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LOCAL people are being given the chance to run Maidstone Council’s services in a radical shake-up designed to devolve greater responsibility to com- munities. Staff could face redundancy

or find themselves being trans- ferred to a new employer under the scheme, being rolled out in the borough from next month. The Localism Act – part of the Government’s drive for decen- tralisation – is offering individ- uals and groups the chance to run those services they feel are important to their communities. That could be anything from

litter enforcement, pest control and printing to leisure centre management, emergency plan- ning, regeneration, and housing.

MAIDSTONE Museum has been offered Arts Council funding to help more children learn about history. Themuseum, which houses im- pressive collections of Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Japanese artefacts, is one of just 10 muse- ums across the country to be of- fered the finance and willteamup with theBritishMuseumto deliver more education packages. Aswell as school visits, inaned- ucation room in the £3.6m new wing of the St Faith’s Street build- ing, the museum already organ- ises activities for children and encourages families to visit. Simon Lace,museums and her-

itage manager at Maidstone Council, said: “This fundingwould

MAIDSTONE Council is poised to turn empty and derelict pri- vate property into temporary housing for the homeless. Under proposals put before

the cabinet, the council is also set to give business a boost and fuel the town’s regeneration by borrowing up to £6m in the cur-

The cabinet has been asked to approve a list of services and rec- ommended “windows” when they will be available for offers of interest’ under the new Commu- nity Right to Challenge. The first window’ are due to

open on October 1 and close on October 30, and cover litter en- forcement, office cleaning and the maintenance of lifts and drainage pumps – services which are already outsourced. The £4.1m contract to operate

the Park and Ride service will be open for expressions of in- terest from December 1, 2012, to January 31, 2013, but leisure centre management, recycling and street cleaning are not ear- marked for challenge until at least April, 2022.

Maidstone Town Edition October 2012 No. 186 Think you can do better? David Tibbit, the assistant di-

rector of environment and regu- latory services, said: “A successful outcome to the Right to Challenge will contribute to the residents of Maidstone hav- ing value for money services with which they are satisfied, with the council delivering fewer services directly, and commissioning more services through parish councils, volun- tary and community groups and social enterprise.” The Government has set aside

£33m as part of a three-year pro- gramme to promote advice and funding to local groups. Maid- stone has already set aside £100,000 to support local or- ganisations, some of which couldbeusedtoassist

Funding helps history become child’s play

prospect of working with the BritishMuseumand Artswork, the youth arts development agency. Year 5 children from East Bor-

ough Primary School, in Vinters Road, visited the museum as the fundingwas announced. TeacherCarolBacon said: “This

has been a great opportunity for us to kick-start our project for this termonsurvival. Thechildrenhave been lookingatartefacts andhow archaeologists look athowpeople survived throughout history.” Nationally, the Arts Council

Year 5 pupil Ben Hayman enjoys his trip to the museum

allowus to develop newactivities for children and young people.” The museum is thrilled at the

rent financial year. The cash will be available to lend to pri- vate developers to help fund improvement projects for the town. In his new role of assistant di-

rector of environment and regu- latory services, Steve Goulette says the council needs to be

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awarded£3.6mtothe10regional museums and schools partner- ships through the museums and schools programme, funded through the Department for Edu- cation.

Council may buy homes for the homeless

more businesslike if it is to maintain its services and attain its strategic goals. Mr Goulette, who has been appointed right-hand man to the cabinet’s regeneration chief Cllr Malcolm Greer, has drawn up the report to the council, which already has the power to borrow to finance capital ex- penditure, subject to guidelines in the CPFA code of practice. Mr Goulette said: “The cur-

rent economic climate is caus- ing significant financial pressures on local authorities. Revenue provision through gov- ernment grant is reducing and will continue to reduce.”


Maidstone’s debt burden

ALMOST 1,000 people with debts totalling more than £11.24 million sought advice from Maidstone CAB in the past year. Just under a quarter of all en-

quires during the 12 months re- lated to debt, and the bureau’s money advice team helped 953 clients, of whom 84 were helped to obtain debt relief or- ders totalling £666,500. Nonetheless, the average debt

of clients in Maidstone remains around £11,793. In seven months, from Sep- tember 2011 to March 2012, the Maidstone bureau helped 13,558 clients with almost 44,500 issues. The most common problems


were benefits and tax credits (33%), debt (23%), employment (10%), housing (9%), relation- ship/family (7%) and legal (7%). Clients ranged from teenagers

to one person aged over 95. CAB has found an increasing number of clients in need of food parcels – “a sign of the recession, when they have no money to buy food for their families” – aswell as an increase in the number of people threatened with losing their homes.

Housing adviser Keith Burchett said: “The reductions to public sector services and in- creased hardship caused by the austerity cuts mean that the need for charities which P3

Trust gets help

to pay its way MAIDSTONE and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is being given more government aid to help balance the books. It is struggling to repay a pri-

vate finance initiative (PFI) contract taken out to build the Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. The cost of the Trust’s PFI repayment is currently £1.7million a month from a monthly income of £30million. The repayments will continue for 30 years, by which P8

Kent’s first new free school opens


Call to cut school uniform costs P14

Benefit cuts could hit the poorest P16

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

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