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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone East Edition February 2012 No.178 Self starters are key to more jobs

THE number of people turning to self-employ- ment in a bid to beat the recession could have made a marked impact on unemployment in Maidstone. While Britain has just recorded its worst unem- ployment figures for 17 years, job prospects in Maidstone appear much brighter. In the annualHalifax Quality of Life Survey, the borough scored highest in the UK for employ- ment, with a rate of 84%. The employment data was taken from the Labour Force Survey of the total population of 16 to 64-year olds in the local authority during the 12 months ending March 2011. The LFS also produces a “confidence interval”

– ie: how confident it is that the figure is accurate and, for Maidstone, it is confident the figure is in- deed accurate. While the statistic came as something of a sur-

prise to a number of the town’s employment agen- cies, Kent’s largest chamber of commerce said the

THE Jubilee Church and Training Centre is to reward Maidstone’s un- sung heroes – and it wants the help of Downs Mail readers to make it happen.

Celebrate Maidstone asks local people to nominate a number of worthy ‘star’ recipients in several categories, such as lollypop person, driver and volunteer. Other awards will be handed out for great contributions in areas such as business, arts and the next generation. Each category winner will be presented with a Stars

of Maidstone award at a glittering event at the Mer- cure Hotel (formerly Ramada Jarvis) on the A20, near Hollingbourne, on Friday May 11. Celebrate Maidstone chairman Neil Pattison said:

“We are very happy to ask for the help of readers of Downs Mail because the paper covers good new sto- ries and is genuinely interested in, and actively seeks to support the local community.”

For more details on the categories and how to vote, see page 21.

MAJOR disruption toMaidstone’s town centre traf- fic is on the horizon with news that gas mains are due for replacement in Upper and Lower Stone Street.

Southern Gas Networks are due to begin on the 12-month project in April this year and a KCC traf- fic management system has already earmarked po- tential problems as far away as theM2. Maidstone is notorious for traffic bottlenecks whenever there is an accident or road closure and councillors have been warned that traffic in the townwill need to reduce by 10-15% if the centre is not to gridlock. Southern Gas expects traffic to reduce naturally

as drivers try to find other routes out of town to the south on the periphery – such as Farleigh Bridge andWillington Street. However, the reduction in traffic is unlikely to go

down well with traders in the town, who may suf- fer the knock-on effect of a reduction in business. In the first phase of work, Knightrider Streetwill

figure could be indicative of a surge in self-em- ployment and new business start-ups. Tudor Price from Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our experience to date – and particularly in the last quarter of the year – is that there has been a significant increase in the number of people look- ing to start up in business and access information and advice. “Our business workshops and one-to-one ap- pointments are grossly oversubscribed, particu- larly in Maidstone.” Tudor said the surge in interest was across the board, but with service sector dominance. The chamber is working with Maidstone Job- Centre Plus to support people wanting to go down the self-employment route and Tudor said; “Per- haps it is indicative of the times that people are looking towards other options when employment is no longer so readily available.” The Maidstone figures could also have been af-

fected by the high number of people in the P4

Change at the top for parish council

THE chairman of Bearsted Parish Council has resigned and other members could yet follow suit after a meeting col- lapsed in chaos, with members threatening to walk-out. Cllr Chris Dyke had planned

to announce his resignation as chairman at the council meet- ing on January 17 and conse- quently refused to take the chair.

However, when Cllr Geoff Li-

cence insisted that, under local government legislation, the chairman was obliged to chair the meeting if he was in atten- dance, he left the room, spark- ing a fierce row between members about council proto- col. Vice-chairman Cllr Paul

The first Star of Maidstone is Dave King, who was given a life- time achievement award for his vol- untary and com- munity work, particularly in the Shepway area.

P21 Gas works could cause traffic chaos

be completely closed to traffic for three months from the end of March, along with the right filter lane, which leads to Knightrider Street from Lower Stone Street.

Through traffic will be diverted via the A229 South, along Upper Stone Street , (A229 North) Sheals Crescent, PostleyRoad, HayleRoad and Col- lege Road. Access to Priory Road and Knightrider Street will be via Brunswick Street and Priory Road. Knightrider Street will be made two-way for ac- cess-only traffic. KCC’s new highways management centre will control traffic flows into the town at the Wheatsheaf and South Park Drive to try tominimise congestion, but delays are inevitable according to Maidstone transport champion Cllr Malcolm Robertson. Cllr Robertson fears it is the second phase ofwork

– which will involve 100m sections of one lane in Upper Stone Street being closed – thatwill see most disruption and road rage. It is then that the busy ex- odus of town centre traffic will be funnelled


Young, who has chaired previ- ous meetings when Cllr Dyke has been present, attempted to restore order but abandoned the meeting after a total of 15 min- utes when it became clear that some councillors could not be appeased.Other councillors are believed to be contemplating resignation, which would force a by-election in Bearsted, al- though Cllr Young is hopeful that a new chairman will her- ald a new start for the council. He said: “I want to see the council move forward and start operating oncemore in the best interests of the people of Bearsted and I will be doing my best to bring the council to- gether in a conciliatory man- ner.” Cllr Young, who has been a member since 2007, said: “There are two or three mem- bers of the councilwho seem to have deep-seated long-standing issues. They need to work them through so we can get


New £2.3m waste tip back on agenda


£100K set aside for Bigger Society P8

Stones clinch ground naming deal


Fears over language funding changesP26

The Big Yellow Building, St Peters St, Maidstone 0800 652 0102

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