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pccloft‘A beacon of excellence in partnership working’ was how Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes described the work of the housing association, Moat, and charity Word on the Street.

The two organisations joined forces to create a community centre called The Activity Loft, an ordinary three-bedroom house on the once-troubled Vineries Estate in Gillingham that is now the heart of a peaceful community.

Young people from the estate use the house to do their homework, use the computers and to ‘hang out’. The centre is also used for coffee mornings as well as a parent and toddler group. Other services provided by Word on the Street include mentoring sessions and home visits.

The Activity Loft was the brainchild of Moat, following consultation with local young people who wanted a safe, secure place to socialise and make new friends.

But the service has become such a popular space, more room was needed. A team of companies came to the rescue, building a conservatory and refurbishing the house from top to bottom – free of charge.

Mrs Barnes officially opened The Activity Loft, which was funded by Maulyte, The Window Company, Armour, Allied Protection, Wiggintons, Playle and Partners, Cleanscapes and Keepmoat.

She was particularly keen to hear how the centre had cut so-called low level crime and anti-social behaviour. Mrs Barnes said: ‘This centre is a real beacon of excellence of partnership working. What you all have created here is special. I want to do all I can to help young people avoid getting into a life of crime. Places like this support that work so thank you.’

Moat’s Regional Business Manager, Pam Millington, said: ‘We are incredibly grateful for all of the generous contributions towards the provision of the Activity Loft conservatory. The Loft is already a well-used and valued community facility so this additional space will allow The Word on the Street team to organise more activities for local people to enjoy.’

Transfer StationMore than 100 businesses from the construction, waste and maintenance industries attended a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event in Chatham hosted by Medway Council.

Councillor Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council, said “It was great to see such a big turnout to the second Meet the Buyer event with local Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) well represented. I had lots of positive conversations with suppliers pleased at the open and innovative approach we are taking. I believe Medway Council is starting to position itself at the forefront of public sector procurement. ”

Workshops on how to fill out tender documents, details about the online tendering process and advice from experts gave businesses an insight into improving opportunities to win council work.

Neville Gaunt, North Kent Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses for Kent & Medway said: “It is great to see Medway Council changing the environment for SME procurement. I hope the local business community responds well to the opportunity it gives them. The FSB fully supports simple and creative thinking to get best value to all. I was particularly impressed that Medway has set itself a target for contracting with SMEs which is double the Prime Minister’s target for Government Departments.”

A number of the organisations who currently contract with the council, and who are looking for suppliers, attended including waste contractors Veolia, highways company Volker and building maintenance business Medway Norse.

Andrew Cottrell a Manager with the Leadbitter Group who have been contracted to build the new £11million Abbey Court Special Educational Need school said: “This was a brilliant event where we received lots of contacts with local suppliers. We applaud Medway Council in seeking to provide opportunities for Medway businesses and are impressed at their target to spend 50 per cent of their contracts with SMEs.”

Medway Council is also committed to the development of apprenticeship opportunities with local firms with a range of schemes and offers a £2,000 subsidy to qualified employers.

Kerry Linley, Account Manager with apprentice specialists TrAC, said: “This is easily the best meet the buyer event we have attended. Medway Council clearly mean business when it comes to apprentices and we were very impressed by the target in their procurement strategy that for every £1 million contract suppliers must provide at least one apprentice. We look forward to working with Medway to provide young people opportunities across the Borough and Kent.”

skier
Chatham’s Charlotte Evans made Medway proud as she, alongside Kelly Gallagher, won gold at the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.

It was the first gold medal to be won by a British team in skiing at either the Winter Olympic or Paralymic Games.

Now, the Mayor of Medway Josie Iles hopes to congratulate Charlotte on her success with an invitation to afternoon tea.

She said: “This is such a great acheivement. Not only have Charlotte and Kelly won gold medals, they are the first to do it in this sport.

“I am immensely proud, as I am sure the rest of Medway is and would be delighted to invite Charlotte for a celebratory afternoon tea in the Mayor’s Parlour when she returns from Sochi.”
Charlotte and Kelly, who is visually impaired, took part in the Super-G total skiing event and their winning time was one minute, 28.72 seconds

Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, has launched a new grants scheme to help local people.

The ‘Commissioner’s Fund’ will give away £100,000 over the next financial year. It aims to support the hundreds of unique, community-led projects that can make a real difference to safety and crime prevention in our towns and villages.

Voluntary organisations and not for profit groups will be able to apply for grants up to £2,000 that demonstrate a positive impact on a community.

Applications, which open today, must meet one or more of the following criteria:

• Prevent and reduce re-offending

• Support victims of crime

• Empower local communities to work together to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour

All grants will initially be reviewed by the Kent People’s Trust – a local charity that aims to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour – with the final decision being made by the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, and where appropriate with input from the new Youth Commissioner.

Discussing the launch of the new scheme, Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be able to launch this grant scheme for local people. Local communities know their patch and they understand what needs to be done to make it a better place.

‘I firmly believe that even a small investment will rally local people into playing their part in finding community solutions for local issues. I want people to be innovative and creative with their ideas and I’m really looking forward to giving local communities a cash injection.’

Bryn Price, Director of Kent People’s Trust said: ‘The charity has over 12 years of experience in community grants and we are really delighted to have been asked to provide our expertise as part of this new exciting project. Both the charity and the Commissioner have one common aim and that’s to make Kent a safer place.’

