Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year Message

As we enter a new year and many of us make resolutions, I as a candidate will of course be preparing for the election which we know must come within months.

I suspect that a larger than normal number of people will also be looking forward to that election as their first and, one suspects, only chance to say what they think of Gordon Brown.

The past year has been a very bad one for us as a country. Most obviously, the value of what we produce as a country economically has fallen by far the largest amount ever recorded.

Despite that though I would like to note that in one area the economic news was less bad than feared although, unfortunately, one group may have suffered because of that.

Early in the year many commentators were forecasting that unemployment would now be more than three million but, thankfully, they were wrong. Thanks to a labour market that is still relatively responsive and flexible in spite of increased regulation, the rise in unemployment has, so far, been barely half as bad as feared.

That is because many workforces, including my own, have been prepared to accept pay freezes. In many cases employees have been prepared to work four days a week, rather than five, for reduced pay, or take sabbaticals, so as to protect their and their colleagues' jobs.

This has reduced the amount of job losses and meant that unemployment has increased less but, unfortunately, it has not done anything to help another group, young people seeking to enter the workforce, whether from school or from university.

A million young unemployed

It has been this group that has suffered most from the extraordinarily deep recession we have suffered under a government that boasted of no more boom and bust. Their lack of work may be less visible than that when there are mass lay-offs and many, still living at home whether by choice or not, will be supported through unemployment by their parents.

However, we must not underestimate the consequences of having a million young unemployed both socially and, if it were to carry on for any length of time, in terms of the skills and future prospects of our young adults.

I am surprised that, as a country, we are not talking more about the plight of the young unemployed. If, as I hope, a Conservative government is soon elected, I believe that we must and will ensure that their needs are put at the heart of what we do.


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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

David Cameron's New Year Message



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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Wishing You A Merry Christmas



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Monday, 21 December 2009

Where's The Justice In That?

A Message from Conservative Home and Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary

Sometimes Britain seems to be going quietly mad. A country where an elderly lady can be prosecuted for poking a teenager in the chest, where a police force can be prosecuted under health and safety laws when an officer is injured chasing a criminal, where a mother is driven to suicide by years of unchecked menace by a gang of troublemakers, where a vicious attack on a stranger is all too often dealt with by a caution, is a country that is getting things badly wrong.

How did we ever get ourselves into such an extraordinary position?

How did we get ourselves into a position where it is the criminal whose rights seem to come first, and where the victim is all too often forgotten or ignored?

And how did we get ourselves into a position where all too often the offender just gets away with it?

The picture set out in the most recent figures released to the Conservative Party by the Government is stark. They blow the lid off Britain's caution culture, and of a system that is sending all the wrong messages to offenders.

- Over the past decade, the number of offenders let off with a caution has risen sharply and now stands at nearly 1,000 a day.

- A third of those committing violent offences are now dealt with by a caution. That proportion has also more than doubled since 2001.

- A smaller and smaller proportion of offenders ever come before a court. Nearly half of all offences are now dealt with by a warning, a caution or a fixed penalty notice.

- Even sexual offences are treated in this way, with nearly one in three sex offenders let off with a caution. Detection rates have plummeted too.

- Only ten per cent of burglaries are solved.

- The detection rate for sexual offences has dropped by a quarter.

- So has the detection rate for violent offences - down by around a fifth.


Small wonder that so many people have lost faith in criminal justice in this country.

This
short document sets out some of the reasons for the failings. It paints a picture of police stuck behind computer screens and not on the streets. Of unwieldy bureaucracy. And a system where justice is not being done.

It is a snapshot of a system that desperately needs a fresh start.

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Monday, 14 December 2009

Southeastern Must Do Better

"Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst" is probably the phrase that best describes the attitude of local commuters regarding the introduction of the new Southeastern timetable, and the full launch of the commuter HS1 service from Rochester and Strood to St. Pancras.

So it came as a great disappointment to myself and my fellow commuters who arrived at Strood station this morning to catch the 07.42 high speed service to find it had been cancelled because of a missing train crew. To say I am furious is something of an understatement, particularly given the fact that it is going to cost passengers from Strood £106.52 a week for the privilege of being late for work as I was!

Southeastern have been allowed to increase their fares exponentially over the past few years in order to, as they say, meet the costs of introducing the new HS1 service, though they still can't get their story straight on this. If that is the case then I think the least we should expect from our investment is to have a service that runs on time and as stated. Let us hope that today's disruption is not a sign of what is to come.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Labour Election Victory Would Mean Higher Taxes And Interest Rates

Today, Alistair Darling delivered the last Pre Budget Report before a General Election.

Because he failed to take the tough decisions on spending before the election, there will be higher taxes and higher interest rates if Labour win the election.

The central measure was a tax on jobs that hits everyone earning over £20,000 - well below the median wage. That is Labour's definition of the "well off". Of all Labour's tax rises this will be the one that it is the Conservatives' priority to avoid.

Because Labour is weak they failed to deal with the £178bn deficit, cancelled the pre-election Comprehensive Spending Review, and instead said that a Labour victory at the election would mean:

- £7.8 billion higher taxes - £370 more per family - after the election
- Of this £6.5 billion - £310 more per family - is a rise in National Insurance - a tax on anyone earning over £20,000.
- Labour's planned tax on jobs is now £200 a year on someone earning £30,000 a year, or £60 on average earnings of around £23,000
- And the ring fencing means a real terms 10% cut in all other Departments over just two years


Other tax increases include:

- A £440m inheritance tax rise
- A new £440m phone tax
- £220m on workplace canteens
- £500m pension tax rise
- No help on business rates; and failed to abolish small corporation tax rise


Yet even with the tax rises there is no credible plan to deal with the deficit:

- Still no honesty on spending as the Spending Review has been cancelled until after the election
- No credible plan to deal with the deficit. Debt stabilises in 2015/16 - a year later than at the Budget
- Borrowing £789bn over the next six years - doubling the national debt again to £1.5 trillion
- The pledge to halve the deficit in four years has already been dismissed as not enough by Mervyn King, the CBI and the OECD - it would leave the deficit higher in 2013/14 than when Denis Healey went to the IMF


The PBR has been slammed by business:

Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI: "The Chancellor has made a serious mistake imposing an extra jobs tax at a time when the economic recovery will still be fragile. Increasing the National Insurance contribution will hold back job creation and growth. He has also missed the opportunity to increase the UK's credibility by reducing the public deficit earlier. We are no clearer today as to how the Government plans to reduce public expenditure."

