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A Few Good Men
Just how many Conservative councillors will survive the upcoming election?
The national polling picture has very much moved away from the Conservatives in recent months. If the national picture is replicated at the local elections in May, we are looking at the very real possibility of a change in Medway’s administration.
(Insert obligatory reminder to register for Voter ID if you don’t currently have any acceptable forms here.)
Between the possible election results and the number of current councillors who are standing down, it led us in Local Authority Towers to wonder who would be left in the Conservative group to form a credible opposition after May.
Councillor Alan Jarrett
Leader of the Council
Cllr Jarrett has served on Medway Council since its inception when he stood as a Paper Candidate for the North Dane ward. When it was changed to Lordswood and Capstone ward in 2003, he was returned and has represented them to this day. He served as Deputy Leader under Cllr Chambers, where he had the Finance Portfolio and was considered by many to be the one running the Council. When Cllr Chambers stood down as leader in 2015, a leadership contest did not emerge, and Cllr Jarrett has led the council since then. He also sits on the Disciplinary Appeals Committee.
Cllr Jarrett has not been without controversy, but having served for 25 years he has decided to step down as group leader and will not be standing in the 2023 election. He will however continue to be the leader of Medway Council until a new leader is elected on 24 May. So potentially he could lead a Labour-controlled council for a short period.
Councillor Howard Doe
Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services
Cllr Doe has represented Rainham South since 2003, and as well as his position as Conservative group Deputy Leader and his Cabinet portfolio, he also is the chair of the Climate Change Member Advisory Group, the Vice Chair for the Health and Wellbeing Board and serves on the Disciplinary Appeals Committee.
Cllr Doe has been a Rainham councillor since 1976 on both Gillingham Borough Council and Medway Council. He is standing in the new Rainham South East ward in 2023 and is one of the few Conservative councillors who should feel confident of re-election. Will the current deputy leader want to step up and lead the group in opposition?
Councillor Jan Aldous
The Worshipful The Mayor of Medway
A councillor for Rainham Central since 2016. There are boundary changes in Rainham, and she will not be standing in 2023. She will, however, as we discussed previously, remain The Worshipful The Mayor of Medway after she stands down until a new Mayor is elected.
Councillor Roger Barrett
The current Deputy Mayor of Medway has been the councillor for Rainham South since 2019. He also serves on the Health and Adult Social Care, and the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committees.
He will be standing in the local elections in the new ward of Rainham South East. Electoral Calculus is predicting that the ward will go to the Conservatives. Will he look to serve his party further in a shadow administration?
Councillor David Brake
Portfolio Holder for Adults' Services
The former Mayor of Medway chairs the Health and Wellbeing board and serves on the Councillor Conduct Committee. He has been the councillor for Walderslade since 2007. He is a candidate for the new Lordswood and Walderslade ward in 2023. Which Electoral Calculus is currently predicting will go Labour in May!
When we asked Cllr Brake if he intended to stand for the Conservative group leadership he coyly answered ‘maybe.’ So, he would be a front-runner for a leadership position in a Conservative group in May, but is that likely? If the current Labour polling lead is replicated in a local election, this ward would just about stay blue. The ward doesn’t appear to be a target for Labour, it is effectively a new ward, and along with the likelihood that Cllr Brake will have a mixture of name recognition and a surname which will be high on the polling card means it is more likely than likely he will be returned. So, let’s put his name down for a future role.
Councillor Rodney Chambers, OBE
Portfolio Holder for Inward Investment, Strategic Regeneration and Partnerships
Cllr Chambers was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2011 for services to local government.
The former Leader of Medway Council first became a councillor in 1974, representing Gillingham on Kent County Council. He has represented Hempstead and Wigmore since its creation in 1998. He is standing down this year.
Councillor Jane Chitty
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Growth and Regulation
Cllr Chitty has been a councillor since 1983, representing Rede Court on Rochester-Upon-Medway City Council. She has represented Strood North since 2003.
Facing challenging, changing times, the Conservative Group can look to Cllr Chitty’s experience… except instead they have deselected her. This is largely a result of internal conflicts over the Conservative administration’s failure to pass a Local Plan. Speaking with us, Cllr Chitty believes that the reason for her deselection was due to clashing with Kelly Tolhurst MP over plans to develop Chatham Docks, which are situated within the Rochester and Strood constituency, for housing.
Councillor Phil Filmer
Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services
Cllr Filmer first represented the peninsula when it was the All Saints Ward on Rochester-Upon-Medway City Council in 1991. He represented them on Medway Council from 2000, both for All Saints ward and the Peninsula ward. As well as his Cabinet position, he also serves on the Climate Change Member Advisory Group.
