20th June 2002
I was amused to read Cllr Derek Munton's letter in the 14th June "Messenger" in which he berates Cllr Les Wicks for not having been contacted in regard to a breach of conditions issue by a stall-holder at an event at Cozenton Park. This seems an odd way to look at something that was handled at Director level, no less, and the Director had not considered it necessary to contact the Portfolio Holder (Cllr Wicks).
If there is a problem with the present arrangements it stems from the recently-inflicted new political arrangements and the revised Constitution of Medway Council. All except the Labour group believe that the change to a Cabinet-based political management structure has reduced local democracy (and this belief is nation-wide) and the new Constitution has many flaws.
Delegated powers to Council Officers is one weakness, going back to the time when the unitary authority was created under the previous administration, and is thankfully now being tackled.
Therefore, do not blame the current (Conservative) administration for the numerous inadequacies and deficiencies in the way things operate at present: we are at least tackling then for the first time since the creation of the unitary Medway Council.
On the matter of the petition on the UNISON stall at Cozenton Park, it was a clearly-stated condition that no petition-signing was allowed on the stall, yet UNISON deliberately flouted that condition (which speaks volumes about the integrity, or lack of it, of that outfit) so were correctly required to cease that activity. Trying (as some Labour members have already done) to make out that this is some kind of "attack on free speech" is of course garbage, as this was exactly the same as the local authority covering Speakers' Corner preventing any soap-box activity at on a weekday: it's against the terms and conditions of use, and nothing to do with preventing free speech (obviously!)
To be even more clear on this: I am a Committee member of an organisation that operates a Community Centre—a "Hall for Hire". For good reasons we have terms and conditions of hire, and if a hirer breaches any of them, our Centre Manager first speaks to the hirer in an effort to remedy the situation, and if that fails he has the authority to put a halt to the event. This is standard practice anywhere.
I know what the Labour people are trying to do: just because it involved one of their Union friends they wish to overlook any bad behaviour on their part and support them no matter what they do, blaming any innocent party who gets in their way. You know it, I know it, and so do they: they're not that naive, so don't be fooled by any of their nonsense.
John M Ward — One of the two Councillors for Horsted Ward, Chatham.