Full Council - Sunday 30th April
Whatever happens on Thursday I was pleased to be able to use the last meeting of the session to return to some of the issues, themes and principles which have been an important focus over the last four years.
I was able to raise a number of issue at the final council meeting before the election on Thursday.
→ The first item raised was the Council’s Community Safety Partnership Strategy.
The District Council works in partnership with various agencies on matters of community safety and crime reduction. With Kent County Council, with the Police, or with residents directly. One success story on partnership working over the last four years has been the reduction of fly tipping at what was previously a fly-tipping hot spot (see picture). This was one of my two Ward priorities four years ago, and action by both KCC and Residents has largely eliminated the industrial level fly tipping which we had seen here over a decade or more. The primary landscaping measures that have been taken are the introduction of a sturdy metal fence, following a thorough clear up. Additionally, and importantly, Residents themselves have acted assertively to physically deter fly-tipping gangs. The combined effect has been a substantial success, solving an issue, which (if I am frank) I believed would take far longer than a single four-year-term to address. The fence itself is quite austere looking, but that will be naturally ameliorated over time as vegetation entwines itself the steel.
I was also able to raise the issue of the recently smashed up phone box in the centre of our village. I am pleased to say that BT have now replaced the glass on this box and the phone service remains operational. However, it is also worth noting that, despite this happening right under the watch of District Council CCTV, the cameras have, once again, proved to be of no value in either deterring or detaining perpetrators. Of course, no one of moral substance would seek to justify the cost and privacy invasion inherent in surveillance, simply on the basis that it might detain a petty vandal who would probably, in any case, receive little in the way of a serious deterrent through the courts, however the fact that the CCTV has been unable to assist with this crime, once again, underlines that New Ash Green CCTV is a prime candidate for removal.
→ Cash Payment at Leisure centres
Sevenoaks has now been able to reopen the leisure centre following Sencio’s ceasing to trade. I am keen that Leisure centres (and all other services) offered by the council continue to be available for cash payment. Whether leisure centres, Car Parking, or other services, it is important that when the council provides, franchises or subsidises, a service, we should ensure that cash payments remain an option for all residents, alongside card payments where possible. I hope that, as SDC looks to keep this centre open, and as we look to find a longer term provider also, we ensure that keeping cash payments is prioritised.
Though some agencies (such as TFL in London) have, for a long time, been seeking to punish users of cash with higher fees, the push to really suppress cash, to remove the option entirely, has really accelerated since since the pandemic. Suppression of cash is both excluding unfree, and the primary duty of any elected politician is to the freedom, of those we represent, and also of others more broadly (including, for an SDC councillor, to those across the whole District).
→ Assurances given at Scrutiny Committee
Finally, we saw retiring speeches from both the outgoing Chairman of the Audit committee and similarly from the Scrutiny committee. Both are committees on which I have served for the last four years, and I thank these Chairman for their work here. It was also important to put on record a reminder of some of the factual assurances which Sencio gave us at the penultimate Scrutiny session, including about the way in which their debts were structured. The Council is rightly, for now, focussed mainly on the future, but it is important to be sure that no false assurances were given.
In sum, this meeting covered three or four of the themes which I have prioritised over the last four years.
One has been seeking to solve longer term difficult issues within the Ward.
Another is Scrutiny, Audit and Partnership working.
And finally, the protection of Liberty, which should be the universal calling of everyone within any form of Governmental or Democratic body.
I ask that you carefully consider your vote on Thursday.