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Party leaders say why you should vote for their group in May's Maidstone council elections

By Alan Smith

A third of the seats on Maidstone council are up for election on May 2.

John Perry, the leader of the Conservative Group, said he was proud that his party was the only one to field a candidate for every seat. He acknowledged that it was impossible to tell how national issues such as Brexit might be reflected at local level, but said: "We will be fighting a strong campaign on local issues.

"We want prudence with the council's finances and don't want to see massive council tax increases. At the same time we want to ensure there is sufficient housing infrastructure, tackle fly-tipping, ensure the enforcement of planning conditions and see cleaner, tidier streets throughout the whole borough."

Cllr Perry declined to make predictions but said he was hopeful that the Conservatives, already the biggest party, would end up with an overall majority after May 2 and he would be the new council leader.

Tory group leader John Perry
Tory group leader John Perry

Stuart Jeffery, leader of the Greens, said he was proud his party had fielded the second largest slate of candidates. He said: "It shows people are comfortable with our direction of travel, with our emphasis on the environment and social justice."

He said that many of the party's key campaigning issues such as air pollution and 20mph speed limits were now gaining national traction. He said: "Maidstone is particularly bad for air pollution and we are known as the party that has long spoken out about the dangers."

He said the Greens were hopeful of success, especially in North Ward after the failure of the Lib Dems to field a candidate there.

He said: "There is everything to play for."

Stuart Jeffery, leading the Greens
Stuart Jeffery, leading the Greens

Malcolm McKay, leader of the Labour group, said his party was also hopeful of winning in North Ward, where he hoped to gather all the anti-Conservative votes. But he was also optimistic of success in Fant Ward and the High Street. He said: "We have some excellent candidates, and it's satisfying that our three candidates in these key wards are all women."

On national issues, Cllr McKay said it was impossible to tell how Brexit would affect the vote, other than that he feared it would lead to a low turnout. He said: "People are fed up and appalled with what's going on - whichever side of the Brexit debate they are on. It can only harm the public's opinion of politicians."

Labour leader Malcolm McKay
Labour leader Malcolm McKay

Fay Gooch, leader of the Independent group, was pleased there were eight Independent candidates standing. She said: "People have seen how self-serving politicians can be in the House of Commons, and there is a great danger they may not vote . That would be a great shame because there is a lot of important work to be done at local level where we are not afraid to take decisions and if you take a candidate like Gordon Newton, he has worked very hard for his residents over many years.

"I urge people to look at the local issues, not be put off by all the upstaging, check their facts and then please use their vote."

Fay Gooch Independent group leader
Fay Gooch Independent group leader

Martin Cox, the leader of the Lib Dems and current leader of the council, was also fearful of a low turnout. He said: "Unfortunately the national discord is simply encouraging a general apathy, with people saying they are not going to vote. We need to remind people that this is a local election and hope they separate the two. We are trying to make the right decisions locally, holding back the tide of ever greater housing development which the Tory Government is imposing on us, planning for the future in the most structured way we can and looking to make the council more self-financing so that we are not at the whim of Government. Beyond that, the Lib Dem candidates will be campaigning on issues that are pertinent to their own wards. In the urban areas that might be parking and pollution, with other issue perhaps in the country seats."

Cllr Cox said his party would be happy to emerge with the same number of seats as they entered the contest, but predicted that if a gain were to made it could be in Boxley, where Conservative Malcolm Greer, who had a strong personal following, has stepped down. He said: "Boxley Ward is a strange one because it is so large and encompasses very different communities. We have strong candidate in Mike Thompson who has worked for KCC in the past."

Cllr Cox admitted he was "very sad" about the mistake that had resulted in an existing councillor, Rob Field, missing the deadline to submit his nomination papers. He said: "Rob has been a very good councillor. I'm sure he will be back again in the future." Meanwhile Cllr Cox had one last appeal for voters. He said: "Please come out and vote - even if it is for some other party. Democracy is not a waste of time."

Lib Dem leader Martin Cox
Lib Dem leader Martin Cox

Unlike the other parties, Ukip is hoping people WILL consider the House of Commons Brexit fiasco when they come out to vote. Pam Watts, who is the Kent chairman of Ukip and a candidate for Marden said: "Anyone who feels strongly about Brexit should be voting for us. Maidstone is a leave constituency, we've had Ukip councillors at Maidstone before and we should again."

On local issues, she said her party would be fighting against the incessant housing development without appropriate infrastructure. She said: "Landowners are getting £500,000 an acre for a scrap of land that fell into their hands through inheritance and the developers are making a mint while paying next to to nothing to the community through 106 contributions." She cited her own ward of Marden where there was a proposal for another 2,000 homes. She said: "The developers are offering a school and a couple of roundabouts. It's laughable and this is not just a Marden issue, all the traffic from those new homes is going to go up Linton Hill into Maidstone. We shall be fighting this all the way."

Ukip leader Pam Watts
Ukip leader Pam Watts

For a full list of candidates, click here.

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