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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.

alice

The Easter holiday Pantomime, Alice in Wonderland, is at The Woodville starring the legendary Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee as well as Steve Hewlett, the ventriloquist who shot to fame with his puppet versions of Sinita and Simon Cowell on ITV1′s Britain’s Got Talent.

Alice in wonderland is a great Easter treat with a live band, comedy, mind blowing magic and a west end calibre cast, including Ant Payne and Robert Pearce.

The pantomime show dates are Friday 4 April, Saturday 5 April and Sunday 6 April.

There is also more family fun at The Woodville with the Old MacDonald Had A Farm show. This fun filled farmyard tale with action, puppetry and animation brings to life all the best loved characters from the original nursery rhyme along with a medley of games, giggles and singalong songs. Show dates are Friday 28 March and Saturday 29 March.

For more information and to book tickets go to http://www.woodville.co.uk or cdll box offices on 01464 337774

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

Day Of The Opening 14-5-14Upcoming exhibition at Rochester Art Gallery – Time Lapsed

A Medway artist will be showcasing her creative talents in the latest exhibition at Rochester Art Gallery.

Marissa Mardon – a painter from Rochester – will debut pictures of the historic town amongst a new display called ‘Time Lapsed’.

Mardon is known for her paintings of traditional landscapes using monochrome colours, but this exhibition shows an experimental side of the artist as she moves away from her usual style.

Many of the oil paintings will illustrate Medway’s rich history and reflect on the area’s ongoing regeneration.

Her canvases are bare in places, revealing visible pencil marks and brush strokes to show how a painting has developed over time – a fact that has helped inspire the name for this exhibition.

Visitors will also be able to watch a short film, capturing the process of Mardon’s work and how an image evolves from beginning to end.

Some of her pieces have been showcased at galleries throughout Britain and found homes across the world.

Also on display at the exhibition will be ceramics by two other artists. Imogen Noble will be presenting a selection of her crafted pots, rich in colour and inspired by natural patterns such as weathered stone and wood.

She will be joined by Raewyn Harrison, who will display her clay creations based on the themes of architecture, industry and tidal landscapes.

The artists’ work will be further complimented by historic objects loaned from the Rochester Guildhall Collection.

The exhibition will run from 28 March to the 1 June with a special preview on the 27 March between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Free Admission. Opening times are Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sundays, 10.30pm to 5pm

• Spring Stroll guided walk around estate followed by roast lunch
• Great Armarda invasion – Tudor living history experience
• ‘Mum’s the word’ secret Morse code Messages for Mother’s Day

There’s plenty happening at Penshurst Place & Gardens at weekends during March with a new event just for adults taking place on 16th March. Take a two hour Spring Stroll with the estate’s General Manager as he guides a group on an escorted walk around the beautiful parkland and grounds at Penshurst Place, and then enjoy a two-course roast lunch afterwards in the Garden Restaurant.

For families there’s the chance to experience Tudor life with the Great Armada invasion on 22nd and 23rd March when a cast of skilled, costumed actors will be at Penshurst Place to give a living history presentation on the preparations by the household ahead of imminent attack by the Spanish fleet.

‘Mum’s the word’ for young visitors with free war-themed family activities available in the Education Room for Mother’s Day on 30th March. As part of the ‘Sir and Soldier’ season, there will plenty of things to occupy children on Mother’s Day including the option to make a Morse-code necklace with hidden secret message for their Mum or to hand-make their own Mother’s Day poetry card in the Education Room. There’s an opportunity to further spoil mothers (and grandmothers, aunts or anyone who deserves a special thank you) to a lovely Mother’s Day lunch in the Garden Restaurant with a special menu. No booking necessary, visitors seated on a first come, first served basis.

MARCH EVENTS – MORE DETAILS

SPRING STROLL & LUNCH – ADULT EVENT: 16TH MARCH

Dust off your walking shoes for a leisurely two hour walk and then reap a tasty reward for your physical exertion.

A brand new walking event for adults to enjoy at Penshurst Place & Gardens on 16th March between 11am and 2pm. Journey across the beautiful estate and learn about its Tudor history on the way. This special Sunday walk is led by Penshurst Place’s General Manager and is followed by a delicious two-course roast lunch in the Garden Restaurant.

