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Nick Pope

2024 Local Election

The May 2024 borough council elections in Tunbridge Wells were always going to be different for two reasons: they were the first all-out local elections for a long time and a general election was on the horizon.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council elections are normally by-thirds, meaning that one in three of the council seats are contested three years out of every four with county council elections taking place in the fourth year. Tunbridge Wells is the only district in Kent that still elects by-thirds.

This year, the national parties were shifting their focus onto the general election. One party, the Liberal Democrats, has been working harder than the others because Tunbridge Wells is a Westminster target seat for them.

Liberal Democratic Party membership in Tunbridge Wells has been growing since Brexit and since the seat became a Westminster target. The local party has been receiving additional funding from the central office; their Westminster candidate has been campaigning and canvassing voters across the constituency for 18 months; a continuous flow of leaflets has been dropping through our doors; and a very visible campaign office was opened in Tunbridge Wells in August 2023.

With increasing media coverage on the general election and increasing activity by the national parties because of the general election, more of the voters’ focus was on Westminster rather than the borough council.

When it came to the borough council election campaigns, local party candidates were being outgunned as the national parties were building up or testing their general election campaigning machine. The national parties had been building up the number volunteers, some also bringing in volunteers from outside the borough for the local elections, and one Party Leader, Ed Davey, visited the borough twice in the weeks leading up to polling day.

A local party, however well organised, cannot match the resources of a national party, especially a national party that has decided the constituency is a Westminster target seat.

Considering all this, local, independent party candidates did well. Local parties did not win every seat they hoped to win, but they held on to enough seats to have a local and independent voice for residents. Tunbridge Wells Alliance (Alliance) held four seats and was runner up in three. David Hayward, another independent, also held on to his seat.

In total, local, independent parties now have 5 seats (13%) on the borough council, the equivalent to where Alliance was in 2019, and more seats than the Liberal Democrats had for many years prior to 2019.

More Work To Do

Some people say that Alliance’s work was completed in 2019 when the Calverley Square project was terminated. The work is definitely not complete. The party was founded by two separate groups, one group’s focus covered a wide range of issues around planning and infrastructure which require a lot more work to achieve positive changes for residents and communities in the borough.

For example, when a developer is planning a major development, it is not acceptable that their only engagement with the community is an exhibition of their final design with a questionnaire about what we think about it. That is not engagement. Developers need to engage with communities before they start any work on a design. Their teams, working in Croydon, Birmingham or Manchester, do not know or understand our communities.

Communities need to be involved in shaping new developments from day one, through the whole design process, and continuing into decisions about the management of the completed development.

Hard Working & Honest

One thing that has made Alliance councillors stand out is that they work hard for their communities, provide honest and balanced information to residents, and help to enable residents to understand how things work and do more for themselves.

The Alliance has always aimed to provide honest information on election leaflets and challenges other parties to be more honest and not to print misleading or dishonest content purely to win votes.

With several experienced councillors recently losing their council seats, the Alliance has a more knowledgeable team working behind the scenes to support current councillors and build the party to better serve residents.

Future Local Elections

May 2025 will see the county council elections. Kent County Council is heavily dominated by the Conservative Party (73% of councillors) and would benefit with more local, independent councillors.

The next Tunbridge Wells Borough Council elections are in May 2026. Unlike this year, the national parties will not be preparing for a general election, and Alliance will be working hard to win more seats on the council to push through positive changes.

If you would like to represent your community as an independent councillor or support the work we do, get in touch –

This article appeared in the Tunbridge Wells Business Magazine, June 2024 edition.

Alison Webster, Nancy Warne and Ellen Neville

The recent spate of reports (on Nextdoor) alleging Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Tunbridge Wells taxis has rightfully caused us concern. It would be tragic if we lost trust in travelling in taxis, which should be beacons of safety and convenience, not spaces where some women feel vulnerable and at risk.

We need to ensure the protection of passengers, particularly those belonging to vulnerable demographics and our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council takes this issue very seriously and addressing the safety of women and girls remains a priority for us. We have undertaken several surveys and face-to-face events in liaison with Kent Police recently. These engagements included a 'Safe Travels in Tunbridge Wells' survey to capture how residents, particularly women and girls, feel about travelling at night in the Borough.