David Frost of British Chambers of Commerce said that the National Insurance rise is: "Terrible news...It's an additional cost for business when they can least afford it."

Miles Templeman, Director-Generalof the Institute of Directors: "The key theme of this year's PBR is prudence postponed... A further tax on jobs at a time like this is madness."

John Wright, FSB National Chairman on the tax on jobs: "this is extremely damaging for employment in the UK."




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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Rochester Catalpa Tree Appeal

My colleague Cllr Sue Haydock is leading a campaign to preserve one of Rochester's most endearing landmarks, namely the Catalpa Tree which sits proudly outside the entrance to Rochester Cathedral.

Believed to be one of the oldest living examples of an American Indian Bean Tree, or Catalpa Bignonioides to give it it's proper botanical name, our iconic specimen in Rochester is in urgent need of conservation work to prevent it's current state of health from deteriorating further. An appeal has been launched to raise awareness of the tree's plight and to find the £22,000 that is required to get the necessary work done. These include:

- A new propping system
- Cable bracing
- Mulching (protective cover for the soil)
- Removal and replacement of railings
- Propagation of a replacement tree for the future
- Repair to ledger stones

There are a number of ways you can help with the Appeal from displaying a poster or highlighting the campaign on your own website, to buying a book from Baggins Book Bazaar on Rochester High Street. But the most effective way of helping save our tree is to make a donation and you can do so online by visiting the Appeal website at;


http://www.rochestercatalpatree.co.uk/

The Rochester Catalpa Tree has been enjoyed and admired by literally millions of people over many years, including our very own Charles Dickens. On the eve of this year's Dickensian Christmas festival what better way to honour his memory than by helping to preserve one of Rochester's most important landmarks.


Please join me in supporting the Rochester Catalpa Tree Appeal.

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Residents' Survey - Have Your Say

Dear Resident

I wanted to write to you in advance of the upcoming general election to give you an opportunity to have your say on some of the key issues which we face, both as a country and locally.


If we win the election, a Conservative government will need to make difficult decisions to put the economy and public finances back on track. I want to ensure that this is done in the least painful way possible. In particular, if elected as our MP, I will first and foremost seek to represent my constituents in Westminster, rather than defend the government in Rochester and Strood.

I am not now an MP and played no part in the expenses scandal. I therefore share everyone else's anger about how MPs behaved, and I believe that we need a new Parliament with new MPs to clean up the system. Being elected as an MP should be a privilege and an opportunity for public service, not an opportunity for private profit.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to the complete the survey form online, or complete the survey on the back of the letter you received and return it in the Freepost envelope provided.

I particularly look forward to hearing your views on the local NHS, as Medway Maritime Hospital is about to appoint a new Chief Executive, and where you would like to see more police patrols, as I am our representative on the Kent Police Authority.

Yours faithfully



Mark Reckless
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood


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Monday, 23 November 2009

Protecting Britain's Pensioners From Labour Cuts

Labour want to cut Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance for over 65s in Rochester and Strood, wrecking their chances of living independently.

Nationally 2.4 million elderly people need support to cope with a physical or mental disability.

These people rely on disability benefits - a third of them through the Disability Living Allowance for over 65s, and two thirds of them through the Attendance Allowance.

Labour want to cut these benefits, wrecking their chances of living independently and having the freedom to tailor their care to their needs.

Those over 65 who claim Disability Living Allowance currently get an average of £75 every week, and those who receive Attendance Allowance get an average of £60. This compares to an average pensioner's income of around £250 a week.

This means that some of the most vulnerable pensioners in Rochester and Strood and around the country could lose around a quarter of their income - amounting to a loss of around £8 billion a year.

Speaking out against the cuts Mark Reckless said:

"I can't see how it makes sense to cut these benefits which are focussed on helping people carry on living in their own homes, often with family members caring for them, as this has to be much less expensive than supporting people in residential care homes."

These cuts are unwise, unfair, and unkind. Our pensioners deserve better.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:


Sign our petition against the care cuts
Email/Write to your MP to ask them to oppose these cuts
Add your name to this petiton to the Prime Minister


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Friday, 20 November 2009

Southeastern Delays

This week I have been late to work three times and have had to either pay for a taxi or got soaked walking from Rochester to Chatham stations. From the looks of other passengers, many have suffered similar frustrations.

Commuters deserve a proper explanation and apology from Southeastern Trains, because the differing explanations we have had to date are wearing thin. Is it just that Southeastern can't cope with the rain?

It is particularly disappointing to have these problems now when Southeastern, almost uniquely in the country, and they still can't get their story straight as to why this is, are about to put up their season ticket prices.

At least there is one ray of light for my fellow commuters trying to get from Rochester to London Bridge or Cannon Street for 9 o'clock. After 13th December we will no longer need to catch the 8.06 to Chatham to get (or this week, mainly miss) the 8.10 back up to Cannon Street. That is because the service will make an 8.11 stop at Rochester.

This is the result of a long campaign which I have led and will save many commuters considerable time and hassle. Unfortunately, while almost all the evening peak trains will make the Rochester stop, not all the morning ones will, so I will keep up this campaign until Rochester commuters for the Cannon Street and Victoria trains leaving between 7a.m and 8a.m. can benefit too.

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

David Cameron Reacts To The Queen's Speech

Cameron says the Prime Minister is more pre-occupied with self-survival than legislating on the measures the country needs.

Pointing out that it was the shortest Queen's Speech since 1997, Cameron said Labour have "run out of money, run out of time, run out of ideas".

Cameron said that the background to this Speech was a country facing "the most difficult circumstances for a generation", notably an economic crisis "with the longest recession since the war and the worst public finances in living memory".

