My name is Jenny Hamilton and I live in Priory Ward on the North Preston Estate. I am 37 years old, married with three children one of whom attends the Abbey School, and my twin boys who go to Davington. I have a long history of volunteering in town and am currently the Red Box Project Co-ordinator and also sit on the steering group for the proposed new community centre on the North Preston Estate. I work for the NHS as the Chair of the East Kent Maternity Voices Partnership which aims to improve materniry care for all women and families in East Kent. I have been a long term active member of the Labour Party and I currently hold the roles of Women's Officer and Branch Secretary. I think there is huge potential to transform Faversham if councillors really care about the community they live in.
If an existing Councillor, what do you consider your best achievements in the last four years? N/A
What are voters’ main priorities in your ward? Priory Ward and especially the North Preston Estate has been chronically underfunded and neglected. Roads and pavements need repairing and replacing. Children’s Play areas need new equipment, one set of swings has been padlocked to the frame for 9 months now. Rubbish and litter on the estate has been a big problem that I am continuing to work with SBC on.
East Kent Recycling is an ongoing problem it means greater traffic mainly lorries and large vehicles which will mean more pollution and noise, and possibly a greater danger to the children crossing at Davington School. Pollutants are released into the air, we don’t know what are in these pollutants but we do know EKR dispose of building waste. EKR isn’t a recycling centre it’s a waste processing centre, waste is brought here to be sorted and shipped out again. There have been only 2 local jobs created and no less than 4 years of local protests against it from people in our town while members of Swale Borough Council and Faversham Town Council have not acted even when the owners have operated on parts of the site illegally. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have sat back and allowed the continued expansion of Faversham without any expansion of infrastructure to meet new demand. We already have some of the worst patient to GP ratios in country and this is set to get worse especially as it’s hard to recruit GP’s to this area. This growth in housing also doesn’t meet the need for truly affordable social housing. In January 2019 there was not one house of any kind which became available on the housing register that families could bid on. Invariably there are over 100 families bidding per house that becomes available. Under the Local Plan, developers must deliver a third of the number of units as affordable housing – homes for social rent, or part rent/ part buy. Persistently Swale Borough Council has allowed developers to reduce significantly that number when they submit a viability assessment – after planning permission has been granted. This is the case with the development at the old Nova site where there are only 12 affordable homes out of the 117 – marginally over 10%
Have current councillors have spent our money wisely since the last elections?
During the 18 months we have been canvassing and the regular market stalls we do we have listened to how unhappy people are about the way the council spends money. This is far more important that my own personal view as the council should be seeking public agreement about how it spends their money. There has been a string of issues with big decisions being made behind closed doors. 12 Market place is a huge financial commitment and is just and empty shop front for the council. It’s barely used and the money would have been better spent on town projects to engage the youth of Faversham, support allotments and support mental health work within the town amongst other things. The War memorial garden which personally I think is an eye sore compared to the lovely natural garden that was supported by the community previously was another decision that was made without consultation. Local councillors should be answerable to their constituents and big money decisions should be made in public with a high degree of transparency. That way Faversham becomes a better town for everybody to live in rather than the pet project of a few key players with a hidden agenda.
Is Faversham’s local government transparent enough? If not, how would you improve openness and accountability? By encouraging people to engage with their councillors and exploring having Town Hall style sessions where people can come and ask questions about everything from spending to voting on motions and expect full and frank answers. Labour believes that everyone has the right to understand what has happened in meetings and why, we are accountable to the people we represent. We hope that by being open and honest the distrust that has formed in local politics will slowly fade.
How would you develop opportunities for the town to draw on its heritage? I think Faversham is already quite good at this but I would encourage more intergenerational projects about Faversham history and heritage where community links can be made and fostered.
How should our creek be regenerated to boost local tourism whilst preserving its character and maritime heritage? I support the new opening bridge which will make accessing the basin easier and also provide a better link between the North Preston Estate and the Town centre. It’s important not to try and gentrify this area as can so often happen when people try and “preserve character”. Any regeneration must celebrate traditional industry and the heritage of local people.
How can local infrastructure (traffic, road network, shops, schools, medical facilities, social care, local law enforcement) cope with all the new residential developments without damaging the environment further? Unfortunately, at the moment it can’t, when current councillors have taken such a short-sighted view and not planned properly for expansion on this scale. It will now be a case of having to play catch up, hoping that current provision can expand. It’s vital that from now on all growth comes with a comprehensive plan for infrastructure expansion too.
