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Medway's residents still have the cheapest council tax in Kent
despite central government funding cuts leaving councillors with
little option but to increase it for the next financial year.
Councillors last night (Thursday, 21 February) voted for a 1.99
per cent increase to ensure the council continues to provide more
than 140 services for Medway’s 260,000 plus residents. This equates
to £1,141.47 per year for an average Band D home* – a rise of 43p a
week or £22.32 a year on last year’s charge.
The council tax residents pay goes towards all council services
including children’s services, adult social care, parks and bin
collections. Under next year’s budget free swimming will continue
to be offered at council pools for under-11s and the over-60s.
Funding for Medway's successful apprentice scheme – geared
towards kick starting young people’s career chances - will also be
protected and the future of Medway's 19 Sure Start Centres is
secured for another year.
There will also be additional funding to help victims of
domestic violence, and the cost of council car parks will remain
frozen. Millions of pounds will also be invested in a new
regeneration fund aimed at boosting the local economy and creating
This will see half of the council's unallocated reserves -
around £5 million – earmarked for the South Medway Development
Fund, which will be used as an investment vehicle to assist future
development of Rochester Airport.
A further £350,000 will be invested in children's social care
over the next two years for more social workers, a more effective
triage system for families and children seeking help, and a review
of the child safeguarding board. This is on top of a recurring
£1million of extra annual funding previously added to this
Two hundred and forty five thousand pounds is also being
invested in providing a sporting legacy for Medway, following the
enormous success of the London Olympics, and an extra £480,000 a
year will be added to the money already being spent on maintaining
Medway's highways and pavements.
In addition, £300,000 will be used from the capital budget
for a community hub for Strood - a new improved library that will
replace the current one – and a tourism bus will start in the
summer. On top of funding for Medway’s impressive list of annual
festivals – such as Dickens, Sweeps and Fuse – the budget will also
allow for a new musical festival, Armed Forces Day and a larger
Medway River Festival.
Medway has more free days of festivals than anywhere else in the
south east. These provide entertaining events for residents, but
also importantly help attract visitors who spend money with local
businesses. Next year’s budget will also make available £155,000
for sport and health initiatives which will include new swimming
and cycling Medway Miles in addition to the popular annual running
event in Rochester. The money will also go towards mums and toddler
Ensuring Medway meets its legal obligation of providing a
balanced budget has been testing this year due to government
funding cuts, and savings have been identified from all
departments. This includes £1.6 million from adult social care –
identified in changes to the way housing support is delivered,
reviews of high cost placements, re-tendering of contracts and a
focus on extra care at home where possible.
Changes have also been made to the way the council delivers many
of its services including closer working with other local
authorities and public sector organisations.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for
Finance, said: "While it has been extremely difficult to balance
the budget this year we were keen to use money wisely to bring
about real improvements for the people of Medway.
"In regards to children's social care we will be investing a
further £700,000 over two years on providing more social workers
and bringing about a new triage to make sure those seeking
assistance - whether they are families or children - get the help
they need as quickly as possible.
"We will also now set up a South Medway Development Fund,
for the future of Rochester Airport. This will help ensure this
scheme takes off as it will boost the local economy and create
Councils are mainly funded through a combination of council tax,
central Government funding and business rates. The council's total
budget for 2013/2014 will be £348.5m.
Commenting on the overall budget for 2013/14, Cllr Jarrett
added: "The council faced a funding shortfall of £6.7m this year
due to government funding cuts so putting together a balanced
budget was a real challenge.
“Like all councils this has left us with some hard choices with
the priority being to ensure that those universal services that
residents expect from us are protected. We have been able to find
savings and, through our Better for Less programme, are continuing
to transform the way the council works, identifying new and more
efficient ways of doing things.
"But despite all the savings we have brought in Government cuts
left us with little option but to increase council tax "It is
important to recognise, though, that Medway’s residents still have
the cheapest council tax in Kent – something that we have been
consistently able to achieve year on year.
“Our budget for the 2013/14 financial year will allow us to
maintain the more than 140 services - including all vital frontline
ones – that our 260,000 plus residents receive 365 days a
All residents will receive notification in the mail over the
next few weeks detailing their council tax and the new charge will
begin in April. *The average Band D figure quoted doesn't include
added fees set separately by parish councils, Kent Police and Kent
Fire and Rescue Service.
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