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dogHow do you fancy becoming a foster carer…for a dog?

Medway Council is launching an innovative new scheme to place stray dogs in loving homes until full time owners can be found.

The council picked up around 1,000 stray dogs last year and, alarmingly, it’s a figure that’s growing and means kennel space is at a premium.

There are many reasons a dog ends up wandering the streets, sometimes it’s simply accidental and they’ve escaped from their owners, other times it can be more sinister as dogs are deliberately abandoned.

The rise in strays could be linked to people finding it tougher to afford to keep a pet. But around 300 dogs are returned to their owners each year because they are microchipped. You may not know it, but the council can offer you free microchipping for your pet – giving you complete piece of mind should it go missing.

For those dogs where the owners can’t be simply traced through a microchip, the future isn’t as bright. Once picked up by community wardens, they spend a week in the care of the council at Jasmil Kennels near Sittingbourne. If the owner is still not traced or doesn’t come forward to claim their dog, the kennels then become responsible for the pet and will try and find it a loving home.

If an owner can’t be found, the dog, sadly has to be put to sleep as a last measure. That’s a situation nobody wants to see and is why the new foster carers for pets scheme could help prevent that by placing dogs in an approved and loving home.

Placing them in a home while a full time owner is found helps free up space at the kennels and – more importantly – is better for the dog. Cllr Peter Hicks, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, said: “We hope our new initiative will provide a better future for dogs, who through no fault of their own, have found themselves on the streets.

“And it is vital owners get their pets microchipped. “Microchipping will be compulsory from 2016 but we can provide this service, free and now, in the comfort of your home.” Medway Council’s website has daily updated details and pictures of stray dogs in a bid to get them reunited with their owners quicker.

You can also find details of how you can re-home an unwanted dog at www.medway.gov.uk
Medway Council is to hold it’s fourth annual A Day for Every Dog event this summer.

Environmental Protection and Community Wardens will be out and about across Medway offering:

• Free microchipping
• Free agility training and dog behaviour advice from Borstal Barkers Dog Training
• Free advice on dog law and how it affects you
• Fun interactive sessions with dogs for children
• Free dog food samples.

You’ll be able to find us at the following locations:

• Wednesday 30th July – Gillingham Park
• Friday 1st August – Recreation ground rear of Laburnum Road, Strood
• Friday 8th August – Luton Recreation Ground
• Wednesday 13th August – The Vines, Rochester
• Friday 15th August – Recreation ground rear of Pottery Lane, Hoo
• Tuesday 19th August – Capstone Country Park
• Thursday 21st August – Hillyfields
• Saturday 23rd August – Riverside Country Park – including Dog Show
• Friday 29th August – Great Lines Heritage Park

Each day the event will run from 11am to 3pm. On Saturday 23rd August at Riverside Country Park we will also be holding a free fun dog show, exhibitors can enter their pooches into classes. Registration is from 11am and judging starts at noon.

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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.”

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.”

Volunteers are set to play an important role in delivering community support in Medway.

As part of a new scheme, money is to be invested in community organisations and trained volunteers are to provide enhanced support to older people and adults with disabilities.
Medway is one of seven councils in England involved in the programme set up by community interest company, Developing Empowering Resources in Communities, also known as DERiC.

Social investment bank, Big Society Capital, has loaned DERiC £1million to invest in community organisations, set up to support people who receive personal care budgets.
Personal care budgets are given to eligible people by local authorities and the NHS to enable them to have choice and control over the support they receive.

This can include anything from personal care, support with daily living, or needs arising from illness, disability, old age or poverty.

There are now four DERiC schemes in Leeds, one in Sandwell, Birmingham, one in Belfast, and one in Medway.

Together these programmes cover 3,000 people who are eligible to receive support.
The schemes draw in community supporters – local, trained volunteers who will provide appropriate support to people receiving personal budgets, enhancing their care and support arrangements.

The pilots in Leeds and Belfast showed a 25 per cent increase in personal contact for older people and vulnerable adults which is an important element of how we as a society address social isolation and loneliness.

Many councils applied to be part of the scheme and Medway Council will be running the programme in conjunction with Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CGG).

