Thursday, 31 March 2011

No good will come of this chaos.

The political chaos in the Conservative Party in Tunbridge Wells centred on the former Leader of the Council, Roy Bullock.  Although ousted, the in-fighting continues. Candidates have been de-selected, a seat lost and councillors trade insults in the local press. The Liberal Democrats cannot believe their luck at the Tories self-inflicted wounds.

An hospital consultant has to have three skills: diagnostic, treatment and bed-side manner.

Roy Bullock diagnosed what needed to be done to save the borough from economic decline, he proposed appropriate remedies, but failed the bed-side manner test.  He failed to take the Conservative Group with him and failed also to communicate with the electorate.

The Conservative Group lost its nerve and replaced him with a Leader who disclosed his ignorance of the Council's standing orders at a recent council meeting. Doesn't inspire confidence. There has been much talk of 'trust', 'consultation' and 'unifying', but precious little action.

The Liberal Democrats, who claim to be 'progressive',  have made common purpose with the reactionary forces in the town who seem hell bent on scuppering any proposal for development which involves knocking down buildings.  The furore over the civic complex, the Great Hall car park and the Brew House hotel extension is aimed at preserving the town in aspic and disregarding the urgent need for regeneration. The battle cry is that we must protect the 'historic town centre', although none of the locations  is historic in the accepted sense of the word.

The risk is that the Liberal Democrats, for purely narrow political advantage, will support the reactionary cabal.

The Conservative Group lost its nerve and now resembles rabbits frozen in the headlights of the Aspic Brigade's juggernaut. What is needed is strong leadership and steadfast determination to do what is required to promote the economic well-being of the borough.  Appeasement  of the Aspics is the road to ruin.  The Tories must not go down this road, it will damage them and hasten the economic decline of West Kent.

Know your Standing Orders

When I was elected to a council a fellow councillor advised me to read the standing orders,  Standing orders can be used to good effect, particularly by non-Cabinet councillors, to raise issues and also force debates through amendments to resolutions,

I was surprised the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council claimed at last night's full Council meeting not to know if it was in order for him to propose an amendment to a resolution.  As Leader of the Council he should know the procedures.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Rail modernisation on the cheap

When the railway line between Tonbridge and Hastings was electrified in 1986 one problem which had to be overcome was how to ensure the route would not need special stock to run the service. Prior to electrification special stock had to be provided as the tunnels on the route (apart from the ones at each end of Tunbridge Wells and St Leonards Warrior Square stations) were too narrow for trains to pass in the tunnels using standard size stock.

The problem was overcome by having only one track through the tunnels.  The 'modernised' signalling that was provided between Tunbrdge Wells and St Leonards consisted mostly of electric signals replacing the semaphore signals.  These two factors limit severely the number of trains which can be run and matters are not helped by the electrical installation only being adequate to power trains of up to eight carriages.  So to this day we have delays at Tunbridge Wells whilst trains are joined or split.

April Fool

A few years ago the Daily Telegraph published on April Fools Day an article which set out the USA's plans for invading Canada.  A joke I thought, but no, the USA has an invasion plan for every country in the world.

Last year the local paper, The Courier, published an article on 2nd April which intimated that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council had plans to demolish the civic complex and adjoining buildings to make way for a major redevelopment. It was for real, but the article set in train a sequence of events which led to the downfall of the Leader of the Council.  For the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the Conservatives it has been one long running bad joke.

Party politics in local government.

The problem candidates face at local elections is that their fate is determined by the national standing of their parties. Conventional wisdom has  it that the Liberal Democrats will suffer a major loss of seats in May.  This will have little to do with the merits of individual candidates.  Voting intentions will be determined mostly by the electorate's view of the parties in a national context.

However, local cirumstances may have a bearing on voting intentions depending on how animated voters are about local issues. Such is the case in Tunbridge Wells where the ruling Conservative Group has made blunder after blunder, all well-documented in the local media.  The Liberal Democrats could benefit from this.  UKIP is raising its game as it scents an electoral breakthrough.

