Archive for Council Report

Swale Budget Meeting – What Labour proposed

playground

  • Play Areas and Recreation

It may not be a total surprise that I am proposing this amendment.

We have been here before and I have deluded myself into believing that something was going to happen.

But it hasn’t.

While I am aware that the Council is currently thinking of undertaking an assessment of play facilities, I do not consider that to be a case for yet further delay.

The tired and unacceptable state of the play areas are obvious and require no assessment. They demand urgent action, not more delays.

What people see around them carries a message.

Does our Council really care?

The state of these play areas suggests it does not.

The Corporate Plan talks of “a Borough to be proud of”

Is that what members feel when they look at some of the sites listed by us.

This has a lot to do with what we mean by regeneration.

In our view, regeneration is not just big projects. It is also about open space enhancement and decent play areas for our children.

That is why we have no qualms about using the regeneration fund to benefit our local communities. In the budget report that is a £600K gap between the anticipated New Homes Bonus fund and the amount going into the base budget. £100 K is allocated to the Communities Fund and Swale Community Leisure. That leaves £500K plus the £300 already in the fund.

I appreciate the caution that the Council has about future finances but total reserves of £15 million on a budget requirement of £15 million is a little bit too robust.

We proposed 500K for refurbishment of Children’s Play Areas

It is not OUR MONEY. It belongs to the Swale Community and we are asking for our local people to see some benefit from it.

Members will see where we wish to allocate resources and will judge whether they wish to deny their residents this much needed intervention.

Let’s get on with this. If necessary, we could put up a few “It’s Here” signs too.

 

  • Homelessness

A couple of weeks ago the Policy Review Panel looked at the Corporate Plan.

I could not believe it had no reference to tackling homelessness and I hope this will be rectified. But it conveyed a message.

We believe that there is both an ethical case for our proposal but also a fiscal one.

The number of households in various forms of temporary accommodation has now risen to 93. Some are families, others are single people, often very vulnerable and prone to serious mental health problems.

For families it is a traumatic experience to be consigned to out of borough bed and breakfast accommodation. It is hard to understand exactly how much damage this does.

It really is time to act more urgently and with greater compassion.

Just over a year ago the then Cabinet received a report on emergency homeless accommodation. It indicated that for a capital investment of £180K the Council will realise a saving of £18,500 a year, something in the region of a 10% return on capital.

This is based on our Housing Department making the best use of those properties.

We would also expect the properties to hold their equity, or much more likely achieve a capital growth.

I am sorry, but we regard this as a no brainer. What is holding us back?

Councillor Roger Truelove

The Swale Local Plan Examination in Public has now finished.

M2

The Swale Local Plan Examination in Public has now finished. The Council will wait on the Inspector’s report and then there will be further challenging decisions to make.
On the last day, Wednesday 16th December, consideration was given to the transport infrastructure.It is now clear that the Southern Relief Road, which would have connected the A2 and M2 east of Sittingbourne, will not be in the plan. There was also a very strong lobby to remove from the plan any commitment to completing the Northern Relief Road from East Hall to Bapchild. The Council wishes to include an aspiration for the road but without any indication of the route and with only a vague justification for it. Neither the Borough Council, nor the Kent County Council, seem to be able to harness an argument around the Industrial growth to the North East of Sittingbourne, nor the desirability of a link from Sheppey and North Sittingbourne, to the east of Sittingbourne and avoiding the town centre. The pressure to reject the NRR altogether came frpm the CPRE, the Bapchild and Tonge Parish Council, the Five Parishes and from interested developers. They are in a favourable position because of the vagueness of the Council approach.
This is not at all the kind of approach that Labour wants to see, or which a Labour led Council would ever have fostered. In time, it will add to congestion in the Sittingbourne Town centre and it pitiably lets down the people who live in East Hall.
The strategic focus is much more on the A249 corridor, and that is understandable if the Council manages to get 1500 houses built north of Quinton, or if developer opportunities open up in Iwade or around Cryalls Lane. Improvements to the Grovehurst roundabout are a must, along with improvements at Key Street and at Junction 5 on the M2. It is clear that this focus is closely linked to Swale’s intention to see so much of its housing development around this area.
The session was attended by Sittingbourne Labour Councillors Ghlin Whelan and Roger Truelove. The Conservative Councillor for the Meads has been a regular observer but other Councillors in the most affected areas have shown no interest.

Council purchase of property for homeless condemned as pedestrian

swale officesThe Tory controlled Cabinet on Wednesday night agreed to purchase a property in Sheerness to help deal with homelessness but it was condemned by Labour Councillor Ghlin Whelan as ” pedestrian and inadequate”

Councillor Whelan.( Lab Chalkwell) says ” We are now getting somewhere near to what we on the Labour side called for 3 years ago. The Council say they are saving money on the purchase of these isolated properties, so what exactly is holding them back? The number of families seeking local temporary accommodation has shot up to 73 and all that are being catered for locally by the Council is in single figures. It is so important that these things are serviced locally. The damage done by sending people away from Swale is considerable.”

The provision was also criticised by Independent Councillor Mike Henderson, who called for a property purchase in Faversham.

By providing properties the Council is saving on costs for this budget and that is why Opposition politicians find the pedestrian progress so frustrating.

Street Lighting Consultation Has Begun

Kent Light

As of 21st September Kent County Council are conducting a consultation on the conversion of 118,000 street lights to Light Emitting Diode (LED). The consultation will ask people whether they would prefer the current level of service provided by part time lighting, or all night lighting.

There has been considerable public concern since the previous lighting system was switched to part time lighting. It is not just a matter of crime but also the hazardous nature of travelling to work at early hours of the morning.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey Labour do not want people to miss out on this new consultation on LED lighting.

For your information

  • You can go to www.kent.gov.uk/streetlights and complete an online questionnaire.

  • The consultation and questionnaire are also available in Easy Read and Word formats on the website above

  • OR on request by e mail to alternativeformats@kent.gov.uk

  • OR phone 03000 421553; Text relay 18001 03000 421553

We have also been told that questionnaires will be available at public libraries.

THE CONSULTATION WILL LAST 10 WEEKS.

KCC Hits Record Overspend

County HallThe Kent County Council has reported a £14.56 million overspend for the first quarter of the current financial year. This is the worst outcome for the 21 years that records have been kept and it suggests the Council will be extremely pressed to balance the books over the whole year.

It is becoming clear that KCC, like many other large strategic authorities, is being compelled to set over optimistic budgets. The continual determination of the Tory Government to make local councils the biggest public sector victims of austerity is causing a crisis in the delivery of decent services.

Some of the overspend is due to the immediate influx of additional migrant children. The official view is that these increased costs will be met by Central Government. They will not. Another area where a Government shortfall in support is hitting KCC is in the delivery of the concessionary bus fare scheme. Overall, and symptomatic of the whole problem, is that KCC, like many other authorities, simply cannot meet the growing demand for adult care services. This could be criticised as poor budgeting but it is a level of demand that is notoriously difficult to estimate. KCC is theoretically going through an experiment in transforming services and demand is meant to have fallen. Unfortunately, too, this doesn’t seem to be working.

This is not all the fault of the Tories on KCC, but they need to be open and honest with the public, acknowledge the crisis, and make it clear that this really goes back to the Chancellor of Exchequer, George Osborne.