Corbyn supporting councillor joins Conservatives
Plus the Medway Tunnel causes chaos, Nucleus comes to Rainham, and Hoo gets a new park
Thanks for reading Local Authority! I’d expected things to get a little quieter as we run up to Christmas, but nope, stuff just keeps on happening. So let’s get to it
Councillor accuses Conservatives of bullying and racism, signs up less than six months later
The increasingly weird political journey of Medway councillor Siju Adeoye took another turn today, with news that she has crossed the floor and joined the Conservative Party.
Cllr Adeoye was elected a Labour councillor for Chatham Central in 2019. Back in October, she gave up her safe seat in order to try and seek Labour selection in a seat closer to home in Gillingham. When this was unsuccessful, she threw her toys out of the political pram and resigned from the party to sit as an independent. As she did so, she claimed her resignation was caused by bullying and racism that she had faced within the party but presented no evidence of this.
For the past two months, she has sat as an independent councillor, but in a rare instance of someone climbing onto the sinking ship, she went on Radio Kent today to announce she had joined the Conservative group on Medway Council.
The interview is absolutely worth a full listen, if only because her position seems to make no sense at all. You can listen here, with the interview starting around 1:37 into the programme.
Big credit to Radio Kent presenter Anna Cookson for pushing Cllr Adeoye on the logic of her decision, and whether this is about values or political motivation.
Anna Cookson: Are you comfortable joining a very different party? Do you stand for the same things as the Conservatives?
Cllr Adeoye: Since I made my announcement, the party that has been very warm, very welcome, very receptive of me has been the Tories. The moment my announcement was made, within an hour, they reached out to me. Those values matter for me. If we can’t deal with each other on a human to human level, what is left? Labour can shout from the rooftops that they stand for this, they stand for that, but really and truly do they stand for those things?
Well, that clears things up, certainly. Because who among us hasn’t changed their entire political ideology because someone was nice to us once?
Cookson went on to ask Cllr Adeoye about how this reconciles with her conflict with Medway Conservative leader Cllr Alan Jarrett over his offensive remarks during the debate over renaming a car park named after a slave trader.
Anna Cookson: We remember that you cosigned a letter against the Conservative leader Alan Jarrett. He used the term lynch mob, you were really unhappy about that.
Cllr Adeoye: We’ve had a discussion about that. I’ve met with Alan Jarrett. Alan Jarrett reached out to me. We had a very deep discussion. We have exchanged mutual friendship. He really wants to listen, to know what to do better.
Anna Cookson: Did he apologise?
Cllr Adeoye: Yes, he apologised. We hugged. We kissed. He said so many times he would get me over to the party and he finally did.
Excuse me while I try to erase that image from my mind.
It’s hard to find anything in Cllr Adeoye’s interview that suggests her decision is based on any kind of political common ground with the Conservatives, and instead feels like political opportunism more than anything else.
To leave the Labour group claiming bullying and racism is one thing, but to jump straight to the group you accused of doing the same less than six months ago doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
It’s not clear how much good this will end up doing Cllr Adeoye. Aside from trashing any remaining reputation she may have still had, given the prevailing political winds, it doesn’t feel like she’ll be able to hold a seat in May, particularly if she insists on standing in a ward like Gillingham South as intended.
Still, when that doesn’t work out, there’s almost certainly a place waiting for her in the Medway Lib Dems.
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Medway is too dependent on a tunnel
The Medway Tunnel broke this morning. It’s not entirely clear what happened, and as I’m writing this there is no indication of when it might be open again. But as we’re currently at eight hours and counting, something has clearly gone wrong.
As always whenever something happens to the tunnel, traffic in Medway turned into a complete disaster:
Journeys even between Chatham and Rochester were taking upwards of 40 minutes this morning, and god help anyone trying to cross the river over to Strood.
The Medway Tunnel is a rather recent bit of infrastructure, having opened in 1996. Yet it’s now difficult to imagine our transport system without it. So much so that we are arguably too dependent on it.