Fortunately party politics do not intrude too much into parish council elections and it is to be hoped that the candidates for the newly formed Rusthall Parish Council will all stand as independents.

When urban district councils were abolished in 1974 they were replaced by town councils which have the same powers as parish councils. Southborough Town Council's elections are fought on party political  lines. Barmy.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

UKIP starts election campaign early in Tunbridge Wells

UKIP delivered to my house a copy of the free special edition of the Daily Express with the banner headline Get Britain out of the EU.  It runs to 24 pages and anti-EU though I am, the document was depressingly one-sided and after a while exceedingly boring to read. Unbalanced, zealous, in-your-face material such as this is counter-productive.

Inserted in the document (I refrain from describing a blatant propaganda sheet as a newspaper) is a membership application form to join UKIP.  UKIP did reasonably well in the recent Pembury by-election.  The party is hoping no doubt that people who usually vote Conservative, but have become disaffected by the recent shambles within the Conservative Group controlling the Council, will transfer their support to UKIP rather than to the Liberal Democrats.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Skirmish of Cumberland Walk

The Brew House Hotel has brought much needed additional hotel accommodation to Tunbridge Wells. The hotel wishes to expand and more than double the number of bedrooms.  Such inward investment is an act of faith in the future prosperity of the town.

However, all is not well.  The Aspic Movement has swung into gear and castigated the hotel for bringing Essex to Tunbridge Wells.  What crass nonsense.  The Civic Society, on cue, has voiced  opposition to the proposal to have a glass canopy between the Brew House and the proposed development.

The wider battle is between those who wish to see what one distinguished local commentator has called full throttle regeneration and those who wish the town to remain a sleepy backwater or, to put it more bluntly, commit economic suicide.  The key battle zone will be the civic complex and how/if it is regenerated.

What is needed is determined leadership from the Council to ensure the promotion of the town's economic future. So far the silence has been deafening.

Election Fever in Tunbridge Wells!!

The recent by-election success of the Liberal Democrats in Pembury has set the political pulse racing in Tunbridge Wells, at least within the political parties.  The electorate is maintaining its stoicism in the face of the political onslaught.

UKIP has announced it is to contest ten seats and expects to win one.  The Lib Dems are confident of further success.  The Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council claims the Pembury result is a 'blip' and that all will be well with the Tory vote in May.

Whatever the result, the Conservatives will retain control of the council with a comfortable majority. They have plenty of time to recover.

It will be interesting to read the policies put forward by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at the election. Will either party make a commitment to  press on with the regeneration the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells so badly needs?  Somehow I doubt it. 

Rusthall Parish Council:

Things are hotting up.  I received the following today:

Again John, why don't you get in touch with the village association and help rather than rubbishing us? We are not born with intrinsic knowledge of local council matters and the new councillors will all take the training. If you think we all need educating then I am absolutely open to being better informed.

My concern  has been that the village association is acting as though some of its members will be the new parish council.  The association newsletter states: we aim to improve the infrastructure of the village. Not clear if by 'we' is meant the association or the council. Why should I get in touch with the village association?  I prefer to talk to the council. My hope is that candidates will come forward who have no connection with the association and be successful. 

Some vitriolic comments about those who want a parish council were made in the consultation process. Personal abuse of the rankest kind. My comments have been more of the prodding nature aimed at ensuring that a clear distinction is drawn between the association and the council.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Rusthall Parish Council Comment: Facebook Group

On 5th May the denizens of Rusthall will have the opportunity to vote in the AV Referendum, to elect a councillor to represent Rusthall on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and to elect nine councillors to the first Rusthall Parish Council.

I have set up a Facebook Group: Rusthall Parish Council Comment.  Click here for the link.

The Group is for comment on issues leading up to the election and then on the deliberations of the new parish council.  Please feel free to join in.

Steaming ahead

Despite the poor economic conditions the railway heritage scene in Kent and Sussex is booming.