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Services Cllr David Brake said: “We are delighted to have been selected to be part of DERiC. The organisers particularly liked that we have the CCG as close partners and also recognised the council’s strong links with volunteers.

“The scheme is set to increase the level of care offered to the people of Medway, and for it to be available to them at less cost.”

Dr Peter Green, Chief Clinical Officer for the CCG said: “We are delighted that Medway has been chosen as one of the first areas in the country to make much greater use of volunteers to enhance the care and support for those people who have a personal care budget, and we are looking forward to working with Medway Council to drive this forward.”

The initiative aims to provide support for at least 60 per cent of those eligible for support over the next three years.

In addition to those people, a further 1,500 who are not eligible for statutory support, but who are identified as needing support, will be helped by the scheme.

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.

gunwharfNearly 96 per cent of primary aged children in Medway have been offered one of their preference places at secondary school, new figures show.

Families across Medway will start receiving news of the school their child has been offered for September 2014 on Monday, 3 March, which is National Offer Day.

Parents who applied online and provided an e-mail address will also receive the offer by email after 4pm on the same day.

Of the 2,984 Medway children offered places, nearly 82 per cent have been offered their first preference place, more than 10 per cent have been awarded their second place preference and nearly 3 per cent their third preference.

The school admissions process for Medway is a huge task and involves the council’s Student Services (Admissions) Team processing secondary school applications for 3,421 children in total including 437 out of area children this year.

More than 86 per cent of families used the council’s online application process to submit their preferences.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Mike O’Brien, said: “Finding out which secondary school your child has been allocated is always a major event for families.

“I am happy that a vast majority of children have been offered one of their preference places.

“I’d like to wish all the children the very best for their future studies and hope they go on to achieve great things during their time at secondary school.”

Barbara Peacock, the Director of Children and Adult Services, added: “I’m pleased that lots of children have gained places at one of their chosen schools.

“In Medway there is a great selection of secondary schools and I wish all children the very best for their years of education ahead of them.”

carerweb1

Young carers could be given a new lease of life with technology to put their minds at ease.

Many teenagers have dreams of going to university, however those who look after a loved one often feel that such ambitions are out reach.

Medway Council’s Telecare Service can take some of the worry out of leaving a person in need alone, and allows people to live independently.

An event held on Monday, 17 February gave some young carers living in Medway had a chance to see how the service could potential change their lives.

Young carers together with councillors and representatives from charity Carers First, took a look at the technology available such as sensors to detect falls, whether someone is in bed, whether someone has taken their medication and much more.

Every sensor is programmed to a small Telecare base unit that is linked to a telephone line, which is installed by in-house engineers.

In the event of activation, a trained operator from Medway Control Centre will talk to the client over the Telecare base unit in their home to assess the situation and put the most appropriate response in place, whether that be contacting a family member, neighbour, doctor, mobile warden or emergency services.

Rhiannon Johnson, 15 has been a carer for five years now, and was impressed with the technology.

She said: “This would really benefit me because I could be in my room or be with my friends leading a normal teenage life, and if mum had a fall I would be notified and I wouldn’t be worrying the whole time I was out.”

When an alert is sent to the control centre via sensors in the home, the individual’s primary carer is informed by the Telecare team.

16-year-old Charlotte Liddle has dreams of going to university but is unsure about leaving her mum.

She said: “This technology could help me feel more at ease going to university, knowing that there is a support system in place when I’m not there would be really helpful.

“Before I thought it would be really hard for me to go away and study, but now it seems as though it is possible and my mum will still be supported.”

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Services Cllr David Brake said: “These facilities are most useful and designed to help those in need of support. If young carers know their family members are being looked after and supported it enables them to have more time for themselves doing the things that lots of young people do and take as a matter of course.”

For more information about Telecare visit www.medway.gov.uk/telecare

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.

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.”

Big Ride picThey’re off! Cyclists in Medway have hit the road to Rio – host city for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

Over the next four months, everyone is being invited to take part in a community challenge to cycle the distance equal to the journey from Medway to Rio – about 7,500 miles.
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Between now and 17 May the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow will be on tour to help Medway cyclists clock up miles on static bikes mounted on turbo trainers.

