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councillor’s newsletter – Patrik Garten

Please see below for Patrick Gartens latest newsletter

I have to watch my words very carefully this month, but in a nutshell, while the world is collapsing around us, Maidstone Borough Council is standing strong and goes from strength to strength, thanks to our careful administration and hard working officers.

I already hear you gasp: you have problems with your bins, your neighbour is building a monstrosity in their garden and nobody is doing anything about it, the papers write about crimes in the town centre…..the list is endless.

It is the usual list, which is as old as MBC itself. In June we started a fantastic new initiative to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in the town-centre, we are currently renegotiating our bin contract and we are trying hard, and partially succeed, to fill vacant positions in the planning department. And as we plug one hole another one opens up. This is the life and destiny of local government. Nobody will ever be 100% satisfied, but I assure you that we are working hard at Maidstone House.

In the coming months we will have to address next year’s budget. It’s no secret that forces way beyond our control will make our decisions very difficult. Interest rates up, inflation, wage increases, increased costs, staff recruiting problems and most of all the worry of residents becoming homeless in the months to come.

We have an excellent track record tackling homelessness. Besides a die-hard handful of rough sleepers who, for whatever personal reasons, do not engage with the authority, nobody in Maidstone is without a roof over their head.

I sometimes sigh that everything in Maidstone seems average in national comparison with other authorities. Our homelessness reduction efforts are not. We are one of the top authorities in this field.

A satisfaction for me, as your representative, to know that your council tax is being spent where it really matters.

Temporary accommodation is an increasing cost factor. We have simply not enough fit and suitable accommodation in Maidstone. Added problems are Ukrainian refugees who were kindly taken in by Maidstone families. This was always meant to be a short-term solution. A long-term solution needs to be found. The general asylum seeker issues, London’s housing authorities trying to resettle their housing-problem out of borough, our own inherent local housing problems, the fact that people are living longer, the fact that there are more and more single person households … All these problems – and more – put real pressure on Maidstone’s housing supply, notwithstanding the cost of living crises and the possibility of more residents losing their homes over the coming months.

Fact is, that a lot of local people cannot afford to either rent or buy and we currently do not have sufficient housing stock for people on the waiting list.

Not only is it important to rehome families in suitable homes when they become homeless at no fault of their own, but keeping people in temporary accommodation is not a cost-effective way to spend tax-payer’s money.

That’s why Maidstone’s administration embarked on our Local Homes For Local People plan. Already we started to create 1,000 extra affordable homes. Although it may not be possible to build what we want in the first instance, it is hoped that by building our own properties in the future we will have the opportunity to tailor developments to our resident’s needs. In the meantime, if practical, we will purchase empty office blocks and redevelop them to rehouse our own residents rather than have ‘out of area’ placements thrust upon us in those buildings.

It’s all work in progress !

Why am I writing all those good things about Maidstone Borough? Because it is good news in a world of chaos and drama.

MBC only receives approximately 12% of your council tax. The rest goes to the police, fire & rescue and the very bulk to Kent County Council.

Like every year around this time and during the next months leading up to the budget, we will face some difficult decisions. Next year’s budget for MBC, like everybody else, will be even harder, because we live in a world of exceptional uncertainty. MBC has a good stating point: Our finance director assures us that we are suitably equipped to weather the storm.

It doesn’t really matter how well we are doing at Maidstone House or how well we manage our budget. At only 12% of the overall share, the bottom line of your council tax invoice next April won’t be much affected by it, but you may want to read the small-print.

For now I want you to know that we are doing our very best with our share of your council tax. We have an eager and competent political administration supported by hard working officers and 55 councillors who care.

MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward (Conservative)
Phone: 01622-807907

Please complete the short survey on spending priorities and the Council’s budget for 2023/24.

Tell us your views on:

Spending priorities
Use of Services
Living in Maidstone

The survey closes on Sunday 20 November and only takes around three to six minutes to complete.

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