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Maidstone & Malling’s No 1 - 88,000 copies - 4 editions Maidstone South Edition December 2010 No.164 Shock and anger as post offices close

RESIDENTS of Staplehurst were shocked when their post office (pictured) closed without warn- ing – along with sub-post offices in three other villages, including Chart Sutton. The closures were the result of a decision by

HM Revenue and Customs to send in the re- ceivers over an unpaid tax bill. The failure of Post Office Counters to provide a replacement service has been criticised by businesses, councillors and members of the public. Staplehurst post office manager Pavan Sawhney slammed the Revenue’s action as “illegitimate”.

He said a PAYE dispute involving his father – the owner of the enterprise – was linked to a previ- ous accountant and had been ongoing for the past two years. He added: “They sent my father a bill for £50,000. Itwas so ridiculous that he disputed and managed to get it down to £20,000 and then to £9,000.We had been begging them for a final fig- ure and statement so we could settle with them. “Due to ill-health my father visited India. The

moment he left the country, we received threats from receivers.We offered to settle it on

P6 Grim prospects for town economy

THE outlook for Maidstone's public sector- dominated economy is “grim” as hundreds of council workers await the full impact of the Government's austerity measures. A third of the workforce is employed by

one of the several local authorities. Maid- stone Borough Council, Kent County Coun- cil, the police and fire services all have their headquarters in the town, and hundreds more are on NHS payroll. Talks are under way with staff about the

future shape of council services. Many will be holding their breath about the long-term prospects as Chancellor George Osborne ex- pects councils to cut their spending by more

Borough’s £88m education boost – details on page 21

than 25% over the next four years. By 2014, Maidstone aims to have reduced its current £23m budget by £6m. Council leader Chris Garland said Mr Osborne's comprehensive spending review was broadly in line with what the council had assumed in its budget calculations. But the fine detail will not emerge until next month. Lib Dem leader Fran Wilson told the Downs Mail: "It will be grim. A third of our workforce is in the public sector. If we are

Lucky Lola’s new lease of life IT'S one of those pictures with the "Aaahh" factor – but the story behind it is even more emotive. Little Lola, who had gone into labour, was dumped in a sealed box at Penenden Heath. Whena passer-by found the box, Lola was close to

death. But she eventually pulled through – and now has a new, loving owner, vet Robyn Stevens, from Marden. £1,000 reward: page 10.

‘No go’ zone for criminals

“STAY safe this Christmas” was the message from the Maidstone Community Safety Unit as it launched a cam- paign to help prevent festive crime in the borough. Each week for four weeks the partnership is focusing on

a different crime type including car theft crime, purse snatching, burglary and alcohol-related disorder. Ch Insp Robbie Graham, of Maidstone police, said: “We

want Maidstone to become known as a ‘no go zone’ for criminals. My officers will be targeting second hand out- lets to ensure that stolen property is not being sold on and offering forensic marking to homes in areas prone to bur- glary.

“Through this zero tolerance approach, I hope it will

send a tough message to criminals that Maidstone is not an easy target and to go elsewhere.”

Oil Boilers & Cookers R OAK Services of Smarden

Breakdown & Servicing Oil-fired Specialist

AGA Grant Worcester Rayburn etc. 01233 770 138

JCB raiders grab cash machine P4

Showdown talks on parish grants

Borough Update

Village’s strong view on gypsy plans

Thinking furniture? should be ‘thinking Lincoln’ The Big Yellow Building, St Peters St, Maidstone 0800 652 0102

P20 P9

MAIDSTONE Council’s latest eight-page newsletter can be found in the centre of this edition of DownsMail.

all taking a serious hit – and 25% is the av- erage – that will impact on our second biggest industry, retail and leisure. "We have a problem in the short term. I

can't see where we can pick up those lost jobs. We know employers want to come here but the problem is finding the right lo- cations for them." That issue - creating the crucial Local De- velopment Framework - was put on hold for two years while planning policy officers prepared for last year's complex KIG in- quiry. The LDF is not expected to be in place till 2012. Meanwhile, the council's chief officers and members are working to-

wards setting next March's budget and, in particular, which services they should provide and the ones they cannot afford. Town Centre Manager Bill

Moss said: “With so many public sector workers living in Maid- stone, it would seem that the town will probably be hit harder than others in the county.” But he added: “Fortunately, Maidstone is Kent’s biggest shop- ping town, and the mix of spe- cialist independent shops and leading high street names means that customers come from far and wide to shop here. “Maidstone entered the reces-

sion from a position of strength and has perhaps not suffered as much as many other town cen- tres, so I’m pretty confident the town will weather the storm.”

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