Dunstable Gazette Letter 31 Jan 2018
By Rachel Kennedy
I am writing to respond to the rebuttal, by Cllr Peter Hollick, of a recently distributed leaflet for Kevin Flint, Labour candidate for Watling in the up-coming Dunstable Town Council elections.
His letter is correct in that the leaflet issued on behalf of the Labour candidate for Watling Ward contained an inaccurate statement. Understandably oblivious to Cllr Mr. Hollick, is that our branch were questioned on this by a resident of Watling ward and recipient of our material and we published a clarification on this very issue on the 18th January to our website www.dunstableandhoughtonregislabour.org.uk
For the benefit of your readership that clarification is:
“It is the policy of Dunstable and Houghton Regis Labour Party to never misuse facts or misquote for political advantage.
In a recently issued election leaflet we stated that Ashton Middle School was closed to enable Central Bedfordshire Council to gain from its sale by converting it to use in a prestigious housing project. The situation, however, is much more complex and is one in which no party escapes blame – especially CBC.
Ashton Middle School was closed – despite parental protests – following a decision by CBC to allow lower schools to become primaries and upper schools to become secondary. This resulted in the decline of the town’s middle schools – so that Brewers Hill and Streetfield Schools are now empty and boarded up while other schools are full to bursting…
The Ashton Foundation then decided to sell off Ashton Middle School and use the proceeds to fund Ashton St. Peters Primary and what is now Manshead Academy. The consequence is that we now have an elite town centre housing estate and a shortage of school places. The town and its citizens deserve better.”
We admit, that in our efforts to abbreviate our campaign points to be flier friendly that we may have truncated to the point of misleading our viewership.
It was not our intention to mislead and in hindsight we realise that our leaflet should have read, ‘the closure and redevelopment of the site was, at the least, convenient for CBC to help with their shortage of homes – although hardly affordable ones.’
We are criticised for allowing CBC issues to be addressed in town council by elections. When Labour is the governing group on Dunstable Town Council, we will ensure that CBC councilors are aware of local issues and are held responsible.
Contrast that with the ‘twin – hatters’ on the town council now – those who are so often strangely quiet.
This leads me on to respond to Cllr Peter Hollick, Conservative Group Leader for Dunstable Town Council, and his comments on homelessness within our community. Firstly, we did not mention homelessness as a campaign ‘pledge’ on our leaflet. Secondly, it is the duty of the town council to look after the wellbeing of the town. Whilst the town council may not be able to dictate policy on homelessness, it is very much within their remit to highlight this problem to CBC, along with supporting those members of our community that are so terribly affected by it.
A press release from Cllr Antonia Ryan, the Leader of the Labour Group on CBC, recently confirmed that there are 118 families with 273 children in temporary accommodation and the length they have to stay has increased over the year to 26 weeks.
Councillor Ryan spoke on the local plan to include more provision for real affordable housing. She went on to stress that the plan will not help many people locally to whom ‘affordable’ housing does not match the average wage.
How many of the homes built on the Ashton site will help to alleviate the rapidly growing epidemic of homelessness and provide homes to the vulnerable children and families of Dunstable and the wider communities with which we share so much?
There appears to be a clear choice for the future of our town and its residents.
Polling day is February 8th.
Election Agent for Dunstable and Houghton Regis Branch Labour Party