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."


Restore these cuts to the most desperate people in Kent

Tomorrow Thursday, Liberal Democrats at County Hall will propose that an effective cut of £500,000 to supply Crisis Payments to people in desperate circumstances be struck out of KCC's budget.

In the open letter copied below to Paul Carter Conservative Leader of KCC, Trudy Dean Lib Dem Group Leader calls for his support for the move. " If we cannot help people through the most needy times of their lives, then what is Kent County Council for?

"Dear Paul,

Tomorrow at the Budget Debate, the Liberal Democrat Group will be moving an amendment to reinstate the proposed Crisis Payments budget cut. 

We shall do so because these payments are made to the most desperate people in Kent. 
A. Applicants have to demonstrate they have visited the Job Centre, receive all benefits to which they are entitled and have no other source of income. 
B. The need for the payment is immediate and urgent, such as a replacement cooker to prepare hot food for a family or travel ticket to a dying parent. 
C. The plan to change these payments to loans is unrealistic and likely to add to the destitution of the people involved. 

The section 151 officer has indicated that he is comfortable with the amendment to pay for the cut by increasing Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) savings by the required amount.

I believe that there is cross party concern about this particular budget cut, and I urge you to find a way tomorrow to restore this particular budget to current spending levels.

Trudy"

Notes:

  1. For further information on the Kent Support and Assistance Service click here.
  2. The original budget papers proposed a reduction £840k but, as there is currently a projected underspend of c£300k, we propose a £500k increase to restore the budget to current spending levels.

Lib Dem membership surges to 82,000 - the highest level in two decades

More than 4,000 people join the party in January

Liberal Democrat membership has surged past 82,000 - the highest level for two decades - as more and more people feel inspired by the party as the real opposition to the Conservatives.

More than 4,000 people have joined the party in January, turned off by Theresa May's plans to take Britain out of the Single Market and attracted by the Liberal Democrats' opposition to "the politics of fear, division and hatred".

Liberal Democrat membershipLiberal Democrat Party President Sal Brinton said: “Reaching 82,000 members is the highest membership in over two decades. With more than 4,000 new members having joined us in January and more than 1,000 joining since Trump's Executive Order on Friday, people are responding to the politics of hatred by joining the Liberal Democrats.

“The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to this Conservative Brexit Government and it is great to welcome so many new members.

“For those who oppose Theresa May’s plans to rip Britain out of the single market, away from our biggest trading partners, we are your voice. We will stand up for those who oppose the politics of fear, division and hatred.

“The Liberal Democrats are needed now more than ever. As the real voice of opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government we are the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.”

Also commenting, David Thornewell Constituency Chairman of the Tonbridge and Malling Liberal Democrats said: "Liberal Democrats have had a big surge of new members joining the party with concern about the "Hard Brexit" our own Government is following coupled with the divisions in the Labour Party. The latest Government tactic to have the vote on serving the notice to the EU and producing their White Paper the next day underlines the chaotic way this process is being handled. Coupled with this is treating those EU nationals who legally came here as bargaining chips and the suspicion the Government intend to water down employment rights, environmental protections, and ordinary people's basic rights. And on top of that turning its back on the trading arrangements, we have with our nearest neighbours".


Unfair funding formula needs to be replaced by openness and transparency

Trudy Dean's response to Paul Carter's speech on fair funding at Kent County Council on 26th January

I'd like to congratulate Mr Carter on his opening speech with which there was very little content that I could disagree. I think Mr Latchford got it absolutely right, when he responded, that what we are talking about today is the response of a country that wants to see a civilised way of funding those who are most vulnerable in our country. And, on that theme, I would like to ask Mr Carter if he's prepared to write today to Mrs May, and I hope all the other Leaders here would support him, to disassociate ourselves with the announcement this morning from the so-called Leader of the so-called Free West World that he's prepared to consider a return to torture, and that he would leave Mrs May under no misapprehensions that this authority is entirely opposed to that, and would oppose any move on the part of the Great British Parliament to have anything to do with it and in any way facilitating it. I would welcome the support of all the other Leaders in this Chamber for such a move. ( All leaders subsequently agreed to sign this letter.)

To move on to the question of the budget, Chairman, as you know I've been around a long time and fair funding is the Holy Grail of Local Authorities. It's a Holy Grail in the sense that it's been sought for very long and never achieved. Both the Conservative Governments and the Labour Governments have said in opposition that it is something that they want to see, will work very hard to achieve but in Government have done nothing about it at all for many, many years.

I am confident that Mr Shipton's contribution to that debate at Government will be a good one; they could scarcely have a better advisor. ( Mr Shipton is a KCC Finance officer assisting with the development of the new formula.) However, I'm sceptical about what might be achieved. Members in this Chamber are already reflecting what always happens because with any fair funding reallocation there are winners and there are losers. And Chairman, we have to be big enough to acknowledge that there will be losers who cannot be defended and I haven't heard very much of that in this Chamber today.

I would like to completely re-echo what Mr Cowan said. Last November the Government made this astonishing announcement that the lion's share of the Local Growth Fund was to go to those regions due to have Elected Mayors. I'm sure that Kent County Council's Cabinet Members were no doubt very interested to hear from Andrew Percy, responsible for the Northern Powerhouse, that their reasoning behind that was, quote: "where there are devolution deals in place we know there is a degree of accountability." So, there isn't any degree of accountability in this Chamber, Chairman. Only if we have somebody who wears a red fur-lined cloak and a gold chain. What has that got to do with deprivation, or with a past delivery record or value for money or more importantly than all of those, to need?

How are we to work a system of local services to deal with the most needy within our society when we base our taxation on a system which is not related to the ability to pay and is not related to service demands that we have? I return once again to the fact that there is no other way of funding social services other than through National Insurance; it is a national burden which the nation should bear. Similarly, there is no way in which we can address local authority demand through business rates which are not related to those services and do not reflect the needs of the society that we have here.

The unfairness needs to be replaced by openness and transparency, we need to understand how the formula works, which we have never been able to do so far, that is the final test.

Trudy Dean is Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Kent County Council and County Councillor for East Malling, Larkfield and West Malling.

 


Tonbridge and Malling Christmas & New Year Collections 2016/17

There will be no suspension of the green-lidded bin service this year.

bin hanger with Christmas collection arrangements is being delivered to all households in the first two weeks of December. The hanger also has lots of useful advice on recycling over the festive season. If you have a black bin the hanger will be left on the handle. If you have sack collections the hanger will be put through your letter box. The Christmas collection arrangements were also included in the recycling leaflet delivered to you in October.

w/c 19 December 2016

Your refuse & recycling collections will take place on your normal collection day.

w/c 26 December 2016

Your refuse & recycling collections will take place one day later than normal, with Friday collections taking placing on Saturday 31 December.

w/c 2 January 2017

Your refuse & recycling collections will take place one day later than normal, with Friday collections taking placing on Saturday 7 January.

w/c 9 January 2017

Your refuse & recycling collections will take place on your normal collection day.

 


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