As you are probably aware, there is to be a by-election on Thursday 27 March in Stone ward for the vacant position on Dartford Borough Council. There are three candidates standing, in alphabetical order:-

Jim Moore – UKIP

Catherine Stafford – Labour Party

Stephanie Thredgle – Local Conservatives

All of the candidates have agreed to answer some questions compiled by Dartford Matters ahead of the election and I am publishing the details below. I would like to thank all of the candidates and their party officials for agreeing to take part in this exercise and hope that it helps voters in Stone to know a bit more about their candidates prior to voting day..

What is your connection with Stone and why do you want to be elected as one of its representatives?

JM – UKIP

I spent time at the Watling Street Dartford Football Club and took Children (Cub Scouts & my own children to Stone Lodge Farm).  I have seen changes taking place in Stone, such as the transformation of chalk pits into Bluewater, and scrubland into Crossways.  My interest in people, along with experiences (dealing with developers, utilities, contractors, various authorities and the public) gained during a career with BT would be effectively used as a Councillor. I see the future of Stone as exciting, but with challenges. I would strive to give people the Stone THEY want – and deserve.

CS – LAB

I moved to Dartford 18 years ago and have developed close links with Stone, including working here to support volunteers for a children’s charity.  The time that I have spent here has shown me that the community in Stone is vibrant and active – a real asset to Dartford.  I’ve also seen that some issues in Stone don’t seem to get the attention they deserve.  Litter and fly-tipping, the appalling state of our roads, lack of housing, loose horses causing danger to young families – these issues have been ignored by the Conservative-run Council for too long.  That needs to change and I believe we should have more voices that will speak up for the issues people tell me they care about – that’s why I’m standing.  I was selected to contest the Dartford East ward in the 2013 county council elections and spent a lot of time in and around Stone, getting to know people and their concerns.  Unfortunately my father was taken ill, and I chose to withdraw from the election process to help him through his final illness.  When a new opportunity to represent the area arose, I was keen to put myself forward again to finish the job that I had started.  Everyone standing in this election will want to do their best for Stone.  Despite what some have claimed, none of the candidates actually live in the ward, so I know it’s what I do and how I will serve residents that will make the difference to people.  If residents choose me as a councillor I’ll always be available and accessible and I’ll always campaign for the services and community facilities we need.

ST – CON

I was quite surprised when the list of candidates emerged to find I am the only one who lives anywhere near Stone.   It never dawned on me to stand anywhere else and it’s surely better for local councillors to be just that … a bit more local.  I’ve been a Stone Parish resident all my life, went to Brent School and been a Parish Councillor for more than a decade.  I was Chairman of the Council for three very happy years and I like to think that we got a lot done in that time – the Pavilion, Stone Fete, and restarting the Poppy Day parade among them.  My connection with Stone is pretty simple …. Stone is my home.  As for why I’m standing, well, I’m not a typical party politician ( but then again, since when has Stone needed one of them?) and my reasons for standing are pretty much all about getting things done locally.  Being Parish Chairman gave me lots of confidence that people would support good ideas and that the community had a lot going for it if only we could set politics aside and get on with things.

What do you consider to be Stone’s best asset?

JM – UKIP

Its character, which I feel should be maintained as much as possible, along with its own identity. I could be within the hustle & bustle of Bluewater ….. then within minutes (traffic permitting) the tranquillity of Stone’s Village area. The diversity of personalities and views provides both inspiration and challenges.

CS – LAB

That has to be the community.  I’ve met so many people who are proud of where they live and who contribute to a wealth of organisations that make Stone the great place that it is.  As a councillor I would work hard to listen to their concerns and represent them on the council to enable Stone to remain the thriving community that it is.

ST – CON

Oh, that’s easy.  Its people.  I remember when we started talking about restarting the Stone Fete we worried about whether people would be prepared to help out and even whether they would bother to turn up on the day.   We needn’t have worried. So many local groups and volunteers stepped forward to help us and it has now grown to one of the biggest events around.  That doesn’t suggest any shortage of community spirit to me. Local people are very community-minded.

With the next full Borough elections due to be held in just over a year, what impact do you think you can make and what will be your key aim during this short(ish) period?

JM – UKIP

I am a “Doer ” and I see tangible results as a key measure of success.  My main aim would be to create an excellent productive, working relationship with residents, Councillors and other relevant organisations.

CS – LAB

There is plenty that can be achieved.  For example, everywhere I’ve been in Stone, the thorny question of parking has been raised, and I would like to conduct detailed surveys in the parking hotspots to try to find long-term solutions to a problem which will only get worse as more development takes place.  There won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer, and it will require a lot of work, but it’s vital that the situation is addressed, particularly in terms of parking by staff and patients from the hospital. This issue has become even more important in the last few days with the announcement of the proposed garden city for Ebbsfleet.

