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Return of the council house?

MAIDSTONE Council could be- come a residential landlord again in a bid to raise money. The council has not owned and managed residential property since selling off its housing stock to Maid- stone Housing Trust (now Golding Homes) in 2004, but bringing homes back into public hands is being con- sidered to combat Government cuts. Cllr Stephen Paine, cabinet mem-

ber for planning, transport and de- velopment, says the council could also do other work in the private sector to help save a further £5m. He said: “Maidstone Council will

need to continue to change theway it works, and seek new means of funding.” One idea is for the council to be-

come a commercial landlord, using public assets such as Mote Park as a fundraiser. Another is to set up new business ventures, delivering social benefit while raising revenue for the council. Cllr Paine also believes the council

could benefit from “sharing” more of its service delivery with neigh- bouring local authorities. The coun-

cil has made savings in itswaste col- lection service, aswell as improving the quality of service, by sharing its contract with Swale and Ashford. The recycling service has won na- tionalawards, despite costing £1.7m per year less to deliver. Maidstone also shares its IT deliv-

ery and legal services with other au- thorities and Cllr Paine believes other functions could benefit from similar partnerships. To become a “slick council”, Cllr

Paine believes the authority could do fewer things – but do themwell. “This might involve out-sourcing

a number of council functions – or stopping them altogether,” he wrote on his blog. “But, the savingswould be ploughed back into making sure whatever remained (the core serv- ices)were the very best quality they could be.

“Contrary to popular opinion,

there is very little waste left in local government. In Maidstone Council, for example, more than £4m has been cut out of the budget and the workforce reduced by a third since 2008.”

News Waste service wins award

THE new waste collection and recycling service in Maidstone has re- ceived an award after delivering impressive financial savings alongside significant service improvements. Maidstone, Ashford and

Swale borough councils and KCC joined Biffa Municipal Ltd in 2013 to deliver waste and recycling services, boost- ing recycling rates to 50%, while saving £1.7m per year. The gold award for trans-

formation inwaste and envi- ronment was awarded to the partnership by the Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise (iESE). The partnership aims to deliver con- tinuous improvement over the next 10 years. Cllr David Burbage, of the Royal Borough of Windsor &Maidenhead,

is pictured presenting the award to Carole Humphries, of Ashford Coun- cil, Cllr Marion Ring, of MaidstoneCouncil, Jennifer Shepherd (Maidstone Council’swaste and street scene manager), and Julie Rogers, of Ashford Council

Work to improve railway bridge The footpath between Station

IMPROVEMENTS to Maid- stone’s high level railway bridge and footpath above Royal Engi- neers’Way and the RiverMedway are gaining pace. The footpath will be resurfaced during the school’s Easter holiday. Network Rail, Kent and Maid-

stone councils have placed signs on the bridge warning that the footpath will be closed from Monday to Sunday, April 7-13.

Road and Buckland Hill – the Maidstone East and Barracks rail- way stations – is a popular route for schoolchildren, commuters and others.

Improvements to the bridge started in January and should be complete by the end of May. The diversion will involve a long walk to one of the town’s other bridges.

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