The Spa Valley Railway is opening the 'missing link' between Groombridge and Eridge this weekend. For the first time the railway will have a link with Network Rail at Eridge. So hopefully, with some sensible timetabling people will be able to travel down from London by rail, change at Eridge and board a Spa Valley train.  This is a massive achievement and I offer my congratulations to all the dedicated volunteers who have brought this about.

The Bluebell Railway is busy excavating the rubbish from a cutting close to East Grinstead.  Once the work is completed the railway will be joined to Network Rail at East Grinstead.  Over £2 million has to be raised for the work of moving the rubbish, but I have no doubt it will be achieved.

The Kent and East Sussex Light Railway over the years has extended its line to Northiam and then on to Bodiam.  The Rother Valley Railway has laid track beyond Bodiam and plans eventually to join up with its small operation at Robertsbridge Station.  It will be very expensive to achieve, but again the prize will be a connection with Network Rail.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Indoor Assembly

Unless it was pouring down with rain or snowing heavily morning assembly at my secondary school was held outdoors.  We would gather in our houses in columns, small boys at the front and graded to the big boys at the rear, which fanned out from the steps leading to the terrace. On the terrace, to our left, the school choir assembled.  Just to our right stood the prefects and behind them in a line the teaching staff.

At 8.55AM the master of ceremonies Major B. O'Kelly, would set off from his position at the top of the terrace steps, pass the line of staff and report to the Headmaster, Mr Glister. 

Mr Glister was a tall imposing figure and he would walk briskly to the top of the steps and open the proceedings with the words 'Good morning school' to which we replied 'good morning, sir'.

The hymn would be announced and often had many verses. Mr Glister would announce which verses were to be omitted.  The lone trumpeter gave us the tune and then the singing commenced. Chaos prevailed as the school sang at a different speed to the choir and  also sang verses which were to be omitted.

We judged the morning a success when the hymn was abandoned before the final verse. The remainder of the morning service was conducted in an orderly fashion. The fun started again when Mr Glister made his announcements.  A favourite trick was to hide a small boy behind a large boy and for the former to make the latter laugh. The imposition of a detention was immediate.

At the end of assembly Mr Glister swept off followed closely by the staff, leaving the Major to dismiss the school. Orders for departure were barked out which related to various locations round the school - North Wing, Hurst House, the huts etc.  Unfortunately this resulted in a manoeuvre more complicated than the spin wheel at the Trooping of the Colour as pupils from each of the houses crossed paths. 

One morning at the height of a hot summer we were instructed to go to an indoor assembly.  The reason for this unprecedented departure from tradition became apparent when we saw the flagpole, situated at the top of the terrace steps, being wound down.  Fluttering in the breeze were a bra and matching panties which had been nailed  firmly to the mast the previous evening.  The poor Major was beside himself at this affront to the moral standards of the school.  The culprits were never identified by the Major although rumour was rife. We did wonder where the underwear came from.

Rusthall Parish Council - a voyage into the unknown

The latest edition of the Rusthall Village Association's newsletter gives the impression of confusing the Association with the parish council. We aim to improve the infrastructure of the village.  Who or what is the we?  It is as though there is an assumption that the new parish council will follow the Association's agenda.  All the more reason for people to stand who are not connected with the Association.

What will be interesting will be the following:
  • The budget that is set - what will be spent and why?
  • Does the new council intend to publish a parish plan?
  • How will it engage with the community before making major decisions?
My main fear is that the council will become an administrative nightmare.  The Village Association's newsletter informs us that the new parish council will probably have four sub-committees. I would have thought  that is a matter for the council to decide.  One declared candidate has a reputation for setting up sub-committees at the drop of a hat.  Thereby is the road to slow decision making, inertia, irrelevance and indeed hostility.

Contesting Elections: Lessons from the Past

My involvement in politics began in 1962.  In those far-off days the Tories where led by Harold Macmillan, Hugh Gaitskell was Labour's leader and the Liberal Party had Jo Grimond at the helm.

