Lowfield Street Statement

THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE FAILED OUR TOWN CENTRE

Yesterday’s press statement released by the Leader of Dartford Borough Council demonstrates the astonishing failure of Dartford’s Conservative administration to deliver on its promises to regenerate Lowfield Street and our town centre.

We all recognise that Tesco have let Dartford down badly. However, there can be little doubt that the Conservatives have been complicit in the twelve years of delays and excuses that have left Dartford with a decaying town centre and a derelict site scarring the landscape of Lowfield Street.

  • It was the Conservatives who stubbornly pursued their road through the park scheme – delaying progress on the Lowfield St site for years
  • It was the Conservatives who failed to deliver a credible plan for regeneration –instead trusting the future of the town centre to the fortunes of a supermarket
  • It was the Conservatives who have refused to consider a Plan B – even when it became clear that Tesco were not delivering on their promises.

What we need now is action and a plan for the future – not empty words and idle threats.

It is nothing short of astonishing that the council leader now sees fit to announce a lack of faith in Tesco when as recently as August he told residents that he and Tesco had “cleared the last hurdle” to the development starting. We can only speculate as to what has provoked his sudden change of heart, especially since there today appears to be an increase in activity on Lowfield St. Did the Council know this work was due to be carried out?

What we do know is that Labour has consistently challenged the Conservatives to get tough on Tesco and be clear with residents on the plans for the town centre. His sudden conversion, seven months away from an election, to the view shared by Labour and many residents will not do anything to restore trust in the ability of the Conservatives to show the leadership the town needs.

The Conservatives have failed to influence the management of Tesco, failed to prepare a plan B and failed to deliver a long term strategy for regenerating our town centre. They’ve also failed to listen to the people of Dartford. We desperately need a different approach.

Dartford needs to move on from this sorry episode. Labour have sought the views of residents in Dartford and the results of our recent town centre survey show that residents have huge hopes and ambitions for our town, despite their despair at the way the Conservatives have neglected it over the last decade.

A Labour Council will deliver what the Conservatives have refused to do- a plan that recognises that our town centre can only thrive again with the community at its heart. Labour will put residents on the Town Team and ensure we have a plan for rejuvenating the town centre that includes the voice of everyone in Dartford – Business, residents, charities and our artistic and volunteer communities.

A Labour government will empower councils to tell big developers to ‘Use it or lose it”, preventing them sitting on land without building.

The Conservatives cannot build a better future for our town centre as they have no strategy, no alternative to Tesco and no trust from the people of Dartford. A decade ago, it was Labour, working with the community, who made the Conservatives see common sense and abandon their disastrous road through the park scheme. A decade later, confronted with a stubborn Tory council without a strategy and a completely silent MP it will again be Labour who will work with residents to build a better future for our town. We can’t go on like this and we need change.

We are determined to help our community realise its ambitions for our town and determined to work alongside our residents, businesses and community groups to rebuild and repair the pride in our town centre that has been so badly damaged by this sorry episode. Dartford can be so much better than this – together we will make it happen.

Geoff Prout – Leader, Labour Group and Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council

Simon Thomson – Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford

Read related posts from Simon Thomson

Today's confirmation that Tesco has finally dropped plans to build a super-store in Dartford town centre hardly comes as a surprise. Anyone who walks past the boarded up shops in Lowfield Street or has read the company's annual report will realise that.

The Tory council in Dartford has overseen this sorry saga for twelve long years. And the Tory MP has done nothing over the last five years to find a resolution and come up with alternative plans. They've failed Dartford and have left the town centre to rot. It was foolish to solely rely on a supermarket to regenerate Dartford, without a plan B.

But we don't have to watch our town centre die. We need a new vision and fresh start for Dartford.

We need local politicians who have the confidence to stand up to developers, and tell them what our town needs, not the other way around. That's why a Labour government would give local councils the power to tell developers to "use it or lose it" -- to build or give back the land.

Many small businesses complain that they're struggling because Dartford council is always putting their costs up. Labour would cancel the government's hike in small business rates due this year and freeze the rate in 2016.

