In a fortnight most of us living in Tunbridge Wells will have the opportunity to vote for a borough councillor. Some will have the chance to do it sooner because postal votes are sent out from today.
Voting is a right and a privilege. One hundred years ago this year some women first got the right to vote, as did more men who were coming back from the First World War. Our votes were hard fought for and we should use them.
Tunbridge Wells Labour has candidates in all 16 wards where there are elections. Eight of our candidates are women. All are united in their opposition to this Conservative council’s proposals for a new civic complex.
Spending over £90m on new council offices, an underground car park and theatre in the centre of Tunbridge Wells is an expensive extravagance. The 50 year ‘mortgage’ debt and interest repayments will be around £2.8m per year.
Despite what Conservative councillors say this will inevitably be paid for by more cuts to services, extra charges, and increased council tax. There will be little money left to tackle the real priorities that most people think will make their own and their families’ lives better.
On the doorstep people are telling us that Conservative councillors are out of touch and do not listen to their concerns. Many people haven’t heard of the new civic complex. Of those who have, most oppose it. Yet we are told it has popular support. It hasn’t.
We have all been hit by cuts in public services. There aren’t enough houses to live in, roads are in a dangerous condition, pollution and congestion have increased, public transport is poor, businesses are leaving the borough and many people experience real poverty.
We need change. Too many Conservative councillors are complacent and are elected without any effort. We ask people to vote for Labour councillors who work hard for their votes and put their communities first.
The Town Hall and the Assembly Hall might not be up to scratch but we are asking for a more modest modernisation of the existing buildings. It happens in other council areas. With determination it can happen here.
We want housing to be the top priority of the council. Rents are expensive and continuing to rise, high house prices mean many cannot afford to buy and homelessness continues to increase. We need more genuinely affordable housing, including social housing for the least well off.
We want a borough-wide investment plan to encourage businesses back to our towns and villages. We need action on roads, public transport and parking. We oppose development on parks, playing fields and green spaces. We want grants to charities and community services to be restored.
Plans to fine homeless people and beggars say a lot about the priorities of Tory councillors in Tunbridge Wells. We need to send them a strong message. We need a council that is in touch and focused on what residents care about.
That’s why we are asking you to vote Labour on Thursday 3 May.