Residents were invited to share their experiences so that we can better understand what is happening and thereby work to make all residents feel safer when travelling after dark.

The information gathered in these surveys will help inform both the wider West Kent VAWG Forum Action Plan for 2024/25 and the TWBC Community Safety Strategy and Action Plan for the year ahead and beyond.

To ensure safety in taxis there are key licensing regulations with mandatory training for taxi drivers and background checks overseen by the Council. Taxi drivers must obtain licenses from the Council.

This is all to be welcomed but it concerns us that these regulations are deemed necessary, and we, in the Alliance, are standing together to reject any normalisation of violence against women and girls in all forms. This is especially the case within a vital service like taxis. It is undeniable that many women experience a heightened level of concern and vulnerability when travelling compared to men. This burden of worry is not something women choose to carry, but rather a consequence of systemic issues that need to be addressed.

We want to further empower passengers with knowledge and resources to protect themselves; raising awareness about VAWG, prevention and emergency protocols is crucial. This means enforcing accountability with robust reporting mechanisms and transparent investigations. It means holding perpetrators accountable and rebuilding trust in the system. And it means that taxis must have zero tolerance for VAWG and

prioritise victim safety.

As female Councillors we have pledged to continue working to dismantle harmful stereotypes and advocate for systemic change that can create streets and taxis truly safe for everyone.

We have started work on costing for materials for additional signage in the back of taxis to provide information on how to report a driver or make a complaint - prompted by our recent work with VAWG and feeling safe.

In order to fast-track the scheme, we propose that this is voluntary for our drivers until such time that we can review the policy to mandate the display of this information.

To report a crime please use the following Kent Police link:

To provide feedback to the Council, whether it be a complaint or compliment, please visit:

This article appeared in the Times of Tunbridge Wells, 21st February 2024.

Paul Curry

I was elected Councillor in May 2023.

Nearly a year on, I'd like to share with you how things have shaped up over my first year in the exciting world of TWBC, and what it's like - because I want to encourage you to get involved, too! Now, more than ever, candidates in my age range are coming forward and being elected. Even with full-time jobs, we find it rewarding work.

In my case, I first got involved with Speldhurst Parish Council. I really enjoy how locally-focused an organisation like this is - the work has a direct impact on our immediate community. From there, my interest grew to wider local politics - decisions at TWBC were affecting the community I live in. Why not have a voice there too?

The Alliance stood out as the best party - they are a good fit to my values and work ethic. I didn't want to join a national party, and I wasn't prepared to stand alone without support - I had no prior experience of Borough politics! Having a broad range of like-minded councillors to talk to while I found my feet was reassuring, a time-saver when figuring things out, and gave me context for complex decisions which came before I joined.

Further, with no whip, my vote always represents the interests of my neighbours who voted for me, which is very important to me. After hitting the campaign trail, meeting plenty of dogs behind letterboxes, and listening carefully to resident's concerns, to my delight, I was elected.

Learning how local government operates by being part of it is an eye-opening experience. You get to see just how much of what local government provides is devolved to wider government. You soon learn which department or person is best to handle issues and enquiries, which can be surprisingly effective for getting matters resolved. Residents have a wide range of enquiries. It's very fulfilling being able to help your neighbours and being an important part of decisions that affect your ward and wider borough.

Ultimately, I really like people representing their local area in local government. Things start to get a little murky when larger parties stand candidates in areas they don't live anywhere near, or when they oblige their Councillors to vote in a certain direction which doesn't work for their constituents. That, to me, isn't what local politics should be.

As a growing party, we are paving the way for the next generation of government; breaking free from outdated stereotypes. I can honestly say that it is exciting at times!

To that end, The Alliance is hosting a winter warmer with jacket potatoes, hot chocolate and mulled cider by the fireside. Join us for a chat or if you are interested in standing to represent your local community! Come along for some food and fun at Hawkhurst Scout Hut on Sunday January 21 from 5pm to 7pm. It's free to attend, with fabulous prizes available in a raffle and a sparkler or two.

This article appeared in the Times of Tunbridge Wells, 17th January 2024.

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