As this is my first message to you in 2016 can I wish you all a Happy New Year.
We are currently awaiting the Planning Inspectors Report on the Swale Local Plan. Swale
Borough Council has fought hard to produce the lowest possible housing figure but we know
the “Objectively Assessed Need” points to a necessary target of 770 houses per year.
Developers, land owners and house builders have argued strongly for this to be raised to a
figure between 800 and 1200 per annum. Also the Labour and UKIP parties have argued that
we have not allocated enough houses in Faversham and the Rural Areas and that the Plan
should be adjusted to move housing from Sittingbourne and Sheppey to Faversham and the
We do now have the final decision of the Boundary Commission regarding the County Council
seats in Swale. Local lobbying has been successful in ensuring that in East Swale we will
continue to have 1 County Councillor for all of Faversham and 1 for the Rural Villages rather
than 2 with split responsibilities. This was supported by all local parties other than UKIP.
February will see local Budgets set leading to the level of Council Tax we pay next year. Swale
Borough Council is proposing ‘freezing’ its Council Tax at the current rate for the 6th year in a
row. Kent County Council has been hit by a reduction of £58 million in Government Grant and
increasing costs of 80 million mainly in Adult Social Services. Members are likely to agree a 1.99
rise plus accepting the 2% Social Care Levy permitted by Government. This will still require £94
million of savings to balance the Budget. The Police and Crime Commissioner is forecast to
increase her Budget by 3.4%.
One piece of good news now confirmed is the signing of an agreement for the cinema operator
as the key part of the Sittingbourne town centre regeneration. It is having the cinema, (8
screens), on board which enables the signing of the leases for the new restaurants. It also
means we can quickly move to start construction of the new multi storey car park allowing
some of our existing car parks to be released for apartments. The new cinema will be sited
immediately in front of the railway station allowing Swale residents the option of travelling by
Another piece of good news is that after several years of campaigning, especially by myself, the
County Council has set up a Select Committee to look at Grammar Schools and the effect on
Social Mobility. Any resident who feels that County Policies such as that on home to school
transport has disadvantaged them please contact me even if you have previously done so.
Since my last message to you I have, besides my usual County and Borough Committees,
attended meetings of Hernhill, Ospringe, Boughton, Graveney, Teynham, Dunkirk and Selling
Parish Councils as well as a meeting of the 4 Horseshoes Residents Association in Graveney.
Please keep an eye on your local Parish Magazines and Notice Boards for details of your local
Annual Parish Meeting, some of which will be held before my next newsletter. I shall be
attending as many as humanly possible subject to other County and Borough commitments.
Although the Agendas may vary they should all include a Chairman’s report on the Parish
Council’s activities on your behalf over the preceding 12 months as well as a report on the state
of the Parish Council’s Finances. Although normally chaired by the Chairman of the Parish
Council this is very much your meeting as residents and tax payers where you can bring matters
to the attention of the Parish Council and to hold them and your other elected representatives
to account. Several Parish Councils choose to invite a guest speaker to these meetings and even
supply refreshments and the opportunity to chat informally.