Anyone who has crossed Rochester Bridge, particularly westbound, will know that the town centre crossings aren’t really coping with current traffic levels. The M2 crossing tends to work okay but it’s too inaccessible for anyone near the centre of our towns. Which leaves the tunnel as the only other crossing in an area with a population of nearly 300,000.
So the fact that Medway Council doesn’t seem to have the funding to maintain it seems less than ideal. The ownership of the tunnel has been controversial for some time, with Medway Council buying the tunnel for £1 from Rochester Bridge Trust, but then being left with the expensive maintenance costs. Efforts have been made to get the government to fund the tunnel as a vital infrastructure link, but other than a one-off £5m grant in 2020, these have been unsuccessful.
There’s no easy answer to this. The tunnel is literally too important to fail so must be maintained, but no one seems willing or able to do this. Even in an ideal world when the tunnel is properly maintained, Medway is still pushing against the capacity limit of our crossings, and with further development on the Hoo peninsula, the strain is only set to continue.
Ideally, Medway would have more crossings than the three that currently exist, of which only two can be used by pedestrians and cyclists. But there’s no money or even an obvious location for something like that. At the very least we should be looking at more innovative solutions to reduce traffic levels.
The river that divides our towns would be a good start. River bus services to take people back and forth between our towns would relieve pressure on our roads as well as open up new routes and opportunities. Better and more reliable bus connections could reduce the demand for cars on the crossings. There’s also the rail connection to Hoo that certain parties seem to oppose in favour of more road usage.
Or maybe it’s time to look at the cable car plan again.
Covid in numbers
Cases: 1.9% of the Medway population are estimated to test positive for covid this week. This figure is only released monthly, so there is nothing to directly compare it to.
Hospitalisations: There are currently 33 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 3 of them on a ventilator. This is up 312% on last week, indicating that a new wave is firmly upon us.
Deaths: 1 new death was recorded this week, taking Medway to 999 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 80% of the 12+ population in Medway have now had at least one vaccine dose, 77% have had two doses, and 60% have received a booster dose.
77% of those eligible for a spring booster received one.
10% of those under 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
63% of those aged 50+ have so far had their autumn booster.
Nucleus comes to Rainham
Rainham is having a bit of a boom at the moment. With the recent openings of The Greedy Banker and, er, Poundland, it’s now time for Cafe Nucleus to get in on the action. After months of teasing, they finally announced their new location: this building on the roundabout of the High Street and Holding Street.
Nucleus has been expanding its presence across our towns in recent years. They currently operate three sites: their tucked-away cafe and gallery space off Chatham High Street, their hub and artist studios in Military Road, Chatham, as well as their super fancy cafe, gallery, and artist studios in Rochester.
It’s not clear exactly what form this new Rainham site will take, but it’s difficult to view this as anything other than a benefit for the town as it goes through a bit of a renaissance.
Hoo park proposals
Medway Council moved forward on their plans to create a new Wetlands Reserve just outside of Hoo this week, submitting formal plans for the proposals.
The site is set south east of Hoo, and will convert 16 hectares of farmland into a wetland reserve, including new wildlife habitats, as well as creating a new public space to access. It all sounds pretty good to me, but some on the peninsula seem wary that this is part of the wider Hoo Infrastructure Fund proposals that will ultimately see 10,000 new homes created in the area.
Understandable as that may be, the homes are coming regardless, so it makes sense to at least get a nice new accessible park out of the process. We don’t often get big investments into natural sites in Medway, so it feels like something that should be ultimately welcomed.
You can read the full Hoo Wetlands proposals here, and comment on the planning application here.
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There aren’t enough taxi drivers in Medway to meet demand. (BBC News)
Willmott Dixon has won the contract to build Splashes. (Construction Index)
Medway Council buying houses to use as temporary accommodation. (KentOnline)
Mountain of parcels delivered by Evri dumped in Luton. (Metro)
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Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Raise Hell by Fresh, The Noyelle Beat by Standard Fare, and Hold On Now, Youngster… by Los Campesinos!.
thats not all the parks planed for Hoo
this one continues to lower Upnor