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John's Jottings for February 2008

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Tour de Trance

Do you ever get the feeling that the Opposition Members of Medway Council go around in something of a trance? They often just don't seem capable of grasping anything beyond their own (admittedly narrow) perceptions.

One such perceptual limitation concerns the Tour de France, which just about everyone agrees was a worthwhile and successful event, and helped to put Medway on the map (as they say). Of course, "just about everyone" does not include the Opposition Councillors at Medway! They fail to see the value in this event.

Their gretest concern was the apparent overspend on the Tour, though this was a one-off and notional provision had been made in the budget—although that extra funding was not formalised, owing to the financial situation imposed upon us. In better times, there would have been no reason not to have formally allocated the extra quarter of a million pounds that was in the 2007–2008 budget.

Anyway, that's a technicality, and the additional costs have been met without impacting regular council services (despite what some might try to claim!)

We are coming up to budget-setting time again, and no doubt the opposition spokesmen will spout their usual stuff on the 28th February, as they do every year. None of it is ever helpful, and no firm, costed alternative proposals are ever put by any of them, which is why when they vote against our budget, the only possible interpretation is that they oppose everything in the Conservative Administration's budget.

If they really thought they could do better, they would put up comprehensive proposals of their own—not tinkering but a fully-costed alternative budget. They did do something along these lines (well, okay: a partial alternative budget) some years ago, but haven't bothered for several years now. I do wonder why the Labour finance bod still gets paid an allowance when he is now doing next to nothing to earn it...

Seats by Party 1997 - 2007 Not that what the Labour Group proposed back in those days when they did bother was either complete or properly costed: they must have been in a trance when they concocted it! The real world isn't anything like the way they tried to present it, and we knew that then, and so did the people of Medway. They have shown that they aren't being taken in by Labour spin (well, most of them aren't) and of course neither are we.

It is not for nothing that Labour is in terminal decline here in Medway, losing seats at every election (and even in between elections!) during the period that Medway Unitary Authority has been in existence. Indeed, as the graph at the right shows (this gives the proportion of seats held by each party), they are the only political group on the Council to have consistently shrunk, time after time. Even the LibDems have fared better than that!

I suppose that when one goes around in a kind of trance, one becomes oblivious to such uncomfortable realities—which no doubt is why the Labour finance fellow denies voting against the provisions for services and initiatives that are contained within our budgets...

It is worth noting here that the LibDems have never produced their own budget proposals, and they tend not to support ours either, so aren't really any more useful to Medway's residents than Labour. After all, it is the budget that underpins most of what the council does, so any responsible elected member will wish to participate fully in the budget-setting process.

This does not mean simply commenting (generally unhelpfully) at Scrutiny, and voting against our budget at Council!


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