If elected Darford's MP in May, I would support initiatives to create an alternative shopping space by helping independent traders, new start ups and young entrepreneurs to open premises. For example, we could be offering them rate free premises for the first couple of years - isn't it better to see shops occupied than empty or boarded up?

Other towns have turned themselves around. So can Dartford. It just takes vision, a "can do" attitude and a fresh start.

TOWN CENTRE

Thu 08 January, 2015

Lowfield Street

Today's confirmation that Tesco has finally dropped plans to build a super-store in Dartford town centre hardly comes as a surprise. Anyone who walks past the boarded up shops in Lowfield Street or has read the company's annual report will... Read more

More press releases from Simon Thomson

Waiting to hear whether you’ve been given your preferred choice of school can be a stressful time for parents and children.

However, it seems that Kent County Council’s policy of accepting more applications from outside the county is creating extra stress for families in Dartford.

Dartford’s successful secondary schools and the town’s close proximity to London can make an attractive alternative for parents living in the capital.

There were 2,299 applications for places in Kent’s schools this year from parents living outside the county and a third of those have been offered places.
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, Simon Thomson, has been made aware of several cases where local families have missed out on all their preferred choices of local secondary school.

Simon Thomson says “the situation is absurd. KCC seems to be giving an increasing number of places in Dartford schools to families not living in Kent. And that means local schoolchildren in Dartford are missing out.”

“In one case, KCC are expecting a family to get their child to a school outside of Dartford, with the journey involving three different buses. That’s crazy.”

“I want to see KCC give priority for places in Dartford’s secondary schools to families living in Dartford. And I hope the county council will address these absurdities on appeal.”

“But there simply aren’t enough school places in Dartford, especially with all the development being planned for the area. Instead of being obsessed with opening more free schools, the government should be working with KCC to create more places at good schools in Dartford as a matter of priority.”


Simon Thomson can be contacted on 07941 679353 or via email: simon@dartfordlabourparty.org.uk
FAMILIES

Mon 09 March, 2015

Dartford’s children being let down over local school places

Waiting to hear whether you’ve been given your preferred choice of school can be a stressful time for parents and children.However, it seems that Kent County Council’s policy of accepting more applications from outside the county is creating extra stress... Read more

Increasing numbers of people in the Dartford area are struggling with debt and are only just able to meet their living costs, according to new figures released by StepChange, a Debt Charity. The figures are released as part of the charity’s Debt Awareness Week. 

During 2014, the charity’s helpline was contacted by 1476 people from the Dartford postcode area. Those contacting the charity’s helpline on average owed £12,970 in unsecured debt such as credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts and they only had £36 left each month after paying their debts and household bills.


Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity said:


“More and more families in the Dartford area are falling into debt and struggling to make ends meet. For those living on the edge of their financial means, taking control of the situation can seem a daunting, if not impossible, prospect, but taking positive steps towards tackling debt is crucial to getting back on your feet. We urge those who are worried about their debt problems to seek free confidential advice as soon as possible."


Simon Thomson, Parliamentary Labour Candidate for Dartford said:


“StepChange provide vital support for people in Dartford struggling with debt. This a problem that has got worse in the last four years and shows that too often the economy is just not working for local people.”


“Working people are £1600 worse off under the Conservatives and these figures highlight what many people have told me on the doorstep - far too often it’s still a struggle to make end meet. Dartford needs a pay rise and real help with the cost of living. That’s why a Labour government would deliver a fairer economy by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills until 2017 and create more jobs, including a jobs guarantee for young people out of work."


Ends

Notes for Editors:
Figures from StepChange Debt Charity, based on helpline calls in 2014.
Simon Thomson is the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford. He can be contacted for further comment on 07941 679353
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Simon Thomson responds to the governments’ road building announcement – “Dartford has been let down by the Conservative led government again. There is nothing new announced that will help get Dartford moving.”

