Medway council met for their annual budget setting meeting on Thursday where the acquisition of the Pentagon Centre was approved.
Medway Labour submitted three amendments regarding the Pentagon, all of which were voted down by the Conservative Group.
Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Regeneration and Communities, submitted an amendment requesting that the council obtain two further valuations of the Pentagon Centre before purchase. He said, ‘The Pentagon Centre is the single biggest purchase Medway Council has considered in my 12 years as a Councillor. It is risky considering the poor state of the retail sector; Medway Labour would oppose this decision if it were being made purely for financial reasons, but we recognise the strategic importance of the Pentagon Centre for Chatham’s regeneration.
‘The deep concerns I expressed previously over the competence of the Conservative Council were compounded on Thursday night when the Conservatives rejected my common-sense amendment, based on Council Policy, which recommended that Cabinet obtain two further independent market valuations of the Pentagon. Currently the council only has one valuation, but obtaining three would help ensure the valuation is accurate and that the Council achieves the best possible value for money. The refusal of Medway Tories to pursue further valuations of the Pentagon is arrogant and robs the public of the chance of a fair deal; this behaviour is careless in the extreme.’
'The refusal of Medway Tories to pursue further valuations of the Pentagon is arrogant and robs the public of the chance of a fair deal; this behaviour is careless in the extreme.’ Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Regeneration and Communities
Cllr Dan McDonald, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Licensing, who submitted an amendment urging the council to prioritise Gillingham High Street for the upcoming Future High Streets Fund bid, said, ‘Gillingham High Street is in desperate need of an injection of cash, so my amendment asked Medway Council to prioritise Gillingham Town Centre in their upcoming Future High Streets Fund bid. This would still leave the council free to apply for funding for Chatham High Street in 2020 – a completely reasonable request considering they are committing £45m to Chatham High Street this year.
‘The Conservative group rejected this amendment on the basis that they would apply for funding for both Chatham and Gillingham simultaneously, but it was today revealed that Chatham will be the focus of the first bid. Either the Conservatives are purposefully misleading the public or have incompetently missed out on the chance to bid for Gillingham in this round.
‘When put on the spot Medway Conservatives will underhandedly give residents answers they think they want to hear, purposefully and completely misleading them on the Council’s true intentions. Yet again this Tory run administration have totally ignored Gillingham, the residents deserve better!’
'Yet again this Tory run administration have totally ignored Gillingham, the residents deserve better!’ Cllr Dan McDonald, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Licensing
Cllr Teresa Murray, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Health, whose amendment was submitted in closed session due to commercial sensitivity, said, ‘The Labour Group are disappointed about the lack of time given to debating this important issue and the extent to which commercial sensitivity limits public debate and involvement in the future of Chatham Town Centre. The Conservative Group voted down Medway Labour’s request to increase allotted speaking time for the Pentagon acquisition debate, revealing their contempt for the democratic process.
‘The amendments submitted by the Labour Group gave the council the opportunity to revise their approach in light of valid and sensible concerns, but predictably the Medway Tories shied away from any meaningful scrutiny of their decision making.’
'...predictably the Medway Tories shied away from any meaningful scrutiny of their decision making.' Cllr Teresa Murray, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Health