In the summer of 1962 I set out to form a branch of the Liberal Party in Dronfield,  North-East Derbyshire. I delivered thousands of what were called 'contact cards' which invited the recipient to sent freepost to the Liberal Party.  From these cards a membership of around thirty people was established and the following year three seats were fought by the Liberal Party at the Dronfield Urban District Council elections.

I spent part of my time in the adjoining Chesterfield constituency and acted as agent at a number of elections.  Perhaps I should point out that at that time the age of majority was 21 but I could still act as an agent as I derived my authority from the candidate, whom of course had to be 21 or over. In those days to even think the Liberals would form the majority on Chesterfield Borough Council and that there would be a Liberal MP would have been regarded as a sign of madness.  But in the guise of the Liberal Democrats it happened.

In those days the Liberal Party had very few councillors.  The parliamentary party would fit into a taxi and all came from Wales and Scotland apart from Eric Lubbock who had a famous by-election victory in Orpington in March 1962.

Over the years the success of the Liberal Party and later the Liberal Democrats, was built on campaigning on local issues: being a thorn in the side of local establishments.

There are important issues here for small parties - UKIP, Green Party, English Democrats and the like.  Gaining a reputation locally for 'getting things done', been seen to be around the community all the time and not just at elections, being regarded as having the interest of the community at heart, all these help build an electoral base.  The current vogue for Big Society and Localism provides an opportunity for small political parties to make an impact.

An early issue for the new Rusthall Parish Council

As part of the arrangements for the new Rusthall Parish Council it has been agreed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council that the latter will make available a loan of £40,000 to tide the former over the first year of operation.  The reason for this provision is that no parish precept could be raised prior to the parish council being formed.

The problem is that at the end of the first year the parish council either has to pay back all or a proportion of the £40,000.  Any outstanding sum will have to be repaid with interest at, to quote a borough council document, a rate to be agreed.

How will the parish council approach this matter? One solution is to raise income through next year's parish precept to pay back the whole loan, and save on interest payments. However, the key element will be how much the parish council decides to spend  of the £40,000.  Should it spend as little as possible in the first year of operation and thereby reduce the amount to  be raised in future years?  Or should it blow the lot and saddle the parishioners with a huge precept in 2012? Or should it negotiate for repayment over a number of years along with the concomitant interest?

One candidate has pledged to campaign for the re-opening of the public toilets or building new ones. The Village Association's newsletter states that we will have at the very least a  part-time paid parish clerk. Could be that there won't be much of the £40,000 left at the end of the first year.

Sacking councillors not always a good idea

Some years ago the Labour Party had an excellent councillor in Lorna Blackmore who represented a Southborough ward on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. The Labour Party decided to de-select her and her replacement failed miserably to win the seat.

Last week the Conservative Party lost a by-election to the Liberal Democrats. The sitting Tory councillor resigned over the treatment meted out to  Roy Bullock, erstwhile Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  A spectacular own goal.

Roy Bullock was not only ousted as Leader, he was de-selected as the party's candidate at the forthcoming borough council elections.  He remains a Conservative county councillor.  However, should he stand as an Independent against a Tory candidate he will be forced out of the Conservative group on the county council as membership of the party is not compatible with standing against a candidate of the party.  My guess is that Roy will not contest the election.

Another farce is being played out by the Conservatives in Sissinghurst & Frittenden ward.  The sitting councillor, John Smith, has been de-selected. Not only is he the chairman of the Conservative Group on the Borough Council, he was invited to meet David Cameron in Downing Street.  John Smith is well regarded by many living in the ward.   Should he stand against the Conservative candidate he will lose his membership of the party. My Sissinghurst mole informs me that John is likely to stand and that he might well win.

A Conservative councillor has resigned in Brenchley & Horsmonden, so there will be a by-election on 5th May.

Mobile phone mast

A mobile phone company has applied for permission to erect a mast in Rusthall.   The objectors are out in force.  One has circulated details of the proposal and the process for lodging an objection. Fair enough, but why the anonymity?  Gutless is the word that springs to mind.

How many of the objectors to masts use a mobile phone?  In my experience most of them do. Hypocritical nimbyism.

