Council Tax Ups & Downs

Our Council Tax bills are made of costs of 3 councils, Kent County, Tonbridge and Malling Borough and West Malling Parish Councils.

This year, the Borough Council is completely changing the basis on which it collects Council Tax from April. Since 1974, people living in the areas outside Tonbridge have all got Parish Councils running such services as street lighting, churchyards and playing fields, which they pay for through their parish rate.

But people in Tonbridge have had those services paid for by the Borough rate which everyone in the Borough pays. This led to complaints that parish residents are paying twice and so the Borough Council made grants to Parishes to partly offset this unfairness.

Because of Government cutbacks, the Borough Council has at last decided to charge Tonbridge residents a fairer share of their costs, So your Borough rate bill will go down. But TMBC are also removing the Parish Grants which in W Malling total a loss of over £16,000. This was used to maintain the churchyard, playing fields, and street lights.

West Malling Parish Councillors have agreed unanimously that they do not wish to see any lowering of the standards of maintenance on these areas, and so have had to raise the parish rate to cover the loss of grant. The Borough Council says the effect of the Borough rate going down and the Parish rate going up should cancel one another out.

However, the Parish Council itself has additional costs to meet next year. They will be investing in ...............

  • A further £20,000 on lower energy, safer street lighting. That buys about five new columns.
  • Creating a pension for our new clerk, and equipping the office with a new computer and desks to replace the current planks our staff are working on.
  • Using a contractor to cut the Macey’s Meadow hedge on Norman Road as volunteers are no longer able to carry out this big job. These items add up to around £25,000 and will cost residents on average less than 50p per week per household.

The Council is saving money by ................

  • Moving into smaller premises.
  • Changing our street lights to LED lamps.
  • Awarding all contracts competitively annually.
  • Supporting volunteer groups who are running parish property at the Village Hall, the Cricket Club, Maceys Meadow and the Twitch Inn much more cheaply than we could do commercially.

We are very lucky indeed to have so many people who are active in making West Malling the great place it is to live. We hope residents will feel the additional cost of under 50p a week is good value for money.


Lib Dem membership reaches 87,000 as Article 50 is triggered

The Liberal Democrats have seen their membership surge to 87,000 on the same day Article 50 is triggered.

Over 5,000 members have joined the party since the beginning of February, when Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50.

This comes amid reports that the Labour Party's membership has fallen by almost 11,000 over the last four weeks.

Join the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton commented: "The clear message to this Government is we have not given up the fight against a hard Brexit, and thousands of people across the country agree with us.

"This is not the time for despair, it's the time for action.

"Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour may have given Theresa May a blank cheque to pursue her divisive Hard Brexit.


New Speedwatch gear

TWO new Speedwatch machines have arrived for use by the volunteer groups in the three villages represented by Cllr Trudy Dean. They will be used to measure the speed of traffic in local roads in East and West Malling and Larkfield and pass on details of offending vehicles to Kent Police for action. 

All information is now fed from every Speedwatch group in the country to the police so that people caught speeding in multiple locations will have all their offences added up, which was not the case in the past. 

Information from Speedwatch groups is also passed to Kent County Council to show the need for more police enforcement or traffic calming to be installed.

People concerned with traffic speeds in their local roads can join their local volunteer groups and receive a brief training. 

Volunteers in Larkfield should contact Ron Moore via the parish council offices on valerie.servern@btconnect.com. East Malling volunteers should contact Michelle Tatton at Michelle.tatton@aol.co.uk and in West Malling, Richard Selkirk at Richard.selkirk@westmallingpc.org.

 

 


Parishes gagged at site meetings

TONBRIDGE and Malling Council has overturned more than 40 years of practice and will now not allow parish councillors to speak at site investigations into planning applications.

The borough council raised a storm of protest just before Christmas when an announcement was made that parish council representatives and other interested bodies, such as conservation groups, would no longer be invited to site inspections.

During February, the borough council announced that it had reconsidered its position and parish councillors would be allowed to attend but only as observers. Developers will also be expected to open the gates to the property and then leave without taking part.

