Staggering new figures highlight the problem of NHS ‘bed blocking’ in Kent!

Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign for an emergency cross party commission to solve the crisis in NHS and social care.

The funding crisis in social care means more patients than ever before are stuck in hospital beds longer than they need to be, adding pressure to local hospitals.

Bed blocking figures show in Kent there were 151 people stuck in hospital beds, despite being well enough to be discharged or transferred to social care.

The shocking figures for Kent reveal that the number of hospital beds out-of-action because of bed blocking is equivalent to 568 people staying in hospital for an entire week longer than they need to be.

Tonbridge and Malling Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Norman Lamb have called for a national cross party commission to tackle the funding crisis.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS and social care face an existential crisis. Demand for services continues to rise year on year but funding is failing to keep up. The position in social care is perhaps even more serious.

“Growing pressures on services are so severe that all parties must come together to fundamentally re-think how we can guarantee the future of the NHS and social care services.

“The Government cannot avoid this issue any longer. Establishing this commission will show they are serious about protecting these vital public services.”

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Residents don't want parking charges in West Malling

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has surprised and angered local residents and businesses this week by proposing to charge for short term 'shoppers' car parking in West Malling High Street for the first time ever.  The plan came only months after West Malling had been rated one of the best Market Towns in the country, and weeks after Council Leader Nick Heslop and MP Tom Tugendhat toured the town in support of local small businesses.

On January 4th, a report was published proposing charges from April 1st.  The first half hour would be charged at 30p, and then 60p for an hour, £1.20 for two hours, £1.80 for three hours, then jumping to £5 for over 4 hours.  Currently, shoppers can park for three hours free of charge and then must leave the car park to free up space for new customers.  These proposals mean that workers rather than shoppers can return to the car park.

Under another proposal, business permit charges in the Ryarsh Lane Business car park would be tripled from £50 to £150 per year.

The report also says that extending charges to evening hours after 6pm and on Sundays, and for the first time including on street parking charges may be considered in future across the Borough.

The proposals are to be discussed at the Council offices on the evening of Jan 11th.  They are part of a Borough wide plan to raise £350,000 more from car parking to offset investment in new technology, including ticket machines.

Parish Councillor Richard Selkirk was bowled over when he   launched a petition against the proposals which attracted over 2,000  in the first two days. "The supporters make it clear what a wide area West Malling serves and how the independent traders attract people who don't want the same old High Street with the same old chain stores.  Many local petitioners  pointed out that charges would simply push shoppers into adjoining residential streets, or send them to  ASDA, Morrisons, Tesco Larkfield or Sainsbury where free parking is provided just down the road."

Winners of National Retailing Awards,  Michelle of Soles with Heart and Nikki and Russell at West Malling Flowers have both registered their opposition to the plans, as have other local business operators. Amy Barker of Monks Clothing said "The people it will put off are the ones popping in to get milk and then dropping in to see us.  We make some big sales that way."

Pressure is mounting on the three local West Malling Borough Councillors: Sacha Luck, owner of The Old Clock Shop, said she did not think that people would be put off coming to the town, whilst colleague Sophie Shrubsole vowed to represent local people and oppose the charging plans.  Brian Luker has so far offered no view.

Trudy Dean, County Councillor for West Malling and Chairman of the Parish Council said she was disappointed and angry at the process the Borough Council had used.  "The Parish Council and Chamber of Commerce have a West Malling Parking Steering Group which has met many times and worked constructively together to help make parking improvements. the most recent of which have yet to be reported and assessed.  But this report came out of the blue, giving us only a week to fight off charges due to start in only three months' time. The Borough Council has failed to explain how the imposition of charges can possibly improve the availability of parking in the town, which is the main issue concerning shoppers, businesses and residents. We shall be asking the Borough Council to drop these proposals until a proper consultation with residents and businesses has been held, and a solution less damaging to businesses and residents can be agreed.  There are many ways to help West Malling remain the most vibrant and beautiful shopping centre in the Borough, and this isn't one of them. "

Use this link to sign the petition opposing the parking charges.

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Southeastern Christmas 2015 Service

From 8.00pm on Thursday 24 December (Christmas Eve) to Sunday 3 January, Thameslink Programme improvement work means no Southeastern trains will stop at Charing Cross, Waterloo East, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

There will be a revised timetable, and trains going to/from London will start/terminate at Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross. Please note these station closures also apply from Tuesday 29 - Thursday 31 December. Tickets will be accepted on alternative routes on Transport for London services.

Some stations will not have direct trains to London throughout this period, but replacement buses will be available, and tickets will be accepted on alternative routes.

Christmas Eve (24 December)

Last trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street will be earlier than normal, please check before you travel for the revised train times. Improvement work begins at 8.00pm.

Christmas Day (25 December)

No Southeastern trains will run.

Boxing Day (26 December)

There will be a half-hourly high speed service between Ashford International and St Pancras International. No other Southeastern trains will run.

New Year's Eve (31 December)

On New Year's Eve, Southeastern will not serve London Blackfriars from 11.00pm, as the station closes early. Early morning trains on New Year's Day will leave from Victoria.

Additional work will be taking place on certain dates over the holiday period affecting services throughout our network.

There is a video explaining the changes, a leaflet for you to download, journey advice, ticket acceptance details and the most up to date information over this period on the Southeastern website. You could also download Southeastern On Track app for live information or follow them on Twitter @Se_railway for updates on train services and help 24/7.

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Have Your Say: Where do you think the new M20 Lorry Park should be, and how should it be used?

Two potential sites for a new large lorry park near the M20 have been identified in the consulation and a range from emergency use only to providing truck stop facilities 24 hours a day.

Highweays England are running a full consultation until 25 January 2016, and the M20 lorry park consultation and supporting documents are avaiable online.