Applications will be accepted throughout the year. Full terms and conditions and information on how to apply can be found at www.kent-pcc.gov.uk/commissionersfund

willadamsobrien
Ofsted has praised a centre for youngsters who have been excluded from school for its outstanding teaching.

Inspectors said students at the Will Adams Centre in Gillingham were getting the qualifications needed to help them on to further education or employment.

They have rated the centre – which caters for more than 40 teenagers in Years 10 and 11, all of whom have learning difficulties – as ‘good’, the second highest accolade possible and a step up from the last inspection.

Ofsted described teaching as “typically good and some is outstanding” and went on to say teachers encourage students to achieve a high standard of work.

Inspectors said that while most students join with a history of negative attitudes towards school, staff work hard to engage them and, as a result, behaviour improves rapidly.

They also said students do better at Will Adams than most pupils attending Pupil Referral Units elsewhere in the country.

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Medway Council, said: “I am delighted Ofsted has recognised the tremendous work that is going on at the Will Adams Centre.

“The turn around in student performance and attitude once they get to Will Adams is simply incredible and a real credit to all the teachers and the leadership team.”

The centres headteacher, Karen Bennett, said: “We are thrilled the inspectors have praised the work going on here and the performance of students.

“When pupils reach us, their knowledge and skills are often below the expectations for their age, however, Ofsted has pointed out how they progress rapidly here and leave us equipped with the qualifications to go on to further education or employment. That’s quite an achievement”

Medway will be part of history in the making today when the Mayor of Medway raises a Commonwealth flag over Gun Wharf.

Mayor Josie Iles is set to fly the flag along with 500 other local authorities, community groups and charities throughout the British Isles to mark Commonwealth Day.

Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth is the first event of its kind and has caught the imagination of thousands of participants, enabling communities to join others nationwide in linking themselves with widespread public expression of commitment to the Commonwealth.

A specially written Commonwealth affirmation will be read out at each ceremony before the raising of the Commonwealth flag at 10am.

In Medway, the council’s Chief Executive Neil Davies will read the affirmation followed by Leader Rodney Chambers who will read a message from the Queen.

Mayor of Medway Josie Iles will then raise the flag over the council building. A second Commonwealth flag will be raised at Rochester Castle.

Charity teams will mark the day by taking Commonwealth flags to the top of the UK’s four highest national peaks and use the occasion to raise funds for their worthy causes: Cancer Research UK – Scafell Pike, England; Help for Heroes – Ben Nevis, Scotland; Walking with the Wounded – Mount Snowdon, Wales; and Fields of Life – Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland.

Mayor of Medway Josie Iles said: “I feel privileged to be raising the Commonwealth flag at the ceremony on Monday along with hundreds of others around the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. This mass flag-raising event is a wonderful way to mark Commonwealth Day.”

Residents in Medway will still have the cheapest council tax in Kent after councillors approved a budget for 2014/2015.

Councillors last night voted for a 1.99 per cent increase in council tax to combat an unprecedented cut in funding to the council from the government that will see the authority get just £52million this year – a huge 9.6 per cent less than last year.

Despite this, Medway Council has managed to protect frontline services from cuts in the budget for the forthcoming year. We are also freezing increases on car parking charges until 2017 and will provide £200,000 to improve play areas.

Council tax funds more than 140 services for almost 270,000 residents in Medway. These include important services such as weekly bin and recycling collections, adult social care, educational provision and children’s social services, as well as looking after Medway’s roads and parks.

The increase in this year’s council tax equates to a £22.77 increase per year for an average Band D property – the equivalent of 44p a week.

Medway currently has the seventh lowest council tax of all mainland unitary authorities and is, on average, over £100 below the average combined council tax for Kent County Council and Kent district councils.

Funding in the budget will include:

• £2million for highways improvements
• An extra to £450,000 to fix potholes caused by the adverse weather
• Doubling of free Christmas parking for five years
• £200,000 for improvements to children’s play areas
• £30,000 to fund apprenticeships on the Medway Queen
• £100,000 to fight plans for the Thames Estuary airport – a campaign that has all-party support
• An extension on freeze to car parking increases until 2017

Unlike many other authorities, our 16 libraries and 19 children’s centres will face no threat of closure – as the council is committed to keeping these important local resources open.

In fact, the council has also recently provided new community hub style libraries – which also provide a one-stop facility for information on and booking of other council services – for Gillingham, Rochester and Chatham. Strood and Twydall will see new community hubs open in 2015.

Medway Council has only increased its council tax twice in the past four years, and has done this only to secure a balanced budget.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “This has been an extremely tough budget for us against a backdrop of cuts and almost impossible deadlines imposed on us to produce it.

“The small council tax rise is unavoidable if we are to maintain our vital services. “But there are a number of very positive announcements in this budget and we are proud to have avoided cuts to our frontline services.

“While every authority has been hit by Government funding reductions, Medway has been particularly hard hit and we expect that by 2015/16, we will have seen our funding from central government cut by 48 per cent over five years.”

The councils total budget for 2014/15 will be £331 million compared to £348.5 million the year before.

All residents will receive notification in the mail over the next few weeks detailing their council tax and the new charge will start in April.

potholefrind Medway Council filled nearly 4,000 potholes in the space of just 10 months, new figures show.