Tickets £22 (to include private parking, guided walk, two-course roast lunch and access to the Gardens) www.penshurstplace.com/etickets

THE GREAT ARMADA ADVENTURE: 22ND & 23RD MARCH (12 NOON TO 4PM)

Experience life at Penshurst Place as the militia prepares to ward off the Spanish Armada. Skilled costumed characters bring history alive as they invite visitors to join them in the Staterooms as the Penshurst Place household prepares for invasion.

Normal garden admission prices apply. For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

CELEBRATION OF MOTHER’S DAY: 30TH MARCH

With fun craft activities to suit all ages and a special menu in the Garden Restaurant, Penshurst Place will be ‘the place’ for families to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.

Children will be able to treat their Mums to a handmade Mother’s Day poetry card or present her with a hidden Morse code message on a necklace in the Education Room.

Normal garden admission prices apply. For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

APRIL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

EASTER HOLIDAY FUN: 5TH – 21ST APRIL

Penshurst Place will have lots of fun craft and trail activities as part of its ‘Sir and Soldier’ themed season of WW1 commemoration events running in April.

Every day during the Easter school holidays, families can join an egg hunt with a twist! Rather than seeking Easter eggs, visitors to Penshurst Place are invited to help hunt down the carrier pigeons with their hidden secret messages, in a fun trail around the playground.

Pigeons played an important communication role during WWW1, and proved an extremely reliable way of sending messages across enemy lines. Using the story of carrier pigeons, children will learn more about the communication methods during the Great War and enjoy a fun trail that will take them on an inspiring educational journey of discovery.

The education room will continue the war-theme with craft activities available from 12 noon each day. Youngsters will be invited to create their very own carrier pigeon or soldier bonnet and enjoy Easter colouring activities.

Normal garden admission prices apply. For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

EASTER STORYTELLING: 20TH – 21ST APRIL

The story of Cher Ami, a WW1 carrier pigeon and her friends will be unveiled as part of Penshurst Place’s ‘Sir and Soldier’ themed season of WW1 commemoration events. Families are invited to gather in the medieval buttery at 2pm, 2.45pm and 3.30pm to hear skilled story tellers from Aardvark Productions bring the account of a Great War carrier pigeon to life and explain through tale, the critical communication role these homing birds had throughout World War 1.

Normal garden admission prices apply.
For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

Other things to see and do while visiting Penshurst Place and Gardens during March and April:-

• Toy Museum
• House (Sats & Suns only in March, daily from April)
• Woodland Trail
• Adventure Playground
• Garden Restaurant
• Porcupine Pantry
• Gift Shop
• The Gardens: spring flowering bulbs in the Orchard, Nut Garden, Lime Walk and Horse Pond and spring blossom in the Orchard, Nut Garden and Flag Garden

Most events are included in standard admission price unless otherwise stated. Full details of the event calendar for 2014 can be found at www.penshurstplace.com/whatson.

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”

Burlesque63Red
Flushed with success, now entering its fourth fabulous year, the world’s original touring burlesque spectacular is about to hit town.

Officially Britain’s biggest burlesque extravaganza – a quarter of a million people have now seen this show – An Evening of Burlesque is responsible for exposing the cream of the West End of London’s thriving burlesque scene to the world. Not only has the ever-so-cheeky production revealed the secrets of the art of burlesque to delighted audiences across the UK, it has also thrilled theatregoers at the swishest venues throughout Europe as well.
From Milan to Zurich, St Petersburg to Minsk, Leipzig to Verona, Dresden to Riga, Padova to Dessau the reaction has been the same – absolutely incredible, says show producer Michael Taylor.

“Nothing is lost in translation,” says Michael. “An Evening of Burlesque’s content – sparkling glamour, physical humour and a dynamic score – are appreciated in any language.”
An Evening of Burlesque features corsets, killer heels and stockings aplenty – and that’s just the theatregoers who come to see the show!