In 2023, Peninsula ward has been dissolved and will be replaced by the return of the All Saints Ward, this time as a one seat ward, and the new Hoo St Werburgh & High Halstow three seat ward. The Hoo peninsula has been an outlier for several years now, being represented by UKIP councillors and then independents as the UKIP group fell apart. In a recent Peninsula by-election, George Crozen, an independent was elected by a large margin on a poor turnout. The new Hoo ward’s three seats are expected to go independent. Having served the peninsula for so long, we are sure that it is coincidental that Cllr Filmer will be standing in 2023 for a seat in the new Cuxton, Halling and Riverside ward. Whilst likely that he will win in this new location, but not guaranteed, we will add him to the list.
Councillor Adrian Gulvin
Portfolio Holder for Resources
Cllr Gulvin first represented Walderslade from 1983 to 1995 on Rochester-upon-Medway City Council. He has represented Walderslade on Medway Council since 2011. As well as his cabinet position he also serves on the Audit Committee, the Climate Change Member Advisory Group and the Health and Wellbeing board.
He will be standing in 2023 on the expanded three seat ward of Lordswood and Walderslade. When we asked him if he would be standing for leader of the Conservative Group, he said no. Like Cllr Brake, he is likely to be returned in May, and therefore will likely be part of the future of the Conservative group.
Councillor Gary Hackwell
Portfolio Holder for Business Management
Cllr Hackwell has represented Rainham South since 2019. As well as his cabinet position, he also serves on the Climate Change Member Advisory Group, Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel, Licensing and Safety Committee, and Planning Committee.
The councillor is standing again in 2023 and is likely to be returned along with his ward candidate colleagues. He told us that he would not be standing for the leadership of the group, so what role will he play in opposition?
Councillor Josie Iles
Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services
The former Mayor of Medway represented Strood South from 2011 until she lost her seat in 2015. She was returned in the Strood South by-election of 2016. As well as her Cabinet position, she Chairs the School Transport and Curriculum Appeals Committee.
She will be standing in the new Strood West seat, where she is predicted to lose.
Councillor Barry Kemp
Cllr Kemp has served twice as Mayor of Medway and has represented Rainham Central since 2007. As well as being the Group Whip, which considering the legendary party discipline has collapsed recently can’t have been a fun position, he also serves as Chair of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the Vice Chair of the Councillor Conduct Committee. He also serves on the Joint NHS Scrutiny Committee with Kent County Council and the Licensing Sub Committee.
The councillor will be standing in the new Rainham South West ward in the 2023 election. Side note: He will be joined by former UKIP councillor Mark Joy, who was deselected as a Conservative councillor and briefly flirted with joining Labour. Rainham South West is likely to vote Conservative and Cllr Kemp, who told us that he would not be standing as Leader, could face the possibility of staying Group Whip in opposition. Fun times indeed.
Councillor Martin Potter
Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools
Cllr Potter has represented Rainham North since 2015. As well as his Cabinet position he also serves on the Councillor Conduct Committee, the Health and Wellbeing Board, and the Planning Committee.
Considered by many as a front-runner for leadership of the group, Cllr Potter has instead decided not to stand in 2023.
Councillor Sijuwade Adeoye
Medway Conservatives’ most recent ‘convert’ will be leaving the safe Labour seat of Chatham Central (to which she was elected in 2019) to stand in Gillingham South. Which will quite clearly remain Labour. And so, we will be saying goodbye in May.
Councillor Nusrat Ahmed
Despite only being elected to Rainham Central in 2019, and serving on the Health and Adult Social Care and Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committees, Cllr Ahmed has decided not to stand again in 2022.
Councillor Chris Buckwell
Cllr Buckwell was a councillor first for Rochester-upon-Medway City Council for the then ward of St Margaret’s and Borstal from 1983 until 1991. He joined Medway Council in 2000 for the then All Saints ward, and when it became Peninsula, he was a councillor until 2007. He returned to Medway Council in 2019 for the ward of Strood South, replacing the deselected Mark Joy.
The ward becomes Strood West in the 2023 local elections. Where Electoral Calculus states it will be turning red. The result was very close in 2019 when former councillor and noted toilet enthusiast Issac Igwe stood for Labour. He will be joining Cllr Buckwell on the Conservative ticket this year. Cllr Buckwell will not stand up to the national picture. He will not be added to our list of potential future players.
Councillor Kirstine Carr
The former Deputy Mayor of Medway joined Medway Council in 2019, as the councillor for Rainham North, following the death of her husband Cllr David Carr.
Cllr Carr has decided not to stand in 2023.