The council dealt with 3,904 holes in the road from April 2013 to January 2014 – that’s an incredible 90 a week.

Last week, councillors voted for an extra £450,000 to be spent on potholes over the next 12 months.

More defects have been reported to us in the last couple of years as frost in 2012 and rain in 2013 took its toll on our roads.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Frontline Services, Cllr Phil Filmer, said: “When weather conditions become more adverse, this causes unavoidable problems on our roads.

“We know potholes are the scourge of motorists and that is why we are putting more money into fixing them.

“The council has a very good track record of dealing and fixing potholes and we intend to maintain this in order to keep Medway moving.”

All roads, designated highway, within Medway are on a continuous rolling program of safety inspections that are 100 per cent up-to-date.

All enquiries received from members of the public about possible defects on the highway are investigated within 10 working days, and normally much quicker.

And an appropriate priority is given – such as ‘emergency’ – if a defect is considered an immediate hazard.

Highway inspectors can do instant repairs using a product called Viafix if they find roads in a dangerous condition.

This means they can make an area safe within two hours, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Our Customer Contact team received more than 1,100 calls from residents reporting damage to roads and footpaths looked after by Medway Council last year.

Apart from holes in the road, Highway Inspectors are constantly looking for damage to nameplates, signs, fixtures and fittings on the street, and railings. They all have to be maintained.

For the first time, in 2013, Highway Inspectors did a survey for every road and footway they looked at, giving them a red, amber or green rating.

This is now being adopted for annual inspections across the whole highway network and assists the Maintenance Team in compiling their list of roads for larger schemes.

By the end of the year, Highway Inspectors will have walked about 5,000 miles to carry out their safety inspections.

Residents can report potholes online via the lovemedway.co.uk website or by contacting Customer First on 01634 333333, texting 07739 657073 or email customer.first@medway.gov.uk

Disabled residents in Medway are being encouraged to join a new forum and have their say in council decisions affecting the disabled community.

Carers and people with disabilities have the opportunity to join the Medway Disabled Residents’ Forum on Thursday, 6 March at the Pentagon Centre in Chatham from 10.30am.

The group is set to encourage the disabled population to speak out on issues that affect quality of life, access and welfare of disabled residents.

The concept of the forum was agreed unanimously at Full Council at the end of 2012, and has received cross-party support with Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Service Cllr David Brake, the Leader of the council’s Labour Group, Cllr Vince Maple and Cllr Geoff Juby, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group all backing the idea.

Chairman of the Medway Residents’ Forum Ryan Gallagher said: “Disabled people in Medway really need a way of speaking out about issues that have an impact on them. This forum will do just that, but we need lots of people to get on board if we are going to have an impact.

I would encourage anyone affected by disability to join us at the Pentagon Centre on Thursday.”

The event will run from 10.30am to 2.30pm and will be an opportunity to find out more about the forum.

There will also be a chance to find out about some of the services available to disabled people in Medway.

UK Power Networks is installing new electricity cables on the Isle of Grain as part of a £1million investment.

The company will be installing 1.6km of new high voltage cables along Grain Road, plus 500metres of power lines across farmland as part of the project which is due to start on March 3.

Engineers are replacing an existing high voltage cable that is due for renewal. Work is due to finish in August to ensure reliable electricity supplies for homes and businesses for years to come.

Electricity supplies will not be affected by the scheme although roadworks will be needed and advance warning signs will be used at intervals along Grain Road to keep motorists informed.

Temporary traffic lights will be in place while a series of short trenches are excavated in the road to install a duct line into which new cables will be pulled and joined to the electricity network. The Grain Road excavations will be between Colemouth Creek bridge and the bend south of Wallend. The traffic lights will be manually controlled at the busiest times to help keep traffic flowing through the works.

A small tunnel will also be constructed to carry the new electricity cables underneath the railway line and this should have no impact on the public.

Colin Barden, UK Power Networks’ Head of Network Operations in the South East, said: “We are constantly investing in our network to improve the reliability of electricity supplies and reduce the likelihood and duration of power cuts in the future. As the electricity distributor throughout Kent we are replacing this section of cable to strengthen electricity supplies in the long-term following some cable faults in this area.

“The cables will be laid along the main road to the Isle of Grain. We have planned our work with care, closely consulting the local authorities to keep the impact on the local community to a minimum.”

This project is part of the £500 million that UK Power Networks is investing each year in new equipment to keep improving power supplies and cater for growing demand for electricity. The company delivers electricity across more than a quarter of Britain serving the South East, London and East of England.

Please find below a statement from Cllr Mike O’Brien, Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Medway Council, following an Ofsted report for Warren Wood Primary, Rochester.

“We acknowledge what Ofsted has said about the school and had already started making improvements before inspectors visited. Ofsted noted the positive effect a new leadership team of Anne Costidell and executive headteacher, Sian Williams, had already made at Warren Wood.

“It is important to note the hard work done in such a short space of time by the new leadership team to further improve standards at the school. We acknowledge that there is a still a lot of work to be done and that the ineffectiveness of the governing body, which has now been disbanded, led to the school’s current Ofsted criticism.

“The positive aspects picked up by the inspection team will be built on and there is a real determination at the school by its current leadership to drive the school forward from here. Inspectors said the team have already had a positive impact on pupils, staff and parents by putting strategies in place to improve teaching and pupils’ behaviour.