ST – CON

Well, I really don’t look at it that way.  It’s not about making a ‘short term’ impression but a continuation of what I have been doing in the community for years. My key aim is probably to lever in more money from DBC to provide even more services and events for the young people of Stone, the elderly and the huge majority of decent families who make up our community.

At present Stone has one Conservative and one Labour Councillor.  If elected, what plans do you have to work with both existing Councillors for the benefit of Stone?

JM – UKIP

I consider that forming effective working relationships is essential.  Councillors from whatever political backgrounds should be wanting the best possible outcome for Stone.  Meeting them as soon as possible would be a priority, to agree a productive way forward.

CS – LAB

I know that as Councillors we achieve more together than we do alone.  I’m already working closely with Cllr Jonathon Hawkes on the issues residents have raised with me and I’m looking forward to meeting other Borough and County councillors and working together as a team for Stone.  I also know Stone Parish Council has an important role to play in the community.  Though Parish responsibilities are limited, the council often acts as the first ‘port of call’ for residents seeking information – so I would expect my relationship with them will be a strong one.  I believe it’s important that Councillors at all levels of government help residents access the services and advice they need.   I’m happy to work closely with everyone to make sure that we achieve that.

ST – CON

Some people love politics and some people don’t.  I don’t!  I count all the Labour Members on the Parish Council as friends and I hope they would say the same about me.  As Chairman of the Parish Council I kicked out the politics by insisting that we all had respect for each other and it seems to have worked!  I obviously know John Burrell well from the Parish Council and he’s a lovely, hard-working guy – a real gentleman.  I don’t know Mr Hawkes that well because he hasn’t been around that long but I’m sure his heart is in the right place.  In all honesty I don’t tend to fall out with anyone.  The simple fact is that I don’t really look at things as being ‘Labour’ or ‘Conservative’.  As far as I am concerned once someone is elected they become the representative of EVERYONE in their patch – whether they voted for you or not.

One problem in Stone which crops up on social media is that the horses in Cotton Lane and London Road regularly get loose.  If elected, how will you go about finding a solution to this problem?

JM – UKIP

Ownership of this issue lies with the people who put the horses on private land. However, if they do not act responsibly (as appears the case), others may have to take action.  Unfortunately existing legislation appears complex, process heavy and time consuming.  The activity of “Flygrazing” is a national issue and various organisations have been involved.  At least one landowner is taking action on a large site to make it more secure.  I would encourage others to follow suit.  Access, via Public Footpaths, if not already in hand would also require attention (such as installation of turnstiles).  I would raise the issue with Dartford’s Councillors and Member of Parliament to find a permanent fix.  There would be no point in shifting the problem (possibly from one part of the Borough to another).

CS – LAB

We know that in an ideal world the owners of these horses would take better care of them and aside from the serious safety concerns, it’s upsetting the neglect some of these animals suffer.  This is a worrying issue in Stone. Horses seem to be getting loose more and more frequently, causing damage and disruption and taking up police and council time which could be better employed on other matters.  I am concerned that if this problem isn’t fixed, we run the risk of a serious accident on London Road. It would seem that the horse owners are unlikely to take action, so other need to step in.  The only way that we are likely to solve this in the long term is if there is a joint approach between the owners of the horses, owners of the land, enforcement agencies, animal welfare organisations and Dartford Council. There needs to be a joint approach from Dartford Council, the Police and animal welfare organisations. I know that Cllr Hawkes has asked for a meeting with Council Officers to discuss taking this forward.  I’m willing to work with as many people as needed to get a resolution – both I and Cllr Hawkes will be urging the council to do the same.

ST – CON

I’ve seen some of the tweets made by various campaigners during this election PROMISING to solve the problem of Stray Horses and all I could think was ‘What’s been stopping you up till now then?‘  One party activist suggested we hold  a ‘summit’ of the Police, Parish Council and interested parties obviously quite unaware that such meetings have been going on for years!  The truth is that the problem is caused by people who have little or no respect for the law and the law simply isn’t tough enough.  I think the answer is two fold.  First, we must carry on removing the horses and forcing the owners to pay for recovery, and second we must insist that landowners take FULL responsibility for securing their land.  Currently, some do but some don’t.   It’s a national problem though and quite heartbreaking. Some of these horses are terribly neglected.

Stone is already fortunate to have some very good community facilities and another could be on the way if planning permission is granted.  What are your views on this and how it is being funded?