West Malling Parish Council is opposing the move. Chairman Trudy Dean said: “Since the borough council was formed in 1974, it has been the practice to invite parish councils and other interested bodies to site inspections. They are held infrequently, where applications are particularly complex, or cannot be seen from the public highway. These meetings on site are an opportunity for councillors to see things as they are on the ground, ask questions for clarification, and point out on the ground what their concerns may be about the effect on the surrounding area which is not always apparent from the plans. We know that planning applicants and developers often meet with planning officers on many occasions before an application is submitted, and this may be the only opportunity local people may have to point out improvements that might be made. Planning is a complex matter, and anything that can help understanding and improve the application is good in my book. The move is even more worrying as Tonbridge and Malling Council are no longer appointing a conservation officer, and so the inability of Malling Society members to attend these site meetings where they may have considerable local historical expertise, is a very backward step.

“I think the effect of what the borough council has done is that parish councils will ask for their own meetings with developers, and the borough officers will have to decide whether they wish to attend our meetings as well as their own, possibly doubling their workload."


Clare Lake gets a spring clean

EIGHTEEN volunteers from East Malling and the local Community Warden unit joined forces to spruce up the Clare Lake banks and Blacklands path in East Malling on Saturday, March 4th, 2017.

The volunteers cleared litter, and half a skip full of concrete pieces from a demolished fence. They also cut back brambles and grasses from a long-concealed ragstone wall. The wall then provided a comfy bench for a well-earned cup of home-made soup to celebrate the day.

The event was organised by East Malling and Larkfield Parish Councillor Michelle Tatton, who said: “We collected 16 bags of litter, half a skip of concrete and a small mountain of ivy and brambles. Clearing out the wall has made a huge difference to this path. I think the guys enjoyed bashing the concrete to bits but it was heavy work made so much easier by the large number of people who helped, from as far away as Maidstone.

“Special thanks go to the Roud family for providing the soup, and Gary Haffenden who dropped off a skip literally at an hour’s notice, to enable the clearance of the concrete.”

Cllr Trudy Dean, chairman of the Clare Lake Steering Group, thanked the volunteers and invited them back for the following Saturday, March 11, when Larkfield Explorer Group were helping to plant 600 hedging plants donated by Conservation Trust Volunteers and Kent Men of the Trees. They will provide berried plants for the birds and a pleasant green backdrop to the lake.

 


Cutlery gift will help patients

Cllr Trudy Dean, Liberal Democrat Kent County Councillor for Malling Central, visited Heart of Kent Hospice at Aylesford, following funding from her KCC member’s grant, where she was delighted to meet with the chief executive, Sarah Pugh and some of her colleagues.

The grant of £1,246 was given specifically to buy equipment for the hospice which would help people with terminal illnesses to remain active and independent at home for as long as possible.

Cllr Dean learnt how new exercise equipment would help people whose illnesses had caused them to lose mobility. Through supervised exercise sessions at the hospice, patients could rebuild muscle tone so they could once again climb their stairs at home, or go out to meet friends without assistance.

The grant also funded a Kings Assessment Kit which, with over 30 modular pieces of cutlery and handles, enables nursing staff to assess the needs of each patient so they can find the most practical and comfortable way of eating unaided.

Cllr Dean pledged to do as much as she could to help raise awareness of the hospice’s need to raise an additional £600,000 to help secure its long-term future for the people of this community. 

 


Kent County Council Election Timetable - Register to Vote, Postal Vote and more!

With the Kent County Council elections approaching on May 2nd. If you live in Tonbridge and Malling and require help please ring Tonbridge and Malling Electoral Services on the Electoral Registration helpline 01732 844522.

