All criticism of the Arch has been met with cries of "won't somebody think of the children" and "don't you care about the sacrifices". Beyond that, phrases like "it makes me sad" and accusations of being one of the "whingers" have exemplified the level of informed debate on the issues I've raised. I've even heard of an "unfriending" on Facebook as a result of a signature.
The sad thing in all of this is the complete failure by Step Short, Step Short's supporters, and Shepway's Tory Cllrs, to engage with the debate I'm trying to start. If they had actually taken the time to think about it they might even have had some sympathy for my view (or not). As they haven't taken that time, I'll write it here so that it is at least recorded for posterity.
I support the Step Short Arch. I think it is a fantastic idea and I really hope that it goes ahead. I want Folkestone to be a beacon in remembering our war dead and I wholeheartedly agree that it is vital that we teach, and learn from, the lessons of World War I. I think every student in the land should have a grasp of the horrors of trench warfare, and should understand the feelings of terror that the Mark 1 tank would have inspired when it was first unleashed against the enemy.
I want the Step Short Arch to be funded by Central Government grants and/or individual donations. I believe that the Arch at the top of the Road of Remembrance is important enough to be included in the Government's plans for the Centenary. I believe they should cover the costs of any funding not already secured, by donations or grants, at the time that construction begins. I believe that, up until that time, we shouldn't be able to move on social media for requests for donations to the project.
The only thing I oppose about this Arch is Shepway District Council supplying £200,000 to help build it. There is a simple reason for this. Shepway's job is to support local people and deal with local issues, not to fund national memorials. With incomes and welfare support being squeezed left, right and centre, as well as local government budgets being hit, Shepway's role in supporting those in need and improving quality of life for every local person is more important than it ever has been. It is for that, and only that, reason that I set up my petition.
There are people who oppose building the Arch in the first place, and I am sure they have sensible arguments for their position. It isn't a position I share, but I applaud anyone who takes the time to form a position rather than relying on off-the-cuff responses (I wish I did it more at times). To those, however, who support the Arch (with or without a Shepway grant) I say this. Wouldn't it be better if this national memorial was nationally funded?
I've been pondering the best response to the Shepway grant, beyond my petition, and it hit me the other day that the best response is actually rather simple. I urge everyone who doesn't support Shepway funding the Arch to donate as much as they can afford to the project as well as encouraging others to do so. I'm not saying this to be hypocritical or back track on my views. I just hope that maybe, if Step Short no longer need the money, Shepway might just spend their reserves on what they are meant for.