John's Jottings for February 2004

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.


One of the delights of our success at last may's local elections was the chance it has given me to take our new member under my wing. Now, more than 9 months later, I can look back over this period with fondness.

Actually, the term "new member" needs qualifiacation, as Nick Brice, our third Rochester South & Horsted member was a councillor on Ashford Council quite a few years before either Ron Hewett or I first stood for election in May 2000!

He has considerable experience of politics, both on and off councils, and is an accountant by profession so has naturally gravitated towards the financial management side of our council here in Medway. Nick and Ron leafleting

Ashford's loss has quite clearly been our gain.

Since last May I have been coaching Nick on how things work in a twenty-first century unitary council, which is considerably different from how a district council functioned back when Nick was at Ashford. For one thing, the sheer weight of regulations has frankly astonished him. Nick with car

As we know, the bulk of this has come about during the past half-dozen or so years—it tends to go with any socialist-style government, and Nick himself has often commented to me about the centralisation, regulation, high taxation and profligate spending that we see at national level in Britain today, despite the Blair government's attempts to camouflage themselves as a more Conservative-like outfit. Few people are still fooled by that!

The other updating exercise has been showing Nick all the areas of work that a unitary authority does, but which in the days of Ashford would have been done by the County Council. Here in Medway we do (almost) the lot! Phone booth

As Nick says, he is not traditionally a "kerbstones and paving slabs" kind of councillor, but the rich variety of issues that have affected us during the past three-quarters of a year have included all manner of street scene topics, education matters, planning applications and appeals, snd touring such facilities as schools and day centres. Inspecting paths and roads, and even public telephones, has become a way of life for Nick, and—he confides to me—he is surprised at just how much he is enjoying all of it... Pavement

There has been considerable scope for this in the new parts of our ward that were formerly covered by other political groups. They certainly didn't look after their residents the way we did in, say, Horsted and we have found ourselves putting a lot right in those areas.

The three of us in the ward all get along so very well together, we really do gell as a team, and we get on well with other members of the council (including several opposition members, interestingly) and with the public. Having Nick join us has upped us another level, building on all we hd done in the previous years, and I for one look forward to a long and successful future.

Next time: Will local government remain truly local?