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Towers failure is my big regret

Retiring city council leader John GIlbey’s biggest regret is the faild Westgate Towers traffic trial
Retiring city council leader John Gilbey’s biggest regret is the faild Westgate Towers traffic trial

Retiring city council leader John Gilbey has admitted the failed Westgate Towers Traffic trial is his biggest regret. The Tory chief, who has announced he will not be standlog for re-election next May. still believes the scheme could have helped reduce congestion and air pollution. But he says the “wrangling” over the controversial trial thwarted any chance of its success. He said:

“It should have been a completely Kent County Council project from the start and we should have stayed out of it. Four years ago I said I wanted to deal with congestion and pallutionmthe city and that simply has not worked. Several streets did significantly improve in terms of pollution during the changes, and there was money available to do other things like traffic lights at the Wincheap roundabout. But because of the wrangling the money went somewhere else. That is a big regret, because of all the things it needed tackling head on.”

Cllr Gilbey announced last week that he would not be seeking re-election having served for almost 14 years and been Tory group leader since. He says the scrapping of the executive, which is being replaced with a committee system of governance, was “not a factor” in his decision to step down. Cllr Gilbey, who represents Blean Forest, said:

“I actually decided after the last election that I would not stand again. I have been involved in developüigthe new committee system became I wanted to bring in one that would work. rm not sure It will, but that is not a reason why lam not standing. I think if you look at the work the executive has done over the eight years I have been leader it is staggering what has been achieved. There is a lot people don’t see, such as the work to create a council that is not member- or officer-led, but people working together. We have a proper relationship with officers where members have the final say but with co-operation to get things done. Our financial achievements have also been outstanding, in a very difficult financial climate, because we managed the council well with the officers”

During his time in office, Cllr Gilbey has overseen projects like the new Marlowe Theatre, development of the Westgate Hall Trust, the clean-up of Sea-salter Marshes and improvements to Herne Bay seafront, as well as work to deal with flooding problems on the Stow and Nailbourne. He lives in Kingston with his wife Carol and says be now hopes to spend more time with is seven grandchildren. He said:

“We have family in Jakarta and New York and family in Welwyn Garden City and we want to spend more time with them. I think it is going to be hard to step away. The thing I am going to find most difficult is not being aware of what is going on lii the council ona daily basis. I will be cut off on May 7, but I will work and work and work for that election.”

Herne Bay Gazette, November 20th 2014

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