Duff information from Rusthall Village Association

The Spring Newsletter of the Rusthall Village Association informs its readers that nominations for parish council elections close at noon on Monday 5th April.  Problem is that the 5th of April is a Tuesday. So when is it: Monday the 4th or Tuesday the 5th?

We are informed also that nomination papers can be handed in at the side entrance to the Town Hall. Not advisable.  The nomination paper notes state that papers should be handed in personally to the Elections Office and a receipt obtained.

My advice to candidates is that they should ignore the advice of the Association and contact the Town Hall.  You will need not only your own electoral number but also those of your proposer and seconder to complete the nomination paper.

So much misinformation makes you wonder if the lot running the Village Association should be let anywhere near public money.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Rusthall Parish Council election

Today I received my first election communication from one Jonathan Clark inviting me to vote for him at the parish council election in May. No printer's nor publisher's imprint, so probably a breach of electoral law.

The communication was pinned to the  Spring Newsletter of the Rusthall Village Association.  The newsletter suggests that probably there will be four sub-committees of the new parish council! Ye gods.

Is the political landscape changing in Tunbridge Wells?

In the late 1990s the Conservatives were in retreat across the nation in local government elections. But not in Tunbridge Wells. Following policy splits and defections from the Liberal Democrat group on the Council the Conservatives stormed to victory and along the way wiped out the Labour group on the Council.

Now it is the Conservatives who are in disarray. They lost their nerve on the regeneration of the civic complex issue, replaced the Council Leader, sacked sitting councillors and caused one councillor to resign.  the Liberal Democrats stormed to victory in a by-election and look set fair to make further gains in May.  All this at a time when nationally the Liberal Democrats are unpopular.

The new Leader of the Council, Plumber Atwood, so far has made little impact. Like a rabbit in the headlights he is waiting for his party to be mown down by the electorate.  The carnage of Conservative candidates will not be a pretty sight.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Tories leak votes as Plumber Atwood fails to stem the tide.

The Liberal Democrats have won the Pembury by-election called after a Conservative councillor resigned over the treatment meted out to Roy Bullock.

The result: Lib Dem 578, Conservative 460,  UKIP 297. Turnout 35.41%

The Conservative candidate has contested three seats in 10 months and failed each time.  As I have pondered in a previous post, I wonder where he will turn up next?

The anti- Bullock forces and the new Council Leader have failed to staunch the flow of support away from the Tories in Tunbridge Wells.  The Tories have not been helped by the fact that Roy Bullock was an excellent agent who knew how to win elections: now he is gone.

I imagine the Conservative Association's AGM later today will be a sombre affair as the penny drops that Plumber Atwood is not the solution to the party's woes.

Had this election been held using the Alternative Vote I think the Tories would have won as it is likely UKIP votes would have gone to the Tories.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Roy Bullock comeback?

There is a rumour circulating on Facebook that the erstwhile Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is seeking to be the next Chairman of the Conservative Association and that he intends to 'pack' the  AGM with his supporters. True, or a false rumour spread by another political party?  Time will tell.

From the same source a rumour that an 'investigation' is going on in the Town Hall about a land issue.  True, or a smear?

Down Memory Lane

How many of you remember school milk?  How can some of us forget?  It arrived from the dairy in third of a pint bottles and we would each gulp down a bottle at the morning break.

Or at least that was the theory. At my secondary school a few of us took great exception to being expected to do the work of school staff, particularly on wet days.  We had to move the crates from the drop-off point by the school gates to allocated locations around the playground.  At the end of the morning break bottles had to be collected and the crates returned to the school gates.

It became apparent that a wheeze was on. Some mornings we would be a few bottles missing, one morning we were a complete crate short.  The crate 'disappeared' as we worked on the assumption that the dairy did not count the empty crates.  However after a few weeks the dairy noted that it was missing a lot of bottles and at school assembly there was a stern message from the Head that bottles had to be returned.

Of course the dairy had no idea where the bottles were being lost and similar messages were delivered to pupils at other schools.  Were we all at it?

