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New Year's Message 2016 from Medway Lib Dems

January 18, 2016 9:23 PM

Let me start by wishing everybody a fantastic 2016. This year is my first year as Chair of Medway Liberal Democrats and it's a honour and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to set the Agenda for the coming year. While we may no longer have a Council group to support, that does not mean we can sit back and relax, far from it, we have plenty of important things that need to be done this year.

The biggest challenge that we will be presented with this year is the certainty of a referendum on EU membership. Although the legislation being passed will allow the possibility of the votes being cast next year, there are logistical problems with waiting that long, most pundits have their money on either June or September.

The Liberal Democrats are supportive of the cross party Stronger in Europe campaign. Conservative peer Stuart Rose and other business leaders will set out a strong economic case for continued membership. Alan Johnson, for Labour, will work his magic on union members highlighting the strength of worker's rights that have been improved across Europe, including the UK. However, both of the major parties have a weakness, which is that they are divided. The strength of our party is that we are fully committed to membership and believe that Britain should take the head of table in Europe. This position isn't a matter of opportunity, it's a strongly held liberal view that is outward looking and believes in co-operation between nations. Other parties, in my opinion will be slow to energize their membership over the EU, because their parties will be campaigning on both sides. We have no such problems and can credibly argue that the future is better #INtogether. I hope we can make that case visibly across all 5 towns.

The next challenge facing us is rather pressing. Medway Council is consulting on the priorities for its local plan. We are advising all those with knowledge or interest in housing, transport, green spaces and a range of other fields impacted by the plan, including impact on local communities, to read the plan and we need to respond both as individuals and as a group. It is important that issues affecting Medway and its infrastructure, housing and town centres are tackled properly by the plan. Another failed local plan would make the current situation of uncertainty continue needlessly. Our voice needs to be heard and we need to move fast to get our responses through in time.

My primary goal for this year is to start turning our association into one with a hard working, active campaigning mentality. I want us to start building teams right across Medway that talk to voters about issues in their own communities and we are seen working to make Medway better for those communities. Genuine change cannot be achieved by individuals, I want to see energy being put into local campaigning, which should be fun and rewarding if done properly. If we are successful the result should be that Lib Dems speak loud and clear about what needs to change in Medway, hopefully that will start us on the road to building trust with voters right across Medway. I believe this change of dynamic will reap big rewards for Medway.

If you are inspired by any of the activities above, I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

John Castle

January 2016

Chair, Medway Liberal Democrats