But, instead of the real Queen's Speech the country needed he said what we got was "a Queen's Speech which is just a Labour press release on Palace parchment".

Cameron said that there should be an election "instead of wasting the country's time and inflicting further damage". "What is the point of this Government?", he asked.

Read the full speech here

Get Change For A Fiver - Make A Donation Here


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Friday, 13 November 2009

Why Can't We Take Independent Legal Advice?

Last night at Council - actually this morning as the meeting went on until nearly 1a.m.! - I requested that we take independent legal advice to clarify whether Medway Council has acted lawfullly in deciding to close St John's Infant school.

My concern is that officers replaced one of the school organisation principles, which our policy framework requires Cabinet to follow, with a different aim and falsely stated to Cabinet that it was one of the school organisation principles.

This is what I said to Council:

"Last Friday we learned from the Medway Messenger that St John's campaigners were considering a legal challenge to the closure of their school.

Given that, I think the wording of this motion is unfortunate, since it implies we accept that this is a matter for Cabinet. I don't agree, because it is us as a Council who set the policy framework, and that requires Cabinet to apply the school organisation principles.

However, it seems that our officers were not happy with one of those school organisation principles, since it only allowed the gradual amalgamation of infant and junior schools.

Instead, they developed a different policy, one which could be used to justify the closure of any infant school, and falsely told Cabinet that it was one of the school organisation principles. They used that policy to try and close St Peter's. They are using it now to try and close St John's. And I fear they may use it to try and close St Nick's.

Given the legal risks, I have to say I am surprised that our monitoring officer has taken such a relaxed attitude to this. It certainly contrasts with the position she took with respect to my ward colleague earlier in this process.

I don't believe that passing this motion will help St John's, and I do not support it. What might help St John's would be for this Council to take independent legal advice on whether it is lawful for officers to ignore a principle in the policy framework and advise Cabinet to follow a different policy instead.

If our monitoring officer will not take such advice, and this Council loses a judicial review in consequence, I would question whether she should advise us further."

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tickets For Troops

Mark Reckless is proud to be supporting Tickets for Troops.

David Cameron has helped to launch Tickets for Troops, a new initiative which offers the Armed Forces free tickets to big events including football matches and top music acts.


Thousands of tickets will be made available to all serving military personnel and to veterans who have been discharged through injury since 2001 at the new
www.ticketsfortroops.org.uk website.

David explained that Ticket for Troops is "all about people coming together to say to the armed forces: thank you, we respect you and we recognise the sacrifice you are making for us."


The Conservative leader first announced his ambition for this scheme in July 2009, and Tickets for Troops has since been set up as an independent not-for-profit company with huge support from the sports and entertainment worlds.

Tickets have been donated for top football and cricket matches, boxing contests, snooker, horse-racing events, theatre, and both classic and rock music concerts around the country.

Speaking at the launch, where he was joined by Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, Gary Lineker and Joss Stone, David said:


"I'm proud of the part the Conservative Party has played in getting this off the ground and want to thank everyone for generously lending their time and support to this great cause."
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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Campaign To Stop The Estuary Airport

Mark Reckless, along with Medway Council, Kent County Council, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have started a campaign to get this £40billion scheme blown out of the water due to its expense and the massive impact it will have on our area and the environment.

Seven years ago, we successfully fought off a similar scheme at Cliffe, on the Hoo Peninsula, thanks to overwhelming support from the public.

Writing on the petition, Mark commented:

"Boris, your proposal for an estuary airport is pie in the sky and has been disowned by our party. Surely it is now time to stop spending taxpayers' money on "feasibility studies" etc. and recognise that this plan is not going to fly?"

The best way to stop this new unnecessary and expensive proposal is to make your voice heard. Please leave a comment on the Mayor of London's plans for a Thames Estuary airport and register for our petition against the proposals below.

Sign the Stop Estuary Airport petition

Read the Mayor of London's feasability study

View the full press release

See what the insiders really think of the planned airport

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Monday, 2 November 2009

Petition To Protect The NHS From Spending Cuts

David Cameron has launched a petition on NHS spending and announced the five Conservative priorities for a Department of Public Health.

The petition urges the Government to increase spending on the NHS every year, and to stop precious NHS money being wasted on targets and bureaucracy.

The five priorities are as follows:

1. We will create a patient-led NHS where patients are able to choose between a wide range of public and independent sector providers where and when they receive treatment, and where patients are able take control of their own health records.

2. We want to take day-to-day political interference out of the NHS and put healthcare professionals in charge of delivering patient care, according to the demands of patients and in competition with other providers.

3. We will devolve decision-making to doctors and nurses but they will be more accountable than ever for the results they achieve, but to patients not politicians, because we will measure health outcomes, publish extensive data about what providers achieve and pay those providers by results.

4. Having set the framework for these reforms to the NHS, we will be able to focus government action on improving public health.

5. That action will include reforming long-term care to enable people to stay in their own homes and communities.


David Cameron launched the petition and priorities in a keynote speech at the Royal College of Pathologists. In his speech he set out his vision for the NHS and tackled some misunderstandings of Conservative policy.

"Labour wasted their first term in power by failing to reform. And now, after they had finally assumed the mantle of change in the NHS, they have lost their nerve and failed to go far and fast enough. With the publication of our priorities for the Department of Health today, we are ensuring we do not make the same mistakes", he said.

Mark Reckless welcomed the announcement and added, "I particularly welcome the serious and consistent focus which our Shadow Health Spokesman, Andrew Lansley, has put on public health, an issue which I have raised with Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, and on which I know many doctors welcome our approach."

Read the full speech here and download the petition here


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Monday, 26 October 2009

More Questions Re: Climate Camp Policing

Today's Guardian suggests that Kent Police attempted to put pressure on Medway Council to facilitate increased surveillance of climate camp protesters, despite Medway Council's concern that this would "alienate the community".

An FOI request has shown that Sergeant Keith Waymont wrote to us at the Council to complain that council officers were not being sufficiently co-operative with police plans for surveillance. The Guardian reports that he wrote:

"When I put this [Medway Council's alleged non co-operation with surveilance] to my bosses, they were less than impressed, given the importance of this operation as the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway."