The initiative is part of the build up to Medway Sport’s new mass participation cycling event – The Big Ride – which takes place on Saturday, 17 May.

The roadshow was launched at Medway Park at the weekend during the Medway Big Splash. It will be visiting locations across Medway including sports centres, libraries, shopping centres, schools and businesses such as Questor Insurance, sponsors of the Medway Sporting Academy.

Cycle computers will calculate individual people’s mileage, as well as logging the cumulative total across Medway. So you can cycle one mile or a hundred! Everyone taking part will be invited to take part in the mass participation event at the Big Ride, where they will receive a free souvenir t-shirt and the chance to win one of the bikes.

The main Big Ride event at Medway Park in May will feature lots of free cycling activities including a family treasure trail ride organised by the Better Medway team, an interactive mountain bike skills track, karting, Go-Ride races and training, have-a-go arenas and exhibitions. Something for everyone regardless of their ability.

Additional events linked to the Big Ride event will be Sportive rides for more experienced cyclists and a mountain bike competition at Capstone Park country park, both organised by British Cycling.

You can register for the Medway Big Ride mass mile online at www.medway.gov.uk/bigride. You will also find more information online about the Big Ride event and when the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow will be visiting your neighbourhood.

If your organisation or venue is interested in hosting the Cycle the Road to Rio roadshow, it’s not too late. Call 01634 338255 or email medwaysport@medway.gov.uk.

Cllr Howard Doe, Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Cycling is becoming even more popular following the success of British riders at the Olympics and the Tour de France.
“As part of our sporting legacy, mass participation events like the Road to Rio roadshow and the Big Ride will give Medway cyclists plenty of opportunities to join in with serious riding as well as fun activities.”

Cycle the Road to Rio Roadshow locations are below. Timings 10am-4pm.

DATE VENUE
18-26 January Medway Park Sports Centre, Mill Road, Gillingham
30 January – 1 February Tesco, Cuxton Road, Strood
5– 7 February Medway Council offices, Gun Wharf, Chatham
8-9 February Hundred of Hoo Sports Centre, Main Road, Hoo
10 – 12 February Questor Insurance, Station Road, Rainham
Fri 14 – Mon 17 Strood Sports Centre, Watling Street, Strood
Half term week 17– 21 February Public Health Write and Play activity sessions. Venues to be confirmed.
28 February – 2 March Kings Rochester Sports Centre, Maidstone Road, Rochester
5 March Mini Youth Games Table Tennis, The Howard School, Rainham
6 – 10 March Splashes Leisure Pool, Bloors Lane, Rainham
10- 12 March Mid Kent College Campus, Medway Road, Gillingham
13 – 16 March Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre, Gillingham
16 March Families On Your Marks Day at Medway Park
21 March Deangate Ridge Golf Complex, Dux Court Road, Hoo
27 March Mini Youth Games Netball, Rainham Netball Centre
4 –7 April Diggerland, Medway Valley Leisure Park, Strood
10 – 12 April Rainham Library, Birling Avenue
17 – 19 April Community Hub, High Street, Gillingham
24 – 26 April Community Hub, Dock Road, Chatham
1 – 3 May Community Hub, Eastgate, High Street, Rochester
17 May Medway Big Ride, Medway Park, Gillingham
24 May British Cycling Mountain Biking Competition, Capstone Park

commonwealthFor the first time ever, local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the British Isles are taking part in local flag raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark Commonwealth Day.

This new, unique initiative, which has caught the imagination of thousands of participants, enables people in their local communities to become involved and join with others nationwide in associating themselves with widespread public expression of commitment to the Commonwealth, appreciation of the values it stands for, and the opportunities offered to its citizens around the world.

A specially written Commonwealth Affirmation will be read out at each ceremony before the raising of the Commonwealth flag at 10am on Monday 10th March 2014, led by either the Lord Lieutenant, Member of Parliament, Lord Mayor, Lord Provost, Mayor, Leader, Chairman, or nominated representative of each participating local authority or administration.

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.

