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News & Events

Patrik Garten Councillor Newsletter

Planning Enforcement

Complaints about lack of planning enforcement are not uncommon in my inbox. Combined with this is often a gripe that officers ‘still’ work from home and cannot be reached.

Maidstone currently deals with 300 planning breaches. There are currently only 3 full-time officers in post while we are desperately trying to fill another 2½ positions. The sad fact is that qualified planning officers are as rare as gold dust. This is a national problem.

At least 2 officers are always out on site visits between 7am – 7pm. Hybrid working is very beneficial because officers can go on site visits straight from home, cutting down on travel time and allowing for visits outside normal 9–5 office hours.

Because enforcement officers spend a great deal of time on site visits, they are difficult to trace at their desks or by phone. For that reason please always use the planning portal to contact the enforcement team. This assures the most efficient way that an officer can take up your enquiry: https://maidstone.gov.uk/home/primary-services/planning-and-building/primary-areas/planning-enforcement/tier-3-primary-areas/planning-enforcement-information

 

Cost of Living Crisis

The Rural Services Network (RSN), which represents rural councils and other service providers, has produced a report, which says the cost of living crisis is hitting people in rural areas harder than those in towns and cities. Those in the countryside are spending much more on essentials like heating, transport and housing, the study found. Rural households on a low income now spend around half of their earnings on rent – almost 5% more than low-income households in urban areas.

This comes as no surprise and I previously mentioned that North Downs Ward ranks fairly low on Maidstone’s deprivation scale, along with Shepway and Park Wood although possibly for different reasons. Access to public transport and doctors seems to push us down the scale a lot. While MBC has no powers over those particular issues, I still like to hear any thoughts of how we can help rural communities and families. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, part of the government’s levelling-up agenda, awarded Maidstone ½-million pounds in support for rural communities.

I am keen to hear your thoughts how to utilise this effectively for sustainable community projects such as, for example, the Stockbury Community bus, or any initiative to support local business. I am a bit concerned that, if we don’t put our thinking-caps on, the money may just be thrown (again) at the village halls – I say this without any disrespect to our village halls and their hard-working committees.  However, you may remember that village halls were previously the recipients of very generous grants during Covid.

Cost of Living Support events

Maidstone is working with local organisations and holding a series of Cost of Living Support events to help people worried about paying their household bills. People can talk to experts to get advice, information and any help they may need. MBC’s Council Tax, Benefits, Housing and Homelessness Prevention Teams will be joined by partner organisations including Citizens Advice Bureau, Maidstone Mind, Princess Project, Fusion Healthy Living Centre, Involve, Golding Homes, KCC Healthy Start and Free School Meals to let people know about funding and support that is available.

They will also be able to provide details on the Warm Home Discount Scheme, provide information about Universal Credit, support with Council Tax payments, healthy eating, wellbeing and to offer household bill payment support, money saving tips as well as debt advice.

The MBC Cost of Living Support events will be located in The Mall in Maidstone on the middle level near Iceland between 10.30am and 2.30pm Monday–Saturday from 3 to 8 October 2022.

Opportunities Ahead !

A crisis is not only doom and gloom but provides opportunity. It’s indeed a great time to start a new business, with many sources of funding available. Please check https://businessinmaidstone.co.uk/connect-in-maidstone/events/ and see what help is available and what our business team is up to. Of particular note is the 9th of November when the Maidstone Innovation Centre will be hosting its first Research and Development event. It will focus on supporting businesses within the medical sector by showcasing new technologies, exploring funding opportunities, learning about business support and networking with like-minding individuals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-zMIGOk5Is

Important Websites

I mentioned these before but it may be worth a reminder, unless you already book-marked them in your browser:

For events, activities, tourist accommodation, entertainment and shopping in Maidstone make this your first call:  https://www.visitmaidstone.com/things-to-do

And at https://letstalkmaidstone.uk.engagementhq.com/ you can find and take part in consultations that interest you, share your ideas and influence the services we provide.  Obviously you can email or call your local councillor too .

Electoral Boundary Review

Over the past months I have kept you updated about the Electoral Boundary review.

You may remember that the Independent Electoral Commission proposed to join North Downs with  Harrietsham and Lenham to form a 3-member super-ward.

As you know, I worked hard on a proposal how to keep North Downs Ward separate. The Maidstone Council Democracy Committee accepted my suggestions unanimously last week.  Last night Full Council ratified that decision with 22 to 19 votes.  After a heated debate, spiced with lies and personal insults against me, I noticed only one councillor on the opposition benches who voted against the merger of North Downs ward with Harrietsham &Lenham.  MBC will now put these ideas to the Electoral Commission who will be the final decision-maker. Watch this space.

AND FINALLY…….

Good news from the Hollingbourne Railway Station Community project, whose wheels I set in motion just over 18 months ago. After unforeseen delays this summer, I can report that the water is now connected and the possibility for the Station to be opened for community use is getting ever nearer. We are aiming to hold a Steering Group meeting within the next two weeks followed by a loud call for able and willing volunteers.

PATRIK GARTEN

MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward  (Conservative)

Phone: 01622-807907

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