In my role as a Member of Kent Police Authority I have today written to our Chief Executive to ask that Sergeant Waymont identify the 'bosses' with whom he says that he raised the issue, so that the matter can be investigated.

On the face of it, the letter is utterly unacceptable. By pressurising Medway Council to set aside our concerns about planned police surveillance because "the new power station build is likely to create a considerable number of jobs for Medway", it implies that the climate camp policing was intended to face down the protestors and help E.On build a new power station.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not true. In some aspects of the operation the police went out of their way to try to demonstrate neutrality, e.g. by not using E.On faciliities to command the operation. However, the unveiling of this letter - thanks to FOI - can only add to concerns regarding the policing of the protest.

I consider that our duty as the Kent Police Authority is not solely to support Kent Police, but to hold them to account on behalf of the public. If we are to do this properly, it implies that on occasion we may have to make measured criticism of the Force.

We have, with the Force, arranged two independent reports into the climate camp policing. I and the Chair and Chief Executive of the Police Authority met with the Climate Camp legal team to seek to understand and take account of their concerns. Rather than just allow the police to deal with climate camp complaints individually, we as an Authority are seeking to determine the overall lessons to be learned from these complaints.

This work has been painstaking and has taken longer than we initially hoped. Our conclusions will feed into HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's national review of the policing of protest. I hope that we will also before too long be able to publish them for the benefit of the Kent public and those who sought to protest peacefully in our county.

In the meantime I would like to put on record my condemnation of the letter as quoted in the Guardian today and congratulate the paper on its investigative reporting.

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Love Lane Saved From Development

I spoke at a very well attended site meeting last weekend about several new private houses that the Diocese wanted to shoehorn into the Bishop's Kitchen Garden at the back of Bishopscourt in Rochester.

Love Lane residents will be delighted that the Development Control Committee has now turned down the Church's application.

Love Lane is an extraordinarily narrow historic street, charming and rightly romantically named, but not designed with the motor car in mind, let alone construction traffic.

REPEAL OF PRE-DETERMINATION RULE

It sounds dull and technocratic but a really worthwhile reform which a Conservative government would bring in is to abolish the rule against pre-determination.

The rule prevents any councillor who is on, or might later join, the Development Control (i.e. Planning) Committee from saying anything in advance about any issue that may come before the Committee.

This is not only an affront to both democracy and to free speech. I also saw last weekend how it leads to a massive waste of time and money.

The Church has now applied and failed twice to secure planning permission. The developer told residents that both times it had applied on the basis that a council officer once told them that access would have to be through Love Lane rather than through Bishopscourt.

If only, they had been able to speak to the Councillors who would take the decision, then those Councillors could have represented local residents and explained that access through Love Lane would be unacceptable, saving a lot of time, money and bother all round.

Photos very kindly provided by Jack Picknell. Reproduced here with permission. Please visit Jack's website at http://www.jackpicknell.co.uk/


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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Honesty, Not Fantasy

My apologies for not being able to update you from this year's Conservative Party Conference before now, but such is the interest in this year's event in Manchester and the accompanying high attendance figures that it has been difficult to find either the time or the facilities to get online before now.

For me the highlight of the Conference so far has been George Osborne's speech on Tuesday where he exposed the gaping chasm that now exists between our party and Labour on the burning issue of fiscal responsibility. I use the term fiscal responsibility and Labour in the same sentence advisedly because they have been strangers to one another since Gordon Brown abandoned Conservative spending plans in 1999 and went mad with the nation's credit card.

Calmly and assuredly, George Osborne set out a number of proposals to begin to deal with the worst debt crisis this country has seen since the last time Labour were in office. As a matter of fact, the current debt crisis we have been led into by Labour is actually worse than the one Margaret Thatcher inherited in 1979, with borrowing estimated to reach £175 billion this year alone. That is a truly shocking figure and one that will be paid for not just by taxpayers today and tomorrow, but by their children, and even their children's children. This cannot continue.

There is an old saying that every Labour government has always run out of money, and I am sad to say that this has once again proven to be the case. Labour always runs out of our money.

The size of the mountain we must climb in order to get our economy back on a sound footing is huge, but it is a task that we the Conservatives will undertake compassionately and fairly. The main theme running through George's speech was that we are all in this together, and he is right. We are united, not just as a party but as a country. Labour got us into this mess, and now only the Conservatives can get us out. We have done it before, and we'll do it again.

The battle now between the Conservatives and Labour is no longer just about Gordon Brown's false dividing line of 'investment versus cuts', nor indeed is it about fiscal responsibility versus profligate spending. To sum it up bluntly, the battle now is between honesty and fantasy. Honesty from the Conservatives about the measures that need to be taken to ensure we bring our country back from the brink, or Labour fantasy where the people of Great Britain continue to be lied to and treated like fools.


The choice is clear, we simply cannot afford another five years of Labour.

I will set out what this means for the people of Rochester and Strood when I return home, but in the meantime let me assure you of this - neither I nor my party will rest in our fight to bring about a fairer, more equitable society for all. Together we can make Britain Great again!

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Statement Regarding St. John's C.E. Infants School

Medway Council's policy framework requires the Council's Cabinet "to shape the future of Medway schools in line with school organisation principles".

Rose Collinson, the Council's education director, assured the Cabinet on 17 September, that one of those school organisation principles was that:

"The number of transition points will be reduced wherever possible within the phases of primary and secondary education. In the primary phase this means creating schools for pupils aged 3-11 and removing transitions for pupils midway through the foundation stage and between separate provisions for Key Stages 1 and 2".

She then used that principle as a basis for advising Cabinet that St. Peter's and St. John's schools should close as they are small infant schools that cannot provide education from 3-11 (ignoring the rather more important points that they achieve significantly better than average results and only had a surplus places issue in respect of a single year's intake).

On Thursday at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting my sustained questioning led Rose Collinson to admit that she had misled Cabinet with that statement. What she claimed was a school organisation principle was not.

