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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. And that could be anything

from litter enforcement, pest control and printing to leisure centre management, emergency planning, regeneration, tourism

and housing. The cabinet has approved a

list of services and recom- mended ‘windows’ when they will be available for ‘offers of in- terest’ under the new ‘Commu- nity Right to Challenge’. The first ‘windows’ 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 by the council. 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-

Kate’s history of Scouts

marks group’s centenary LOCAL author andhistorianKateKerseyhas writtena historyofBearstedScout Group tomark its centenary. Bearsted Scout Group, the first 100 Years 1912-

2012 starts at the birth of the movement, when just 14boys joinedupto formthe ScarletPimpernel Troop. It includes memories and photographs,many previ-

ously unpublished, of local families, aswell as Kate’s own research and newspaper andmagazine articles. Kate’s previous books have included aHistory of Edu- cation in Bearsted, and others on the Bearsted and Thurnham community . ABeaver leader for the past 15 years, Kate has put

the book together over the last five years. “I got to meet so many amazing people,” she said. “Scouts can offer so much to people. The book is available from Bearsted Scouts’ web-

siteat or fromKate on 01622 730444. Proceeds go to the Scout group. For information on Bearsted Scouts, call Group Scout Leader Nick Ross on 07720061958.

Parishes protest over funding proposal

MUTINY is mounting in the Maidstone parishes, following a council bid to axe its system of grant funding. The Maidstone branch of the

Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC) is drafting a petition to present to the bor- ough council over its proposals

to replace the concurrent func- tions grant – used to compen- sate the parishes for services provided by them which are covered directly by Maidstone Borough Council in non-parish areas – with a parish services scheme (PSS). This could mean grass going

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uncut, street lights being switched off and the cost of play schemes going up, accord- ing to Maidstone KALC chair- man Geraldine Brown. Parishes would have to bid for

funds, and the smaller parishes, which have fewer council tax- payers, would feel the greatest impact on their precept. Broomfield and Kingswood chairman, Terry Baker, said: “It is quite clear that the significant reduction in the amount of money to be given to each parish under the new PSS will have serious implications on the parish finances, leading to a reduction in services.”


Mela anniversary MAIDSTONEMela celebrated its tenth anniversary with its biggest ever celebration of di- versity through music, food and dance. For a full report on the event, see the council- sponsored 12-page Borough Update in the central pages.

Council may buy up empty properties P7

Call to cut school uniform costs P22

Core Strategy plans explained P30 & 31

Author Kate Kersey with her book marking Bearsted Scouts’ centenary

Maidstone East Edition October 2012 No.186 Think you can do better?

marked for challenge until at least April 2022. 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

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 sup- port vulnerable people is P4

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

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