“They also noted in the Early Years Foundation Stage, children make good progress because the teaching is engaging. Inspectors observed the new staff in Reception were using well-structured activities to help children make good progress. The recent well-planned teaching of phonics in the Early Years Foundation Stage prepares children well in their literacy skills, the report said. Pupils say that since the arrival of the new leadership team, they feel happier to come to school and feel safer.

“The majority of parents who completed an online questionnaire believe that behaviour and safety are better now with the new leadership team. Teachers and their assistants are positive about the recent improvements to the school.

“The Ofsted team said that as a result of a new behaviour policy, there has been a sharp improvement in pupils’ behaviour overall.

“Parents opinions have been sought on a wide range of subjects and parents have indicated the current leaders work well with them. Things are changing for the better at the school on a daily basis and expectations are high as the new leadership team is already starting to see the benefits.

“I will not accept bad teaching in our schools and I am confident Warren Wood, under the new leadership, is now heading in the right direction.”

The Friends of Chernobyl’s Children is a local branch of a charity that helps children from Belarus by giving them a recuperative holiday which allows respite from the poverty and difficult conditions they face at home for a month each year. The charity is based in Cliffe with host families in Cliffe, Cliffe Woods, Allhallows, High Halstow, Medway Towns and Higham. (More information can be found at

 Thyroid patients receive medicine at the Radiation Medicine clinic near Minsk Thyroid patients receive medicine at the Radiation Medicine clinic near Minsk

cc.org.uk” target=”_blank”>http://www.focc.org.uk)

This is provided through family placements and the charity meets the full cost of these visits which include optical, dental and health checks as well as lots of tender loving care. It is anticipated that up to twelve children will be able to take up the opportunity this year in Medway. While they are here they undertake a range of activities and visits that they would be unable to do at home.

By extensive fundraising FOCC (Medway) meets the full costs of all the visits. The charity is self-funding and everyone involved gives their time and talents freely – ensuring that all money raised is utilised for the children.

In order to continue with our work we constantly need to raise money. Until now, the cost of the children’s visas for their trips to the UK has been funded by the British Government but last year the funding was withdrawn. The air fares for the children are rising each year and it costs hundreds of pounds to bring each child to the UK.

While appreciating that we are living in austere times, any donation no matter how small will make a huge difference to these children.

We are also looking for an additional Trustee for our Executive committee, if you feel that you could help in this capacity please get in touch. If you would like to find out more or be involved as a helper, fundraiser or host family please contact Di Fitter.
Group Coordinator: Diane Fitter – Tel. 01634 222875 E-mail: dianefitter@btinternet.com

Part of Chatham High Street will shortly be closed to traffic and pedestrians as a safety precaution, following the collapse of part of the old bank chambers building, next to the Theatre Royal, last night.

The road will be closed from the Rendezvous Chinese Restaurant to Manor Road this afternoon (Friday 14 February), and could remain closed for several days. Please re-post or re-tweet if you can!

Police all over Kent are increasing the number of Public Surgeries and Community engagement events they run. Please find below a list of these events around Medwaylink_Kent_Police_logo_-_Two_line_colour (1)

Surgeries being held by PCSO CORNWALL

Luton Library, Nelson Terrace, Chatham Thursday 6th February 1000 – 1130 hours

Luton Library, Nelson Terrace, Chatham. Thursday 6th March 1000 – 1130 hours

Surgeries being held by PCSO DAVISON

Medway Maritime Hospital, Windmill Road, Gillingham. February 19th 1000 – 1100 hours.

Community Engagement/Surgery held by PCSO KING

Morrison’s Car Park, Princes Avenue, Chatham. February 3rd 1000 – 1100 hours

March 3rd 1000 – 1100
April 7th 1000 – 1100
May 5th 1000 – 1100
June 2nd 1000 – 1100
July 7th 1000 – 1100
Aug 4th 1000 – 1100
Sept 1st 1000 – 1100
Oct 6th 1000 – 1100
Nov 3rd 1000 – 1100
Dec 1st 1000 – 1100

Community Engagement/Surgery held by PCSO KING

Walderslade Village Library, Walderslade Chatham

Feb 4th 0900 – 1000
March 4th 0900 – 1000
April 1st 0900 – 1000
May 6th 0900 – 1000
June 3rd 0900 – 1000
July 1st 0900 – 1000
Aug 5th 0900 – 1000
Sept 2nd 0900 – 1000
Oct 7th 0900 – 1000
Nov 4th 0900 – 1000
Dec 2nd 0900 – 1000

Surgeries being held by PCSO BROOKS

Wigmore Library, Fairview Avenue, Wigmore.

Thursday 27th February 1100 – 1200
Thursday 27th March 1100 – 1200
Thursday 24th April 1100 – 1200

Surgeries being held by PCSO McCANN

ABC Project, Mercury Close, Rochester.

Thursday 13th Feb 1000 – 1100
Thursday 13th March 1000 – 1100
Thursday 10th April 1000 – 1100
Thursday 15th May 1000 – 1100
Thursday 5th June 1000 – 1100
Thursday 10th July 1000 – 1100

Surgeries held by PCSO COLTHORPE

The Rochester Hub, Rochester High Street.