Councillor Diane Chambers
Cllr Chambers has been a Councillor since 1976, first for Brompton on the old Gillingham Borough Council. Becoming a councillor for Hempstead and Wigmore in 1987, she has since represented the Ward for both Gillingham Borough Council and the Medway Council.
Cllr Chambers was widely expected to stand down in 2019 but stood again and won. She currently is the Chair of the Councillor Conduct Committee, the Licensing and Safety Committee, and the Planning Committee. The councillor has a wealth of experience that would serve the group well and would be confident of re-election in 2023. Instead, she has decided to stand down.
Councillor Trevor Clarke
Cllr Clarke has represented Rochester South and Horsted since 2008 and currently serves on the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny, and the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny committees.
In 2023 the ward will be abolished, and Fort Horsted will be a new one seat ward, where Cllr Clarke will stand. Electoral Calculus has the ward turning red, but it doesn’t appear to be a target ward for them. It does however appear to be of interest to the Liberal Democrats. Their candidate Viv Parker has stood in the ward since 2003, unsuccessfully. Could this be her year? It is unlikely, though she could do well, and maybe even come second. Fort Horsted will be one to watch come election night. Cllr Clarke gets added to our list.
Councillor Gary Etheridge
Cllr Etheridge has represented Strood Rural since 2015. He chairs the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny committee, and serves on the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny committee as well as the Health and Wellbeing board.
The Councillor is standing in 2023 and is expected to be re-elected. When we asked him if he would be standing for the leadership position, he made it very clear he would not. Will he become part of the wider leadership in opposition?
Councillor Matt Fearn
Cllr Fearn first served as a representative for Rainham Central from 2003 to 2007. He has represented Cuxton and Halling since 2015. He is currently the Chair of the Employment Matters committee, Vice Chair of the Licensing and Safety committee, and sits on the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He also serves on the Employment Matters Appeal Panel and the Planning Committee.
The Councillor will be standing in 2023 when Cuxton and Halling expands to a two seat ward: Cuxton, Halling and Riverside. Electoral Calculus has the Ward going red in May, which would be quite the achievement considering Cllr Fearn got over 50% of the vote and Labour do not appear to be campaigning there. The Green Party are, and whilst they are unlikely to win, the ward will be an interesting yardstick for how the Conservative vote is holding up on election night.
Councillor Sylvia Griffin
Cllr Griffin first served on Medway Council from 2000 to 2003 representing Warren Wood ward. She has represented Rochester South and Horsted since 2007. She currently serves on the following committees: Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny, Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny, Licensing and Safety, and School Transport and Curriculum Appeals. Busy.
The councillor will have the opportunity in 2023 to represent Warren Wood again when she stands in the new Rochester East and Warren Wood ward. The new ward will have three seats, however, Cllr Griffin is unlikely to win one. Rochester East is a safe Labour seat and it is likely to stay that way.
Councillor Robbie Lammas
Cllr Lammas has represented Princes Park since the 2021 by-election. He currently serves on the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny committee, the Planning Committee, and the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny committee.
He is standing for Princes Park in 2023 but told us that he would not be standing for the group leader. He might not get the chance, however, as Electoral Calculus has the ward going to Labour. Labour could win the Ward, but they have not yet announced candidates. Still, Cllr Lammas on current trends does not make the list.
Councillor Gloria Opara
Cllr Opara, the former Deputy Mayor, has represented Princes Park since 2015. She is also the Vice Chair of the Children and Young People Overview Scrutiny committee and serves on the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny committee.
The Councillor went public last year when she was deselected for her seat and made accusations of racism against the leadership.
She will be standing instead in the new three seat Fort Pitt ward. Whilst it is difficult to predict new wards, Fort Pitt is being heavily targeted by Labour and Electoral Calculus is predicting that it will go red, so Cllr Opara does not make the list.
Councillor Wendy Purdy
Cllr Purdy first served on Medway Council, representing Dane ward in 2000. With the council ward changes in 2003, she was elected to Watling ward in 2003, losing in the 2007 election to the Lib Dems. With the slow wipeout of the Lib Dems from Medway Council, Cllr Purdy was returned in 2011 and has represented Watling ward ever since. She is also the Vice Chair of the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny committee and sits on the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committee, as well as the Joint NHS Scrutiny Committee with Kent County Council.
The councillor will not be standing in 2023.
Councillor Habib Tejan
The former Mayor of Medway has represented the River ward since 2015. He is the Vice Chair of the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny committee, also serves on the Audit Committee, Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committee, and the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel.
