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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

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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

With the start of another series of the popular BBC show Who do You Think You Are?, Medway residents are invited to discover their family history at Medway Archives & Local Studies Centre (MALSC).
Each week volunteers from Kent Family History Society will be at the Strood centre to help beginners in family history.
The helpdesk is at MALSC every Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am to 12noon.

Customers love their local libraries – it’s official. Medway Libraries and Archives has been awarded the Customer Service Excellence Award for the second time in two years. The survey was carried out by G4S Assessment Services (UK). The library service received wonderful feedback for its high standard of customer satisfaction. More

Bulgarian folk singing, seasonal Morris dancing, storytelling and street dancing are just some of the activities taking place at Rochester Community Hub to celebrate the festive season.
Join Medway Libraries on Saturday, 15 December from 1pm to 4pm to celebrate Christmas and Midwinter customs with an afternoon of stories, poetry, song, dance and traditional craft activities for children.
There will be an exhibition of cultural artefacts and Christmas theme refreshments are included.
Places are free, but booking is essential. Please confirm any access or dietary requirements when booking.
For more details Click HERE

Residents will be able to call Medway Council at the evening and weekends to arrange more services than ever before under new changes being brought in.

And people will be able to pop into the council’s five town centre libraries for advice on a much wider array of council issues, and even pay bills. More

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