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.  
By Councillor Chris Cornell / Latest News / 0 Comments

The sudden u-turn by this government to not send kids back to school in January may have come as a relief to many, but it has also exposed the digital poverty at the heart of our local communities.

A survey for the Daily Mail shows that one third of families are struggling with home schooling because they simply do not have enough computers for their children. Four in ten parents surveyed said that they can’t afford the new kit needed to run modern online teaching platforms.

In Kent, Kent County Council has distributed 2,950 laptops and wifi dongles over the past ten months, an average of only 3.1 pieces of kit per school.

With this in mind, Gorrell Councillor Chris Cornell and his wife Charlotte set up Top Up To Teach to collect up, recondition and distribute old laptops people had lying around to those who needed them most.

In little over a month they have recruited a small team of twelve volunteers, raised in excess of £2,500 to have the laptops reconditioned and provided over 170 internet ready devices to individuals or schools in the area.

“I know first hand how hard it is to teach more than one child at home during lockdown” said Charlotte. “With lots of my friends only having on device and two or three children, it became clear that one child was always missing out. That didn’t seem fair and we knew we needed to do something”.

“Some of the cases are desperately sad” said Councillor Cornell, himself a governor at large state primary school in Swalecliffe. “We’ve had families of six learning trying to learn on one broken smart phone, children with no recourse to public funds who are simply too scared to ask for help and deaf students who can’t understand their teachers signing because the screen their screen is too small. These laptops are often the only way a child can stay stay engaged with their friends and the outside world at a time children’s mental health is hugely under strain”.

“The community response has been amazing” said Charlotte “but in 21st Century Britain our children should be provided for”.

Rather surprisingly, demand has however been largest from state primary schools who are on average between 15-20 laptops short and report that planned government support hasn’t materialised. Staff have also reported that they have a growing number of children meeting the criteria through patently unemployment who they just can’t put forward for help because the government support scheme has now closed.

In Canterbury District the charity has provided over 20 PC’s each to family support workers at Joy Lane in Seasalter, Blean and St Johns Primary School in Northgate. This work has only been possible through the technical support often provided for free or at cost by Poorly PC’s in Chestfield, SOS Technical in Faversham, GP PC‘s in Tankerton and the Blagden Apple Consultancy in Seasalter.

If you have any spare equipment or free cash you think you can donate please contact Top Up to Teach at

Detail of some of the families helped is available in this Kent Messenger Article.


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.