It was decided that we should end our little prank.  No more was said.  However, a few months later at the height of a very hot summer a dreadful smell emanated from under the floorboards of one of the wooden huts.  The caretaking staff sprang into action and over four hundred milk bottles were liberated and returned to the dairy.

Not a word was said, but after the discovery pupils never again transported the crates.                     

Friday, 11 March 2011

Cold water poured on Plumber Atwood

A letter writer in today's Courier complains that all he hears about is the council leader's power struggle.  He goes on to suggest (as I have in an earlier blog) that what is needed is a 'raft of independent councillors'.  So the great unifier, Plumber Atwood, has failed to staunch the criticism of the council.  Not surprising really when one considers the 11 percent pay rise councillors have given themselves and the huge increase in  fees for on-road car parking permits.

Another letter writer catalogues the stance taken by Councillor Ransley on a number of issues. Not for the squeamish  and it doesn't mention the councillor's barmy idea that some off-peak trains from Tunbridge Wells to London should terminate at Cannon Street.  The author of the letter is of the opinion that Plumber Atwood's decision to appoint Councillor Ransley to the cabinet is a 'severe error of judgement'.  I concur.

Local Tories Plumb New Depths

Roy Bullock's appeal against being de-selected by the Conservative Association's Executive Committee  has failed.  He won't be the official Conservative candidate for the Goudhurst and  Lamberhurst ward at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council elections in May.

So the bloodletting continues; indeed plumbs new depths, as the former Council Leader and election agent is air-brushed out of the recent history of the Conservatives.  Note, not a word from the new Leader of the Council, a former pen-pusher with a water company, who claims to be a 'unifier'.  Methinks I shall dub him 'Plumber' Atwood.

By the way, are you interested in standing as a Conservative candidate?  You are?  Courtesy of an article in the Courier, contact Andrew Kennedy on 01892 522581. Advertising in the press for candidates.  Whatever next?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Final Update on Rosemary

Rosemary is able to go up and down stairs and is  now in the final stages of her recovery from a broken hip.  It has been a long haul for her.  We are going to have our Christmas dinner next weekend!  Thank you from both of us for your encouragement and support

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Update on Rosemary

As many of you know Rosemary fell on some ice on Christmas Eve and broke her right hip. In the past few days she has ventured out of the house and has managed to walk round the block.  She is using crutches still but hopes to replace them with sticks in the near future.

We would like to thank you for all your good wishes and offers of assistance.

Self determination for Monmouthshire?

A couple of years ago I went on holiday to the Forest of Dean and during the course of my stay visited Chepstow, Abergavenny and Monmouth. Monmouthshire is now part of Wales, but this hasn't always been the case.

The result of the recent referendum on the issue of more devolved powers being granted to Wales not unexpectedly was a majority in favour of more powers being granted to the Welsh Assembly. It was only in Monmouthshire that the majority voted against the proposal, albeit by a very small majority.

During my visit some of the local residents expressed the view that they would prefer to be part of England and others were quite happy to be regarded as Welsh.  What I have not been able to find is any reference to a referendum asking the people of Monmouthshire which country they would prefer to be part of.  In these days of localism/ community engagement surely it would be sensible to let the people decide.

Little Englander?

One of the small political parties, the English Democrats, has as its main policy the setting up of an English Parliament.  Some might feel such a policy is unlikely to set the blood coursing through the veins of the English electorate and indeed the pitiful electoral record of the party bears testimony to this.  After all this is about some arcane constitutional issues, isn't it?  Or is it?

The recent referendum result in Wales on devolution has been welcomed by Nick Clegg.  "For the first time ever, laws that affect only Wales will be made only in Wales."

So now we have laws that affect only Scotland being made only in Scotland, likewise in Wales and also in Northern Ireland.

But what of England?  When will laws that affect only England be made only in England?  On this there is a deafening silence from Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party.

