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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.

Ellen Neville

As we see election campaigns taking shape and the chess board being set, I can say emphatically that getting elected is not the end of the story, but the beginning. To effect significant change, it takes collaboration and councillors who are not afraid to change the traditional relationship with residents. They must be prepared to embrace far-ranging discussions about what their village or town want and then to be creative in how to get there. This will sometimes mean that there are very, very difficult and complex decisions to be made, especially in the foundation days when inheriting a council administration that has been under the same national party’s control for decades.

The Alliance’s ever-evolving journey into local politics has highlighted a lot of things; most notably that our residents are interested in the politics where they live, but not the confrontational politics of Westminster. It is off-putting.

Greater resident participation is an Alliance goal throughout the municipal year and we seek to do this because by empowering the community together we can make it a better place to live. That’s a local priority for everyone. However, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we now have entrenched austerity forcing us to accept less and dwindling our reserves financially, physically and mentally. My question to all is: ‘Is this the best we deserve?’ 

With the population of the borough remaining stable, not growing or declining, we face a shifting demographic that could alter the face of our communities. Our young adults are leaving for a number of reasons. We want to make our young people feel heard and invested in their communities which is why we are celebrating Local Democracy week 9th-15th October this year with young people in mind.

Local Democracy Week promotes and fosters democratic participation at a local level through public initiatives which involve citizens. It is a pan-European event targeted specifically at local authorities and associations.

On 10th October 2023, The Alliance will be hosting The Gen Z Youth Debate. This is a free event for young people between the ages of 15 and 19 who go to school in the borough. It takes place in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Tunbridge Wells.

24 students from 3 local schools will debate three topics with members of the Council on the panel and our Deputy Mayor will Chair the meeting in his robes. The topics will have some background information with the very real scenario that budgets have been cut and services are under pressure.

The hypothetical topics debated and voted on for the day will be:

  • The council is proposing to shut Calverley Grounds in order to continue funding the local swimming pools.

  • A new tax on chewing gum sales is proposed to help pay for street cleaning.

  • Should we change the voting age to 16yrs with a cap at 80yrs?

If you want to know more about our local priorities and the work we do as independent Councillors then please contact me: 

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