The relevant school organisation principle supports only amalgamation of infant and junior schools, not closure of infant schools, or closure of schools that cannot offer nursery education.

Rather than using the school organisation principles to make recommendations to Cabinet on closures, as required by the policy framework, officers relied on something from a different document and told Cabinet that it was one of the school organisation principles when this was not true.

I asked the Council's head legal officer to flag the problem to Cabinet before they decided on closures. She refused to do so.

Overview and Scrutiny have therefore sent the closure of St. John's back to Cabinet to reconsider as the decision was not taken, as required, on the basis of the school organisation principles.


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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Mark Reckless On YouTube

Mark Reckless is pleased to announce the launch of his official YouTube channel where you can view a variety of exclusive videos aimed at giving the public an insight into why Mark Reckless is the only choice for Rochester and Strood at the next general election.

Since going live just four days ago, the channel has proved to be an instant hit with over 3,500 viewers watching highlights from the speech given by Daniel Hannan MEP to supporters and activists here in Rochester and Strood*. You can visit Mark's YouTube channel by clicking here, and please do leave a comment to let us know what you think.

One of the best things about this new addition to Mark's online presence is that it hasn't cost the taxpayer a single penny! Unlike the current Labour MPs here in Medway who managed to spend over £30,000 of taxpayers' money between them in the 2007/08 period alone, Mark Reckless doesn't have a publicly funded 'communications allowance' to tell you about the hard work he is doing for constituents here in Rochester and Strood.

Instead, we rely solely on fundraising activities by local supporters and activists, and donations from the public who want to see change.

If you would like to see change here in Rochester and Strood, and in the country as a whole then please help us fight the publicly funded Labour spin machine by making a small donation. Or why not join the Conservative party and be a part of the change Britain desperately needs. Can you afford another five years of Labour?

*Mark Reckless and Rochester and Strood Conservatives would like to thank David Miller for capturing this event on camera
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Thursday, 17 September 2009

We Win! St. Peter's School To Stay Open!

Councillor Mark Reckless has congratulated both Medway Council's Cabinet and the Save St. Peter's campaign after it was decided there was no case for continuing with the planned closure of St. Peter's school.

Both Mark Reckless and Councillor Ted Baker, Mark's colleague in Rochester West ward and former Chair of Governors at the school, have staunchly supported the school during the consultation process.

Mark said:

"Despite accusations of pre-determination over the closure from members of the Labour group, the decision by the Cabinet to keep St. Peter's open is not just a victory for the excellent parent-led campaign, the members of which I congratulate fully. It is a victory for the democratic process and common sense.

"We urged the Cabinet to look at the facts, that the school should remain open and they have listened.

"St. Peter's future is now assured and I look forward to giving my continued support to the pupils, parents and teachers of St. Peter's for many years to come."

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Save The Great British Pub

With roughly 7 pubs closing every day of the week, and our own local pubs under threat, we believe that the Government should be doing more to save the Great British pub.

33% of the price of every pint goes in "Beer Tax" to the Government. Labour plan to increase this further, hitting responsible drinkers once again in favour of irresponsible binge drinkers and yobs who cause misery on our high streets and in our community.

Cllr Mark Reckless, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood, and Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East of England, have launched the local Save The Great British Pub campaign calling on the Government to Axe the Beer Tax which has seen the loss of well over 3,000 pubs and 24,000 jobs in the industry during the past year alone.

Residents across Rochester and Strood will be invited to visit their local pub to sign the petition calling on the Government to end the year-on-year tax rises on beer that has hit the industry so hard, and they can also sign online by clicking here.

Mark Reckless said: "All small businesses have suffered to one degree or another under Labour from regulation and being used as unpaid tax-collectors, but pubs have suffered terribly, many have had to close, and pubs particularly need a Conservative government to put things right."

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Friday, 4 September 2009

Gurkha's By-election Triumph

Congratulations to Tashi Tamang Bhutia, a Gurkha, on his extraordinary victory in Medway's Luton and Wayfield by-election in Medway last night. He took 1042 votes to Labour's 1038 in a ward where Labour secured twice the vote we did as recently as 2007.

I first met Tashi eight years ago when canvassing in the Chatham part of what was then the Medway constituency. He immediately joined the party and has worked loyally for us ever since.

At the third time of trying he is now a councillor, knocking Labour out of one of their safest seats in Medway (and probably the whole of the South-East).

Tashi's victory is first and foremost testament to his decency, honesty and modesty.

Second, it reflects many core-Labour voters coming out for Tashi because of how they felt about Gordon Brown doing everything he could to deny Gurkhas fair treatment in the UK. Helpfully, the two Labour ward councillors who remained in post gave this as one of their reasons for resigning the Labour whip.

Third, the result is a huge personal defeat for Jonathan Shaw, the constituency's MP, who insisted on imposing a candidate against the better judgment of many in the local Labour party. Jonathan's face was redder than his rosette in his lonely vigil at the count, as well it might have been in light of the shocking comments made by his chosen candidate.

Finally, it seems that council taxpayers have voted for substantial savings in councillor allowances. Labour have now been reduced to such a rump, 10 out of 55 seats in the Medway Towns, a conurbation of a quarter of a milllion people, that their spokesmen may all lose their special responsibility allowances.

Many thanks to my council colleagues and activists from Rochester and Strood who gave six weeks of sustained campaign support. We hope that this will benefit Tracey Crouch in her fight against Jonathan, just as it helped Tashi to whom I owe so much.

We are delighted that Daniel Hannan MEP will be coming to Rochester and Strood on Saturday to lead our celebrations with Tashi.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Medway Unfairly Singled Out For Rail Fare Hike

Medway commuters who have read London papers saying commuters are set to see an across the board fares reduction are in for a rude awakening.

Southeastern have confirmed that commuter fares to Medway and elsewhere in Kent will go up by 1.6%. This is because, while nationally regulated rail fares including commuter season tickets are limited to RPI + 1%, the government lets Southeastern put fares up by RPI + 3%. Therefore, because the July RPI on which fares are based fell by 1.4%, commuter fares nationally will fall by 0.4%, but for Southeastern and Medway they will go up by 1.6%, or about £50 for an annual season ticket to London.

