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School buses fail to run on first day of school year
Plus red routes are happening whether you like it or not, and last call for Peninsula Question Time
Editor’s note: A fairly depressing headline story this week of an utter breakdown in communication between at least one local school, our main local bus operator, and the council which led to children being stranded at bus stops instead of making it to their first day of school. Further down we have the results of the red route consultation and the last call for tickets to our Peninsula Question Time event. On Sunday, we’ve got a big new interview with Medway Council Leader Vince Maple, where we ask him some very unexpected questions. The full thing will only be available to paid supporters, so please consider upgrading if you’d like to receive that.
School buses fail to run on first day of school year
As we reach the start of September, children start to go back to school. Most schools in Medway return this coming Monday, but at least one, St Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School (or Rochester Maths to you and me) decided to go back today for some reason. Quite why a school would think Friday is the right day to start term is for people smarter than me to ponder. But start they did.
The only problem with this is that Arriva, the operator of services to the school, isn’t introducing their school bus schedule until Monday. Worst of all, no one seems to have communicated with each other about this. Of course, chaos then ensued with children waiting at bus stops that never came and then having to find other ways to get to school on their first day of the year. Not great for anyone involved.
Parents, not unreasonably, assumed school buses would be running on a school day so sent their kids off as normal to get the bus. Posts on social media suggest Rochester Maths had informed Arriva what date the school would reopen. Arriva appears to have no answer other than responding to angry parents telling them the school buses will begin next week, on the second day of term.
As ever, all of this seems to be the result of a communication breakdown between essential public services. If schools are right and they informed Arriva of the term dates, Arriva have serious questions to answer about why the services didn’t run or at the very least why it wasn't communicated that they wouldn’t be. Equally, schools should have likely chased Arriva for confirmation of service if no word on services had been forthcoming. There’s an additional argument that Medway Council needs to play a role in facilitating communication given it impacts all areas of the towns and potentially represents a safeguarding risk.
This is the latest in a long line of issues from Arriva services in Medway. Passengers regularly complain about unreliable or completely absent services, with little to no communication from the company. Given Arriva is the sole operator for so many bus routes in Medway, passengers are forced to put up with a constantly declining service. At a certain point, something is going to have to change.
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People don’t want red routes, but they’re happening anyway
A few months ago, we wrote about Medway Council’s plan to introduce red routes across three areas of our towns. As part of these plans, a consultation period was launched to gauge reaction to the plans.
The results are in, and a vast majority of respondents don’t want the red routes introduced.
Medway Council intend to introduce them regardless.
In this new era of transparency, Medway Council have failed to produce the raw numbers from the consultation, instead providing the data for each location broken down into different groups such as those located near the site or those who responded to every site. It feels somewhat misleading to present the data this way, but even under this method, it’s clear that a majority are opposed to their introduction.
From our own crunching of the numbers, it appears that the overall opinion on the routes is opposed roughly 64% to 36% who are in favour.
It varies quite a bit across each site, with the A2 Rainham High Street zone receiving far more responses than any other both opposed and in favour. Interestingly, this is the one zone where the local MP got involved to bolster opposition.
The only way Medway Council have found a somewhat positive spin on the numbers is by looking at the responses for those who live within 1km of each site. On this metric, local residents do support three of the five sites, but how valid this is as a way to decide given the routes are used as significant local roads for people travelling through is questionable.
It isn’t unusual for a consultation to be launched and for the thing being consulted on to be implemented even if people are opposed. Indeed, it’s necessary in many cases where statutory consultations are required, consultations don’t always represent the entire local population, and people don’t always vote in their own interests.
From the first announcement, it was inevitable that the red routes were coming, and the net result of the consultation is an agreement for a few off-peak loading bays to support local businesses. It was never really an option that the plan would be abandoned, despite its seeming pointlessness on a number of the streets involved.
The questionable bit here is the process. The new Labour administration swept in on a promise of doing things better and more openly, but presenting the figures like this to massage what little support there is to look bigger than the reality feels like business as usual.
Last call for Peninsula Question Time
Our next Medway Question Time event is coming up soon, where we’ll be discussing the big issues facing the Hoo Peninsula.
This Wednesday (6 September), we’ll be at the Hoo Village Institute with a panel of peninsula and Medway figures answering questions on the current and future state of the area.
Our panel for this event includes:
Cllr Simon Curry, Medway Council Porfolio Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration
Cllr Michael Pearce, Deputy Leader of the Independent Group and Medway councillor for Hoo St Werburgh and High Halstow
Cllr Chris Spalding, independent councillor for All Saints
Carl Guerin-Hassett, Principal of Hundred of Hoo Academy
As always, these events are free, but please book a ticket if you intend to join us so we have an idea of how many are coming. By booking a ticket, you’ll also have an opportunity to submit a question that might be tackled by the panel on the night. We can’t guarantee we’ll ask them all but we’ll get through as many as we can.
We hope you’ll be able to join us on Wednesday, and please do share details with your friends and enemies on the Hoo Peninsula.
You can find out more about the event and book tickets on our Eventbrite page.
📰 The Medway Messenger’s new Local Democracy Reporter has interviewed Medway Council Leader Vince Maple to mark his 100 days in office, in a move that definitely doesn’t undercut any other outlets publishing a similar thing in a couple of days.
🖌️ Graffiti has been left on a wall at Rochester Castle. The heinous crime involved a drawing of a duck and the word ‘quack’.
🍺 KentOnline’s Secret Drinker has been to review The Nags Head in Rochester. They have some nice things to say about it too.
Paid supporters of Local Authority receive extra editions of the newsletter every week. This week, Steven interviewed the founder of Future Medway, George Atzev, about urban design and regeneration in Medway, and we published our monthly event guide with an extensive lineup of interesting events happening in September.
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Tomorrow (Saturday 2 September), we’ll be at the Art Flea Fair at Sun Pier House, where we’ll be selling items from our Medwayish range, including quite a few things that aren’t available on the online store yet. Lots of other great traders will also be there, and we’ll also have Local Authority subscription discounts, so please do come and say hi if you’re in the area!