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Split in shared planning service

ASHAREDservice between three councils – including Maidstone – designed to save costs and im- prove efficiency has hit the buffers. The Mid Kent Planning Support Service, a joint venture between Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and Swale,was set up in the summer of 2014. The shared service was sup-

posed to improve efficiency but it immediately ran into trouble, with many planning applications taking longer than the statutory eight weeks to determine, with a huge backlog of work building up. A disgruntled Tunbridge Wells council has now decided to pull

out of the partnership, leaving the remaining two boroughs to share the costs of the service. Officers at Tunbridge Wells claimed 87% of its applications were registered within five days prior to the merger, but only 34% of themwere registered within that time afterwards. Maidstone’s applications consti-

tuted 37% of the shared workload, but it only contributed 27% of the cost.

Maidstone officers believe the service has now “bedded in” and works in the way it was originally planned. The council’s share of the cost will now rise by £56,000 to £283,239 a year.

Walkers’ record effort

HIKERS who took part in the North DownsWalk raised a record amount for Rotarians at theWeald of Kent Club. This year the 30th annualwalk raised £14,000 for Cancer Research UK.

A cheque was pre- sented to Lynette Far- ley, the charity’s local fundraising manager at an awards evening. Weald of Kent Ro-

tary Club president elect Michael Lawrence said: “This is the largest cheque the club has ever writ- ten, and is a tribute to all of the walkers.” Awards were also

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Michael Lawrence presents the cheque to Lynette Farley of Cancer Research UK

the day when all cancers are cured. We are so grateful for the ongoing support of the Rotary Club and all of the dedicated walkers.” Over the past 30 years the North Downs Walk has raised more than £475,000 for charities, including over £240,000 for Cancer Research UK. Next year, the club hopes its walk on June 19 will break the £500,000 barrier.

Police finance ‘outstanding’

KENT’S Police Crime Commis- sionerAnn Barnes haswelcomed a government inspection report, which rated the force’s financial sustainability as outstanding. She said: “By planning aheadwe

have balanced the budget while saving £50m over four years. This was not easy, but HMIC recog- nised our collaboration arrange- ments with Essex Police and Kent

Fire and Rescue Service enabled some savings to be made. Further savings were made using more fuel-efficient cars and reducing building maintenance costs. “Unfortunately, cuts still had to

be made to officer and staff num- bers, and in 2015/16 we’re having to save another £19m, which means another £14m coming off the workforce budget.”

Barclays branch to close

THE Sutton Road branch of Barclays in Maidstone is to close. Mid Kent MP Helen Whately is among those to have expressed concern about the closure, which will take place on February 26, 2016. Customers will have to travel to Fremlin Walk to use the bank’s in-branch services.


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