“For a spectacle that sparkles from its elaborately-decorated headdresses to its immaculately varnished toes,” says Michael, “it might not come as a complete surprise that audiences are predominantly female. Also, we’re pleased to report that, with a prize for the best-dressed member of the audience, theatregoers revel in dressing up for the occasion.”
The show itself sparkles with couture costumes recalling the golden eras of burlesque. An Evening of Burlesque claims to be the most glamorous show on tour.

For over-18s only, it boasts that its success is built on a combination of sultry vocals, breathtaking choreography, mischief, magic, frivolity and fun.

“It’s all tease, no sleaze,” says Michael. “The show combines musical and theatrical parody, cutting-edge variety, magic, comedy and dance with the art of striptease.”

Michael says he is proud to be bringing variety back to the theatre, claiming An Evening of Burlesque is the slickest, wickedly wittiest, most delightfully choreographed cabaret spectacular of the year.

“Dress up and come to the cabaret,” he says.

DRESS TO IMPRESS – PRIZE FOR THE MOST GLAMOROUS MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE

Sparkling with couture costumes, featuring killer heels and stockings aplenty. . . no, we’re not talking about the burlesque all-star performers appearing in Britain’s hottest new theatre show sensation An Evening of Burlesque.

That’s a description of audiences for the glamorous production. Its combination of song, dance, mischief, magic, music, frivolity and fun has proved an unqualified hit with the ladies.

“Throughout the UK,” says show producer Michael Taylor, “at every venue, the fairer sex make up the majority of our audiences. “And the ladies just love dressing for the occasion.”

So much so, the production now offers a “burlesque-tastic” surprise prize for the best-dressed member of the audience on the night. The prize will be awarded by the show’s production manager, their decision being final.

“The show is an opportunity,” says Mike, “to forget about all your troubles for an evening and enjoy the thrills and spills of modern-day burlesque.

“Theatregoers completely immerse themselves in the evening’s entertainment.”
Michael says, as performers look out from the stage the auditorium is aglitter with the most dazzling outfits.

“As a consequence, the atmosphere at theatres is absolutely electric,” he says.

“We would like to reward the most glamorously-dressed person with a prize they’ll treasure forever.”

ENTERTAINERS, 200 LONDON ROAD, HADLEIGH, BENFLEET, ESSEX, SS7 2PD
Tel: 01702 427100 switchboard, 01702 427102 direct easytheatres.com

Hazelwood_School_Year_7_PS084 The inventive and award winning Learning Team at The Historic Dockyard Chatham has created two new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities for Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils – “Missile Mission” and “Depth Charge Destroyers” – thanks to the generous sponsorship of BAE Systems, Electronic Systems, Rochester.

Pupils from Hazelwood School on the Kent / Surrey border were the first to trial one of the two innovative sessions, “Depth Charge Destroyers”. Inspired by The Historic Dockyard’s Second World Destroyer, HMS Cavalier, teams of students competed to construct and test a model destroyer complete with propulsion systems. They then devised a simple release mechanism to deliver a depth charge and the team whose ship survived the challenge of the tow tank wind and wave machine and hit the target won!

Michael Tierney, BAE Systems, Electronic Systems, Rochester Site Executive Lead, commented, “We are proud to be supporting these STEM programmes for children within the Kent and Medway area. It is wonderful to see children experiencing and solving STEM-related problems as well as exploring the possibility of careers in these fields.”

Rebecca Brough, Learning Manager at The Historic Dockyard Chatham said; “We are always looking for new and pioneering ways to engage the thousands of students who visit us here every year and take part in our education programmes. Our partnership with BAE Systems has enabled us to develop these extended 90 minute sessions, offering even better value for money to schools. The sessions are designed to develop pupils’ teamwork and communication skills while extending their technical knowledge of STEM subjects.”

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.”

medway growsFamilies are being encouraged to take up the good life and take part in free workshops to learn how to grow their own food.

Medway Grows workshops are being run across the area from March to July and will be a fun way for all the family to learn something new – and cut down on household bills by growing their own grub.

Medway Grows is about healthy fresh produce , digging, planting, weeding, watering, landscaping and much more.

