Local businesses have today answered the call of local councillor Chris Cornell to display the rainbow flag as part of National Pride Month. Several local residents have recently contacted local councillors about a disturbing rise in transphobic graffiti across the town and after ensuring it is removed this new initiative was designed to remind people of how inclusive our town is.
Councillor Val Kenny described how the new flags being displayed at Kent Fire & Rescue, Whitstable Labour Club, Whitstable Library, the Umbrella Centre, Horsebridge, RNLI and Whitstable Yacht Club brought a “smile to her face” when they went up. “That people should feel uncomfortable walking around our town because of their sexuality is entirely wrong” she said “the flags remind me that the idiots behind the recent graffiti are just a small minority”.
Chris said “flags and flagpoles often make people deeply uncomfortable but if the call to take part generated any sort of conversation amongst local organisations about the efforts that they make to be inclusive of the LGBTQI community, then the initiative was worth it”.
St Alphege Church and the LGBTQ youth group at Whitstable Youth Club are also taking part by preparing window displays on diversity. Dawn Ledingham who runs the Youth Group said it was “great to see the community coming together to support equality and diversity in this way.”
Next year councillors are to formally lobby the Council to display a Pride Flag on Tankerton Slopes much like the one they fly over Westgate Towers every year.
Back in 2020 a group of local mums approached Gorrell councillor Chris Cornell about their wish to improve Cornwallis Circle Play Ground. After several meetings with officers and a pause for COVID, the Cornwallis Circle Improvement Group was launched. The Improvement Group is a Community Interest Company made up of local parents and residents who hope to fundraise for a more extensive redvelopment of the play park than the council can currently afford.
This morning, Councillors Val Kenny and Chris Cornell hand delivered 500 letters to surrounding roads asking residents for their opinions on whether the council should either invest £25,000 in patching up the tired play equipment or give local parents the chance to raise in excess of £50,000 and introduce more accessible and imaginative play solutions. The consultation is open for a month and available online via the council website.
Nicola May, one of the directors of the CIC who lives in Anthony Close, and is pictured right with her children Pippa (4) and Kara (2 months) said, “during lockdown it was really hard to have our parks out of bounds. Cornwallis Circle could be so much better with a little more money and imagination. The councillors have been a great help in us being able to bring our ideas forward and securing money for the space. We really hope the local community can get behind us on this one and we get the playground Whitstable deserves.
“Whitstable’s play parks are pretty poor compared to Toddlers Cove or Reculver” said Cllr Cornell “and over the last couple of years we’ve been starved of resources. It’s wonderful that local parents are so invested in wanting to improve Cornwallis Circle and that we can find a way to help. The £25,000 pledged the council will go a huge way but we believe the play equipment needs a complete overhaul rather than just being patched up. We’ll be supporting the Cornwallis Circle Improvement Group with their community fundraising if the consultation goes their way”
Imogen Tinkler who lives in Cages Close and is pictured left with her daughter Xanthe is one of the local mums involved. “Having a play area within walking distance which ignites our children’s imagination would be great. Cornwallis Circle is a bit tired and one my child never wants to go to. I’d love to see more accessible play equipment, a mud kitchen, climbing wall and a zip line or something for the older ones.”
Reshuffles are in the news again and following last week’s elections it’s also change for Labour’s top team in Canterbury. After seven years as leader of the City Council’s Labour Group, Cllr Alan Baldock is stepping down, and Cllr Dave Wilson (Barton ward) has been elected to take over. Deputy Leader Jean Butcher has also stepped back, and the new Deputy is Cllr Valerie Kenny (Gorrell ward).
With the election of Pip Hazelton to Westgate ward, the Labour team is restored to 10 members, as it was before the untimely death of Gill Gower in February last year.
Speaking about his decision to step back, Alan Baldock said:
“I’m very proud of the dedicated group of councillors we have in Canterbury. After 7 years it is wonderful to return a Labour group of 10 councillors when I remember at one time there was only one. Last week’s election shows us that the Labour vote has been steadily increases in our district – Canterbury is no longer Conservative. I remain committed to delivering the Labour values of social justice, fairness and decency as part of a team of wonderfully skilled colleagues over the next couple of years.’
Dave Wilson thanked Alan for his efforts in guiding the 2019 intake of councillors and providing a continuous Labour voice on the city council during some difficult times.
Wilson condemned the Tory plan to abolish the current committee structure on the council which ensures the minority parties get a say in policy making.
He said: “This Council faces many challenges. We have a massive budget shortfall which has meant cuts in services but the Tory Leadership has decided now is the time for an unnecessary, time consuming and costly re-organisation of how the council is run. This is purely to give themselves more power and less public accountability.
“Labour will work with all opposed to this – residents’ associations, campaign groups and other political parties – to do everything we can to stop this power grab.
“We also make sure that the residents of Canterbury and central Whitstable do not have decisions imposed on them by Tory councillors from Herne Bay and rural seats who simply do not understand the needs of our City and town. The voters of Canterbury have overwhelmingly chosen to be represented by Labour at district and county levels, and their voices must be heard.”