What is your view on the proposed solar power station threatening Graveney Marshes?
We have an official objection submitted in with the Government Planning Officer. Only the Green party did the same. It’s entirely inappropriate, will destroy acres of wildlife rich marshland and pristine coastline for private industry to profit from. The construction alone will cause huge amounts of traffic and pollution through the area and it will be a blight on the entire region. Green energy should be welcomed, but solar panels can be put on large roofs and even houses in modern developments if they are really required in this quantity in our area, they shouldn’t be allowed to destroy our marshlands for profit.
What role do you think party politics should play in Local Government? I don’t think this question would have been asked 30 years ago it’s only very recently that party politics has become so contentious and seen as having a negative impact. My Grandfather was a Labour Councillor in Medway for many years he wasn’t expected to win his seat which had been a Conservative stronghold. He was a dockyard worker and local school governor. People voted for him because they knew him within his community his party had very little bearing and he won that seat to the amazement of all. I think it’s the ability to work for with a wide range of other people no matter what their party in the best interests of your community that is most important.
Are you a Freemason? Should members of such organisations standing for public office be required to declare their membership? No, I’m afraid they wouldn’t have me, not the right sex! I think councillors should be totally transparent I have absolutely no problem with the public knowing what other organisations I’m involved with. I’d say that if you’re not happy with that level of scrutiny you probably have something to hide and politics isn’t for you.
Are you in favour of increasing Swale Borough Council’s contribution to Faversham Swimming Pools? Is the current level of council funding for the facility adequate in your view? Yes, Clearly the funding isn’t adequate because some areas are looking quite shabby. As a mum of 3 children there are certainly not enough family changing rooms with only 2 being available at the moment. I also think that Faversham residents should not have to pay extra to use the pool in the summer peak times. We support the pool all year round and this should count for something.
Where do you stand on proposed cuts to Faversham Library’s opening hours? I strongly oppose them the Library should be available all day every day it has to meet the demand of a varied population. The computers provide a vital service for many especially benefit claimants who do not have home computer access. The services for children are vital to in still a love of reading from an early age which we know is a big indicator of future academic success. My colleague Julian Saunders started a non-political petition which was very strongly supported within Faversham to stop the cuts.
What more should be done for young people in the town?
West Faversham Community centre do a fantastic job with very little funding so this should be more widely supported. We also need to set up new youth projects across Faversham with experienced youth workers. We need to bring back community police officers who have a less imposing attitude to build relationships with the youth of Faversham. There needs to be some real joined up working in this area to stop the rise of antisocial behaviour.
What is your view on Swale Councillor Andrew Bowles’ retweet describing Islamophobic extremist ‘Tommy Robinson’ as a ‘patriot’. Was Bowles’ half-day social media training course and 13-day suspension from the Conservative party an adequate response? Obviously, his behaviour was not appropriate for someone in his position and shows a complete lack of awareness and judgement around the subject of Islamophobia and the far right. The social media training was clearly farcical and Cllr Bowles made light of this himself in a recent council meeting saying he couldn’t remember what he had learnt. The Conservatives have a national problem with Islamophobia which they are refusing to do anything about so this local reaction clearly mirrors that.
Are you happy with policing in the town? If not, how would you improve it and deal with crime and antisocial behaviour? We need to see more police officers more regularly as a preventative measure not simply after a crime has been committed. Antisocial behaviour comes from three main issues boredom, this can be dealt with using a multi-agency approach to youth work. Alcohol, this requires the engagement of local retailers and publicans in a long-term strategy to stop supply to those who are under age or misusing alcohol. The last one is drugs; the use of marijuana is wide spread in Faversham as it is in other places. The local drugs bust on the Brent’s was good to see but we must go further and put off the people who want to set up these illegal farms by making Faversham too difficult to grow in. No problem has no solution, by empowering communities and giving them the feeling that they are safe in their homes they will feel safe to join forces with the police and tackle crime.
As a current councillor, what have you done to address air pollution problems in Faversham? Or, as a candidate, how should air quality problems be solved? We have been working with the 20’s plenty campaign who have excellent traffic calming ideas which will also improve vehicle emission levels by ensuring cars stay at a constant 20mph in Faversham. We must ensure that EKR site has their air quality tested and most importantly find out what in in the air pollution from that site. Limiting the numbers of big lorries which circle in and round town would also help.