The workshops will encourage people of all ages to learn about a wide variety of projects from growing your own food, how to start planting and how best to get going at home.
And there’ll be lots of games and activities for children while mum and dad pick up top tips on how to grow the greens.

Councillor David Brake, Portfolio Holder for Adult Services, said; “These free workshops are a great way to get all the family involved in planting and growing.

“Not only will they teach the basics and give everyone a good idea of how to grow, but also they’ll encourage families to get healthy and, hopefully, save money by growing their own produce.”

Workshops will take place across Medway, at weekends and after school and booking is essential.

The first workshop dates include March 15 and May 28, Medway Park; March 20, Luton Library, Chatham, April 5, Bishop of Rochester Academy; April 8 and May 28, Burnt Oak Primary, Gillingham.

To find out more information visit http://www.abettermedway.co.uk/healthyeating/medwaygrows.aspx” target=”_blank”>our website or call 016344 334309 to book your place.

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.”

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

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.

pancakes article On Tuesday 4 March the second Annual Pancake Races will be held on New Road, Gravesend. Local businesses will be racing against each other whilst flipping their pancakes. Races start at 12.15pm.

Last year’s winner was Lizzie from the Kent messenger. A council spokesperson said: “Last year was flipping crazy, there was a great buzz in the town with shrieks of laughter as the businesses raced against each other. We are looking forward to crowning a new champion this year.”

animmates 40s night
A nostalgic Roaring Forties Night is planned for High Halstow in March.

It’s a fundraiser for Anim-Mates, the animal rescue sanctuary in St Mary Hoo

The Roger Luxton Dance Band will be playing the music of the wartime era at High Halstow Village Hall on Saturday 29 March from 7pm.

Tickets at £12 are limited to 100 so there will be plenty of room dance.

40′s outfits are optional, but there will be a prize for the best one.

You are asked to bring your own rations to eat.

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.”

chdtbeatlesIt’s Full Steam Ahead to The Historic Dockyard Chatham this Easter, as thousands plan to travel to one of the South East’s biggest and best events – The Medway Festival of Steam and Transport. Visitors to the Festival on Easter Sunday and Monday, 20th and 21st April, are in for a real treat this year as one of the South East’s favourite events gets bigger and better still!

The Medway Festival of Steam and Transport is back this year with an injection of even more music to complement the classic and vintage vehicles across the 80 acre site. Visitors will be treated to a variety of music on two main stages located within a historical setting.

The Victorian Warship HMS GANNET, No. 3 Slip and No. 1 Smithery will encapsulate the Folk and Blues Stage, surrounded by vehicles dating from 1901 to 1930 and Steam Traction Engines, where visitors will be entertained with lively and toe tapping folk and blues music.

Acts performing to the crowds include: Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs an ‘off the rails’ skiffle band, well known on the Glastonbury Festival scene, with their quirky and comedic act playing music with wash boards, soap boxes, banjos and guitars and CoCo and the Butterfields, provide something a little different. A five piece band with a unique fusion of folk, pop and hip hop or ‘Fip Fok’ they are not to be missed! Funke and the Two Tone Baby a talented multi-instrumentalist will entertain with his mechanical alt-blues music; Kentish band The Flowing play alternative and folk songs with a range of instruments; and performances from Larkspur with their mix of lively traditional and modern folk music, will ensure that visitors will not be disappointed.

The River Medway sets the scene for a second stage, backed by the beautiful Commissioner’s House. This Sixties and Rockabilly Stage will be flanked by vehicles from the 1960’s, hot rods, trucks and American vehicles and this area will have an American Diner feel to it where visitors can rock ‘n’ roll the weekend away!

Acts on this stage include: Scarlett Rae and the Cherry Reds who perform a fusion of blues, rockabilly and jazz; Like…The Beatles bringing visitors the most accurate and fun Beatles tribute act in the UK, take a trip down memory lane; making a welcome return Thee Waltons, a playful act with a unique blend of hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll; The Kick-Backs are a six piece rock, funk and soul band with sing-a-long covers; The Scalextrics are a new-wave punk rock band with hits from the ‘60s, ’70s and ‘80s; and performances from Leroy and the Rockets with impressive credits in the music industry, be entertained with a mix of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and blues.