Wednesday, 17 April

  • Last day to register to vote
  • Last day to apply for a new postal vote (5pm)
  • Last day to amend / cancel an existing postal or proxy vote arrangement (5pm)

Wednesday, 24 April

  • Last day to apply for a new proxy vote (5pm) - except for medical emergencies
  • Last day for publication of Notice of Poll

Thursday, 25 April

  • Last day for notification of appointment of polling and counting agents
  • Publication of notice of alterations to electoral register for use in this election

Friday, 26 April

  • First day on which electors can request replacements for lost postal votes

Thursday, 2 May

  • Polling Day: Poll stations open 7am - 10pm
  • Deadline for issuing replacement postal ballot papers (5pm)
  • Deadline for applying for a proxy vote on grounds of medical emergency (5pm)
  • Deadline for correcting electoral register due to clerical error or court appeal (9pm)

Kent people will pay a very heavy price for this budget from KCC

Trudy Dean's speech at the Kent County Council budget debate on Thursday 11th February

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a constituent thanking me for KCC neglect. He said that he had got off a charge of speeding because the speed limit signs were so dirty the court deemed them impossible to read.

It is however unusual for neglect to be celebrated. 

It's much more usual for people to ask, "What more am I getting for my increase in Council Tax, which this year for a Band D property amounts to an extra £45 per year just for KCC?"

And the answer this year is, "Not a lot".

The fact is that in many areas despite the best efforts of our staff, in many areas the public are going to get a worse service than before.

Our roads, through years of underfunding, will continue to deteriorate. There is a backlog of repairs currently of over £580m. and the level of spending is accepted as insufficient to keep it from growing further. That means more damage to cars and tyres, greater danger of road casualties, particularly to cyclists and pedestrians.

Our verges will only be cut once next year; unless more is required for safety. But, unless your name is Alan Titchmarsh they will not all turn into flower meadows.

Road signs are not being cleaned,

… road lining is not being carried out,

… weeds grow high in gutters and roundabouts and

… highway trees removed for disease and safety are not being replaced.

That means our towns and villages are looking more unkempt untidy and uncared for. A recent report stated Kent's roads are in "managed decline"

Roads are not the only such area.

This budget will result in a further loss of staff and I thank all those who will be leaving ... paying the price of a Government which is taking an axe to local council budgets. Whilst privatisation, or commissioning may drive costs down, it is the staff who lose their entitlement to Public Service terms and conditions who generate the lion's share of the savings. We are also beginning to see examples of our limited ability to carry out effective contract management on commissioned activity.

There are many areas of our operation where lack of staff is now seriously affecting our ability to respond to public need. I welcome the fact that at long last some of the budgets continually overspent have at last been given a more realistic amount of money. But we all know that in many areas, in care for the elderly in particular, it is nowhere near enough.

Low wages paid to workers in care for the elderly means we struggle year after year to recruit people to provide care services both in residential homes and at home. That means more people receiving poorer care in the wrong place.

That means more people occupying beds in hospitals who could and should be at homeThat means that waiting times in Accident and Emergency departments, for operations and subsequently for beds on wards have climbed to levels not seen for over ten years. As we know, West Kent Hospital Trust is closed now for all non-emergency operations for two months.

Mrs May continually says we must find a way of funding care for the elderly. But the Conservative Party in Government set aside the proposals of the Dilnot recommendation of 2011, which was widely accepted, that this should be achieved through higher levels of National Insurance, and instead increased the proposed cap of £35k personal contribution to care costs to over £72k, disadvantaging once more the most needy, and kicked the start date for the scheme into the long grass beyond 2020.

Though the proposed levels of National Funding Formula for schools may rescue us in future years, the current levels of 8per cent cut in schools' budgets is the worst settlement for many years with schools openly discussing a four-day week. Though the commitment to retaining Children's Centres is welcome, the aim of a children's centre for every community was dropped long ago, together with any effective delivery of youth services so that in many areas, that means both services are now being delivered from hubs often remote from the areas they serve.

Many of our Early Years providers say they are unable to deliver the free entitlement for two, three and four year olds from working families within the existing budget and Government has already announced that Early Years funding rates for next will be frozen until 2020.