Responding to todays’ government announcement, Simon Thomson, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Dartford said:

“Todays roads announcement shows that once again, Dartford is being let down by the Conservative led government. Despite Dartford suffering some of the worst traffic gridlock in the South East, no new road improvements that would help get Dartford moving were included. It’s even more frustrating that the government are simply re-announcing previous schemes, such as improvements to the Bean junction, that they’ve already failed to deliver on. This is a smoke and mirrors announcement from a government that has nothing to offer Dartford.”

“The lack of investment in Dartford’s roads is a major cause of the gridlock residents suffer and demonstrates that Dartford’s Conservative MP is simply not standing up for local residents. Dartford needs an MP that is prepared to fight our corner for investment in our roads and if elected in May, that’s exactly what I will do.”


Ends

Road Investment Strategy announced by the government of 1st December 2014. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/biggest- upgrade-to-roads-in-a-generation. The strategy contains many schemes that had already been announced.

Simon Thomson is Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford and can be contacted on 07941 679353

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The Conservative MP for Dartford has failed to support local publicans in their fight for survival against the predatory practices of large pub owning companies.

Last week Gareth Johnson voted against a new clause to the Small Business Bill which had cross party support, and which offered new protections for small publicans against the predatory practices of the large pub owning companies (known as pubcos).

Many pub companies force their licencees to buy limited products at inflated prices, making it more difficult for publicans to make a living.  Labour has been campaigning alongside a broad coalition of groups in the industry – including the Federation of Small Businesses,  CAMRA and trades unions to call for greater protection for local pubs and put a stop to unfair treatment and restrictive practices by pubcos.

The government’s provisions to regulate pubcos in the Small Business Bill, were debated in Parliament last week, but fell some way short of Labour’s plans and campaigners’ demands. Labour therefore supported a cross-party clause which would strengthen the proposed legislation and offered a better deal for small pubs.

The amendment, which was passed by MPs, would give pubco licensees the right to choose between a tied agreement or a rent only agreement, allowing them to buy beer on the open market.

But despite several of his Tory colleagues defying their whip to vote for this new clause, Gareth Johnson voted against the clause.

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, Simon Thomson said “we know many publicans are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living. Several pubs have shut locally in the last few years, including the Fox and Hounds in Darenth, The Morning Star in Swanscombe and The Horse and Groom in Wilmington. And other publicans are struggling to keep going.”

Simon Thomson added, “27 pubs close every week and more than half of all landlords, who are tied to a large pubco earn less than £10,000 a year.  But Gareth Johnson decided to support the big pub companies instead.  The government should adopt this amendment to the bill as soon as possible.”

Toby Perkins, Labour’s Shadow Pubs Minister said: “Labour has led calls for a proper statutory code with teeth on pub companies, giving tenants the protection they need and putting an end to the unfair treatment they’ve received from large pub companies. Our plans have won support from a broad coalition of campaigners including CAMRA, the Federation of Small Business, trade unions and the cross-party BIS Select Committee.

“Over the past three years ministers have been dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way on this issue, and now they have been dealt a resounding and humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. Ministers must now act immediately to ensure there is a proper statutory code with a free-of-tie option to protect local pubs, and must not ignore the will of the House of Commons, after their desperate and shambolic attempts to stave off defeat have failed.”

Notes

  • New Clause 2 was passed by 284 votes to 269 at 4pm on 18/11/2014 despite the government whipping against it.  It delivers a mandatory free of tie option (also known as the market rent only, or MRO, option) which allows publicans to buy their beer on the open market.  The BIS Select Committee concluded that this was the only way to ensure that landlords would be no worse off than if they were free-of-tie as it would force pubcos to offer tied tenants the best deals.
  • The government’s own response to a consultation on a statutory code, printed in June, concluded that a mandatory free of tie option: “is popular with many tenant groups and might arguably offer the simplest way of ensuring a tied tenant is no worse off than a free of tie tenant” – but for reasons known only to themselves they decided not to pursue this.
  • Under the original Bill, licencees would merely have the right to ask their pub company to show them how much their rent would be under a free of tie scheme.  This was problematic as all the information would be held by the pubcos, all the calculations crunched by their accountants and all the final estimates would be made by them – and then even if they revealed that the landlord would be better of free-of-tie they would have had no legal right to demand this option.

