A message from your County Councillor - February 2018

It feels as though February was dominated by the weather although, of course, the snow did not arrive until Monday the 26th.

February is the Budget month for Local Authorities. Kent County Council met all day on Tuesday the 20 th to determine its Budget. Swale Borough Council then met on the evening of Wednesday the 21 st to confirm its own Budget requirements and set the level of Council Tax. This also includes the amounts precepted by the Police and Crime Commissioner and by the Fire and Rescue Authority. In most parts of Swale and indeed all of the Swale East Division (except for Luddenham) there will be an extra amount levied by Parish Councils. The County Council Budget comprises of £958.488 million of revenue expenditure and capital investments of £794.707 million. At Swale Borough Council Revenue Expenditure of £16,531,514 was agreed about half of which will be raised from the Council Tax, the rest from a mixture of income from fees and charges plus revenue from business rates. The Borough’s budget also includes £500,000 capital investment in equipment for play areas and £250,000 to boost tourism. There is also £2 million set aside for likely essential repairs and improvements to Sittingbourne and Sheppey leisure centres.

The effect of all of the above is a 2.99% increase in the County share in addition to the 2% allowed as an additional social care levy. The Swale Borough Council increase is much lower in both real and percentage terms and gives a Borough Council Tax of £169.83 per average household (Band D). This is an increase for the Borough element of just under £5 per year. February was not just about Budgets and snow! We welcomed Sir John Armitt who has succeeded Michael Heseltine as Chairman of the Government’s Thames Estuary Growth Commission to the February meeting of the Thames Gateway Kent Partnership Board. I am afraid Sir John had to endure quite a roasting from myself, and others, on Government ever increasing housing targets and the lack of necessary infrastructure and on the ever- decreasing local democracy in the planning process.

We also had an update from the proposers of the Solar Farm on Cleve Marshes given to invited County (I was the only one in attendance) Borough, and Parish Councillors held at Graveney Village Hall. Faversham and Mid Kent Member of Parliament Helen Whatley was also in attendance.

The last week in February started for me with a photo shoot at Remembrance Avenue, Sittingbourne, in the snow, to promote the work we are doing here in Swale to commemorate the First World War. I then returned to Swale House for our quarterly meeting with the Police and Swale Branch of the National Farmers Union to discuss rural crime and policing. Good news, yet to be officially confirmed, of extra Officers to be assigned to the rural team in North Division which includes Swale. The sad part is that we said goodbye to PC Preston Frost who is retiring. PC Frost has been a stalwart of rural policing, his work has led to his being given too many awards to list but including Community Officer of the year, Police Officer of the Year and Swale Borough Council’s own award to a member of staff of a partner organisation. Well done and thank you ‘Frostie’, hope we are able to find another way to use your skills and experience to benefit our rural community.

After that the roof, or at least the snow, fell in. The rest of the final week of the month became a list of cancelled or postponed meetings plus some that were converted into conference calls.

Two brief updates on last months’ report, somehow the Friends of Milstead School was wrongly typed as Friends of Milton School in the list of those organisations who were successful in obtaining grants from my local county members fund. Apologies. Secondly, I am still awaiting a flood of enquiries from women or anyone else who wishes to stand for election to the Borough Council.

Andrew Bowles Email: abjs@btinternet.com

07778 629879

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