JM – UKIP

The concept of helping the youth of Dartford, at effectively no cost to the local tax payer, is a brilliant one.  An increase in local housing is necessary, so using the proceeds from a development to directly fund such a scheme makes sense.  The community will actually see the benefits, and how it has been achieved.  Hopefully possible Crossrail interests will not affect the proposal and any highway issues will be resolved.  As the area of Cotton Lane is quite remote however, I do have two concerns: Travel for those without their own transport; The effects on residents in close proximity.

CS – LAB

My husband and two sons are heavily involved in scouting, so I am well aware of the difference the scouting movement can make to young people.  The new facility being planned would be a great asset but it is important that a balance is struck.  I know some residents are concerned that the extra housing could add further to the parking problems around the station, and there is also concern that yet more ‘executive’ houses are being built, when local people are unable to stay in the area because they can’t find affordable housing.

ST – CON

I’m pleased that you mention the facilities we have already got because I’m particularly proud of the new Pavilion.  Getting it funded and built was a difficult job and became something of a passion of mine.  With regard to selling off land for housing to fund new facilities my view is simple – So much housing gets built without ANY benefit to local people that it’s a nice change when the community actually gets something out of it.  Of course, it all depends on the location, scale and suitability of the development but the next generation of Stone residents DO need somewhere to live and providing affordable first-time homes for the sons, daughters and grandkids of existing Stone residents is really important.

Flytipping and general litter are not problems unique to Stone. Do you think Dartford Borough Council does enough about  these matters?  If not, what do you suggest should be done to improve things?

JM – UKIP

Dartford Borough Council’s web site contains some excellent information, regarding waste disposal.  I would like to see it available via other easily accessible mediums. There will of course be those who choose to use their own methods, for dealing with waste (their own and on behalf of others). For them, I would suggest more suitable education / sanctions (via heavier fines or community service).  Dartford Litterpickers provide an excellent voluntary service, but they should not have to.

CS – LAB

I don’t believe they do enough – the sheer volume of litter that was collected from a small area of Stone by the Dartford Litterpickers group is evidence of that.  Clearly, attention must be directed at the people who dump the litter in the first place.  I believe that the council should adopt a tougher stance against those responsible, issuing far more fixed penalty notices, and take legal action against large-scale offenders.  There also need to be more litter bins, which are emptied regularly.  And how about an advertising campaign on hoardings etc encouraging people to take their litter home with them?  The council also needs to get the basics right by ensuring street clean teams regularly visit Stone.  This isn’t a new problem in Stone sadly, and one that has been neglected for too long.  Complacency won’t help – one of my priorities will be to ensure Dartford Council starts to take litter seriously. It’s time to put an end to Dirty Dartford.

ST – CON

Well, you might not like my answer but I think it’s unfair to start blaming the ‘good guys’ rather than the ‘bad guys’ who are really responsible.  Dartford Council wouldn’t need to pick it up at all if a small number of lazy and irresponsible people didn’t drop it in the first place.  I went out with the volunteer Dartford Litterpickers recently and it was absolutely shocking how much rubbish people just drop where they stand.  When I was young you simply wouldn’t dream of littering but far too many people do it today.  The answer is surely to stop it being dropped so that we don’t face all the costs of picking it up.  If I were to urge Dartford Council to do anything it would be to start a Dartford version of the old ‘Keep BritainTidy Campaign.’ to help people understand that there’s no such thing as the ‘McDonald’s fairy’ who comes along and picks up old milkshake and burger cartons!   In fact, I recently cornered the Council Leader about it and I know he is looking at starting just such a campaign.

If the proverbial genie in the bottle could give you one wish on how to improve Stone, what would it be?

JM – UKIP

My initial request is for “Self Healing Roads” (Great! No potholes!).  Alas, this may be beyond genie, so my wish would be for adequate, suitable, affordable Social Housing (Unfortunately, uncontrolled immigration from within the EU means it is impossible to predict what “adequate” is).

CS – LAB

I would fix all our crumbling roads and pavements properly so that everyone could walk, drive and ride safely around Stone.

ST – CON

I would probably wish for more of the sort of neighbourliness and street-by-street friendships that I knew when I was growing up here.  Stone people here are wonderful but how many of us can truly say that they know the names of people who live ten doors away, or twenty?  I would encourage more neighbourhood parties, summer barbeques, community clean-ups and  get-to-know-you events.  I’ve been lucky enough to do that on a big scale with things like Stone Fete, the Christmas Light Switch-On, Remembrance Day parade and tea for the elders but if I could wave a magic wand I would find someone in every street to do the same in the little bit of Stone they live in. Wouldn’t our communities be greater still if everyone knew each other better?

 

About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

2 comments on “Questions and Answers With Candidates for Stone by-election on 27th March”

  1. Phil Byrne Reply

    Mass immigration hardly an issue for a local council! Save it for the Euros!!!

  2. Pingback: Don’t Vote Politically ?!? | SoShall Consulting

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