be at the forefront of economic development campaigning for those well-paid, highly-skilled manufacturing jobs here. The green infrastructure should be built in Britain.
Building on a Labour green infrastructure economic programme the party will explore potential sites for carbon capture in Kent and ensure the county is at the forefront of the carbon-capture industry.
KCC has huge buying power across the county with schools, transport and social care the big spending budgets. As a county councillor I will promote buying our services and good from sustainable and, wherever possible, local companies. Across the UK Labour councils use the cooperative model of procurement to deliver services that keep the money locally so that the spending enriches all our lives. An example here would be to use local fruit farms to supply schools and care homes rather than a large Serco-style company that only looks at the bottom line.
The introduction of household waste charges has seen a huge rise in fly tipping. Labour would scrap the charge and work with district councils, boroughs and Kent police to allocate resources to enforce and prosecute all fly-tippers.
Roads and Buses
Kent’s roads are the worst in England, not for nothing has it been dubbed “the pothole capital of England” with more than 52,000 reported in the last three years.
A Labour-led KCC would end the Conservative policy of “managed decline” of our highways. We will start with the basics: fixing potholes and broken pavements properly and ensuring drains are not blocked. Our approach to highway maintenance will be underpinned by prevention rather than reaction.
Many residents in Whitstable West are blighted with rat runs, congested roads and poor parking particularly at bank holidays and sunny weekends. I will work with communities that want 20-mph zones implemented. There are many un-adopted roads in our area with surfaces that only a 4×4 can easily navigate. Where residents want help in getting their road adopted and surfaced I will help navigate the system to get solutions
Public transport is ridiculously expensive: a single 5-mile trip from Borstal Hill to Canterbury costs £5.20 single or £7.30 return. This makes our buses among the most expensive in England. A young person’s annual bus pass is £360 – up 24 per cent over two years
A Labour council would change this and bring in a better, cheaper public transport system, safer cycling and pedestrian routes together with better road management and ways to ensure safer driving.
It is crazy that it’s cheaper to drive to Canterbury and pay to park than take the bus. This needs to change, a Labour KCC will lobby for a Transport for London model. The equivalent of a £1.50 journey in the capital costs us in Whitstable £9.00.
Personally I will campaign within the council for free bus passes for all young people in education up to age 18. Labour will campaign for cheaper fares, clean electric buses on the Triangle route and introduce more hopper services that link to the Triangle route.
To ease congestion in our town I will actively look at a park-and-ride solution. Working with our Labour Canterbury City councillors in the town I am sure that we can sort this problem out.