It is reported in the press that this is to allow Southeastern to "increase capacity". However when Mark Reckless, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood, put that to Southeastern previously, this was denied and Southeastern stated that the bigger fare hikes had nothing to do with the High Speed 2 ("HS2") line or increased capacity, as well they might given that capacity on other trains is being cut for HS2 which plans to charge a 30-35% fare premium!

Instead, Southeastern said they were allowed to raise fares more because the service had 'improved since Connex.'

Mark Reckless said:

"The government and Southeastern have never got their story straight as to why they are hammering Medway with bigger fare hikes than everywhere else. If it is, as Southeastern claim because the service has improved since Connex, perhaps they can explain why fares went up the same as everywhere else under Connex, but now under Southeastern Medway commuters must pay more for a service the same as everywhere else, just because they suffered a worse service under Connex?"

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Rochester and Strood Conservatives Welcome Georgian Ambassador

Rochester and Strood Conservatives were delighted to welcome the Georgian Ambassador, His Excellency Giorgi Badridze (second from left in photo), on Saturday.

The open air dinner, kindly hosted (under a range of gazebos and umbrellas!) by Jim and Merita Jones at their home in High Halstow, marked the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Georgia last year.

At the time Gordon Brown did nothing while David Milliband merely expressed concern and called on both sides to withdraw forces, a rather puzzling response to Russia having invaded Georgia.

In contrast, David Cameron immediately flew to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi to offer support to the beleaguered democratically elected government. The ambassador identified this as the key moment which pushed the British and European governments to give diplomatic support to Georgia and negotiate a Russian ceasefire short of Tbilisi.

I was honoured to introduce the ambassador and assure him that a democratic Georgia would always have a staunch friend in Britain under a Conservative government.

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Photographer Arrested In Chatham

Mark Reckless is to make inquiries into the alleged arrest and detention of an amateur photographer in Chatham High Street under section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 on Wednesday 8th July.

As the Kent Police Authoritys lead member for legal services and member of the Professional Standards committee, Mark helps ensure that complaints such as these made against police officers are investigated fully and transparently .

The allegations made against the officers are serious and need to be addressed on an urgent basis to establish the facts of what actually happened on the day, and determine police are acting properly when deploying section 44 powers.

Conservatives will always support the police in the fight against crime and terror, but we will not condone behaviour by particular officers that unjustifiably impacts on law-abiding members of the public going about legitimate personal business.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Forthcoming Events

Just a quick note to tell you about a couple of events we have coming up in the near future that are open to all, members and non-members alike.

For more info and details on all the forthcoming events we are running here in Rochester and Strood along with a general guide to the multitude of local concerts and festivals taking place in Medway, make sure you visit my events page - Click Here

On Thursday 16th July we are hosting the latest in our series of Political Discussion Groups at Strood Conservative Club, and we will be welcoming Roger Gale MP, former pirate radio DJ and now Conservative member of Parliament for North Thanet, as our guest speaker. These events always sell out and as I write there are only a handful of tickets left. Priced at a recession-busting £5 per person which includes a light buffet, you'll need to get in quick if you would like to join us for what is sure to be a very lively evening of political debate.

And on Saturday 18th July, we take to the high seas for our midsummer cruise along the Medway on the Kingswear Castle paddle steamer. Young and old are welcome to join us as we take an evening cruise along the river towards Wouldham, starting from Thunderbolt Pier in the historic Chatham dockyard. Light refreshments and freshly made sandwiches will be available, but for the more seasoned sailors amongst you there is a fully licensed bar on board. Tickets are priced at a very reasonable £13 per person, and children under 16 are half price (pirate clothing optional!)

Remember, by attending events like these you are not only helping the efforts of your local Conservative party, you are also helping to bring about the change this country really needs. Fighting an election against this incompetent Labour government doesn't come cheap so any help you can give us is very much appreciated.

Booking Info and More Events - Click Here

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Friday, 3 July 2009

St. Peter's News

Councillor Mark Reckless, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood, is to tell Medway Council's Cabinet that they should keep St. Peter's school open.

Mark said:

"St Peter's is a successful school with rising rolls and above average results. I have looked at the arguments put forward by council officers to justify closure and they do not add up. I intend to urge the Cabinet, who have always kept an open mind on this, that they should keep St. Peter's open."

Parents, pupils and teachers from St. Peter's Infants in Holcombe Road, Rochester, successfully enlisted the local community in fighting to save the school after Medway Council began a consultation on possible closure.

Councillor Ted Baker, Mark's colleague in Rochester West ward, was previously the Chairman of Governors, and has staunchly supported the school.

Ted said:

"I congratulate everyone involved in the campaign. The arguments are clear - and Mark has intervened in our support - but we should not stand down until the Cabinet announce the decision officially in the autumn."

Read the full story online - Click Here (Adobe Reader Required - Get It Free)

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Monday, 22 June 2009

Speech To Council 18th June 2009

Councillor Esterson has made a serious allegation in respect of my integrity, colleagues' integrity and the integrity of Overview and Scrutiny.

He has said the consultation will be 'a sham'. He has provided no evidence to support that claim, so I can only assume that it is because he has already decided.

His position is that we shouldn't consult, all schools are good schools and no school should close.

My position is that Overview and Scrutiny should do what it says.

The Cabinet has put forward a recommendation from officers that needs scrutiny and that is what I am giving it.

I have asked officers questions, which they haven't answered.

I am listening to the teachers, the parents and the pupils.

I voted to consult you, I am listening to you, and then I will make a decision as to what to recommend.

No one will be telling me what to say and I will take that decision in the best interests of my constituents.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Fuse Festival 2009

Many congratulations to the organisers of the Fuse festival in Rochester, which has had a wonderful atmosphere and a great variety of entertainment.

I spent Saturday afternoon having a relaxed drive around the Weald, a visit to the wonderful historic house of Igtham Mote followed by a walk near Pembury and stops in Goudhurst and Staplehurst.

Before going, we caught one of the acrobatic performances and a dance act at the Fuse festival and greatly enjoyed by both in beautiful sunshine.

