Tunbridge Wells elections 2018: All parties explain why they want your vote

Pam Mills

Next month thousands of residents across Tunbridge Wells will be off to the polls as they cast votes for borough councillors.

Sixteen of the 48 seats at the Town Hall are up for grabs, with seven political parties chasing your support including newcomers in the Tunbridge Wells Alliance and Women’s Equality Party.

To help readers decide where to place their cross on May 3, the Times put questions to all the parties fielding candidates:


Seats contested: 16

Spokesman: Council Leader David Jukes

Why should people vote Tory?

They feel comfortable with the economic management of the council. Under Conservative control we have the third lowest council tax in Kent and one of the lowest in the UK. We have also achieved a clean audit report for seven years. Conservatives will continue to balance the budget and deliver quality services for local residents.

What is your number one priority?

Economic development to ensure we have the growth and jobs we need for the future.

And where would you get the money?

The borough council has lost £4.5million of financial support from central government. We have had to make up this shortfall from savings and local economies. In future, extra money will only come from economic growth, with councils being allowed to retain a share of additional business rates. We must therefore ensure we have the space available for new business to come here, or for local businesses to expand. Additional revenue from business will provide the cash for the services people want us to provide.

What’s your position on the Civic Complex?

The Civic Development is now official council policy, which we support.

How would you enhance the town centre?

We are preparing the phase 2 development of the public realm – paving and restricting traffic around the Town Hall and War Memorial.

What about traffic in the town?

It is a tragedy for our town that the proposed southern bypass was not built when it was proposed in 1935! I still support this, though the cost would be hundreds of millions of pounds.

  Liberal Democrats

Seats contested: 16

Spokesman: Council Opposition Leader
Ben Chapelard

Why should people vote Lib Dem?

We pride ourselves on listening to residents and getting things done on their behalf. Getting the old cinema site cleaned up, campaigning for doorstep glass recycling and saving CCTV monitoring from being switched off are just three examples of what we Lib Dems have achieved. We are the official opposition on the council. We have a far greater impact than our numbers suggest – imagine what we could do for our borough with more councillors?

What is your top priority?

We want Tunbridge Wells to be a pioneer in 21st-century living. We need a strategic plan. The Conservatives’ piecemeal approach has not worked and is not working. We need to tackle congestion, illegal levels of air pollution and the lack of safe roads, pavements and bicycle lanes.

Where would you get the money?

We would use the existing budget differently.

We would save the Conservatives’ £1.3million facelift of Mount Pleasant to deal with the root cause of the problem: Congestion.

Where do you stand on the Civic Complex?

We oppose the £90million development. It has not been thought through and fails to address the needs of the town. It is the wrong priority. It is a massive debt for a project which is in the wrong place. The money could be better spent. The town does need investment, but it needs to be the right kind – and not at the expense of public services and charity and community support groups’ funding.

And traffic in the town?

The answer is not building £18million of new car parks at Crescent Road and in Calverley Grounds. We have to encourage different modes of transport. We continue to campaign for increased cycle lanes, a park and ride scheme and a pedestrian and bike-friendly town centre.


Seats contested: 16

Spokesman: Martin Betts, Party Chairman for Tunbridge Wells

Why vote Labour?

We are united in our opposition to the new £90million Civic Complex and theatre, and the austerity that has damaged public services and living standards of people in our area. We stand to improve the lives of the many across Tunbridge Wells, not the few.

Your priority is what?

To provide more genuinely affordable housing to rent and buy – particularly social housing. This is closely followed by reinvigoration of our villages and towns; improvements to public transport, roads, congestion and parking; and protection of our parks and green spaces
against development.

And where would you get the money?

Local authorities have been starved of money by government and we need to send a message that we have had enough of austerity. Money can be found if there is the political will to do so.

How would you enhance the town centre?

The council should be pressing government to reverse planning and business rate policy that is driving firms out, and putting real effort into making Tunbridge Wells a good place to set up business in again.

And what can be done about traffic?

We need cheaper and more reliable public transport, car clubs, and an effective park and ride scheme.

Tunbridge Wells Alliance

Seats contested: 7

Spokesman: Bob Atwood, Tunbridge Wells Alliance Chairman

Why vote for the Alliance?

Over the last year we have become aware of increased public unease and concern over the actions and intentions of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. In particular, it seems that a council dominated by Tory councillors, many of whom have become complacent and stale, and without realistic opposition, no longer effectively perform their function of representing the wishes and concerns of those who elected them. We also felt that such dominance was guided solely by the desire to win and retain seats so that nationally the Conservative Party could claim continuing success in the shire counties.

What is your number one priority for the town?

We were borne from the huge concerns that a multitude of residents now share over the financial disaster awaiting the borough should the so-called Civic Complex project go ahead, and a new theatre be built, out of funds that simply do not exist. Our number one priority, therefore, is to get the pause button firmly pressed so that residents can be properly consulted; the risks inherent in such projects are properly defined; and opinions on design, location, impact and desirability are properly sought before a penny more of taxpayers’ money is spent.

Green Party

Seats contested: 1

Spokesman: Trevor Bisdee

Why vote Green?

We are the only party that puts
the environment at the top of the agenda, alongside social justice. Green Party councillors are renowned for asking the difficult questions; speaking truth to power.

Where do you stand on the Civic Complex?

People before vanity projects. Cuts in services, lack of social housing, more holes in the road than road itself! So many more important projects than defacing beautiful Calverley Grounds.

And the traffic?

Look at park and ride opportunities, and rapid upgrade of cycle lanes with extra places to leave cycles safely. More electric vehicle charging points, encourage bus companies to use electric buses – maybe the council should run its own bus service.

  Women’s Equality Party

Seats contested: 1

Spokeswoman: Dr Amanda Turner

Why vote for your party?

Our candidate, Liz Orr, has lived in the Culverden ward for nearly 20 years and is deeply vested in her local community. She wants to make a difference to our town and work collaboratively, across party lines, to deliver good ideas that work. Shockingly, there are only 16 women out of 48 councillors on the borough council. In Liz’s ward, Culverden, there are three men, all of whom are Conservatives. Women are 51 per cent of the population, and it’s time their voices were fairly heard on our council. This town needs a councillor who puts equality at the heart of everything she does.

What is your view on the Civic Complex?

We believe the project in its current form is too costly and risks wasting huge public resources for a generation.


Seats contested: 2

Spokesman: Nicole Bushill, Chair of UKIP Kent

Our candidates do not make election promises that they cannot keep, we are however appalled that whilst cuts are being made to frontline services, bureaucrats within the council are being awarded ridiculous pay rises. A priority is to bring sensibility back to spending decisions and that the improvement to the lives of our communities is always at the forefront of these decisions. The Civic Centre is such an example of the absurdity running through the council – we are strictly opposed to this going ahead.

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