I rarely get involved too much in public with the political conversation, but when I do, it is because I am pulled into solid views that I feel the need to express, this is particularly in the case locally where Canterbury political issues are of concern. This has never been so true as what is happening internationally either and at domestic levels in the UK, but here in Canterbury what I will cover in this article, I hope benefits some of you in reading this to become passionate about the future.
Throughout the past several years, I have watched several power-happy, politically motivated individuals work their way through policies locally, including the leader of the council in Canterbury City who is both hypercritical and thoughtless in the actions taken.
The region of Canterbury in Kent is beautiful but has a lot of historical meaning in the UK. Unfortunately, in the past forty years, it has not taken advantage of its positioning for business, industry and tourism to the extent it should have. The poor tourism infrastructure is the first evidence of this; taking a look at how the council has allowed a local town in Whitstable to surpass a sustainable level of tourism with poorly supported public facilities adds to the icing on the cake. They simply have no overall strategy that makes any sense when it comes to tourism because they have no real experience, and I mean real experience, in the council.
The inability of the council in recent years to address pollution in the medieval cathedral city and area, in general, is baffling, the acceptance of poor environmental record in the sea and rivers running alongside inferior business infrastructure down to no real strategy for high street regeneration. Alongside these baffling decisions, to close purpose-built council offices and place these in a former retail complex within the city high street, thus reducing the possibilities in the city’s high street for retail, is incredibly short-sighted.
In more recent weeks, the pushing forward of building a new road network through pristine countryside and, at the same time, closing a Park and Ride facility are all clearly made with a hidden agenda.
So what should the council leader really be doing? How could it be better than what he is doing now? These are the questions people ask me personally, so I thought I would provide a few simple solutions from all the extensive travelling and business experience over the decades that I have gained.
To improve traffic in the central area of the city, the council should make sure it operates four car park and ride schemes, from north, west, east and south, thus allowing all directions to park and enjoy the freedom of the city. The buses should be 100% electric operated and thus immediately reducing pollution, and throughout the car parks should be high power recharge units for vehicles, not one or two but lots of them.
Reintroduce the tram system that once operated in the city, sure they may have mentioned something similar but they have not acted upon it and never will under the current leader. Expanding and building this with government investment and including communities outside of the city and eventually meeting at the park and ride locations so that people are able to tram into the city with ease. At the same time reducing car traffic in the city over a period of years so that eventually it is very limited.
Introducing a local tax on second homeowners of three to five times the council tax rate and thus reducing the housing crisis substantially and allowing local houses for local people.
Installing bed tax in the area for visitors and using the funds from this bed tax to fund public toilet facilities, beach cleaning and regular bin collections along with the coastal towns and communities.
Along the coast, provide safe swimming areas and purpose-built small beach BBQs as seen all over the world beaches and lakes by pro-active communities. Instead, the current local council propose banning BBQs and fining people with draconian laws, that is the level of backward age-orientated thinking and not the forward-thinking of how can we improve this for people.
Support small businesses in the high street that are one-off businesses with less than two locations to have zero business rates and bring in other incentives to attract cottage industry businesses to open up shops. It also brings a shop locally mentality to the community.
Build a high-tech innovation facility using the latest technology, solar panels, and water retention and have an environment that will attract students from the many universities within the city to stay in the Canterbury area, living and working. Canterbury has, on average, 45,000+ students studying each year, but a tiny percentage stay in the city when they leave because no big business is here, and no real high-tech opportunities exist. This is the responsibility of the council; they should be embarrassed that out of all the large university cities around the world, Canterbury probably is at the bottom of retention. It is a travesty. In my business life and travels, I have seen towns and smaller cities than Canterbury go to great lengths to ensure student retention is used to grow the community with business facilities and attract big businesses too. Has Canterbury done this ever? No, they have not; they are ignorant of the opportunities.
These are just a few simple but progressive thinking policies that strive to improve the environment and can be funded cleverly. It does not matter what political party follows this; it is about the community being better and not penalised by poor strategy and leadership. From the outside looking in, I see a niave leader, old and inexperienced council members who are not up to the job at hand and have a vision no further than the two feet they stand on. Until all political leaders being council to the president to prime ministers start to look at the opportunities and not look for ridiculous policies, then, in particular, politics will fail the way it currently is.
I was asked a long time ago to be involved at a senior level in Politics, surprisingly, by several different parties. I chose not to, but sometimes I look on and see how ridiculous and inexperienced these people are. To be a politician, be it at a small local level or international, you must be able to dream, motivate and most of all, know how to achieve that dream and vision, while also helping the community’s individual lives improve. I wrote this small article with the aim not of going deep into any one point. However, it is meant to simply say to all levels of politicians in all parties, “look up from your feet and see what can be done, and stop being ignorant, arrogant and manipulating the level of responsibility that you hold; it should be a privilege and do not abuse its power”.
In my career, I have rubbed shoulders and can call friends billionaires, millionaires, former prime ministers, presidents and others who run or have run large businesses and small one-man band operations, so I have heard so much from so many on how things are done correctly and I have never seen a political arena as it currently is at all levels. The UK is currently clearly a poor prime minister with no scruples, the USA has suffered terrible political upheaval, and in the EU, things are never straightforward. Russia has become imperialistic alongside that China too… Now is the time for future thinking, inspiring leaders to emerge at all spectrum levels.
Rightly or wrongly, I am going to say not only should Canterbury City Council be overhauled, but it needs fresh new young, ambitious councillors to take us into the future and beyond with dreams and vision. The leader should have no business interest that benefits from any decisions taken and it is my true belief that all councillors should be forced to retire from the role at 60 years of age, this is not an agest position, but it is a practical one, I have seen first-hand councillors falling asleep in planning meetings where peoples lives are effected, I have seen old attitudes stop positive changes, and views be sustained at local level dating back to 1940’s, 1950’s and even the 1960’s. By the same token, this should not provide a free hand to manipulative ambitious leaders either. It is my belief that at the council level if not a national level that proportional representation should be the way to govern in this modern era not first past the post.