We didn't get back to Rochester until ten in the evening but the atmosphere was incredibly friendly with people of all ages winding down after a day at the Fuse festival.

Congratulations to all concerned and I would thoroughly recommend it to others before the festival closes this weekend.

Visit the official Fuse Festival Website - Click Here


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Monday, 8 June 2009

Medway European Election Result

Mark Reckless would just like to thank all of the party members, activists and supporters from Rochester and Strood who helped the Conservatives win the European Election here in Medway.

And thanks also go out to all of the MEPs who took the time to visit and campaign with us during the past month or so, though commiserations must go out to Mark's friend Therese Coffey who came agonisingly close to becoming the Conservatives' fifth MEP here in the South East region last night. So close, yet so far, but certainly not through lack of effort on her part.

Last night we 'live blogged' the result from the Black Lion Leisure Centre (now removed to keep things tidy), so we thought we'd repost the result today showing confirmation that the Conservatives won handsomely in Medway receiving 18,502 votes (an increase on the amount of votes we received in 2004 which was quite amazing really).


As was widely expected UKIP came in second taking 12,841 votes, solidly beating Labour into third who could only muster 8,745 votes - their worst result ever in Medway.

Conservative Party 18,502
United Kingdom Independence Party 12,841
The Labour Party 8,745
Liberal Democrats 5,460
British National Party 4,741
The Green Party 4,283
English Democrats 1,698
Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship" 851
No2EU: Yes to Democracy 613
Socialist Labour Party 521
Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu 425
United Kingdom First 392
Jury Team 256
The Peace Party - Non-Violence, Justice Environment 210
The Roman Party, Ave! 136

One has to wonder what morale must be like within the Labour group at this time because it was noticeable at last evening's count that not one of the local Labour representatives who bothered to turn up chose to wear a rosette or show any kind of party affiliation. In fact, if you were a neutral you would have been hard pushed to detect any kind of Labour presence at the count whatsoever. Quite, quite poor.
This was compounded by the fact that not one of the three Labour MPs who represent Medway constituencies chose to put in an appearance on the night to rally the troops and represent their constituents. Perhaps they were too busy preparing their exit strategy for the next election.

As Ian Duncan Smith said earlier today, "Labour morale is so low you could slide it under a snake."

The one thing that is clear though is that the people of the United Kingdom have sent a clear message to Labour that they want Change, and they want it now. No longer can Labour claim to govern with any sort of mandate, and though they may try and pin their woeful performances in both the county council and European elections on the expenses scandal, the plain fact of the matter is that the British people are no longer listening to them. What we have is a zombie government led by a zombie leader. Only the Conservative party can clean up Labour's mess. We've done it before, and we'll do it again but we need a General Election NOW!

Once again, thanks to everyone for all their hard work, and thanks too to the Returning Officer, the counters and administrators, the Police, and everybody else from Medway Council who ensured last night ran as smoothly as possible. And most of all, thanks to everyone who made the effort to come out and vote.

We look forward to doing it all again as soon as possible!

Get Change For A Fiver - Donate Now

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Friday, 5 June 2009

Get Change For A Fiver

Today we are officially launching Mark's 'Change for a Fiver' initiative where we are asking you, the members of the public, to help bring Change to Medway and Britain by making a small donation to our campaign fund.

At a time when the Labour government is more interested in fighting amongst themselves for their own survival rather than doing what is right for the majority of the people in this country, it is now more important than ever that we have a General Election and we are asking for your help in fighting the Labour spin machine.

Because we understand how tough it is for everyone in the current economic climate all we are asking is that you make a small £5 donation that will help us to make sure the people of Rochester and Strood deliver a clear message to Labour that it is time for Change at the next General Election, which could come sooner rather than later.

If elected Mark Reckless is determined to find savings and give taxpayers better value for money, which will ultimately mean lower taxes, smaller government, more efficient public services and less state intrusion into your personal lives. As a long-time resident of Rochester and Strood Mark understands only too well how badly the people of Medway have been let down by this current government and is determined to fight hard for a better deal for Medway residents.

Fighting an election campaign doesn't come cheaply. Unlike the current Labour MPs we have here in Medway who managed to spend over £30,000 of taxpayers' money on propaganda in the 2007/08 period alone, Mark Reckless doesn't have a publicly funded communications allowance to tell you what a wonderful job he's doing. All of our leaflets, our posters, our postage costs (and even this website) are met from our own campaign funds - and quite rightly too, the public should not have to pay for political propaganda through their taxes.

So this is why we are asking you to make a donation to help Mark Reckless win a better, and fairer, deal for Medway. Just a small donation of £5 today will help make sure your local Conservative candidate can fight the publicly funded Labour spin machine. Or better still why not get involved in bringing Change to Medway and to Great Britain by joining Mark Reckless and the Conservative Party.

It's your choice, but ask yourself this: Can You Afford Another Five Years Of Labour?


To make a donation - Click Here

To join the Conservatives - Click Here
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Purnell Resignation Means We Need A General Election Now

A Message from David Cameron

David Cameron warned the Labour Government is "falling apart in front of our eyes" after James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, resigned from the Cabinet.

David said, "In a deep recession and political crisis we need a strong Government. Instead we have a Government falling apart in front of our eyes. Britain deserves better than this."

And he stressed, "With this resignation the argument for a general election has gone from being strong and powerful to completely unanswerable. For the sake of the country Gordon Brown must take the one final act of authority left open to him, go to the palace and call the General Election we have been demanding."

Sign our petition for a General Election now
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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Vote Conservative On 4th June

I was delighted to lead such a good team in the sun out canvassing over the weekend.

There is clearly a lot of anger about how MPs have behaved, but it seems to have engaged people who might not otherwise vote in Euro elections.

Some will vote for minor parties, but many more will vote Conservative because they know that is the way to get Gordon Brown and Labour out.

For our country's sake the change must come sooner rather than later, so that we can roll up our sleeves and start cleaning up the mess.