Commonwealth Flags will also be flown at many locations of special significance including the four capital cities of the United Kingdom, Land’s End in Cornwall, the most westerly point in England; St. David’s in Pembrokeshire: the westernmost city in Wales; Carlisle in Cumbria: the northernmost city in England; Lowestoft in Suffolk: the easternmost town in England; and Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly inhabited island in Scotland. Flags will also be raised at the Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and at the Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, as well as King Edward Point and Bird Island in South Georgia.

“This will be the largest, single, raising of the Commonwealth Flag in the history of the Commonwealth”, said Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster and originator of Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth. “The success of this year’s event bodes well for 2015 and the future”, said Peek, “as we extend the invitation to participate and involve all 53 countries of the Commonwealth and UK overseas territories, to make this the largest-ever annual occasion involving local communities throughout the worldwide Commonwealth family”.

I am also delighted that the Virdee Foundation, a well respected, world-wide charitable Foundation has accepted my invitation to join this project for the lifetime of the event, especially as I have always been convinced that this annual occasion will grow in size and stature over the next few years, providing a unique fund-raising opportunity for Commonwealth causes such as those outlined within the Virdee Foundations Memorandum and Articles of Association – the protection of women and children from abuse and the relief of abused women and children, a worthy cause close to my heart too.”

“The Virdee Foundation is delighted to be a part of this initiative, working closely alongside Bruno, to enable us through the ‘good will’ of those taking part, to assist us in donating charitable funds raised by those taking part, to the important cause outlined above, said Peter Virdee, Chairman of the Virdee Foundation.”

His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said: “Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth is a most imaginative way for people in local communities – wherever they live, learn or work – to join together with others throughout the Commonwealth in a spirit of respect and understanding to celebrate the variety and unmatched diversity of our global family. I welcome and commend it.” “All our citizens, particularly the young, can express appreciation for the Commonwealth and the values for which it stands as set out in the Commonwealth Charter, and the rich opportunities it offers for mutual support towards more inclusive social and more equitable economic progress.”

Esri UK Interactive Map: “We are exceptionally proud to support the ‘Fly a Flag’ for Commonwealth initiative and, to help raise awareness of the day, we have built an interactive map <a href="http://www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap&quot;
target=”_blank”>www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap that shows where the individual flag raising events are taking place, throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man,” explained Dr Richard Waite, Managing Director of Esri UK. We strongly encourage all local authorities and others taking part to post the map on their website, so local citizens and the media can easily find details of their local event and become involved in what will be a most special day.”

cyclogocolour2Youngsters with dreams of tearing up the track represented Great Britain at one of the largest motorcross beach races in Europe.

Young bike enthusiasts from Medway competed in the Endurole du Touquest in France on 8 and 9 February – their first ever endurance race lasting a gruelling one and a half hours.

Riders Patrick O’Neil, 16, from Strood and Jordan Chapman, 15, from Chattenden came in 37th and 93rd place out of 150 riders.

The talented teens were supported by a trio of mechanics, Jack Staples, 18, from Chatham and Stuart Galloway, 18 and Charlie Knight, 16, from Gillingham, who managed the pit stop and kept the bikes in top condition.

The boys were able to take part in such a prestigious race as part of Cyber Youth Connect (CYC) Youth Project, lead by Medway Council and funded by Interreg.

The project works in conjunction with partners in France promoting English and French unity, and gives young people oppotunities to develop their skills and talents.

Not only did the youngsters have a great time on their racing trip, it also provided them with a platform to put their newly learnt skills from the CYC programme into practice.

Patrick said: “I’ve learnt different techniques, the way to move around the bike in the sand and how to perform and different ways to ride the bike. Because there are no sand tracks over here that’s why everyone goes to Dunkirk – it’s so hard and different out there.

“Without CYC I would have never had the opportunity to do this so I am so grateful to everyone involved in making this happen.”

Jordan never thought he would have an opportunity to take part in such an event. He said: “Motor cross is something that I really enjoy doing, it’s been in my head ever since my dad bought me my first bike with I was two and a half.

“I have really enjoyed this experience and to get the chance to represent Medway in this race is something I could never have dreamt of.”

