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A message from your County Councillor - February 2019

February is always one of the ‘big’ months in the Local Government Calendar, it is Budget month. The month started with my “You Decide” event awarding my Member Grant money to local voluntary organisations. For full results see last months report. Two organisations missed out, Hernhill Parish Council who could not find a representative to present their request and Sheldwich Parish Council where their application arrived too late. Luckily, working with Officers, I have been able to find funding to allow both projects to, hopefully, go ahead.

I recently attended the District Councils Network Conference held on 7th and 8th February at Kenilworth in Warwickshire. Over 200 delegates representing the majority of Councils in membership with, perhaps surprisingly, as many if not more Chief Executives than Council Leaders present. Highlights included the following speakers:

 Secretary of State James Brockenshire MP who spoke about the future challenges facing Local Government and answered questions on planning, housing and other current matters.

 Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss MP who set out her highly localist approach to the forthcoming spending review. This will, however, maintain a commitment to incentivise Councils to build more homes.

 Opposition Shadow Minister Andrew Gwynne MP who said that powers taken back from Brussels after Brexit should go to Local Councils not to Whitehall.

 Local Government Finance Minister Rishi Sunak MP who spoke in great detail about future Council funding.

 Bill Grimsey a regeneration expert and author who spoke on the future of our High Streets.

 Tom Walker from Homes England talking about how they can help and support District Councils in house building.

The two Budget meetings were somewhat lacking in drama or any close debate. As you have probably read Swale Borough Council proportion of Council Tax is going up 2.7%, the County Council proportion is going up by 2.99% plus the extra 2% allowed as a levy to pay increasing Social Care costs. On top will be Parish Precepts over the 23 Parishes in Swale East varying from Tonge with a 33.65% cut to Selling with an 80.62% increase.

Other meetings of special note this month include a meeting with Canterbury City Council,Kent County Council and Highways England to discuss progress on providing safe and secure lorry parking on the A2/M2 corridor. A proposal should be going to the March Cabinet Meeting of Swale Borough Council. I have also met with the Hyde Housing Association and Optivo Housing Association (separately) to discuss social housing provision going forward.Other meetings that may be of interest include a meeting with Kent Highways at Lenham to discuss ongoing improvements to the A20/Faversham Road crossroads, Doddington Parish Council were among those represented. I also met the latest management team at Peel Ports Sheerness, one of Swale’s major employers.

Parish Council’s attended in February were Doddington, Sheldwich, Badlesmere & Leaveland, Selling, Newnham, Dunkirk, Lynsted and Hernhill.

Andrew Bowles Email: Mobile: 07778 629879

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