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Meet the new MPs, same as the old MPs
Plus the battle for Gun Wharf is upon us, full Castle Concerts lineup, and the very large table has arrived!
Welcome to Local Authority, a newsletter covering what is going on in our silly towns. Bit of a slow news this week, but there are some interesting bits and pieces to cover. We’re thrilled to be hosting a head-to-head debate ahead of the local elections next month at MidKent College. Full details of that later in this issue…
Meet the new MPs, same as the old MPs
A couple of slightly bizarre tweets from our Medway MPs this week, who have been excitedly proclaiming that they have been selected as Conservative candidates to fight the next General Election. Of course, there is a process to these things, but such announcements do look slightly odd when you are the sitting MP, and have been for many years.
Take Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood since 2015, who is now ‘honoured to have been adopted’ as the candidate, as if it was ever in much doubt.
Today also brought similar scenes from Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford since 2010, who is ‘pleased to have been formally adopted’ as the candidate with this incredibly diverse association photo:
Strangely, there’s been no word for Rehman Chishti over in Gillingham and Rainham on this front though. We’ll continue to wait with bated breath to see if he makes it through the process.
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The Battle for Gun Wharf is upon us
Medway is hurtling towards local elections, with only two months left until we choose the people representing us for the coming four years. One of our aims here is to make you more informed about your local representatives, and as such we are delighted to be presenting a head-to-head debate between representatives of the potential political parties that could win control of Medway Council. We ran a similar event in 2019 under our formal Political Medway guise and it was a great success.
On 19 April at MidKent College in Gillingham, we'll be asking Alan Jarrett of the Conservatives and Vince Maple of Labour a range of your questions covering the important issues in Medway - housing, education, health, the environment, and so much more.
By booking a ticket - either free or with an optional donation that helps us cover the costs of the event - you will have the ability to submit a question for the leaders. We can't guarantee we'll ask them all, but we will be selecting as broad a cross-section of them as possible to ask on the night.
Full details and ticket booking are below:
Full Castle Concerts lineup announced
It’s no secret that I’ve been fairly critical of the Rochester Castle Concerts in this newsletter. The events are often overpriced and feature lineups of either incredibly dull or past their prime acts.
Still, this year feels a little less horrible than usual. Prices are incredibly expensive but no more expensive than the same acts cost in other parts of the country, unlike last year. The lineup itself seems marginally better too. Gone are the days of UB40 and Jools Holland appearing year after year, and instead we have this eclectic selection.
People seem to be pretty excited about Nile Rodgers & Chic, which is nice. I could never get into them myself, but I’m happy for those that like them. I have no strong opinions on Soft Cell, but sure, why not? Today was the first time I’d ever heard of Fat Freddy’s Drop, and after listening to them, I’m not sure what justifies a £50 ticket price. Obviously, the real standout from the current lineup though is Sugababes, one of the finest pop acts this nation has ever produced. I’m not kidding.
Anyway, obviously I’m not going to go to any of these as I’m too snobby and grumpy to enjoy any gigs that have a capacity of more than 50. But this year does feel like a very small step in the right direction for events which had become rather tired and predictable over the past few years.
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: There are currently 36 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with none of them on a ventilator. This is up 16% from last week.
Deaths: 2 new deaths were recorded this week, taking Medway to 1,014 covid deaths in total.
Medway gets a new Chief Executive
We regularly talk politics in this newsletter, and often about the leadership of Medway Council. That’s usually about our elected councillors, but often overlooked is the role of the Chief Executive in the running of a local council.
The Chief Executive provides the strategic leadership of Medway Council, offering direction and management across the authority, and bridging the gap between council employees and elected representatives.
Neil Davies has been the Chief Executive at Medway Council for 16 years but is set to retire this year. As a result, Richard Hicks has been announced as his replacement.
Fun fact: For years, I used to constantly confuse Neil Davies and Richard Hicks in council meetings, so that’s fun.
Anyway, Richard Hicks has worked at Medway Council for 25 years (most recently as Deputy Chief Executive) and is a Medway native, protecting us from a Chief Executive being externally recruited who has little understanding of the area.
Richard will take on the role in June, and can look forward to a salary of anywhere between £125k and £160k if the advert posted for the job is to be believed.
There are too many children named Isla and Arthur
Medway Council recently posted an updated list of the most popular baby names in Medway, and it’s a slow news week, so let’s take a look.
For girls, the top ten consisted of Isla, Olivia, Elsie, Lily, Sienna, Amelia, Evie, Isabella, Ava, and Florence. For boys, Medway's parents are fans of Arthur, George, Noah, Archie, Henry, Oliver, Luca, Hudson, Oscar, and Jack.
I have no real insight into any of this, as the last time I checked I am neither parent nor a baby. I’m an increasingly middle-aged man trying to not respond to lists like this like an old man shouting at a cloud.
But really, names aren’t what they used to be, are they? Where are the absurd names based on pop culture? Where are the stubbornly old-fashioned names? Who on earth is naming their kid Hudson? Why isn’t Ed anywhere to be seen on the list?
The very big table has arrived
Okay, I’m going to admit that I am a little bit obsessed with the giant table that is now on display at Rochester Cathedral. Partly because it seems like a gloriously ridiculous installation, but also because it’s just an amazingly large table.
Look at it:
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There’s a fascinating story behind the table. It’s made out of fossiled oak that is around 5,000 years old, and that’s all very cool. But mostly it’s just a very large table and for some reason, it’s going to be on display in Medway for an entire year.
You are able to visit the table from today at Rochester Cathedral, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be heading down there immediately. Just look at it! I can’t wait.
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Medway has axed its annual Great Lines fireworks display (KentOnline). It’s been a bit of a disaster in recent years and was cancelled at the last minute last year, which seems to have been the final nail in the coffin.
Medway Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett has written about Medway’s current position (ConservativeHome). Of course, he focuses on bin collections.
The Sun has branded Chatham ‘a dangerous dump’ (The Sun). Apparently, the town has been ruined by ‘sword-wielding drug gangs’.
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If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.