With such an impressive festival line up set to come to the Medway Towns, visitors are being encouraged to buy their discounted tickets in advance to avoid the queues, to enjoy their music filled Easter weekend at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. For more information and tickets, go to www.thedockyard.co.uk/steamandtransport
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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

main copy.qxdWith Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s time to think about your heart.

NHS Medway Commissioning Group (CCG) is encouraging people to consider their lifestyles during February’s Healthy Heart Month. Making simple changes to diet and exercise can reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. In Medway there are 7,500 people diagnosed with the disease, but it’s thought to affect many more.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries that surround the heart. This can make coronary arteries narrower and restrict the flow of blood to the heart which increases the risk of heart attack. People are at higher risk if they:

• Smoke
• Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
• Have a high blood cholesterol level
• Do not take regular exercise
• Have diabetes

Other risk factors include being obese or overweight and having a family history of CHD. This risk is increased if someone has a male relative with CHD under the age of 55 or a female relative under the age of 65.

People from an African Caribbean background have a higher risk of high blood pressure than all other ethnic groups in the UK. Coronary heart disease rates are at their highest in South Asian communities.

The CCG’s clinical lead for long-term conditions, Dr Chris Markwick, said: “We’re urging everyone to think about their lifestyle and their heart in February.

“Are there things you can change to help you have a healthier heart? Can you quit smoking, lose weight, or be more active? How about trimming the fat from meat or grilling instead of frying? If so, there’s no better time to do it than now.”

Things you can do to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels include:

• Eating a balanced and healthy diet – and going easy on salt
• Avoiding eating too much food that contains saturated fat, such as cakes and biscuits, cream and hard cheese
• Being more physically active
• Keeping to a healthy weight
• Quitting smoking
• Reducing alcohol consumption and sticking to recommended guidelines
• Keeping blood pressure under control
• Cutting down on sugar – too much sugar in the diet can increase the chances of diabetes which will, in turn, increase the chances of developing CHD.

Healthy Heart Month runs from 1 to 28 February. For more information about heart disease, visit the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk or the British Heart Foundation website www.bhf.org.uk.

If you’re concerned about your heart, visit your GP.

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.”

TO COMMEMORATE THIS YEAR’S WW1 CENTENARY PENSHURST PLACE AND GARDENS IS KICKING OFF A ‘SIR AND SOLDIER’ THEME FOR 2014 WHEN THE HOUSE AND GROUNDS OPENS FOR THE SEASON ON 15TH FEBRUARY.

The historic Kent venue will be running war-themed activities for visitors throughout the year, starting this month during half-term with a couple of fun children events designed to help young visitors experience life as a soldier.

SECRET SPY HUNT: 15TH – 23RD FEBRUARY (10.30 AM TO DUSK)

Reconnaissance soldiers are needed in Penshurst. Their mission: to transform into a WWI spy to help save Penshurst Place from enemy invasion. The soldier spies will need cunning skills to hunt down and solve war-themed secret clues to find ten missing objects that are hidden around the gardens and adventure playground.

This fun children’s trail is included within the admission fee and will be running throughout the half-term school holiday from 15th – 23rd February 2014 from 10.30am – dusk. Normal garden admission prices apply

For more information http://www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

WAR WOUNDS MAKE-UP WORKSHOP: 19TH FEBRUARY (4PM TO 6PM)

penshurst

war wounds make upworld war oneThe Porcupine Pantry at Penshurst Place will be transformed into a WWI wounds clinic on Wednesday 19th February between 4pm and 6pm when award-winning special effect artist Kate Griffiths runs a ‘War Wounds’ make-up workshop.

Designed by Kate especially for Penshurst Place, the event will show older children (age 7+) how to create fake wounds using everyday household materials and how to bandage their injuries in the same way as they would have been during WW1.

Tickets £10 (For children aged 7+)
www.penshurstplace.com/etickets

Selected upcoming March highlights at Penshurst Place & Gardens include Mothering Sunday family activities with special lunch menu on 30th March; an adult Spring Stroll and Lunch on 16th March and spring bulbs and blossom displays in the gardens.

