We Won’t Be There At Your Pointless Party

Dutch Invasion

Back when I was writing Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway, the plan had been to devote a large section of the first chapter to Medway’s history – going back to Roman times.

Precisely what this would have had to do with The Milkshakes performing at the M.I.C. or the Medway Bands Co-op putting together a couple of Blabbermouth compilations is anyone’s guess. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

There remains a brief summary of proper Medway history in the book – before we get down to the musical business of however many days it’ll take you to read – but some of the finer points about Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne of Cleves are now consigned to the backwaters of my laptop.

One of the things that gets a brief mention in the book (and a longer mention in the original draft) is a piece about the Dutch invasion of 1667.

If you live in Medway, you might well be aware that the 350th anniversary of the invasion is coming up. A mind-boggling decision was taken to take funding away from Medway Sure Start centres – a fantastic service for families – to pay for commemorative events including a fireworks display.

This means that children’s services would literally be going up in flames.

Here’s a screen shot of the minutes where this interesting scheme was knocked together:

Medway minutesYou can see the full minutes for the meeting were this proposal was discussed and agreed upon on page 12 of these minutes.

The decision was voted on by, among others, Kelly Tolhurst, who has now been returned to Parliament as the Tory MP for Strood and Rochester.

It is utterly bewildering to even try to understand the logic behind this. The cuts to children’s services have been presented as a cutting coat according to your cloth exercise. I don’t think magic money trees were mentioned. But you get the idea.

According to the Kent Messenger’s Kent Online site, Cllr Andrew Mackness had said “unprecedented financial pressure had forced the council to reorganise management of the centres and reduce staff by a third.”

But the minutes kind of speak for themselves. It’s less to do with financial pressure (i.e. let’s blame someone/something else) and more to do with robbing Peter’s children’s services to pay Paul’s pointless party.

A piece on Kelly Tolhurst’s campaign site says the following:

“Government has changed the way councils must use early years spend, requiring local authorities to increase the amount passed to schools and nurseries from 85% to a minimum of 93%. Therefore, it is right that Medway council look forward to assessing and consult on how to make sure that the early intervention services delivered by Medway council are reaching the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families, based on outcomes and need.”

Which is all very well. But she doesn’t quite explain how blowing the money on a fireworks display is going to help the disadvantaged. I’m not sur the required governmental changes would have directed anyone to spend a penny of the funds on fireworks.

Now, you’ll remember a few paragraphs back I was wittering on about something I wrote in a draft of my book. Here is the full, unexpurgated version of what I wrote before my editors wisely cut it for its irrelevance:

The docks at Chatham would come to be a vital base from for the repair and maintenance of the royal fleet. And with that came the need to protect the docks with armaments, such as those at Upnor Castle which was started in 1559.

The need was entirely justified, if not fully accommodated for; by 1667, defences at the castle were no longer what they were. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War of that year, the Dutch managed to sail past Upnor Castle in an effort to attack an entirely unprepared English fleet. The English defence was far from aided by the fact the financially crippled Navy had not paid its seamen for months if not years, encouraging some to turn traitor, just so they could see some actual ‘dollars’ from the Dutch, rather than ‘tickets’ promising payment from their usual masters.

The attack only faltered when the Dutch raiders’ progress was stopped by a blockade of English ships rafted together. In the midst of the attack, the blockade caught fire and forced the Dutch to retreat – but not before they had taken charge of the Royal Charles which was then taken back to the Netherlands as a trophy.

So, basically, the funding of children’s services is being withdrawn, not because of external financial pressures (those pesky government changes).

But neither is it even being used to celebrate a glorious military victory. It’s being used to celebrate something that can, at best, be described as a “didn’t entirely lose” for the British – something approaching a happy accident; an inspite of, not a because of.

The British navy was in disarray, no one was prepared for the Dutch invasion and British bacon was only saved at the last minute because of a fire that probably had more to do with the emerging chaos of what was going on than any tactical approach to naval conflict.

Ironically, the British military was in that state because it was under-funded and under-supported.

So basically, this is a costly celebration of history under-funding.

Why on earth would you want to take money off kids to celebrate that kind of under-achievement?

Answers on the back of a postcard.

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