 

Simon Thomson is Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford

He can be contacted via:

07941 679353

simon@dartfordlabourparty.org

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Whether it’s being stuck in traffic gridlock or being left on a platform by a cancelled train – too often it seems like Dartford isn’t moving. We need that to change – we need a plan to get Dartford moving again. If I’m MP for Dartford next May I’ll tackle our traffic and transport issues.  I’m not going to pretend we can fix everything overnight – but there are things we can and should be doing to help get Dartford moving again. That’s why today I’m launching my traffic and transport priorities for Dartford:

Trains: I’ll fight to get a better service for Dartford

As a daily commuter on the Dartford line, I know just poor the Southeastern service is at the moment. Expensive tickets, delays and cancellations, crowded and dirty carriages and a lack of information when things go wrong. Quite simply, Southeastern are letting us down, badly. The local Tory MP and his government colleagues have ignored your concerns and handed Southeastern a new contract until 2018. Dartford’s rail users deserve better. Labour will cap fares and if Southeastern won’t improve, I will push for a change in operator – preferably in the public sector -- that can deliver the modern, integrated and affordable rail service that Dartford needs. And bringing the Oyster card to Dartford now, is a must.

Crossing: I’ll campaign against another river crossing at Dartford

Our roads grind to a halt whenever there’s a problem at the crossing. But the Tory government is considering building another crossing at Dartford. That makes no sense. Any new crossing has to be built away from Dartford or our town risks remaining a traffic bottleneck forever more. The local Tory MP campaigned to scrap the tolls in 2010. They went up by 30%. Now he’s failed to get this government to rule out another crossing in Dartford. He doesn’t stand up for Dartford - I will, by campaigning against another river crossing being built in Dartford.

Traffic Gridlock: Delivering a new Traffic Plan for Dartford

Gridlock on Dartford’s roads is an all too common experience. The current traffic plan has failed and from congestion to the many problems with parking across Dartford – I’m clear that your concerns can’t continue to be ignored. That’s why as your MP, I’ll ask our local councils and government to work with me to deliver a new traffic plan for Dartford, and to find solutions to the many parking problems across the borough.

Infrastructure: I’ll work to bring Crossrail to Dartford

Thousands of new homes are being planned for Ebbsfleet and Eastern Quarry. Paramount wants to build a theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsular. Huge, exciting projects but I’m concerned that we don’t have the infrastructure to match. That’s why I believe we should benefit from being so close to London by extending Crossrail to Dartford and I’ll work hard to make that happen. I’ll also support a rail extension from Ebbsfleet to the Paramount development, to avoid Swanscombe and other areas getting swamped by traffic.

Cycling: Expanding safe cycling provision across the constituency

Cycling is healthy and enjoyable way of getting across town. But too many of us are put off from getting on our bikes because we feel unsafe in traffic. Many local cycle paths are overgrown; others are simply lines painted on the road, providing little safety to cyclists. Neighbouring boroughs are benefiting from the London mayor’s investment in cycling initiatives. I will work with the Mayor’s office, Kent County Council and the new Dartford Council to seek investment to improve cycling provision across the constituency, But that must mean designated cycle routes, properly separated from traffic.

Buses: Improving local bus services

Many people have been raising with me the issue of poor bus services delivered by Arriva across our constituency. In Longfield, services seem to bear little resemblance to published timetables and we need to improve and extend FastTrack. We need a fully integrated bus service, which meets the needs of passengers. Labour will give local regions the power to regulate their bus services, so that local people and businesses get the service they need. I will make sure this happens across our communities.

Contact me

I want to hear you views too – what are your ideas to get Dartford moving?

http://www.simonthomson.org/your_views

http://www.facebook.com/DartfordLabour

twitter @simontthomson or @Dartford_Labour #GetDartfordMoving

...or comment below.

 

Simon Thomson, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford

 

 

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