Thursday 13th Feb 1000 – 1100
Thursday 13th March 1000 – 1100
Thursday 10th April 1000 – 1100
Thursday 8th May 1000 – 1100
Thursday 5th June 1000 – 1100
Thursday 3rd July 1000 – 1100

Surgeries being held by PCSO McCANN and PCSO COLTHORPE

St Peters Church, Delce Road, Rochester

Tuesday 4th February 1000 – 1100
Tuesday 11th March 1000 – 1100
Tuesday 8th April 1000 – 1100
Tuesday 13th May 1000 – 1100
Tuesday 3rd June 1000 – 1100
Tueday 8th July 1000 – 1100

Surgeries being held by PCSO McCANN

St Justus Church, The Fairway, Rochester.

Wednesday 19th Feb 1000 – 1100
Wednesday 12th March 1000 – 1100
Wednesday 9th April 1000 – 1100
Wednesday 14th May 1000 – 1100
Wednesday 11th June 1000 – 1100
Wednesday 30th July 1000 – 1100

Surgeries being held by PCSO McCANN

The Holiday Inn, Maidstone Road, Chatham

Thurs 13th Feb 1200 – 1300
Thurs 13th March 1200 – 1300
Thurs 17th April 1100 – 1200
Thurs 22nd May 1100 – 1200
Thurs 19th June 1100 – 1200
Thurs 31st July 1100 – 1200

Surgeries being held by PCSO CLARE

Memorial Hall Car Park, Holly Road, Wainscott
Feb 14th 1600 – 1700

Outside Parkside Car Park, Cliffe Woods.
14th Feb 1730 – 1830

St Helens Church Car Park, Cliffe
14th Feb 1900 – 2000

Clive Lawrence has posted a question in the “Kent Group” on Linkedin and it strikes me that there is probably a wider scope for canvassing opinion. If you would like to answer Mr Lawrence, I will post your reply in the appropriate place, on your behalf, so that he will see it. Please do not insult, insight, libel or slander anyone in your reply as I will be unable to post on your behalf. Please be quick as the interview he mentions must be tomorrow! Email your response to me at office@peninsulatimes.co.uk His question is below:

ESTUARY AIRPORT – Opportunity for Kent & Medway business?

Clive Lawrence BBC trained news executive and PR Director

Before the end of the week, I am due to be interviewed by a senior journalist on why north Kent & Medway needs the airport project. My campaign – Demand Regeneration In North Kent (DRINK) – has been pressing the case for more than 18 months and we have generated much support across the region.

We need more, so please take a moment to express your views:

“On balance, the estuary airport project would bring benefits to the area. Yes/No/Undecided.”

Then add a brief comment.

I’ll use as many of these in the interview as possible.

Thanks.

Clive Lawrence
DRINK (Demand Regeneration In North Kent)

Frontline services in Medway are to be protected despite cuts to the amount of money the council receives from the Government, under budget proposals.

Medway Council’s provisional 2014/15 draft budget will again ensure all the services our residents receive from us will continue.

These include important services such as weekly bin and recycling collections, adult social care, educational provision and children’s social services, as well as looking after Medway’s roads and parks.

And, unlike many other authorities, our 14 libraries and 19 children’s centres will face no threat of closure – as the council is committed to keeping these important local resources open.

In fact, the council has also recently provided new community hub style libraries – which also provide a one-stop facility for information on and booking of other council services – for Gillingham, Rochester and Chatham, Strood and Twydall will see new community hubs open in 2015.

This determination to protect frontline services sits against a national picture of authorities axing services in a bid to balance the books.

However, the council will reluctantly have to seek a rise in council tax this year of 1.99 per cent in order to protect all the services it provides to nearly 270,000 residents.

This equates to a £22.77 increase per year for an average Band D property – the equivalent of 44p a week.

Council tax is essential in supporting all council services including children’s services, adult social care, parks and refuse collections.

Medway Council has only increased its council tax twice in the past four years, and has done this only to secure a balanced budget.

An unprecedented cut in funding to the council from the government will see the authority get a proposed £52million this year – a huge 17 per cent less than last year. This equates to a total grant of around £3.70 each week for each resident.

Elsewhere, other similar sized authorities have seen much less radical cuts to the government grants and receive a far greater amount than Medway.

In fact, Medway has been hit heavily over a number of years and the council expects that, by 2015/16, it will have seen its funding from central government cut by a total of 48 per cent over five years.

Against that backdrop, the council is still able to protect valuable services for the next year while working to an almost impossible deadline imposed by central government.

In order to make sure the council has enough time to reach a balanced budget by 11 March – which is a legal requirement for all councils – the council is putting forward its budget proposals to Cabinet on 11 February.

This will give officers 24 hours to inject any changes into the proposals so that the papers for the Full Council meeting can go online the next day – a legal requirement unless there are extreme issues of urgency.

Full Council will be on 20 February and this ensures that all issues can be tied up to meet the 11 March deadline.

However, the government has this year delayed the date it will set in stone the grant settlement it will give all councils until 12 February – one day after Medway Council’s Cabinet meeting.

It is also believed the Chancellor may make further changes to the amount of council tax that can be collected by all local councils. If the government makes any changes so late in the budget setting process, this will make it very difficult logistically for councils to set their budget by 11 March deadline.

While every authority is facing tough decisions, Medway Council is committed to doing all it can to protect its services for the next year and beyond.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio holder for Finance, said: “We have worked very hard to close the gap between what we receive from government and what we spend on our frontline services and we have come very close to doing that.

