Ahead of the Canterbury North by-election for Kent County Council on November 15, the Journal invited each of the six candidates to submit a contribution. Here Joe Egerton, the independent candidate, shares his thoughts
I have not met a single voter who does not feel let down by the main political parties. The Conservative Party has degenerated into a squabbling, disloyal rabble. Voters are shocked at the personal attacks on Theresa May, a decent and honest person trying her best for her country.
Equally shocking is the treatment of our MP Rosie Duffield. The very idea that she could be deselected shows how unfit the Labour Party is to govern. By standing as an independent, I am offering the electorate a real choice.
As a former chair of governors, I have a long-standing interest in schools. Working with headteachers in Kent I have been horrified that KCC is pursuing policies that are damaging to teachers and pupils alike.
If I am elected I will fight hard for education. We must not betray our children – especially those who have learning and other difficulties.
Disgracefully, the Conservative leaflet in this election states “Your Conservative-led county council’s priorities are… to help young people get the best start in life.” This is not true. In his introduction to KCC’s budget book, the Conservative Leader of Kent admitted that there are not enough school places and added: “We would not want to mortgage the council’s future by taking out additional loans to fund the additional school buildings needed.” The priority is to save money.
The situation on special needs is also alarming. Matt Dunkley CBE, KCC’s Director of Children’s Services, has warned that councils face a “PERFECT STORM”: “It’s a crisis that threatens to undermine the general funding of schools, but also potentially to bankrupt local authorities …We’ve got a perfect storm which is contriving to threaten the viability of the system” (The Guardian, Monday 22nd October 2018)
The record of Kent Conservatives in preparing for Brexit is equally dreadful. More than 2.3 million lorries a year use Dover and 1.6 million use the Chunnel. On 24th June 2016 it became clear that there is a massive problem in keeping freight flowing. Dover does not have the space to handle regulated border formalities so the only viable option was a major facility at Manston.
The M2-A2-Thanet Way junction should have been improved – it often clogs with existing traffic, let alone an increased flow towards Manston. After two years and four months none of this construction work has even been started. The plan now is to turn Kant’s motorways turned in giant parking lots. This will cause economic and environmental damage to the county and an inevitable growth of prostitution and trafficking.
Leaving the EU without replacing existing EU arrangements for dealing with will mean more migrants making their way to Kent as we lose the ability to return many of them. This will add to the pressures on Kent’s education system and social services.
Ten DUP MPs extracted £135 billion for Northern Ireland. Thirteen Scottish Conservatives ensured that the Aberdeen fishing industry receives more attention than the City of London. Fifteen Kent Conservative MPs could have forced the government to pump resources into Kent They have let us down – as have the 67 Conservative county councillors who failed to get the MPs into line.
I will do my best to hold the guilty men to account. But my main job as a county councillor is to fight for individual cases – for pupils denied special needs support, for vulnerable people ignored by the county council. I will be assiduous. More to the point, because I am an independent, no party apparatchik can tell me to keep quiet not to rock the boat. I will not let you down.
Joe Egerton is a former economics director of the British Chambers of Commerce and NATO Research Fellow at Oxford
Click the links below to read the contributions by the other five candidates:
- Public ownership is the means to improving people’s lives
- Garden of England is becoming more like the Patio of England
- I’m proud to have already served the city and its people
- Paradise lost: the story of childhood garden in Canterbury
- Unless we act, the impact of climate change will be felt hard in Canterbury