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Is Kent breaking up?

Trudy Dean Leader of KCC's Lib Dem Group is calling on Kent Council Leaders to come clean on talks about reshaping councils in Kent.

She says: "Government is offering transfer of more powers to groupings of councils. Paul Carter, Leader of KCC has said he will send his bid for greater KCC powers to government by the end of February. Yet no one, including KCC councillors, has yet seen what that bid will contain. Leaders of Kent district councils are also discussing their bids for more powers which may result in three counci l groupings in North, West and East Kent. It's not clear if county and district leaders are even talking to one another, but they certainly are not talking to Kent people."

All political parties support giving more powers to local councils. But Trudy warns of unclear consequences as Parliament increasingly takes more powers to interfere. MPs in Parliament have this week agreed new laws which if passed would allow Westminster to strip counties of their existing powers if it chooses to hand them to districts instead. Government continues to insist on new council groupings around cities having an elected mayor, but have opened the way for that to happen, together with changes to council boundaries, without the agreement of all councils involved.

Trudy comments "These do not look like the moves of a government responding to local residents wishes. But the truth is that the people of Kent haven't even been asked."

The potential groupings of councils in Kent are likely to be:

North: Gravesham, Dartford, and Medway.

West : Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Malling, and Sevenoaks.

East: Dover, Shepway, Thanet, Ashford, and Canterbury.

Swale and Maidstone lie on grouping boundaries which means they could opt to join either.

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Lib Dems launch small business survey

Local Lib Dem and Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Tonbridge and Malling Council, Councillor Anita Oakley has launched a survey local small businesses in Tonbridge and Malling asking them how she can help them grow and take on more staff.

Commenting, Cllr Anita Oakley said, “Local business owners have had a tough battle in recent years but we know there’s much more to do to ensure long term, stable growth.

“I want to hear from businesses across Tonbridge and Malling on what I can do as their local Councillor and also what the Lib Dems can do to help keep the economy growing.

“Whilst many businesses here in Tonbridge and Malling are seeing growth, I feel there is much more our council and government could be doing to help the recovery and making sure that it is a fair recovery for everyone.

“That is why I am asking you to spend just a few minutes completing this short survey. The answers you give will help us focus even more on the areas of real concern to small business owners and managers. Together we can make sure the Government takes the action that is needed to help small businesses.

Cllr Anita Oakley added, “I will be using the results of this survey to put pressure on Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council to do more to support local businesses and take the strong steps necessary to keep Britain’s businesses on their feet.”

Click here, to fill in the survey.

Liberal Democrats would boost support for small businesses

The Lib Dems are proposing extra support for new small businesses by providing entrepreneurs with a Start Up Allowance worth £2600 after they set up their new business.

In Government Vince Cable and the Lib Dems ensured people who wanted to start a business got loans to help with start-up costs and mentoring support through the £1bn British Business Bank. It was a key Liberal Democrat demand extracted in exchange for the Tories failed Shares For Rights scheme.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron MP said, “Liberal Democrats believe that if you have a dream you should be supported to fulfil it. Those who take the chance to set out on their own and create a business should be celebrated and supported.

“Lib Dems recognise the courage of those who seek to create something new. While Labour have said they now want to strip Government support for businesses and the Tories focus on giving tax cuts to giant corporations, we want to focus on entrepreneurs and small business seeking to grow.”

Cllr Tim Bishop said, “Local small businesses in Tonbridge and Malling are the lifeblood of our local community. They need and deserve the Government’s help and I support this proposed extra investment for start up businesses in Tonbridge and Malling. It is crucial that we listen to what employers are saying and ensure that everything is being done to support businesses locally as well as understanding the impact on the ground of national issues.”

Lib Dems Urges Govenment To Continue School Meals For Young Children In Kent Primary Schools

At the County Council meeting last Thursday (29/10/2015) Liberal Democrats won an almost unanimous vote on a proposal they put forward. They requested that the Chairman be mandated to write to David Cameron urging his Government to continue free school meals for the youngest children in primary schools. The Kent Liberal Democrats had been alarmed to hear that the Chancellor had all educational spending apart from pupil funding in his sights for cuts.

Proposing the motion Martin Vye, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education, said: “We Liberal Democrats fought hard when we were in the Coalition Government for introducing these free school meals. A two year pilot scheme in a couple of local authorities had shown excellent results with primary school children eating more healthily and improving their educational attainment. When the Coalition Government extended this scheme over the whole country Kent invested a considerable amount in additional school kitchens and equipment and we don’t want this investment thrown away. We know that David Cameron came out to say that the scheme was safe but can we believe that given the U-turn on working tax credits?”

Rob Bird, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats on KCC, who seconded the motion quoted the Department of Education’s own words:  “We want to give every child, regardless of their background, the very best start in life. This is at the heart of what we are doing with school food. We have made real progress and the new School Food Standards mean that pupils of all ages, including infants, are eating good, nutritious food which we know helps children to concentrate in the classroom and supports healthy lifestyles.”

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Dragon's den fund is given £10,000

A date has been set for the annual Malling and Larkfield, Dragon's Den event. Trudy Dean who represents the area at KCC, is making £10,000 available from her councillor's community fund for projects deserving of a financial boost.

The event will be held at The Malling School, Beech Road, East Malling, on Saturday, November 21st 2015.

Participants will make a three minute presentation to the audience of residents and votes are cast for projects deserving of grants, up to a total of £2,000.

Cllr Trudy Dean said "This is a hugely enjoyable event. Every resident of West or East Malling or Larkfield can enter and spend council tax money to do good locally."

Application forms are available from

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Lib Dems call for end to unfair holiday fines

Last week  a father won a court battle after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his six year-old daughter out of school to go to Walt Disney World in Florida.

Figures show that in the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.

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