Photo: Mark Reckless canvassing with Richard Ashworth MEP
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Friday, 29 May 2009

Rochester Extends Warm Welcome For Dickens Festival

This weekend from Friday 29th through to Sunday 31st May is Dickens weekend in Rochester.

As a resident of Rochester High Street I will be in the thick of the festival but we will have thousands of visitors from further afield.

Many who come are Dickens enthusiasts, including a number who make the trip from America every year. Others, from near and afar, are here for the stalls and the funfair and the general merrymaking.

We hope that it will be a great weekend for local traders. Rochester is now unusual in having so many independent shops and traders. That adds to the draw of the Dickens festival, as well as encouraging festival goers to come again to see Rochester when it is not so hectic.

I have fond memories of leading the Dickens parade a few years ago when I had the honour of escorting our then Mayor, Councillor Sue Haydock. It was not quite so hot that year as expected this weekend, so I hope readers will forgive me for not being in Victorian outfit again but join me in sending appreciation to those who do dress up.

Welcome all and enjoy the weekend.

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Labour's Mortgage Rescue Scheme Failing To Help Homeowners

Message from Grant Shapps MP

Grant Shapps warned Labour's Mortgage Rescue Scheme "is failing" after it was revealed only two families have been helped in the first four months.


The £285 million scheme, intended to help 6,000 of 'the most vulnerable families avoid repossession', has provided assistance to just two families. At this rate, it will benefit only 12 homeowners over its two-year lifespan.

This lack of help comes despite the fact that, in the last month alone, more than 1,000 homeowners approached local authorities with difficulties paying their mortgage.

Grant, the Shadow Housing Minister, said, "This is typical of the Labour Government's approach: they promise big and deliver very little. They should spend less time making up headlines and more time helping hard-pressed families through the recession."

And he stressed, "Ministers promised (the Mortgage Rescue Scheme) would offer 'real help now' to homeowners living with the threat of repossession. Gordon Brown should now try telling that to the thousands of families being frozen out of this scheme and losing their homes as a result."

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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Restoring Authority To Parliament

Congratulations to my friend Douglas Carswell for proposing the motion that Speaker Martin step down.

Douglas has taken no pleasure in leading this necessary, but far from sufficient, step to restore authority to Parliament.

He was criticised by some for not respecting traditional convention.

Douglas though comes from a tradition, perhaps more radical than whig, that demands necessary change. It is that tradition and the demand for Direct Democracy which it inspires which will be key if my party is to make politics work again.

The radicals demanded economy and accountability, expecting the latter to drive the former. We are in the same position today.

The first step to ensuring that public services are value for money must be to ensure that those who control them are accountable to those who pay for them.

Douglas has led Parliament in making the first step in this direction but there remains a very long way to go.


Photo Credit: Archbishop Cranmer
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Monday, 18 May 2009

Britain Needs A General Election

A message from David Cameron

I've been up in Lancashire today launching our campaign for the European elections. These elections matter and only by voting Conservative will we get the changes we all want to see in Europe.

Our candidates are the kind of people Brussels needs more of. And they've all signed our pledge to stand up for the kind of things Brussels needs more of: delivering more for less, cleaning up the political system and, of course, giving us the referendum that we were promised.

So I hope you will give them your full support. But the big election, the election we really need, is still to come - and it can't come soon enough.

I've wanted a General Election for some time but now the sheer scale of the problems facing Britain today - the recession, the debt crisis, and now the political crisis - has changed everything.

They've made having an election not just a "nice to have", but an absolute "must have". Some MPs are calling for a new Speaker, but that alone doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

This political crisis has been caused by the politicians, so I don't think the politicians alone can solve it. The public have got to be involved. They have to be given a chance to voice their anger and approve of a new way forward.

That's why I'm announcing today that we are turning the campaign we had planned for these elections into the campaign Britain now needs: a campaign for a General Election to be held as soon as possible.

Conservative candidates and activists right across the country will be collecting signatures for a petition demanding that Gordon Brown calls a General Election.

You can help kick-start this campaign right now - just
click here to sign the petition online, and then send the link to your friends and colleagues.

If we all Sign for Change we can send a message that the government can't ignore.



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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Campaign Succeeds - Congratulations To Southeastern

Southeastern Trains have published their new draft timetable for services from 13 December 2009.

The proposed service represents a victory for Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Cllr Mark Reckless, and local campaigners.

For years only one Cannon Street service has stopped in Rochester and the fast services to Victoria have only stopped at Rochester off-peak, leaving commuters from Rochester to London having to either get a slow train, drive or have a long walk to Chatham, or get a connecting train via Chatham.

This will now change as Southeastern acted on feedback received following the Commuter Feedback Survey organised by Mark Reckless and Fares Fair campaigner, Chris Irvine, in March this year.

Mark met with Southeastern on 8th April to explain that a key element of feedback received was for fast Victoria and Cannon Street trains to serve commuters from Rochester. He first reported on markreckless.com on 25th April that Southeastern might agree to do this.

Southeastern have now confirmed they will run 07.10, 08.11 and 08.32 fast services from Rochester to Cannon Street in addition to the current 06.46 (changing to 06.41) service.

All will take about 45 minutes to Cannon Street. There will now be five, rather than one, fast, direct evening services returning from Cannon Street to Rochester.

There will also be new fast, direct services from Rochester to Victoria at 08.22 and 08.52 and commuter evening return services will stop in Rochester.

Reacting to the news Mark Reckless said:

"This is the culmination of a long campaign which I have led with the support of Cllr Phil Filmer on behalf of Rochester commuters. Many will gain up to an extra half an hour a day, whether at work, in bed, or with the family, because of this excellent decision by Southeastern, who I congratulate on having listened and responded to local people."

Others, who don't commute by train from Rochester, may also benefit from reduced congestion as many commuters who currently drive to Chatham can walk to Rochester instead.

The timetable is in draft form and, although it goes most of the way to deliver the campaign goals, Mark will be asking Southeastern if they would consider having at least one further fast train stop at Rochester for Cannon Street between 07.10 and 08.11 and for Victoria between 06.41 and 08.22, since this would allow us to promote Rochester as having a full commuter fast service to London.

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