The Tories are losing a few councillors this time around including Nick Green in St Ann’s and Abbey Ward’s long-standing Swale and Town councillor Bryan Mulhern. After turning up to only five of the 18 meetings he was expected at over the last year, coun Mulhern has decided to wind down his attendance to zero. And after many years as a Conservative Swale and Faversham councillor in Abbey Ward, Anita Walker has gone Independent.
Mayor Trevor Abram is stepping down from Faversham Town Council, as is Ted Wilcox. And coun Shiel Campbell, who proposed the controversial purchase of 12 Market Place on a 50-year £2.6 million mortgage, is not seeking re-election... the civic equivalent of maxing out the company credit card and jumping on the next flight to Rio.
With the notable exception of coun Peter Flower, none of the Conservative candidates responded to our request for information about their local election campaigns.
So...much as we would like to tell you about the party’s new candidates and their plans for the town, we can’t.
Instead, we’re examining some of the party’s election leaflets. Local Tory bumf promises an ‘honest and sincere election campaign’, vowing not to ‘produce incorrect or misleading material, falsely lay claim to achievements made by others or use pictures in such a way as to take credit for things we have not done’.
Judged by these entirely reasonable criteria, how well does the Conservative campaign literature stand up to scrutiny?
Well... not well. Their St Ann’s ward flyer alone makes a number of extremely tenuous attempts to take credit for all sorts of community initiatives, from the laudable 20’s Plenty Campaign to the achievements of the Friends of the Westbrook Stream.
The party’s other extraordinary claims include:
...providing £100,000 per annum funding for Faversham pools.
Two years ago Swale Tory councillors including Nigel Kay voted for £100,000 funding for Faversham’s pools; far less than Swale spends on its other swimming pools in Sittingbourne and Sheppey – they get around half a million pounds a year each. Swale did grant £150,000 two years for much needed refurbishment while Sittingbourne and Sheppey pools have been given £1 million each. More spending is desperately needed for Faversham pools’ ageing boilers. The town’s busiest summer attraction by far, the pools attract more than 213,000 visits every season. Yet they have been chronically underfunded for many years by Tory-controlled Swale council. A Lib Dem proposal for £1 million to be spent on Faversham swimming pool was voted down by Conservatives in February 2019.
...upgrades to children’s play areas go ahead.
Opposition Labour councillors proposed to use some of Swale Borough Council’s £20 million reserves to renovate local play parks. Local Tory councillors blocked the scheme from 2013 until last year. Despite what’s printed on their election leaflets, the new play equipment outside Faversham pools was not paid for by the Conservatives but by the Rotary Club which raised £10,000 and Swale Borough Council which funded the remaining £40,000.
...only 17 percent of Swale housing to be built in Faversham.
That may be true, But what about the explosion of housing estates destroying farmland all around the town which will double Faversham’s population, stretching infrastructure and services to breaking point while creating vast profits for property developers? Are they what the town wanted or needed? Which party’s politicians signed those off? We’ll be reporting in-depth on these developments and their likely effects on the town in our next issue in June.
...maintain £200,000 commitment to help fund a new Creek opening bridge and press KCC to expedite the project.
In other words Swale Tory councillors promise not break their promise to pay their fair share of the bridge costs. Very admirable. And as for ‘pressing KCC’ on the bridge... After years of lamentable inaction from Tory-controlled Swale and Faversham councils, the only reason there’s any new progress at all is due to pressure from by KCC leader Paul Carter. And then only as the result of years of tireless campaigning by townspeople.
For decades, Conservative Swale and Town councillors have presided over the stagnation of Faversham Creek, including the loss the busy traditional boatyard at Standard Quay – of one of Britain’s few remaining centres for historic shipbuilding – to developers. And despite a great deal of talk and money spent on consultants, the swing bridge has not opened one inch.
...delivered greater action on crime and anti-social behaviour.
Really? How often do you see police officers patrolling Faversham’s problem areas like the rec? Are you personally witnessing or hearing about more, or less, anti-social behaviour in the town? Reported crime increased by a third last year in Kent, against the backdrop of a 15% fall in Kent police numbers over the last 10 years.
...press for improved local NHS services including the Cottage Hospital
Last month we reported how councillor David Simmons, chairman of the Friends of the Faversham Cottage Hospital, gave £5,000 from the charity’s trustees coffers – more than a year’s fundraising for for the hospital – to councillor Mike Cosgrove’s unpopular war memorial project. Both conservatives. How did that improve services exactly?
“...the Town Council’s decision to save £700,000 in rent by buying 12 Market Place.”
As reported previously in The Faversham Eye, Faversham Town Council’s purchase of the former Stead and Simpson shoe shop is a catastrophic waste of public money.
Faversham’s most expensive white elephant, this undemocratic folly deprives the town of around £70,000 every year that should be spent on our underfunded public services.
Conservatives’ highly misleading claim that it saves £700,000 in rent omits to mention the £2.6 million debt which will take the towns’ taxpayers 50 years to clear. The truth is the shoe shop’s ever-increasing costs will burden Faversham long after the councillors who created the mess have gone.
...reducing our carbon footprint.
A proposal to install on-street electric car charging points in Faversham would have been a worthwhile step towards lower carbon emissions, and cost-effective with Government grants available to cover 75 percent of the cost. Unfortunately the Conservatives voted out the £50,000 initiative.
Meanwhile air quality on the A2 at Ospringe has steadily declined on the Conservatives’ watch. It’s now the worst in Swale, with pollution at three times the EU’s legal limits and dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide.
...continued support to local groups, including £133,000 a year Citizens’ Advice, Swale.
In February this year, Swale Conservatives voted against what would have been an inflation-matching rise in SBC’s grant to the service, throwing out a proposal to increase the £133,430 annual payment to Swale Citizens Advice Bureau by £40,000.
AN HONEST AND SINCERE ELECTION CAMPAIGNLocal government elections take place next May and we are fervent in our wish to keep Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council as the Conservative administrations that have brought growth and prosperity for the past 19 years. We will be earnest in trying to win your vote, including delivery newsletters and leaflets through your door, but please be assured at no time will we:
produce incorrect or misleading material
falsely lay claim to achievements made by others
use pictures in such a way as to take credit for things we have not done