Last week, Medway Conservatives took the difficult decision not to hold this year’s Rochester Christmas Market, Dickensian Christmas Festival or Christmas light switch-on events due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Whilst this decision was taken with a heavy heart, it was done purely in the interests of resident safety. The Conservative Group is proud to provide our local residents with a free and varied calendar of festivals and events, and clearly intends to resume the normal offer as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.
However, in an interview with KMTV on the topic of this decision, Labour’s Councillor Alex Paterson betrayed his party’s hitherto undisclosed agenda to permanently axe these much loved events. Paterson commented that is would be ‘inconceivable’ that in the future we could ‘be back to where we were a year ago’. Even more worryingly, Paterson outright stated that the opposition would seek to consider changes to events in general in the future. Such comments illustrate the ongoing failure of the Labour Group to recognise the importance that these events, and similar celebrations of Medway’s rich heritage, hold for residents and visitors as well as the vital role they play in putting Medway on the Map.
Councillor Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group, said:
“I was astounded to hear Councillor Paterson - or should I say Medway’s very own Scrooge - openly threaten events that form part of the lifeblood of Medway. Last year the Conservative Group presided over the most successful ‘Christmas in Medway’ programme on record, where we welcomed a total of more than 150,000 people to our events. It is simply nonsensical to consider these events as disposable.
The Conservative Group strongly believe that we should be taking every opportunity to unite our communities through their shared pride in Medway’s unique heritage - particularly when we should all be looking to support Medway’s bid to become City of Culture in the near future. Furthermore, events such as the Christmas Market and Dickensian Christmas Festival provide a major trading opportunity for our local businesses, drawing people from far and wide to support our town centres and help Medway’s economy continue to grow. To permanently remove such opportunities would be a huge blow, and breathtakingly short sighted on the part of the opposition.
Medway’s residents can continue to entrust the Conservative Group to oversee and deliver the services and events they love, and protect them from a Labour Group clearly intent on diminishing what Medway has to offer.”