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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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NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is holding it’s next governing body meeting on Wednesday 23 October. The meeting is at the CCG offices at 50 Pembroke Court, Chatham Maritime between 1pm and 5pm and is open to the public.

The agenda and papers will be available on the CCG website (www.medwayccg.nhs.uk) this Friday (18 October) and any questions should be tabled in advance where possible although they will also be taken on the day.

Visitors’ parking is available in the CCG overflow car park at Dickens World. Permits should be obtained in advance. To table a question or request a parking permit, contact Sharon Davies by email sharon.davies6@nhs.net, by phone 01634 335177 or in writing to Executive Support and Governance Assistant, NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, 50 Pembroke Court, Chatham Maritime, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4EL.

A public exhibition will next week launch two months of consultation on proposals aimed at ensuring Rochester Airport continues to fly. The two day event takes place 10.30am to 8pm Monday (22 July) and Tuesday (23 July), at the Innovation Centre, Maidstone Road, Chatham.
Residents and businesses will be able to see the latest draft of proposals that could create up to 1,000 jobs plus improved facilities that would increase the airport heritage tourism potential. More

Young dancers are invited to an exciting community dance event next month. Medway Council’s Arts Development Team is hosting U Dance Medway at Mid Kent College on Sunday, 11 March.

The event is free for 11-19 year olds looking for an opportunity to develop their dance skills and share choreographic tips and ideas with other dancers. All dancers will receive a certificate for taking part.

U Dance starts at 11.30am with a dress rehersal. The public performance is at 2pm. Tickets to see the performance are £4.00 If you’re interested in taking part or attending this event, phone the Arts Team on 01634 338319 alternatively contact the theatres box office on 01634 338338. Tickets will also be available on the day at the venue.

More more details about U Dance visit: www.u-dance.org

A series of public meetings have been arranged as part of Medway Council’s consultation on the Adult Social Care services it provides for residents. More

Two Medway health care professionals are among the first in the country to be successfully qualify for the UK Public Health Register. More

Residents are invited to attend a meeting to discuss the emergency plans for the Isle of Grain.

The meeting will take place on Monday, 12 September at 7.30pm at The Village Hall, Chapel Road, Grain.

Representatives from the Health and Safety Executive, Medway Council, Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue Service and the Grain LNG Terminal will be on hand to answer resident’s questions.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Customer Contact Mike O’Brien said: “This meeting is an opportunity for the residents of Grain to have an open discussion with key personnel about the emergency plan for their village.

“I would encourage anyone who has an interest in this to attend the meeting and hear from the various agencies about how we can all work together.”

You are cordially invited to attend the next Open Meeting of the Forum,to be held at Medway Council’s Gun Wharf Offices, Dock Road, Chatham on Wednesday 11 MAY 2011 preceded by an EGM @ 7.00pm Car parking available; please report to Reception on arrival. More

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