Since being selected for the race in August last year, the team prepared for the big event with Dover based motocross project MXCP, riding 125cc Suzuki bikes.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services Cllr Mike O’Brien said: “It is wonderful that teenagers from Medway were able to take part in a big competition like this abroad, alongside other young people engaged in similar programmes to CYC.

“The CYC Youth Project can offer up some great opportunities to our young people.”

Youngsters who would like to get involved with the CYC project can still do so as a variety of courses will be running until March 2015.

CYC gives 11 to 19-year-olds an opportunity to gain skills and experience in music, cookery, motorbike mechanics and safe riding, as well as media including filming and photography.

To find out more and sign up visit www.medway.gov.uk/cyc or call 01634 332286

walking bus stop signIt’s all aboard for children in Medway as the number of youngsters using the Walking Bus service doubles. Almost 1,500 youngsters now take part in the project – up from 734 previously – and there are 47 active routes.

The Medway Council scheme is a fun, healthy, and safe way of travelling to school. Powered by good, old-fashioned legwork, the children and volunteers walk in a group along a set route, picking up or dropping off ‘passengers’ at specific ‘bus stops’ on their journey to and from school.

The rise in users was boosted with a ‘Hedgehog Hike’ and ‘Social Netwalk’ event during International Walk to School Month where 17 schools in Medway took part. Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, councillor Phil Filmer, said: “We’re delighted more and more children are taking part in this scheme.

“It’s a great way for children to get to school, helps encourage them to be safe on the road as well as having health and environmental benefits.”

A walking bus can be easy to set up and must have a minimum of two adults per route (often staff or parents); an adult ‘driver’ at the front of the bus to and a ‘conductor’ at the back of the bus, ensuring that a ratio of one adult to every six children is met.

Younger children and babies transported in pushchairs or buggies may join the walking bus if accompanied by their parent or carer.

To find out more about individual schemes in Medway, email travel.safety@medway.gov.uk or visit http://www.kmwalktoschool.co.uk/

In a separate success, Medway Council has now issued 40,000 reflective tags to schoolchildren to help them stay safer on their journeys to and from school. The tags, which can be attached to backpacks, bags or on clothing, helps make children visible in headlights up to 150m sooner and it makes children up to 15 times more visible in daylight. Community wardens have helped deliver the tags, which were funded by the council’s Public Health department.

Work has started on upgrading a Medway park which has attracted £60,000 from a green projects fund.
broomhill view2
This follows a successful Medway Council bid for SITA Trust funding to enable the £150,000 project to begin at Broomhill Park, Strood.

A complete refurbishment of the infant play area will take place and a new sports wall will provide an opportunity for children to play sport and active group games.

Full resurfacing of 1km of paths and the car park also forms part of the project.
A human sun dial has been designed jointly with the Friends of Broomhill and will replace one painted on the site’s old gun emplacement five years ago.

The play area will have a natural theme with images of leaves embossed in the playground surfacing. Equipment will include swings, a climbing frame and a see-saw.
Installing the play area as well as resurfacing paths and the car park will take up to six weeks and the site car park will be closed during that time.
Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “This is an exciting scheme which will provide young children with a lovely place to play in a natural setting.
“It’s part of a long-term vision developed by our greenspaces team with the local community. We are very grateful for the significant contribution from SITA that has allowed this project to go ahead.”
Jools Granville of SITA Trust said: “We are pleased to provide this much- needed funding to such a good project. We’re very impressed with the amount of community buy in and look forward to seeing members of the public enjoying these new facilities.”

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.”

Medway Council will set aside a row of seats at Full Council meetings for citizen journalists as it values the work they do scrutinising the authority.stgeorgechat

The council’s Full Council meetings take place at the St George’s Centre in Chatham.

Each time they are held around six citizen journalists come along to live Tweet as the meeting happens before them.

To recognise the fact that citizen journalists play an important part in local democracy, Medway wishes to make it easier for them.

And now it will make the row available (usually at the front) to try and ensure they have a place.

The council has already Tweeted this message to announce this news and will ask citizen journalists on the day to tweet us to say they are coming – as spaces will be limited.

Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “We are very keen to engage with people and to help them play a part in local democracy.

“Our council meetings do get a number of people turning up in the public gallery including citizen journalists who spend the night Tweeting about what is being said.

