Budget approved with 1.99% council tax hike

MAIDSTONE Borough Council’s budget has been approved with a 1.99% increase in council tax. A Tory-led amendment, which

called for a contingency fund to bol- ster planning enforcement,was de- feated at a meeting of full council on March 1. The Lib-Dem led administration

was forced to defend its decision to continue funding the Maidstone Museum amid accusations that the money could be spent on the front line.

Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Annabelle Blackmore said: "Conservative Maidstone Bor- ough Councillors wanted a contin- gency fund for escalated planning enforcement action in the most seri- ous of cases. “Instead the Liberal Democrat co-

hort backed additional money into the museum, which already re- ceived in excess of £1,000,000. “Howcan this be right or allowed

to continue? The Conservative Group fully support the principle of a local museum, but not at the detri- ment to other frontline services.We believe funding for the museum should be sought from alternative streams. "Liberal Democrat councillors

have left us to look at eyesores across our borough and it is totally unacceptable. This Liberal Democ- rat-led borough council must make difficult choices relating to budgets. Do all services provide value for

Politics | News Tories accused

of about-turn ANALYSIS by FranWilson, leader of Maidstone Borough Council

AT FULL council meeting the Con- servatives voted against budget pro- posals for 2017/18, including an amendment to accept the Govern- ment’s offer to increase planning charges, both of which they had ap- proved earlier in the evening. They appeared to

make this about-turn in a fit of pique be- cause their budget amendment had been rejected. This had suggested set- ting up a fund for accelerated en- forcement action by raiding the council’s modest savings and taking £50,000 from the budget of the mu- seum.

Cllr Fran Wilson While there is cross-party agree-

Cllr Annabelle Blackmoremeets the public (above) and right, Liberal Democrat candidate Emily Fermor

money? The Conservative Group, who do not control the council, want to protect frontline services for all residents and not pay huge sums for an entity whose footfall is reducing." Defending the budget decisions,

Lib Dem Cllr Emily Fermor said: “I completely understand the prob- lemswe face with enforcement and the need to review that part of the borough council, as it’s not work- ing at the moment. “There is a review going on at the moment in the planning depart- ment as to what money is needed and where. The Tory idea was a sticking plaster without a long- term solution for the future.

“As for

the mu- seum, I be- lieve that funding should stay in place as we have a rich history and must stay open, free at the point of use.” Tory councillor Matt Boughton

said that the museum was at the bottom of residents’ priorities, ac- cording to the council’s own sur- vey.

The Tory amendment was de-

feated and the budget was passed. The council raised the council tax by 1.99% – as high as it is allowed to without triggering a referendum.

ment that improvements need to be made to planning enforcement, the other groups thought this was not theway to go about it. Even members of the Tory back

bench were astounded when their leader voted against the budget she had earlier in the evening voted for. As a result some of the Conservative councillors did not vote with their leader. However the majority fol- lowed her like lemmings. Were it not for the combined ef-

forts of the Lib Dems and the three smaller groups, the council would have been left in the ridiculous posi- tion not only of having no agreed budget for 2017/18, but also having to refuse the Government’s offer of giving the borough the ability to lever more funding into the plan- ning department – the very thing To- ries had said theywanted to achieve!

Borough by-election Paul is new chairman

BEARSTED'S borough councillor Mike Revell has officially resigned for personal reasons, sparking a by- election on May 4. The Conservative member was elected only last year. Cllr Revell has already moved from his Mote Park home to a rural vil- lage near Crawley, West Sussex. He was elected

last May by 50 votes in a normally rock-solid Conservative ward after a controversial candidacy process. Denis Spooner, whowas a popu-

larthe favoured local candidate, did not secure the candidacy and stood instead as an independent. Mr Spooner has already indi-

cated he is happy to put his name forward as the candidate for the by- election, on the same day as the

KCC elections on May 4. He told Downs Mail: "I have

made it known that I’m quite happy to stand but I don’t know at this stage if there will be any other candidates. It’s in the lap of the gods." Mr Spooner is the chairman of

the Bearsted and Thurnham Soci- ety and iswell-respected locally. Cllr Revell – who said he had en-

joyed his time as a borough coun- cillor – became a thorn in the side of the council over the Ramblin’ Man Fair music festival, challeng- ing the authority and the organis- ers over noise levels. Even as he left the council, hewas demanding to have sight of the new contract between Maidstone Borough Council and the organis- ers of Ramblin’ Man. A spokesman for the borough council confirmed Cllr Revell had formally resigned.

MAIDSTONE and the Weald Conservative Association’s new chairman Paul Cooper has been elected and vowed to heal rifts, attract new members and win elections. Mr Cooper takes over from

Alan Chell, a former Maidstone borough and Kent county coun- cillor. In a letter to members, Mr Cooper states: “Firstly, we have got to start being nicer to each other and avoiding the internal conflicts which affect morale. Improved teamwork ismyprior- ity for the year ahead. “Secondly, we need to up our

game at winning elections. We must learn lessons from neigh- bouring associations which have a greater number of councillors and larger parliamentarymajori- ties.

“Thirdly, we have to be more Paul Cooper and Alan Chell

welcoming and attractive to new members. Without new mem- bers and activistswe will be un- able to achieve our goals.” He said the association must

look to the Kent County Council elections on May 4. Mr Cooper writes: “All of

those who are involved will tell you that this is no easy task. If there is anything, no matter how small, you are able to do to help, our candidates would be de- lighted to hear from you.”

Maidstone April 2017 37

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