Millions of pounds more will be invested into Medway’s Children’s Services, helping to ensure children and young people are provided with a bright future.
Medway’s councillors met on Thursday, 24 February and agreed how we will spend our allocated funding for the 2022/23 financial year, with Medway’s children and young people at the heart of the budget discussions.
During the meeting, Medway’s child friendly ambitions took a leap forward with the announcement of the third successive year of further investment in Children’s Services.
Since 2019, we have prioritised the implementation of an improvement plan for our Children’s Services and have worked at pace to make significant improvements within the service and made substantial targeted investment to drive the developments. Ofsted has recognised our relentless focus on improvement and our determination to embed change as well as the increasing complexity of children and young people’s needs and demands on the service.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, announced his commitment to invest an additional £6.1million in Children’s Services for the year ahead, bringing the total budget to more than £53million. This follows the 2021/22 and 2020/21 budgets where we also ringfenced additional funding for Children’s Services. The funding will be used to ensure every child in Medway receives the best start in life and the support they need to thrive, be healthy and learn well.
The additional investment also strengthens Medway’s commitment to improving this vital service and will also be invested in areas such as training for foster carers to ensure that children and young people who find themselves in the care system are given the help and protection they need and deserve.
At the meeting Cllr Jarrett announced that £121,000 had been allocated to further support our aspiration to become a Child-Friendly City, putting children and young people at the heart of everything we do. The additional funding will be used to enhance the successful drop-in football programme by including a whole range of sports, as well as provide more opportunities to support children and young people’s creative development and on an exciting reading campaign. More details will be announced in due course.
A further £250,000 will be invested in play areas across Medway to ensure children are able to access play equipment designed to meet their increasingly diverse range of needs.
Council praised for its efforts throughout the pandemic
Over the last two years Medway Council has played a leading role in the fight against Coronavirus and has prioritised providing essential services to residents alongside distributing more than £114million of government grants to local businesses.
During the meeting, staff were praised for continuing to operate services as close to business as usual as possible during the pandemic, as well as being quick to open services following updated government advice.
Cllr Jarrett also announced a further one per cent pay uplift for all staff which gives a total uplift for the coming year of two per cent as well as raising the minimum pay for council staff to £10 an hour.
The council is committed to providing residents with high quality services now and in the future. Medway’s income generating services, including parking and leisure, are recovering quickly and this enables the council to invest back into its services.
There has been an increased demand for social care over the past couple of years and we will continue to support residents who need extra support following the pandemic.
Millions more ploughed into supporting vulnerable residents
The council outlined its commitment to supporting vulnerable and older residents by increasing its Adults’ Social Care budget by more than £5.8million, bringing the total budget to £76.2million. This will help the us support the increased number of vulnerable and older people who need our support.
Our Adults’ Social Care teams help residents live independently in their own homes, for as long as possible, as well as offering support to those who care for others to ensure vulnerable and older residents lead happy and healthy lives.
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Jarrett, said: “We remain committed to supporting the most vulnerable residents in our communities which is why we will be investing a further £11.9million into our Children’s and Adults’ services. This will help us continue to make great progress in improving Children’s Services and ensure that each child’s individual needs continue to be met as well as supporting our older residents to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.”
Medway has the lowest council tax in Kent
Cllr Alan Jarrett committed to keeping Medway’s council tax the lowest in Kent. Whilst remaining lower than the amount residents elsewhere across the county pay, councillors made the difficult decision to increase council tax by 2.994 per cent. This equates to an increase of £0.89 a week and £46.27 for the year for a band D home, compared with the 2021/22 financial year, providing Medway residents with the best value for money. The council tax increase is also significantly lower than the rate of inflation – the consumer prices index was 5.4 per cent in December.
We offer a number of options for residents who cannot afford to pay their council tax. Depending on the individual circumstances this includes ensuring they receive any reductions they are entitled to, access to a revised payment plan or referral to a debt advice agency for help and the government’s recently announced £150 council tax rebate payment for people living in Band A-D properties.
We have introduced a 300 per cent council tax premium for properties which have remained empty and unfurnished for more than two years.
Cllr Jarrett announced a new £40,000 Parish Grant at the budget setting meeting which will be distributed on a means-tested basis.
Celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
Medway’s plans to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee were also revealed at the meeting. Cllr Jarrett announced that £95,000 had been allocated to mark the momentous occasion.
