Gravesham is a real success story of how a newly elected Conservative administration (elected in May 2007 after 13 years of Labour mediocrity) has transformed the Borough and the Council in just four years.
Labour had lost control of the finances ( no monitoring, and a misjudged capital project to revamp the Civic Centre which absorbed all available cash)- effectively a “scorched earth" policy which left absolute minimum reserves and a Capital fund debt after stripping out non-existent future capital receipts.
A process of senior staff changes, rigorous financial budgeting and monthly monitoring- allied to asset sales at top end of the market, VAT reclaims etc , – has not only rebuilt the Reserves but enabled investment in community based projects such Leisure Centre Investment ( £1m plus), securing the Local Football Club’s future by buying their ground (£500,000), Riverside Regeneration, Youngsters play facilities etc etc We have just produced a four year budget/financial plan- which absorbs “cuts” of £2.6m over the period , no Council Tax increase next year, no reductions in front line services, no redundancy programme (staff reductions by natural wastage), and an emphasis on shared services- including a shared Chief Executive ( which the Labour opposition voted against).
We are part of the Thames Gateway Regeneration area, and are pushing forward with regeneration projects within the Town Centre and on the Riverside, including joint projects with Conservative Kent County Council ( a new library, a Cyclopark, a Gateway in the Civic Centre).
We have focussed on our Youth, and the Elderly/Third Sector (new Cabinet positions for both of these), we have developed a new relationship with local business (successful Business Breakfasts with free Saturday Parking to encourage town centre retailers), formed Neighbourhood Forums with KCC-matching their Grant cash for local causes, and developed a Residents’ Panel who give advice on Council Budgets etc.
We have retained our housing stock ( 6000 plus) and invested in such, have instigated a lettings policy of “ Local Homes for Local People, and have started building our own Council homes again
We have restored pride in our Town and community by bringing back superb Christmas lights (abolished by Labour) – and instigated a St Georges’ Day Parade which involves our school children – including the 12% Sikh community
Our Election Campaign Themes are “ Keeping our Promises” ( we have fulfilled our manifesto commitments)- “Competence” and we have a new manifesto ( yet to be announced ) which has commitments to both routine but important issues such as maintaining weekly rubbish collection, retaining free popular events such as our “ Big day Out” in the summer, and also exciting new community based capital projects.
We have a commitment to capitalise on the 2012 Olympics (with a High Speed Train connection to the Stratford stadium- 12 minutes).- leaving a legacy for our businesses and our children.
In short – we are a successful Conservative Administration determined to be re-elected on our record and to carry on serving our community.