“It is important that councils are open and accountable and we want to help people who give up their time to tell their followers about our meetings.”

The row of seats will usually be at the front of the council’s public gallery (unless there is a specific reason that others may need accommodating there.)

As spaces are limited, Medway Council is asking those who wish to use the citizen journalists’ row on the night of Full Council meetings to please Tweet us @medway_council on the day.

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%

Food waste recycling has just got easier for Medway residents.

medway council caddyFrom Monday 27 January, compostable kitchen caddy liners to take food leftovers can be bought at selected Medway libraries.

The liners are £1.50 for 26, a competitive price to encourage more residents to use them.

Libraries at Chatham Community Hub, Hoo, Rainham, Strood, Walderslade and Wigmore will stock them for a six-week trial. If successful, other libraries could be added.

Cllr Phil Filmer, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Frontline Services, said: “Using these liners is good. They keep the kitchen caddy clean, reduce smells and make it easier to transfer food waste.

“We have had a good response from residents since we introduced weekly recycling in October and we want to encourage more.

While caddy liners are best, newpaper or kitchen roll can be used as an alternative. For more details, www.medway.gov.uk/recyclenow

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.

Earlier this month, mhs homes staff members spent three days volunteering with Medway Foodbank.

The volunteers worked at Medway Foodbank’s warehouse and main office in Medway City Estate, allocating goods to six local centres across the Medway area. This included organising goods in date order, packing up boxes of food to replenish the centres, and sorting the ‘Christmas corner’ which contained seasonal treats such as mince pies to help bring some extra Christmas cheer to Foodbank users. The volunteers sorted through donations received from Tesco shoppers, Medway churches, the general public and mhs homes staff.

Kevin Jennings, Medway Foodbank Warehouse Manager said:

“We really appreciate the wonderful help we have received from mhs homes staff. It has been really busy in the warehouse and the extra help has been a real blessing. During the first weekend in December we had approximately 4.4 tonnes of food donated by generous Medway residents, for which we are extremely grateful.”

Joanna Blackwood, Housing Systems Co-ordinator said:

“At the time the warehouse seemed packed to the rafters but we were told that this was only because of the food drive. In fact the Foodbank manager said that if we came back after Christmas we would see a much depleted stock! It was great to see how generous the public had been, and especially that there were also some extra treats to provide some extra Christmas cheer.”

For more information about Medway Foodbank, or to give a donation please visit http://www.medway.foodbank.org.uk or call: 01634 757057

Shoppers cashing in old gold to buy new Christmas presents are facing a price war.

A batch of scrap gold offered to different local shops by Medway Council Trading Standards officers fetched prices varying by as much as £50. The best offer was £130 and the lowest £80.

Now trading standards is urging people who want to sell their old gold to shop around for the best price.

Cllr Peter Hicks, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, said: “Our trading standards officers have shown just how much gold prices can vary. People wanting to sell old gold shouldn’t just accept the first offer they receive.”

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.

DSC_0176Having successfully won funding of £14m in a joint effort with Veolia Environmental Services, our recycling collections will change to weekly on the 28th October. Almost all of us by now will have received our grey food recycling box which can be kept inside the house and its compostable liner can then be placed in the brown bin or its equivalent.

The increase in frequency should make it easier for most households to make the most of their recycling opportunities for all the items that the council currently process. I for one will be glad to know that Friday is recycle day, full stop, rather than having to peer up and down the road to see what everyone else has put out. Read More

World Mental Health Day on October 10 will be marked in Medway with special information stands to provide people with help and guidance. 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

Picture shows Neil Howlett from the Community Safety Partnership and David Cross from Medway Council's Trading Stndards Department

Picture shows Neil Howlett from the Community Safety Partnership and David Cross from Medway Council’s Trading Stndards Department

Medway residents are being given help to deal with unwanted ‘cold callers’ who tout for business at the front door.

The council’s Trading Standards service is promoting an initiative which helps people to deal with the high pressure selling tactics.

They have produced free ‘No Cold Calling Homes’ packs containing advice and information, and stickers warning that residents do not buy from door-to-door sales people. These have been funded through the local Community Safety Partnership. 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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