Councillor Patrik Garten MBC – for North Downs Ward – Latest Newsletter July 2022
HomeNews & Events/Councillor Patrik Garten MBC – for North Downs Ward – Latest Newsletter July 2022
Depending on which local issue of my newsletter you receive, some readers may already have seen that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England has launched its second consultation on the electoral boundaries review for Maidstone.
They amended the proposals, which were initially put forward by MBC and on which many of you commented. Your voice has been heard and the Commission’s latest proposal is no longer to split up North Downs Ward but to retain it in its entirety and to merge it with Harrietsham and Lenham to form a 3 member super ward. It looks like a step in the right direction.
There are two concerns remaining:
The representation, or lack of, of residents in the smaller communities: Will an elected councillor heed to the smaller communities’ concerns when the bigger issues in Lenham are the real vote winners?
And secondly, from a candidate’s view, such large ward by area is simply too big to be campaigned on, especially in all-out elections as we will have from 2024 onwards.
The current revision is not the final decision and there will be heated debates to be had in the months to come. I see the conundrum that North Downs’ registered voter numbers have been dwindling over the past years and that there are some policy considerations where boundary lines can and cannot be drawn; eg Parishes shall not be divided. However, I personally would like to see North Downs to remain separate from Harrietsham and Lenham and will continue to lobby the boundary commission accordingly.
Service failures are always annoying, and I acknowledge that some areas in the North Downs have more than its fair share. Please report missed bins and fly-tipping promptly: https://maidstone.gov.uk/home/primary-services/street-care-and-cleaning/litter,-bins-and-street-sweeping
Government works by statistics. Unless residents report issues through the proper channels, government institutions will not be aware of the problems.
All too often I see angry outbursts on social media about anti-social behaviour or missed bin collections. When I then ask officers whether there are any particular local problems, they show me their computer printout, which is a white sheet. There is little point in moaning on Facebook or Nextdoor unless the issues are also reported through the correct channels! That goes not only for Maidstone’s services but for all government institutions such as KCC (Highways) and the Police.
Besides the need to solve imminent problems, the official reports of service failures (or lack thereof) will determine how your taxes shall be spend to resource local government. I reiterate: Government works by statistics!
“Patrik, I need to talk to you about…..”
Unfortunately our current 2 tier system of local government is extremely confusing. Quite frankly it is ridiculous to such an extent that if you call me about dirty roads I can help you with the cleaning of the edges and verges, but I will have to refer you to my Kent County Council (KCC) colleague if your concerns refer to the moss and mud in the middle of the road.
I am probably right when I assume that most people do not care or even understand which local authority is responsible for what issue; but we all want an efficient local authority, which delivers local services effectively and on budget.
KCC, who receives about 80% of your council tax, is in total disarray: adult social services are under-resourced, juvenile social services are non existent, schools are failing a whole generation and don’t start me on the highways, potholes or buses……
KCC is the largest County Council in the country. It so big that it has lost touch with the community it is tasked to serve.
You may have read Maidstone’s leader David Burton commenting in the Kent Messenger that Kent should be converted into three unitary authorities. A unitary is a local authority, which is responsible for all local services. One council / one councillor to take the responsibility for the dirt in the middle of the highway and the sides.
By example, Medway is such a unitary authority.
Indeed, I regularly lobby Councillor Burton to pursue the push for a unitary authority. The KM article was very much in line with my own thinking.
However, I do take one concern very seriously and I can assure you that we will not spend millions on officers’ time and consultancy fees on a strategy for a ‘super council’. While the break-up of KCC is more than overdue, the process though will have to come from Westminster. Any change how local government will be organised will be prescribed by an Act of Parliament.
Only Parliament can decide whether Kent should be divided up into 3 or possibly 4 unitary authorities and which District Councils go to bed with another. It is in Maidstone’s interest that we are the forerunners in this process, and it is only right for the leader of MBC to hold preliminary discussions with his counterparts in neighbouring Districts. In my view this cannot happen too early and Councillor Burton has not only my full support on this, but I will continue to actively encourage him to pursue this avenue.
Pop-up shops for Lockmeadow
Lockmeadow seeks independent designers, retailers, artists and more to transform and utilise free, large space this summer. To find out more, please email your information and a photo of your products to email@example.com
Hollingbourne Station Heritage Event
The adoption of Hollingbourne Railway Station as a community centre is speedily progressing, except that we have no water connection yet. It looks like the whole forecourt needs to be dug up and the pipes, which were shut off more than 20 years ago when the station building closed, need replacing. Because there won’t be any toilet facilities available on the proposed August date, the decision was taken to postpone the Station Heritage Event with a provisional alternative date of 3rd September.