“It has been extremely difficult to try and balance the books at a time when we are facing such a drastic reduction in our budget.

“We are currently left with a £94,000 deficit which we will be finding ways of closing between now and Full Council.

“We were determined frontline services wouldn’t be hit this year as these impact on every one of us. A modest council tax rise is, we feel, unavoidable if we are to maintain these vital services.”

Details in the budget are subject to change, up until final decisions are made at the Full Council meeting on Thursday, February, 20.

See the draft budget HERE

Layout 1A long-term plan that secures the future of Rochester Airport has been approved by Medway Council.

The Rochester Airport Masterplan includes proposals for 1,000 jobs with the creation of a new hub for science and technology firms and much-improved facilities in this key location.
The approval of the masterplan comes after a comprehensive public consultation.

First established in 1933, the Rochester Airport site is owned by Medway Council and has been leased since to an airport operator – Rochester Airport Limited.

Proposals involve replacing many of the existing buildings and facilities on the airport that are now reaching the end of their useful life and a reconfiguration of the existing runways.

One of the grass runways on site will be closed and replaced with a new parallel grass and paved runway. The paved runway will allow a small aircraft to take off and climb to a higher altitude very quickly, reducing the impact of noise on surrounding homes.

The grass runway will allow the nationally recognised Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) to continue to use the site for heritage aircraft and open days.

The new runway layout will allow 29 acres near to Rochester Airport Industrial Estate to be developed as a new hub for science or technology related firms – with the potential to eventually create up to 1,000 new skilled jobs.

There are no plans to develop Rochester Airport into a commercial airport.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “Rochester Airport is an important asset for Medway and securing its future will help contribute to the regeneration and economic development of Medway.

“We want to ensure the future of the airport by maximising its potential for jobs and tourism and that’s what the masterplan does.

“The potential for new jobs here is just one of many benefits this masterplan brings.”

speed article Consultation ends next week on proposals to reduce the speed limit for drivers on the Hoo Peninsula.

A number of parish councils have been asked for their views on new speed limits proposed for the area. And they have until Monday, 3 February to have their say.

The idea is to reduce the current 60mph limit down to 40mph and also 30mph for some roads. The consultation follows a request by some residents to implement a 40mph speed limit on the Ratcliffe Highway and a 30mph limit for the hamlet of St. Mary Hoo and St. Mary’s Cottages.

This will provide consistency for drivers on the rural roads as well helping the local environment by cutting down on carbon emissions.

Backers of the campaign also hope reducing the speed limit will decrease road collisions and improve conditions for other users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Cllr Phil Filmer, Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, encourages the move. He said: “These changes could make a huge difference to the area, making the roads safer for residents and commuters as well as benefiting the rural location by decreasing pollution and noise.” “I welcome people to come forward with their comments.”

Parish councils, including Allhallows, Cliffe Woods, High Halstow, Hoo St Werburgh, St Mary Hoo and Stoke still have until next week to voice their opinions. If the plans are approved, new speed limit signs will be put up during March.

Figures released today show schools in Medway are narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and other pupils.

Performance at Key Stage 4 shows that in Medway, there has been an increase in the percentage of disadvantaged pupils gaining 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, up 1.8 percent to 38.8%.

That closes the gap from 30% in 2012 to 28.5% in 2013.

cllobrien.jpgIn 2013, the overall Medway figure for the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) has been maintained at 61%. That means Medway is above the national figure of 60.6%. Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Medway Council, Councillor Mike O’Brien, said: “We have much to celebrate in Medway schools with further evidence of a continuing improvement.

“Figures only show part of the picture and don’t always reflect the hard work being done by teachers and pupils but today we can congratulate all those involved for showing Medway schools are really going places.

“That’s not to say we will take these figures for granted and the hard work will continue.
“But this is fantastic news and I would like to say well done to all our young people who have worked so hard to achieve this with their dedicated and hard-working staff.”

Key facts and figures:
Medway Performance at Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5

• The number of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 has increased by 2.3%, from 3168 in 2012 to 3242 in 2013.

• In 2013, the overall Medway figure for the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) has been maintained at 61%.

• The number of pupils entered for all English Baccalaureate subjects increased by 68%.

• The percentage of Medway pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects increased from 14.7% in 2012 to 18.6% this year. This represents an improvement of 3.9% and exceeds the 2012 national figure of 18.4%.

• Almost all Medway state funded schools saw an increase in the percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects.

• Both of the Medway LA maintained secondary schools had successful results.

• The number of pupils at the Howard School at the end of Key Stage 4 increased from 219 in 2012 to 238 in 2013. In the past year, the Howard School maintained it performance level for the number of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics). Their figure of 62% was the same as last year, and exceeded both the corresponding Local Authority and national figure for 2012.

• The Howard School also saw a remarkable increase in the percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects. Their performance improved from 1% in 2012 to 20% in 2013.

• In 2013, St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School increased the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) to 47%, up one percentage point from the previous year. The percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects also saw a notable increase from 2% in 2012 to 8% in 2013. The school also showed significant gains at Key Stage 5.

• Robert Napier is the most improved for 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, with figures increasing from 31% in 2012 to 47% in 2013.

