- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: Latest News
If you’re looking for new ideas to invigorate the local Council in Canterbury, it’s the Labour Party that seems to have them.While the Tories simply vote through everything that is put in front of them and the LibDems vacillate between abstaining and grandstanding on parish-pump issues, Labour Councillors have been consistently on the front foot, pushing for real change and holding the ruling Tory group to account.
Last week’s COVID-Emergency meeting was not exception. Due to our hard work we managed to make the council:
- Acknowledge a difference between what the government believes is affordable housing and what you and me do. Last September the Labour Group proposed that the council adopt a new definition of affordable housing – scoring is as a percentage of someones total income rather than a fixed sum. There was some sympathy for the problem but the council voted not to change its definition. Since then Kent County Council has launched a working group on this issue and decided to actively lobby the government to change its definition. Canterbury has some of the highest house prices in the county and the lowest wages. Last week whilst the council declined to actually ask you, the people, what you thought was an ‘affordable house’ they at least agreed to come clean about what they were defining one as (i.e. something 80% of market rate).
- Specifically make reference to social housing in its Local Plan. During the discussion, councillors of all political parties, discussed how the last Corporate Plan disenfranchised many councillors and was rightly criticised for not including a specific reference to social housing. This time it will.
- Prepare papers on the establishment of a dedicated Housing Committee when the council retakes back control of its housing stock. The cross party group overseeing the return of some 5,500 homes from East Kent Homes to the council has been widely supported but calls for a dedicated Housing Committee which tenants and tenants groups would be able to publicly petition and ask questions of have been ignored. Returning our housing stock represents a significant risk and with an operation in excess of £25m a year, deserves its have its own committee.
Over the last month we’ve also asked the council to:
- Ending special extra allowances paid to Tory Councillors for chairing committees which aren’t meeting
- Providing a guarantee of funding to help house street homeless people and get them specialist care and support
- Reorganising finances to improve flexibility of funding during the Covid19 pandemic
Earlier in the year, before the crisis unfolded, Labour also insisted that the Council Leader write to Government to call for more money to be provided to support the vital services which are needed locally but which are under threat due to 10 years of funding cuts which have seen a decline in the Council budget of almost 50%. So far we are the only party to unilaterally surrender out the £1000 allocated to each councillor through the Members Opportunities Fund to help the council in its fight against the pandemic.
During the meeting we asked the council to consider accessibility and ensure that the documents it is consulting on are available in other languages and to those people without internet access. Councillor Mel Dawkins, who is herself hearing impaired, ended the meeting by asking whether the council would consider signing council meetings that are broadcast online.
Labour believes that Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and the villages deserve much better services than they are getting from this Council under the Tories. By continually pushing for reasonable actions to deliver real change, Labour is showing that it is responsible but committed to change.