Last Sunday, news emerged that by-elections had been called in both Brent and Littlebrook Wards. Despite there being vacancies in both Wards for a couple of months, it had appeared that elections would not be held because the full set of Borough elections are due in May 2015 and, whatever the results, these Wards would not have affected the control of Dartford Borough Council.
From the information available it appears that these elections may have been called by UKIP. We know that the Conservatives had no intention of calling an election in Brent and I suspect if Labour had wanted to call these, they would have done so several weeks ago. As suggested by Keith Kelly (Conservative DBC Councillor for Greenhithe) in the comments section of the article, can the cost of these by-elections be justified so close to the full elections?
As nominations closed on Friday, I expect details of the candidates to be announced shortly. For the last two by-elections, Dartford Matters has provided questions for all of the candidates on their views on local matters and their hopes and plans if elected. These exercises were well supported by all of the candidates and I hope provided useful information for voters. Bearing in mind that the successful candidates will have less than six months until having to stand again, I don’t propose to carry out the same exercise this time around. However, if any candidates for either Ward would like to give a statement of their intentions and views on local matters, we will be happy to publish unedited articles.
On Monday, it transpired that Lidl were proposing to submit a fresh planning application for their site in Instone Road. The previous application was turned down by DBC in 2012, the full reasons are contained in our previous article. However, the main reason was the site’s location. On Friday, Lidl responded to some questions put by Dartford Matters with their views on why they felt that permission should be agreed, even though the site is the same.
There appears to be a lot of support from Dartford residents for Lidl to be given permission when it is submitted. However, the question remains can DBC allow it if it is at the same location or will the Core Strategy have to be changed first? The other interesting point was that Lidl disagreed with DBC about other town centre sites.
Monday afternoon saw a press release from DBC in which the Leader labelled Tesco’s treatment of Dartford as a national scandal. This would have come as no surprise to Dartford Matters readers as we had reported his comments one week earlier, following the General Assembly of Council meeting.
This announcement was followed the next day by a press release from Dartford Labour accusing the Conservative administration of failing to deliver on its promises to regenerate Lowfield Street and the town centre.
Public reaction was such that both parties came in for criticism; the Council for doing too little and too late and Labour for not actually revealing their own plans. There were suggestions that both sides were just ‘electioneering’.
There does not appear to be any satisfactory way out of this sorry situation and Tesco still appear to be holding all the aces.
With the publication of the agenda for the Cabinet Advisory Panel and Cabinet meetings later this week, it transpires that the rebuilding of Fairfield Pool has been delayed and the budget will rise to around £11m.
Without wishing to pre-empt what may be raised at these meetings, I would expect questions to be asked why these delays and additional costs have only now been discovered. Could it be that the Council were not given proper advice from the building experts? Would such an ambitious project have been started if it was realised the cost would be increased? For the record, if these questions are asked, I would expect the answers to be ‘No and Yes’. Whatever is decided, it appears that the project will have to go ahead with the increased budget as so much has already been invested. Could this additional money have been better spent elsewhere? It certainly will exceed the cost of a couple of by-elections.
Following on from DBC’s press release on Monday regarding Tesco (see above), Elizabeth Jones, UKIP’s recently appointed Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Dartford, sent the DBC link of the Leader’s announcement to Dartford Matters. We replied to her that we had covered the subject quite extensively over the last couple of days.
Whilst it may be presumptuous of me to expect UKIP and their candidate to be interested in ‘dartfordmatters.com’, I would have hoped that they would have shown more interest in Dartford matters generally.
Four weeks ago, the day after they had announced their Prospective Parliamentary candidate, I sent a set of questions to UKIP about Dartford matters. The intention was to publish an unedited article, as I had done previously when Simon Thomson was selected as Labour’s candidate and, as I had done with all of the candidates in the last two by-elections.
Whilst we have a good idea of what UKIP stand for nationally, I’m sure that there would be many people who would like to know what their views are about Dartford matters and what matters to Dartford people. My previous offer still stands.
Links to the various articles referred to above, and others published this week, have been posted below. If anybody wishes to comment on any of the above, please feel free. I will not ban or block anyone just because they hold different views to me.