All these problems are being played out against a background of aggressive pressure from Government for building new homes in Kent. Decades of low building rates has left the country in an undoubted housing crisis. Home ownership is at its lowest level since 1972. But the Government response in this week's Housing Bill of stressing the importance of high rise accommodation and town cramming ignores the inability of the existing road system to cater with existing and rapidly growing traffic levels. The bill encourages older people to downsize, but just like those affected by the bedroom tax, it ignores the absence of properties, particularly bungalows, to downsize to. The result will be more congestion, more pollution, more ill health, and more homelessness, already at record levels, resulting in more people needing care in later life.

Liberal Democrats in Government have long argued for a fairer system of taxation related to the ability to pay. We favour a fairer system of Local Income Tax. We suggest additional higher value council tax bands are needed to ensure a fairer proportion of the costs are borne by higher earners.

We believe care for the elderly needs to be paid for by increased National Insurance levels.

I acknowledge that, in this run up to County Elections, Mr Carter has taken a high profile nationally about Government cuts and he has achieved some improvements; I thank him for that. And I wish our Directors and our staff all the luck they will need to cope with what our Cabinet Member for Finance has accepted is the worst budget, the highest risk budget, they have had to deal with.

But my group cannot support a budget which we know will leave people with worse services than before. As a result of this budget more people in Kent will go without

… safe affordable homes,

… safe roads,

… the right care in the right place care for the elderly and the young and

… strong protection of our countryside and environment.

For this budget Kent people will pay a very heavy price.


COUNCIL TAX LATEST!! SPECIAL LEVY ON TONBRIDGE

The way residents in Tonbridge are charged for local Tonbridge services from the Borough Council will be changing from this April.

When the Borough was formed in 1974, no successor town council was put in place – unlike Sevenoaks. The Borough Council has dealt with facilities in Tonbridge and charged for them across the whole Borough.

The rest of our Borough Council is covered by Parish Councils who run their own open spaces, play areas, sports pitches, cemeteries, closed churchyards, allotments and so on. A Parish Council tax is charged to cover the costs. The parishes felt they were paying twice – once for their areas AND a contribution to the Tonbridge “parish type” costs. To deal with this “double rating” complaint, payments were agreed to support the parishes, which in the current year was about £400,000.

Due to the Conservative government removing ALL grants to our Borough they have looked around for another set of cuts and have decided to remove the payments to Parish Councils. All the parishes now have to increase their Council taxes and/or find savings to make up for the shortfall.

In Tonbridge, the Special Expenses charge will be made of about and extra £40 to cover the Towns’ “parish expenses” at band D. It will be shown as a separate new item on the council tax bill.

With this local tax being levied on Tonbridge, it raises the question as to whether, like the rest of the Borough, we should have our own local Town Council. This would not only run our local facilities but be consulted on all planning applications and other decisions made by the Borough and County Councils that affects our town. Back in 1974, it was said that Town was “too big” but the rules have changed. Many other towns in Ken now have town councils, most recently at Folkestone and Westgate on Sea (Margate). In Rochester, local people have started the procedure to get one


Kent’s Coroners Service

At the County Council Budget Debate on Thursday, 9th February the Liberal Democrat Group will be asking for an in depth investigation into the costs incurred by the Coroners service in Kent. Although KCC meets the costs of the Coroners Service, they have no control over them.

A report to councillors in December showed that Kent Coroners carry out an average of 48 post Mortems out of every 100 cases reported to them, compared to a national average of 38 per hundred. The highest number of post mortems are carried out in north east Kent where 55 in every 100 deaths are investigated by post mortem. There are also widely varying waiting times for inquests to take place from 15 weeks in north west Kent to 40 weeks in north east Kent. 

Trudy Dean, Leader of the Lib Dem group said, "This is not just a question of inquiring into the costs of the service, but the effect on relatives. Long waiting times for post mortems delay the time when the body can be released for a funeral to take place. Waiting up to forty weeks for inquests further prolongs the distress which relatives go through dealing with the loss of their family member. Local councils cannot of course interfere or influence Coroners judicial decisions, but we can enquire more closely whether the service is being carried out in an effective way which meets the needs of families as well as seeing that justice is done."


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