SPRING STROLL & LUNCH – ADULT EVENT: 16TH MARCH

Dust off your walking boots for a leisurely two hour stroll and reap a tasty reward for your physical exertion. A brand new walking event for adults to enjoy at Penshurst Place & Gardens on 16th March between 11am and 2pm. Journey across the beautiful estate and learn about its Tudor history on the way. This special Sunday walk is led by Penshurst Place’s General Manager and is followed by a delicious two-course roast lunch in the Garden Restaurant. Tickets £22 (to include private parking, guided walk, lunch and garden admission) www.penshurstplace.com/etickets

THE GREAT ARMADA ADVENTURE: 22ND & 23RD MARCH (12 NOON TO 4PM)

Experience life at Penshurst Place as the militia prepares to ward off the Spanish Armada. Skilled costumed characters bring history alive as they invite visitors to join them in the Staterooms as the Penshurst Place household prepares for invasion. Normal garden admission prices apply. For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

CELEBRATION OF MOTHER’S DAY: 30TH MARCH

Families can celebrate Mother’s Day at Penshurst Place with fun craft activities to suit all ages and a special menu in the Garden Restaurant. Children will be able to treat their Mums to a handmade Mother’s Day poetry card or present her with a hidden Morse code message on a necklace made in the Education Room. Normal garden admission prices apply. For more information visit www.penshurstplace.com/whatson

Other things to see and do while visiting Penshurst Place and Gardens during February and March:-

• Toy Museum
• House (Sats & Suns only)
• Woodland Trail
• Adventure Playground
• Garden Restaurant
• Porcupine Pantry
• Gift Shop
• The Gardens:

February – early spring flowering bulbs in the Orchard, Nut Garden, Lime Walk and Horse Pond

March – spring blossom in the Orchard, Nut Garden and Flag Garden

Most events are included in standard admission price unless otherwise stated. Full details of the event calendar for 2014 can be found at www.penshurstplace.com/whatson.

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

medway-logoThe February half-term holiday is approaching and there are plenty of fun activities on offer in Medway to keep the children entertained.

Fans of pop boyband One Direction will jump at the chance to learn a great dance routine to some of their greatest hits.

Those aged between eight and 16 – who fancy following in the footsteps of their favourite band members – can put on their dancing shoes and take part in a special workshop at The Brook Theatre in Chatham.

The workshop on Tuesday, 18 February is with professional dancer Jay Saunders who will teach the young people a choreographed routine and a variety of dance skills.

There will even be a final performance for family and friends where children can showcase the moves they have learnt at the end of the day.

The workshop takes place from 10am to 3.30pm and costs £14 for each participant.

Children can also get creative and learn some magic with a professional circus company at the Balloon Art and Magic Tricks workshop.

On Monday, 17 February, tutor Mighty Mike of Dizzy O’ Dare Presents will teach those aged between eight and 14 how to make amazing balloon models and perform marvellous magic tricks.

The session will begin with fun warm up games and demonstrations, followed by activities where the children will work in small groups with one-to-one help from the workshop assistants.

Each child will take home some new skills as well as their very own pack of playing cards to try their tricks on family and friends.

The workshop takes place from 10am until noon at The Brook Theatre in Chatham and costs £7.
On another date at the same theatre, youngsters interested in arts and crafts can get messy designing ceramics and printing pictures with artist Friday Caswell.

Using special tile-cutting tools, rollers and inks – those who attend the workshop on Friday 21 February, will get to make unique printed pictures as well as paint designs on mugs, plates and tiles.

Caswell will showcase some examples of her work and talk about the different techniques and equipment the group will be using throughout the day. She will then help the children with their ideas and creation of their artwork.

The workshop runs from 10am to 3.30pm for eight to 14-year-olds of all abilities and costs £14.

All materials – including the china items – are supplied and included in the price of the workshop. Children are asked to wear old clothes and an apron if they have one.

If you would like to book a place for any of these events or find out more information contact 01634 338338 or visit www.enjoymedway.co.uk

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