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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - over 83,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone South Edition October 2012 No.186 Think you can do better?


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 interest” under the new “Com- munity Right to Challenge”. The first windows were due


to open on October 1 and close on October 30 and cover litter enforcement, 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-


MARDENwas praised at theKentRuralCommunity of the Year awards night as “one of the cleanest and ti- diest villages” the judges had ever seen. The village won the sustainability section and was


runner-up toCharing in thecommunitycategory. Itwas highly commended for business and communication. The overall winner for 2012wasWestMalling. The judges were impressed with Marden’s card-


board box recycling scheme, which they described as “a shining example of conservation”. The parish councilhad bought birdboxes, whichhad


been put up by the Scouts, and the Cubs had been working towards a Global Challenge badge, which in- volvedwater conservation and junk modelling. The judges said: “There is a great sense of commu-


nity and everyone was positive about this community. There is a transport scheme for people with medical appointments, and awelcome pack for newcomers.” The judges said business section runner-up Head-


corn had a very busy high street, and added: “There is a large farming community which employs migrant workers during the summer who like it so much that


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


Elaine Collins, of Marden Business Forum and The Network of Rural Business Forums: Jan Renwick of Inprint Studios; parish clerk Alison Hooker, and Cllr Lesley Mannington, parish council chairman


some of them have stayed and integrated into the community.” Organised by Action with Communities in Rural


Kent, the awards ceremony was hosted by last year’s winner, Elham.


Parishes protest over funding proposal


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.”


P10 BIG IN OAK


Mela anniversary MAIDSTONEMela celebrated its 10th 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P22


Call to cut school uniform costs P24


Core Strategy plans explained P26 & 27


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


Marden is ‘a shining example’, say village judges


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


P6


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 P6


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