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Key issues in Kent facing the new Labour government

The political map of Kent has changed radically as voters delivered their verdict on the government’s performance and found it wanting. But as Labour celebrates its victory, it knows there are challenges ahead.

Political editor Paul Francis takes a look at the key issues in Kent facing the new administration.


Housebuilding will be top of the agenda
Housebuilding will be top of the agenda

It’s the ultimate political conundrum: how do you protect the swathes of countryside from being gobbled up by developers? Labour’s solution to the housing demand is to commit to building 1.5m new homes over the next five years, including some high-density tower blocks.

And the county will need it. Kent County Council expect the population to grow by 13% from 2018 to 2030, which is an extra 235,820 people living in the county.

The Labour Party pledged a full shake-up of the planning system and will ensure all local authorities have up-to-date Local Plans. The party has also said it “will not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need”, in reaction to the perceived NIMBYism often preventing housebuilding.

As with all policy changes, the devil is in the detail. Pledges to offer greater protection to renters were among the legislative changes that were abandoned because the snap poll ran out of time.

Bringing property prices to more manageable costs would be popular but impossible to regulate.


The Lower Thames Crossing A2/M2 junction. Picture: Nationals Highways
The Lower Thames Crossing A2/M2 junction. Picture: Nationals Highways

Pitted with potholes, the county’s extensive road network has had periodic injections of cash but frustrated motorists complain that more needs to be done.

And while the physical state of the roads is a job for the local councils, it’s the big infrastructure projects which will need to be looked at by the new ruling party.

The Lower Thames Crossing, already 15 years in the making, has been delayed by the general election. The Secretary of State for Transport was set to consider a decision on July 20 but this has been put back to October 20 to give the new administration a chance to consider it.

It’s just one of several projects, which many believe is desperatley needed to keep Kent moving, that need looking at sooner rather than later.

On top of that, there have been concerns over the introduction of new exit and entry systems for non-EU travellers because of the potential for long delays as motorists queue for biometric tests.


Eurostar has not stopped at Ashford since March 2020. Picture: Eurostar
Eurostar has not stopped at Ashford since March 2020. Picture: Eurostar

Eurostar will not stop in Ebbsfleet or Ashford in 2024, much to the dismay of thousands of people and businesses in the county.

Ending the stand-off will be a key priority for the Labour Party, especially for newly elected Sojan Joseph after he gained the seat in Ashford for the first time in 139 years.

On domestic services, the party have promised an overhaul saying: “Great British Railways will deliver a unified system that focuses on reliable, affordable, high-quality, and efficient services”.

In Kent, Southeastern services are already run by the government’s ‘operator of last resort’, which steps in to replace private sector franchises.

The big question will be the extent to which Labour plans bring the rest of the rail industry back under national ownership.


The number of migrants arriving in the UK in small boats is on the rise. Pic: NCA
The number of migrants arriving in the UK in small boats is on the rise. Pic: NCA

With Dover the centre of the immigration row, as small boats arrive on its shores day after day, locals and politicians will be keeping a close eye on Sir Keir’s plans.

Rishi Sunak found himself under fire on virtually every aspect of his plan to end small boats crossings - not least the flights to Rwanda plan.

In the manifesto, the party described the scheme as the Tories’ “desperate gimmicks” and pledged that the UK would become “hostile territory” to smuggling gangs with the introduction of a new border security command.

It’s not yet clear what that actually means.

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