End of year letter from Mark Hood Tonbridge and Malling Green Party Lead Councillor

Dec 21, 2023News

Well we have had quite a year! We now have a new problem… it is increasingly difficult for all our
councillors to attend our Green Party branch meetings because at least some of them are busy with
council meetings on any given date!

We have eight borough councillors thanks to the army of activists and volunteers who helped us to
leaflet and canvas so many new doors and their astonishing hard work. The amount of work done in
some wards by remarkably few people is astounding and has given us reassurance that we can go
again and get over the line in terms of sharing power in a future administration. The Green Party is a
real force to be reckoned with and we came agonisingly close to gaining four more councillors and
becoming the second biggest party.

We will go one better next time in the seats where we came second this time and only missed by five
or six votes. We need to look at our party’s performances in Folkestone where we lead the council and
are in administration in Swale and Ashford to see what is possible. What is clear to us is that we are
the only credible opposition in the chamber at Kings Hill.

The huge challenge ahead is to work collaboratively to deliver a Local Plan that works for people and
the planet while respecting the Green Belt and delivering affordable social housing for rent. We need
to force the council to make sure that the supporting documents will ensure future housing is as
sustainable as possible

One of our biggest challenges now is to deliver the transport ambitions for the wards that we now
represent. This will be made simpler now that we have a Highways Improvement Plan (HIP) for
Tonbridge after establishing good relationships with highways officers based on mutual trust. We
have engaged with them on cycling routes at Haysden Country Park, Hadlow Road, Quarry Hill and
between Hildenborough and Tonbridge. We were ready for the Active Travel Plan consultation in
December with clear priorities.

We are visible, trusted and increasingly regarded as the authentic pragmatic voice of our
communities. From litter picking to cleaning bridges and supporting Repair Cafes residents are used
to seeing and relying on us to fill gaps left by cuts. We must deliver improvements for residents where
possible against a backdrop of those cuts at both county and borough councils.
At Kent County Council our workload has grown because we have more seats on committees as the
Green and Independent Group is now the joint biggest opposition group, we would have been the
biggest had Stuart Jeffery in Maidstone won.

As Kermit says “it’s not easy being Green” especially when we see the Conservatives abandoning all
of their climate change commitments and Labour basically holding their coats while our reputation
worldwide is trashed. But we need to keep going and stick to our core principles of creating a vison
based on sustainability and a just transition to a low carbon future combining social and
environmental justice and ensuring that nobody is left behind. We have a far bigger voice to make
ourselves heard now than last year. But we know how hard it will be to deliver on our policies while
we are still locked out of meetings where the decision-making elite control the budgets. There is a
huge potential for change on the horizon as devolution and local government reorganisation loom, but
we learn as we go. We have a great chance of giving Tugendhat a hard time in the parliamentary
elections in 2024 and becoming a force to recon with, in the new Tonbridge Constituency.

I wouldn’t have thought that possible when I first nervously walked into this room eight or so years
ago as new member. Lots has changed and much more needs to change but we have never been better
placed to make that happen. I am proud to be a member of this branch and we can all be proud of how
far we have come so quickly.

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