By Councillor Chris Cornell / Latest News / 0 Comments

One year after going into lockdown Gorrell councillors have unveiled a COVID mural improve the local environment and help children reflect on lockdown and what it meant to them.

The mural was commissioned by Councillor Chris Cornell who work led a community fundraising effort to raise over £1000 and commission on a disused building at Westmeads Community Infant School. The building faces out onto Stream Walk, a popular footpath through town and was until recently just covered in graffiti tags. The children at the school were asked to submit designs for the work, reflecting on their year in lockdown and what it had meant to them.

The final work shows a young girl blowing bubbles. In each of the bubbles is the shimmer of a raibow and a scene suggested by the children. The scenes show homeschooling, clap for carers, a family playing on the beach and a child using his imagination as he pretends to be an airline pilot.

Morag Warren, Chair of Whitstable Labour Party and a mum at the school said  ‘We love it! The art has really brightened up our walk to school and Flora loves looking at the bubbles and remembering her own lockdown fun.

The work was carried out by local artist Sam Giles who was praised by Kate Gowing, Acting Head of Westmeads, “It looks amazing. I love that Sam took the ideas of the kids but moved it on, in a subtle way! The family connection and the very important inclusion of play are both key elements of the lockdowns”.

“This year has shown how our community can come together in a crisis” said Councillor Chris Cornell .”One year on from lockdown I felt it was important to mark what a difficult year it had been and the challenges we have overcome. Seeing lockdown through the eyes of children puts much of it into perspective.”

“Grafitti in this area has long been a problem. It is nice to find such an uplifting solution.” In 2020 Labour councillors fought unsuccessfully to see graffiti permission walls set up across the district but did see the council agree to a policy statement which would allow commissioned walls to improve problem areas.

By Councillor Dave Wilson / Latest News / 0 Comments

Why are they behaving like a tinpot dictatorship rather than a properly accountable democratically elected body?

Well Covid has been their excuse, but the real reason is much deeper than that. Early in the pandemic they began centralising decision making and delegating powers to officers and committee chairs – even while the committees weren’t meeting. Meetings which did take place were minimised and decisions pushed through

Then they decided to scrap the Area Forums, one of the few conduits for open engagement between residents and Councillors, and the only area-specific bodies the Council had.

Then they decided to get rid of “lead members” for key services, thereby preventing other political parties from appointing their shadows. The Conservative Leader has refused to hold meetings with the other party leaders without his deputy present, which is unprecedented.

And now they are proposing to eradicate two major Working Groups – for Climate Change and Housing – where the opposition parties have been fighting strongly for meaningful action. This is a terrible idea. Both groups are only part way through carrying out their duties. Climate Change in particular is barely at the start of a challenging programme to achieve net-zero emissions from council activities by 2030, with massive areas such as the work to achieve zero emissions from the housing estate, the vehicle fleet, flood management and trees strategy not even started. Housing only had a new remit agreed last December, which included monitoring and scrutinising the delivery of the new housing service being provided by CCC, monitoring health and safety compliance targets and checking that statutory obligations are met.

Additionally the group was to  oversee  housing finances to ensure best value for money and work on key policies and strategy for new housing service including issues such as the housing promise, tenant engagement and the role of the Tenant Consultative Group.

Labour had called for a stand-alone Housing Committee but the Tories said the Working Group was carrying out the role. Now they want to scrap it and thereby scrap the scrutiny of a service with a budget of over £32 million – a third of all Council spending – that affects 5,500 families.

But it is the Climate Change group abolition that is most unforgivable  This comes less than two years after the Tories were forced by Labour to declare a Climate Emergency and set a zero emissions target of 2030 for its own activities. Instead of regular meetings to review progress and discuss options and developments, making informed recommendations on policies, there will be “regular Councillor briefings”. 

In effect, all routes to background information and to influence decisions in these critical areas will be taken away from opposition Councillors, and, at best, taken by officers and then pushed through committees on a whipped vote.

That’s not effective scrutiny. It’s not collaborative decision making. It’s not saving any costs. It’s not even the best way to access expertise across the whole Council.

But it does give the Tory leadership a firm grip of what gets discussed, what gets exposed to public gaze, and what gets decided.

Which, you have to suspect, is the real reason for it.

By Councillor Mel Dawkins / Latest News / 0 Comments

Over the last few months,  it has become apparent that there are many more people skating in places that residents do not feel happy about, such as outside the Marlowe in Canterbury and multi-storey car parks.   The lockdown has made it clear that young people have had very few places to go to exercise, and enjoy pastimes outdoors away from an ever-growing online world.  

However, we can’t start criminalising young people for wanting to do an activity that is healthy and community led . More and more young people are on their digital devices, surely encouraging outdoor activity is a good thing!  

 Although these are not desirable and appropriate spaces for them to skate, it does highlight that there is a need for more free, well-designed, safe and inspiring places for skaters and young people to go and experience this outdoor pursuit. We can’t just keep moving them on and displacing them without a viable alternative.  

 The skatepark in Thanington,  Canterbury , is very old now and not looked after, it is slippery, small and unwelcoming and therefore would be amazing and constructive to have some more outdoor free spaces in Canterbury for skateboarders to go. These could be attached to already existing play areas and at not much cost or new even better places found. 

 Skating has shown to be a great way to engage and bring together young people, adults; from experts to beginners and it has been seen that the admiration, respect and etiquette for all skaters, is part of a wider culture and way of life.  

I believe it is important we take on skateboarding as part of our community and it is recognised for the respected sport it is.  

The Far Academy wishes to open an Olympic standard Skate Park in Canterbury which is an amazing opportunity for us as a district. Not only to help train young people to compete nationally, internationally and to put Canterbury district on the map as an Olympic standard, but to also give something wonderful back to the community. 

Support our young people to build confidence and self-esteem , to reach their potential and to be part of a thriving and exciting forward-thinking community. Canterbury City Council needs to embrace our skaters and skating community.     

On the 25th February, Councillor Mel Dawkins is proposing a motion asking 

  1. For a provision of a skate-park facilities to be embedded in this councils Open Space’s strategy, to be considered going forward and in the local plan.  
  2. For the council to actively seek suitable areas for skate-park facilities next to existing play parks and or adjacent play areas and new locations.  
  3. To commit to working closing with already existing providers such as the Far Academy to promote this established healthy , well-managed sport and culture.