Cllr Alan Jarrett is the Leader of Medway Council.
This is the year that Medway Council celebrates its 20th year since vesting as a new unitary authority on 1st April, 1998. Despite a brief period for the first two years, Medway has thankfully been under Conservative control ever since.
This in itself was a remarkable turnaround from the days when Rochester and Gillingham councils had returned only two Conservatives between them at the previous election. From the 80 members of the new Council, Conservatives returned 19.
It has been a success story of a Conservative Group in touch with the people of Medway winning five successive elections. And with an increased majority on each occasion, until today with a 55 member Council we Conservatives hold 37 seats.
Success has been derived by fighting successive elections based on what Medway people want most – top class front-line services focussing on weekly waste and recycling collections, clean streets, feeling safe at night, and a green environment with 50 per cent of Medway being countryside.
Education has been important in Medway. We remain one of the few areas in the country to retain its grammar schools. The education success story does not stop there. We Conservatives have brought four universities, the largest college in the county, and a University Technical College to Medway. Today over 12,000 students attend our four universities.
Giving value for money is crucial if a Conservative Council is have credibility with the electorate. Today Medway continues to boast the lowest council tax in Kent, and by a significant margin.
Medway adopted the telling strapline “Serving You”. The other powerful strapline being used is “Rich Heritage Great Future”. It is how we bring those two elements together which makes Medway such a special and thriving place, being the largest conurbation in the South-east outside of London.
On the one hand Medway has one of the two oldest cathedrals in the country – founded in 604 AD – together with the country’s best preserved 12th century Norman Keep at its castle. And for the future we have ambitious plans, growing Medway’s population to 300,000 by 2035 to become a 21st century waterfront university city.
Regeneration is a key plank in Medway’s changing story, revitalising often derelict waterfronts along the River Medway at Gillingham, Chatham, Rochester, and Strood. Providing residential and employment opportunities on sought-after sites. Some of this has been carried out on council land, others by partners. Partnership working characterises the ethos of this Conservative Council as it searches for greater innovation in building a better future for those who live here.
A Local Government Association Peer Challenge found that Medway has ‘strong leadership’, ‘excellent partnership working’ and a ‘monumental regeneration programme’. There can be few better endorsements for what a Conservative Council brings to the people of Medway.
We go to the polls again in all-out elections in 2019. Medway will have a choice between a Conservative Council that delivers hope for the future whilst respecting and celebrating our past, and a Labour opposition that brings nothing but negativity and despair.