• Medway has reduced the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and all other pupils. There has been an increase in the percentage of disadvantaged pupils gaining 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, up 1.8 percent to 38.8%, thereby closing the gap from 30% in 2012 to 28.5% in 2013.

• The percentage of Medway disadvantaged pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate has also increased by 1.6%

St Werburgh Court, Hoo St Werburgh Court, Hoo

A recent report, commissioned by the National Housing Federation, revealed that the gap between supply and demand in housing is widening. Nationally, England needs to build 240,000 homes a year just to meet the demand[1] yet house building decreased by 11% between 2009 and 2013[2]. In Medway, the demand for affordable homes is clear: rental prices are expected to rise by 38% by 2020[3].

mhs homes is on target to build more affordable homes across Medway in 2014 with developments at Amherst Hill, Brompton and the sites previously used as Rainham and Rochester police stations. The properties will be available for shared ownership and affordable rent. More homes are planned for Kent and Medway in 2015 and beyond.

Emma Riddington, Head of Development at mhs homes, says:

“At mhs homes, we recognise the need to support the local community and are developing properties to suit all individual circumstances. We are increasing our portfolio of both affordable and market rent properties and have started work on sites outside of Medway. In 2012/13 we built 140 new homes, and are on target to build another 260 new homes by the end of March 2015.”

[1] National Housing Federation, “Supply and demand/affordability”
[2] ibid
[3] National Housing Federation, statistics for Medway.

newchiefKent’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the county’s most senior police officer visited Medway’s innovative CCTV hub today to see how it keeps more than 600,000 people safe.

The hub, which was started by Medway Council in April last year, looks after CCTV cameras for Medway, Gravesham, Maidstone and Swale.

In total, it helps keep the streets safe for an area with a population similar to a city the size of Sheffield.

And the centre – which allows councils across Kent to operate CCTV much more cheaply – has been behind numerous arrests.

In fact, since it started in April 2012 and up to November last year the centre and its operators were responsible for helping bring about 5,095 arrests across Kent.

Last year alone the hub was behind more than 2,000 arrests.

The centre – which looks after 750 cameras – is used to watch over town centres night and day at spots where people gather – such as High Streets – as well as areas that people have to use late at night, such as outside train stations.

It can also track alleged criminals travelling into Kent from elsewhere to direct police to their whereabouts.

For example, the centre was recently alerted to keep a look out for three males known to be travelling to North Kent from London with intent to supply drugs.

The centre’s operators spotted the men at Gillingham railway station and called police as they headed towards the town’s High Street.

One was arrested, but two of the men ran off. The CCTV operators were able to track them as they made their getaway until they were later picked up.

In other incidents it has also helped find missing vulnerable people including a man who left Medway Maritime Hospital and was found at Chatham High Street.

At today’s visit, Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes and newly appointed Chief Constable for Kent Police Alan Pughsley were being shown around the hub by Medway Council Deputy Leader Cllr Alan Jarrett and Cllr Peter Hicks, the Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Customer Engagement.

Commenting on the visit, Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Commissioner said: ‘It was fantastic to visit one of the largest CCTV Centres in the country today. Having seen the Centre for myself I can absolutely reassure the people of Kent that this is true partnership working at its very best. I’m confident that the joint CCTV centre is value for money for the taxpayer and there is a phenomenal amount of work going on behind the scenes to keep everyone safe.’

Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said: ‘This is a great example of the police and local authorities working in partnership to keep the public safe. Collaboration and
joined-up working across public services is absolutely critical, and this is a very good example of that in action, working to the benefit of Kent residents.’
Medway Council approved the formation of a CCTV Services Partnership in 2012 to improve the service and provide value for money. It is estimated to save each local authority 20 per cent of the cost of running their own CCTV service, as well as reducing crime.

Cllr Alan Jarrett said: ‘I am pleased that Ann Barnes and the new Chief Constable have come to our centre to see the good work that is being done helping keep people safe across Kent.

‘This innovative operation allows council across the county to have a CCTV service while keeping costs down. That is important in this time of austerity

Cllr Peter Hicks added: ‘Our hub allows many other councils to have a CCTV operation at a cost they can afford. It also allows Medway’s residents to have the same service while keeping costs down, which is good for the taxpayer.

‘It was very good to show the Commissioner and Chief Constable our centre and to show how all our staff are committed to work at keeping Medway and wider Kent safe for residents.’

A confidential fraud hotline for Medway residents has been launched this week. Customers can use the hotline to report all fraud against Medway Council from false benefit claims to fraudulent use of the Blue Badge for disabled people.

The types of fraud against the council people may report include: false applications for benefits, the unlawful sub-letting of council housing and the misuse of disabled badges or discounted bus passes. By phoning the new number- 01634 332233- a resident can select the type of fraud they wish to report and will be directed to the appropriate department, where they can speak to someone in confidence.

Reports can be made anonymously and information may be passed on to other relevant organisations the council work with, such as the police or Department for Work and Pensions.
The hotline is part of the council’s drive to help reduce fraud and protect public funds. The council has the power to investigate and prosecute those who commit council related offences in Medway.

For example, failing to declare a change in circumstances – such as getting a new job or moving in with a partner who is working – and wrongly claiming Council Tax, Housing Benefit or Income Support is a criminal offence.

It is hoped the confidential hotline will encourage more people to come forward. Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “I am very pleased with the introduction of this fraud hotline as I welcome anything that is done to clamp down on crime.