River Ward is no more as part of the 2023 boundary changes. Cllr Tejan will be standing in the new St Mary’s Island single-seat ward, where he lives. Electoral Calculus is predicting the ward will go for Labour, but they are not campaigning there at all. Neither are the Conservatives in any demonstrable way. The Lib Dems are though, and it is arguably their main target and most likely chance for returning to Medway Council. A ward to watch on election night. Cllr Tejan does not make the list.
Councillor Piers Thompson
The physical embodiment of paper candidate, Cllr Thompson has ‘represented’ River ward since 2019. He apparently serves on the Climate Change Member Advisory Group.
Unsurprisingly, Cllr Thompson is not standing in 2023 and seemed genuinely shocked at the idea that he might, when we asked.
Councillor Richard Thorne
Cllr Thorne has represented Strood South since 2019. He is the chair of the Audit Committee and serves on the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committee, the Employment Matters committee, the Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the Planning Committee.
He has been moved to the new Fort Pitt ward for the 2023 election. He told us that he was considering running for leader of the Conservative Group, but as he is unlikely to be a councillor, this will not be a bet worth taking.
Councillor Stuart Tranter
The former Mayor of Medway has represented Rochester West since 2015, when his ward colleague was Kelly Tolhurst MP. He appears to have never come to terms with the fact that since a 2018 by-election, his ward colleague has been Labour’s Cllr Alex Paterson. Cllr Tranter is busy serving on the Climate Change Member Advisory Group, Councillor Conduct committee, Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny committee, Health and Wellbeing Board, Planning committee, and the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny committee.
Cllr Tranter showed that he had no poker face when we asked if he was considering running for the leadership of the Conservative group, though Cllr Jarrett is very unlikely to give him an endorsement. Will he win in 2023? Rochester West has been expanded to the Rochester West and Borstal three seat ward and is a Labour target if they are to take control of the council. Labour has been campaigning hard in the area, whilst many Rochester and Strood candidates are campaigning as if they are not Conservative candidates. Electoral Calculus predicts that the ward will go red. It has been a split ward and it’s not inconceivable that it would remain split. Cllr Tranter will be part of the opposition group in 2023. Don’t @ me.
Councillor Elizabeth Turpin
Cllr Turpin has represented Strood Rural since 2019. She also serves on the following committees: Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny, Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny, and the Licensing and Safety committee.
Cllr Turpin is standing in 2023 and is likely to be returned, as the only Turpin (spoiler alert!). We were unable to ask Cllr Turpin if she would be considering standing for the leadership, so she might be a surprise candidate. She becomes the only sitting female Conservative councillor who will be returned in 2023.
Councillor Rupert Turpin
Cllr Turpin has represented Rochester South and Horsted since 2011. A former Cabinet member, he lost his position after a dispute with Cllr Jarrett over the Local Plan.
He currently serves on the following committees: Business Support Overview and Scrutiny, Employment Matters, and Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny.
His safe seat is no more following the boundary changes, and he joins Cllr Opara and Cllr Thorne in the new Fort Pitt ward, where he is also unlikely to win against the current national picture for Conservative support. He could have been a contender. But he won’t be this time.
Councillor David Wildey
The former Mayor of Medway has represented Lordswood and Capstone since 2000. He is the Chair of the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny committee, the Vice Chair of the Joint NHS Scrutiny committee with Kent County Council, and serves on the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny committee.
He is standing in the new Lordswood and Walderslade ward, where he is likely to be returned to the council. He wouldn’t tell us if he plans to stand for the leadership, but he will be a voice in the future of the Conservative group.
Councillor John Williams
Cllr Williams previously represented Rainham Mark on Medway Council in 2000, and he has represented Strood Rural since 2015. He also serves on the Business Support Overview and Scrutiny committee and the Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview and Scrutiny committee.
He is standing in 2023, is likely to be re-elected, and was very clear he would not be standing for the leadership. He is the last to make the list.
With that, it seems likely that just 14 councillors out of a current group of 33 will be returned to Medway Council in May. What surprises will May’s election night reveal? Who on the list won’t make it? Who should be on the list but isn’t? Who could lead a future Conservative opposition? Could a newly elected councillor find themselves thrust straight into opposition leadership? Or could, against all odds, the Conservative group retain control of Medway Council after all?
Spaces are filling up fast for our debate ahead of the local elections. Don’t forget to book your free ticket and submit a question for our potential future leaders.
Steven Keevil has hurt his ankle. He is currently recuperating from his week being thrown off by a snow day. He co-founded The Political Medway and still manages to watch hundreds of films a year. He highly recommends Ninjababy.
Steven listened to no music whilst writing this, but recommends I Am The Law, one of his books of the year.