Red routes vs reality
Plus Kent Police's multiple bad apples, yet another trip for Rehman Chishti, and Rochester appears in The Crown.
If you’d asked at the start of the year what issues people would likely lose their minds over, a red route through Rainham High Street probably wouldn’t have made the list. And yet, here we are. Today, we’re looking at the increasingly bizarre bedfellows that are coming out of the campaign against the scheme. Further down, a damning report finds scores of Kent Police officers and staff facing allegations of serious offences but very little action, and news of yet another trip for Rehman Chishti.
Red routes vs reality
They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and nowhere in Medway politics is that truer than within the ongoing debacle over red routes in Medway.
While these haven’t been hugely controversial across most of Medway as they largely impact fairly boring through roads, they have become something of a flashpoint in Rainham in particular.
To catch up on where we are, earlier in the year, Medway Council proposed introducing red routes in three locations across Medway. On putting it to consultation, the results were mixed with small majorities opposing each location, but a majority of sites were supported when asking residents who actually live nearby. The Conservative opposition saw an opportunity to oppose the Rainham one, and since then, local Facebook groups have been losing their mind about how this is all just the first step toward some kind of Medway ULEZ and that the World Health Organisation is going to control us all. Yes, really.
This week, a new petition was launched to oppose red routes across all of Medway, with campaigners targeting Rainham residents with bizarre images like the one above showing massive (and weirdly low) cameras and strange red hatching that doesn’t exist anywhere. So far, with less than a week left to sign, the petition has been signed by 159 people or 0.06% of Medway’s population. A true populist uprising indeed.
The strangest part has been seeing a strange coalition of Conservatives and Greens coming together to oppose the scheme. The Medway Greens have been pushing the petition hard, taking the line that there is no factual basis for the air quality and congestion improvements that Medway Council claims will come from the scheme. On that front, they are right. It would perhaps be more honest for Medway Council to claim they need the revenue from fines from bad drivers, but it still feels like a strange world where the Greens are standing up for rule-breaking motorists.
As for the Conservatives, it’s hard to gauge what their position is from one week to the next. Originally being open to the scheme, they opposed the Rainham one while opposition leader Cllr Adrian Gulvin was honest in admitting they’d need the revenue from the others in the future. Yet this week he has signed the petition against all five Medway schemes, despite that not seemingly being the official line of his group.
There is much to fairly criticise about how Medway Council have attempted to introduce the red route scheme, from questionable claims of benefits to massaging figures to get desired consultation responses. But equally, it’s a few cameras that will fine motorists who break the law, nothing more, nothing less. Whether it’s worth this much debate and consternation is another matter entirely.
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Kent Police’s multiple bad apples
Depressing statistics have been uncovered by an ITV Meridian investigation looking at the level of misconduct by police officers and staff.
The data found 70 allegations against 74 active police officers since 2017, including 19 allegations of rape and 47 allegations of sexual assault, the vast majority of which saw no criminal action taken. Indeed, only five faced a charge, while one was cautioned and 14 remain under investigation.
Most horrifyingly, the data reveal that one officer received a “final written warning” over an allegation of sexual assault. It’s hard to imagine many jobs where sexual assault can result in a written warning and no loss of job or criminal charge, but that’s how things roll at Kent Police it seems.
Four more staff members at Kent Police who are not officers also received a formal warning for sexual assault, and multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault toward non-frontline Kent Police staff resulted in no further action.
All in all, 92 Kent Police officers and staff faced serious allegations, a depressingly high figure for an organisation that is supposed to protect people from crime.
The article on ITV’s website features a properly probing interview by journalist Joe Coshan, who challenges Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to explain exactly how these things can be acceptable. Scott is unable to offer more than vague and evasive answers. Scott usually comes off fairly well in interviews but this is not his best moment.
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Another trip for Rehman Chishti (yes, again)
Another week, another foreign-funded trip for Rehman Chishti. It’s getting difficult to keep track of all of them, and we reported on two others only a fortnight ago.
The latest update to the register of interests for the Gillingham and Rainham MP reveals a trip last month to Saudi Arabia funded by the Muslim World League to give a lecture and some meetings. The entire jaunt was over five days and resulted in a travel, accommodation, and hospitality value of over £6,000.
It’s the latest in a long line of foreign-funded trips for the MP and brings his travel to seven weeks of trips with hospitality valued at over £40,000 during 2023 alone.
With a General Election on the horizon, it is not unreasonable just how much of an eye Chishti has on his constituency and how much he’s laying the groundwork for future employment opportunities.
Rochester takes The Crown
Back in April, we reported that Netflix series The Crown was shooting scenes on Rochester High Street, and with the latest batch of episodes of the series being released, we can see the town in all its glory.
Series 6, episode 10 of the series, the very last episode, sees Rochester standing in for Windsor and the location of Charles and Camilla’s wedding. In a nice touch, the scene focuses on them arriving at Rochester’s Guildhall, so who says these people don’t care about the details?
The scene is a very brief affair, with little of the High Street being scene, which does make one wonder why they went to the detail of changing all of the shop signs (except Baggins, for some reason) when you can’t see most of them on screen anyway. Amusingly, they even went to the effort of digitally removing Pizza Express’ sign, but it’s rather more understandable why a series with a royal connection might want to avoid that particular brand.
Still, it’s another nice moment for Medway and its thriving role as a film and television production location. What will we feature in next?
🗣️ Local Democracy Reporter Robert Boddy has interviewed new Labour councillor for Gillingham North Douglas Hamandishe.
🌳 £320,000 is set to be spent improving Town Hall Gardens in Chatham after Medway Development Company found the money down the back of a sofa. The company tried to claim they couldn’t afford such things despite agreeing as part of planning permission for the Garrison Point development.
💷 National Lottery money is set to bring the former waterworks and mortuary building at the rear of St. Barts Hospital back into use. Details are vague as to how they will be used but involve some kind of ‘community space’.
🎾 Medway’s first padel tennis courts are set to open within the former Machine Shop No 5 structure at Chatham Dockside. The building will house ten courts and two restaurants.
♟️ The government is giving Medway Council £5,000 to install a grand total of two (2) chess tables in parks. One will be placed in Gillingham Park and another on Jacksons’ Field, but you’ll need to bring your own chess set.
🚨 Nucleus Cafe in Rainham has had one of their nutcracker statues stolen. Two people on a motorbike made off with the 40kg statue in broad daylight.
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