Under the proposals to equalise the size of Westminster parliamentary constituencies it is planned that there will be 502 English constituencies and 98 from the rest of the UK.  As things stand these 98 MPs will continue to vote on laws that affect only England.. So, an MP from a Scottish constituency will be able to vote on an English health law but he won't be able to vote on a Scottish health law as that is the province of the Scottish Parliament.

There is a manifest inequity here.  Will Clegg do anything to remedy this?  Think I will see pigs fly first.

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Lovely piece about this film and its director by Heffer in today's Sunday Telegraph.  Read here

A call to arms?

The strife within the Conservative Party in Tunbridge Wells is not just a matter for private grief within Tory ranks but something which should concern all residents of Tunbridge Wells.  The future direction of the borough's economy and residents' well-being will be shaped by decisions taken by the Council. 

The Conservative Group on  the Council has ousted the Leader of the Council and the Conservative Association is mopping up areas of resistance by de-selecting sitting councillors.  One councillor has resigned in disgust.

At one level the strife within the Conservative Party has all the makings of a television soap, but there are serious underlying issues, the resolution of which will determine the long-term future of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

The new Leader of the Council  has not committed to full-throttle regeneration of the town centre.  Indeed, he has committed to nothing.  Being of a cynical nature, could it be that no commitment will be made until after the local elections in May?   The electorate has been given  no clues as to the direction the Conservatives intend to travel on the regeneration issue. Hardly satisfactory.

The only opposition to the Conservatives on the Council are the Liberal Democrats, ineffectual and unlikely to have a surge in support.  However, given the cynical way Liberal Democrats campaign, it would not surprise me if they ran on an anti regeneration ticket in order to garner votes.

One of the leading lights in the 'keep Tunbridge Wells as it is' brigade has taken to using the phrase our historic town centre. Historic? Are we speaking of a York or Bath? Hardly, then perhaps the civic complex built in the 1940s described by Pevsner thus:

Big and boring, a compromise between a neo-Georgian style and tamest form of expressionism. Even the materials, brown brick and stone, seem washed out.

My fear is that the current junta in the Town Hall will follow the line of least resistance and cave in to the Aspic Tendency.  The hope has to be that determined brave political leadership will lead to full-throttle regeneration, but I have my doubts.

What Tunbridge Wells needs badly is a new political force willing to take a campaign to the electorate and challenge the malaise in the town hall.  Is it too much to ask, in Tunbridge Wells of all places, that people come forward to stand as Independents?

Tory Blues in Tunbridge Wells

I was elected to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in May 1996 on the same day that Roy Bullock and John Cunningham were first elected to the Council. In 2000 I retired but Roy and John soldiered on.  It came as no surprise to me that Roy became Leader of the council as he had enthusiasm, dedication,  determination and doggedness.  However his progress was not greeted within the Conservative Party with overwhelming enthusiasm, he made enemies and divided the party.

His downfall and the circumstances leading up to it have been documented in this blog.  He was attacked on two fronts: by the Liberal Democrats making justifiable complaints about lack of transparency and consultation by the Council on the workings of the regeneration company and by a group of individuals whom I have dubbed 'The Aspic Tendency' whose vision for Tunbridge Wells is to keep it as a backwater for the baby boomer generation.

Roy was doomed as Conservative councillors lost their nerve over the regeneration of the civic complex and saw an opportunity to gain revenge.  Vitriolic pro and anti Bullock letters appeared in the local press and it came as no surprise when he lost a vote of confidence and was replaced as leader by Robert 'Bob' Atwood.

The new Leader claimed he would unify the party, but this has been lost on the Conservative Association. The chairman of the Conservative Group on the Council has been de-selected. Then Roy Bullock was deselected as a candidate for the forthcoming local elections which led a Tory councillor to resign in protest.  Tory councillors have been taking lumps out of each other in the letters column of the local press.

More vitriol in the letters column this week with a Bullock supporter attacking the current regime in the town hall with the words 'lunatic' and 'crazy'.  The Mayor, David Jukes, who is regarded by some as having a pivotal role in the demise of Roy Bullock is being castigated for living in East Sussex.