By Canterbury Labour Group / Latest News / 0 Comments

FRED WHITEMORE, former Lord Mayor of Canterbury and a major driver in the transformation of Labour politics in Canterbury, has died peacefully on New Year’s Day at the age of 79.

He read politics at Worcester and Nuffield Colleges Oxford, and then lived in Northgate, and later Oaten Hill, Canterbury, for many years.

 When Fred Whitemore arrived at the newly opened University of Kent in Autumn 1965, Canterbury gained a significant advocate for the City, and over many years an assiduous and skilled public representative with the patience and presence of mind to build alliances and to argue strongly for the policies he believed in. Appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in Politics, specialising in the British Labour Movement, he immediately became the “Senior Member” for the newly formed University Labour Club and a key figure in the development of the Canterbury Labour Party. Prior to 1965, Labour’s electoral performance in the City had been dire. In all the 120 annual ward contests for the old County Borough between 1945 and 1965, Labour nominees had been elected on only 5 occasions. The local City Party was very small, and the Constituency Party almost moribund.

However, the creation of the University began a long period of revival which transformed its membership and leadership, leading to outright control of the Council in 1972 with Labour candidates being elected for every seat. In this long-term transformation of local politics, Fred Whitemore was key. In effect he created the local political leadership that had been lacking and brought sophisticated campaigning to the City, which culminated in the election of Rosie Duffield to the House of Commons in 2017 in a seat that had been consistently Tory since 1868. He wanted an end to the dominance of what he called the local shopocracy and a voice for the marginalised and forgotten families, many of them on housing waiting lists.

Elected for the first time in 1972 in what was then Dane John Ward, he was the longest serving Labour Councillor in Canterbury history, becoming at various times Deputy Leader and then Leader of the Labour Group, Chair of the Housing Committee, and Parliamentary Candidate in the 1992 General Election. An early victory was the use of major 1940s prefab housing sites at Downs Road and Thanington for new social housing, in preference to the private housing that had been planned there by the outgoing Conservative Council. Fred advocated the creation of the Northgate Community Centre to support one of the most deprived areas in the City, and was an early activist in the Scrine Foundation, a homeless persons Charity and the forerunner of what is now Porchlight.

Becoming Lord Mayor of the wider Canterbury District in 2001 during the period of Lib Dem and Labour control of the Council, he immediately opened Tower House to the public, transforming it from being the Mayor’s Parlour to a venue that could be used by all. During this period he pressed the Council to purchase the Ridlands Farm site with the objective of it being used for social housing – and this is part of the land that may now form the core of the proposed new hospital for Canterbury.

After losing his Council seat in 2007 Fred became one of the first lay members of the Cathedral Chapter, and was influential in opening job appointments to advertisement. He also became a Cathedral Guide and enjoyed imparting his deep knowledge of the history of the Cathedral to visitors. As an academic, Fred was a fine teacher, a long term supporter of students, active in changing individual lives for the better, and was Chair of the University Politics Board for several years. Fred Whitemore has had a significant impact on local politics and has influenced major policy developments in the City for nearly 50 years, as a Councillor, civic activist, community campaigner, and as a lay member of Chapter.

By Councillor Alan Baldock / Housing / 0 Comments

A council has overspent by more than £1 million turning student flats into homes for desperate families – sparking accusations it has “made a dog’s breakfast” of the scheme.

In a deal worth £23 million, Canterbury City Council purchased 44 properties in the Parham Road complex in July 2018.But the refurbishment of the former student accommodation has been plagued by a number of stumbling blocks and left a bigger hole in council coffers than originally planned.

Documents reveal work to overhaul “unforeseen” leaky roofs and insufficient fire cladding has resulted in a predicted £1,084,000 overspend Despite the increased costs, the council is adamant it does not regret the costly purchase and says the lives of 61 families will be transformed as a result. But opposition leader Cllr Alan Baldock (Lab) has been left stunned by the seven-figure overspend.

“I’m honestly shocked and staggered,” he said. ““They paid top dollar for the properties anyway and an extra £1 million is just huge”

“The whole housing revenue account is a dog’s breakfast. This scheme was meant to be the jewel in the crown but this overspend is taking away refurbishment money from other properties in desperate need.

“It’s mismanagement – this is absolutely not good value for money. The cheapest way to get more social housing is to build your own, but instead they bought these properties, which worked out at above £200,000 per property. “The public is meant to trust this council with their money and they clearly can’t manage to keep this simple project on budget.” After purchasing the former student flats, the council uncovered design flaws in the roof construction and discovered the rafters were water-damaged.

The authority says building surveys were carried out prior to the acquisition, but water staining to the ceilings was not noted and close inspections were not conducted. During the investigation to try and ascertain where rainwater was entering the roof in Albert Mews, external cladding was removed and it was established there were no fire stops in the cladding.

It was therefore agreed additional work was required to protect the safety of future tenants. A report compiled by council officers says the problems would have been very difficult to spot even if more checks were made.

“It is important to note that an intrusive inspection of the cladding prior to acquisition would have been extremely unlikely,” it says.