“I would urge people to contact us if they know of anyone acting fraudulently against the council, especially when a person wrongly claims benefits as they are using public money, which is paid for by taxpayers.” “Equally, it’s really important that people contact the council when their circumstances change to avoid the possibility of a criminal conviction.”

The Fraud Hotline number should not be used for enforcement type offences such as Fly- tipping and Trading Standards etc.

splashesThe swimming pool at Splashes Leisure Centre will be closed for four days next month (Nov 4-7 inclusive) to allow routine maintenance checks to take place.
The fitness centre will not be affected.

The council is carrying out routine maintenance checks to ensure Splashes provides the best possible experience for swimmers and would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Should further work be required this will need to be carried out at a later date.
Medway Council’s three other swimming pools will be open as usual. The nearest alternative swimming pool is at Medway Park – details of opening times can be found at http://www.medwaypark.org.uk or by phoning 336655.

Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, is delighted to announce that recruitment for her Youth Commissioner post is now open.

Applications can be submitted by visiting http://www.kent-pcc.gov.uk, where a full job description and a statement from the Commissioner are available. Recruitment will close at midnight on 3rd November 2013.

Ann Barnes, Kent Police & Crime Commissioner, has announced that Ian Learmonth, Chief Constable of Kent Police, has informed her of his intention to retire in January 2014 having served for 40 years in the Police service. Read More

trainThe rail industry’s powers to increase fares are being curbed as part of the Government’s drive to cut the cost of living and overhaul the existing rail fare system.

The ability of train operators to add an additional five per cent to some individual fares, as long as the average rise of regulated fares is maintained at one per cent above inflation, is being limited to just two per cent as part of the Government’s Fares and Ticketing review published today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

As well curbing the rise in fares, the review opens the door for future innovations such as the end of paper tickets, a code of conduct for train companies to give passengers the confidence that they are getting the best deal for their journey, and a flexible approach to season tickets which could benefit part-time workers.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “By capping fares we are protecting passengers from large rises at a time when family incomes are already being squeezed. We will need to wait for the rail industry to calculate individual ticket prices for next year, but this cap could save some commuters as much as £200 a year.

“Alongside this, the Government is investing over £16bn to transform our rail network, which will make sure we can respond to increasing passenger demand and drive forward economic growth that will help strengthen our economy.”

The Fares and Ticketing Review sets out the Government’s vision for a modern, customer-focused fares and ticketing system aimed at encouraging even more people to travel by rail and ensuring they have a better experience.

In addition to the limit on the maximum increase in regulated fares, the review includes a range of further measures:

• A Ticketing Code of Practice. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) will oversee the code to ensure that passengers are provided with the information they need to choose the best ticket for their journey and that this information is clear and not misleading.

• Ticket Offices. A strengthening of the rules around how train companies alter opening times at station ticket offices. The Government’s intention is that passenger representative bodies can play a greater role in shaping any changes and ensure that appropriate passenger safeguards are also put in place.

• Flexible Ticketing. The Government is committed to introducing more ’touch in – touch out’ rail tickets across the network which could mean part-time workers receive a discount on season tickets for travelling 3 days rather than 5 or for travelling earlier or later. The Department for Transport’s £45 million South East Flexible Ticketing programme will pilot many of these innovations next year.

• Market Review. The ORR will look into the sale of tickets and consider whether current markets are operating efficiently, effectively, and in the best interests of passengers and taxpayers. The Department has committed to consider any cost-effective recommendations that come out of the review.

• Annual Surveys. ATOC has agreed to release information to customers from next year on how well ticket office staff, ticket machines, and websites perform in regards to selling passengers the best ticket for their journey.

• Single Leg Pricing. The DfT is planning a pilot scheme which will allow passengers to more easily ‘mix and match’ each ticket type when planning a return journey, giving passengers extra confidence that they are getting the best deal on their journeys.

The Fares and Ticketing review can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/rail-fares-and-ticketing-review

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s Written Ministerial Statement on the Fares and Ticketing Review: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/fares-and-ticketing-review

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s speech to the Rail Industry following the Fares and Ticketing Review: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/fares-and-ticketing-review–2

Teenagers can sign up to the new, online UCAS e-card scheme to receive valuable advice about applying to university and college.

For the first time, the free service will also provide information on graduate employment opportunities as well as tailored details on courses and open days plus fantastic big brand discounts. Read More

Cllr Mike O,Brien

Cllr Mike O,Brien

Letters have today (Friday, 4 October) been sent out to families informing them if their child has been deemed selective after taking the Medway Test last month.

In total, 2,430 children registered to sit the test, with 2,357 children actually sitting it.

Of those children that sat the test, 1,842 are Medway residents and 515 are from out of area.

Nine hundred and eight two children have been assessed as suitable for admission to a Medway Grammar School as a direct result of the test itself.

Six hundred and eighty seven Medway resident children achieved the minimum score. This represents 23 per cent of the total Medway cohort for this year group of 2,962. Read More

Medway’s flagship school sport programme – the Mini Youth Games – celebrates the start of its 15th anniversary season next week.

The tag rugby competition at Medway Rugby Club on Tuesday, 8 October will involve 360 pupils from 36 schools. It is the first of 12 inter-primary school competitions being staged during the academic year. Read More

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