A range of celebratory events are planned including a Platinum Jubilee Live Site at Rochester Castle gardens, beacon lighting and a spectacular river pageant. Residents are also encouraged to get together with friends and neighbours in their communities to hold street parties during the celebrations with the normal application fee for street parties waived for this year’s celebrations.
The Dickens Festival in June will also have a jubilee twist with character parades, live music, poetry, literature and comedy performances.
Speaking about Medway’s celebrations, Cllr Jarrett said: “We have a number of exciting events in store for this important Platinum Jubilee year which will showcase the very best of Medway as a festival city and as one of the most exciting places to visit in the south-east. We are looking forward to celebrating this historic milestone with thousands of residents, and visitors, this summer.”
Keeping Medway moving
Medway Council is responsible for looking after more than 800km of roads, 26,500 streetlights and more than 33,000 gullies and drains as well as crash barriers, bollards and road signage. This year’s budget dedicated £2.5million to help maintain Medway’s roads, pavements and street furniture and carry out repairs including potholes. This figure includes an additional £1million.
Thousands of savings predicted as part of climate change work
As part of Medway’s work to tackle climate change, energy efficient lights are being installed across Medway. This work is expected to save us nearly £689,000 in energy costs in 2022/23. The works, which began in August 2020, will see 24,000 streetlights replaced with energy saving LEDs. Once completed, the new lighting will be approximately 50 per cent more energy efficient, reduce light pollution, produce less glare and will not require as much maintenance. So far, 3,845 new lamppost columns and more than 16,000 new streetlights have been installed by our contractor, VolkerHighways. The works are expected to be completed in summer 2022.
Speaking about the council’s work to combat climate change, Cllr Jarrett said: “Medway Council is working hard to reach its target of becoming carbon neutral in Medway by 2050.We are committed to do doing all we can to combat climate change but we cannot do it alone. There are a number of small things everyone can do in their daily lives which would make such a big difference including recycling correctly, walking, cycling or using public transport more often and even just turning the tap off when you brush your teeth. We continue to take a leading role in the county with the other 13 Kent councils.”
Providing a sustainable future for Medway
Investing in ensuring a sustainable future for Medway remains one of the council’s top ambitions making the area one of the best places to live, work, learn and visit in the south-east.
We continue with our strong track record of successfully securing external funding to deliver innovative improvement projects. We have received £14.4million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund which will be invested in three projects - The Docking Station, The Brook Theatre and The Fitted Rigging House - to support the establishment of Chatham as Medway’s city centre. This will further support the area’s flourishing creative sector and provide further opportunities for economic growth. We are continuing to work with the University of Kent and Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust on the final proposals.
We have also received £9.5million from the government’s Future High Streets Fund to deliver six key projects including reconfiguring the first floor of the Pentagon Shopping Centre for community use – a Healthy Living Centre, delivering a creative and collaborative workspace in the emerging city centre to support the development of Chatham’s creative sector, creating an innovation hub to support business start-ups and restoring and redeveloping the vacant St John’s Church into a conference and co-working hub to meet growing demand.
At the budget setting meeting last night, Cllr Jarrett announced a £10.348million scheme to create the Healthy Living Centre in the Pentagon, which will be repaid by the NHS.
Our acquisition of the Pentagon Centre and Mountbatten House, alongside its own housing company’s - Medway Development Company - developments at Chatham Waterfront and Garrison Point will provide high-quality housing in Chatham as well as retail and business opportunities, and further demonstrates the council’s commitment to ensuring Medway continues to thrive, supporting the area’s economy, businesses and jobs.
Cllr Jarrett also announced a £250,000 community hub programme to further help us connect with our communities.
Providing value for money
Cllr Jarrett added: “I am extremely proud that we have created a budget which continues to provide high quality services for our residents, whilst providing value for money. Medway continues to provide for its residents and we are committed to investing in, and improving, our services to ensure that they best meet our residents’ needs both now and for future generations. I am pleased that we are able to do this with the lowest council tax rates in Kent. Despite the challenges the Coronavirus pandemic posed we have demonstrated Medway’s resilience and we are coming back stronger than before.
“We have another exciting year ahead planned including our Platinum Jubilee celebrations and I’m looking forward to celebrating this milestone with you all.”