In his latest message to residents the Leader of Medway Council sends his well wishes to all this festive season and reflects on the difficult times experienced by many.
As another year draws to a close, and as my last year as Leader, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone well and reflect on the past twelve months.
There is no doubt that this past year has brought an enormous amount of change and challenge. Emerging from the huge upheaval of COVID-19, we have been plunged into a deep global economic crisis that is affecting each and every one of us. Christmas should normally be the most magical time of the year, but I am conscious that this year in particular it will be a difficult time for many, faced with financial challenges.
We are doing all we can to support Medway’s residents and businesses throughout these difficult times – there is support available for everyone and you could be eligible for further financial help. We have also continued to keep our council tax rates lower than any other council in Kent to do our bit to support you.
I am also personally grateful to all of the volunteers and charitable organisations who provide additional support to those most in need, particularly Gillingham Street Angels whose efforts were recognised at this year’s Pride in Medway Awards.
This year the nation also mourned the sad loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth after 70 years of outstanding service to her country and just a few short months after Medway residents joined the national celebrations for this historic milestone with more than 100 events taking place.
I was proud of the way that the people of Medway came together to pay their respects to our late Queen and I was personally honoured to read the Royal Proclamation in the grounds of Rochester Castle Gardens in the shadow of our magnificent Norman castle.
At the start of the year we were delighted to welcome His Royal Highness King Charles III, formerly The Prince of Wales, and Her Majesty The Queen Consort, formerly HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, to Medway and to watch The Queen Consort open our new exhibition, The Making of Mr Dickens at the Guildhall Museum in Rochester. If you’ve not yet been, please do make time to see this wonderful journey through the life and times of one of our most famous residents.
I know many residents will be looking forward to His Majesty’s coronation on Saturday, 6 May 2023 and we hope to celebrate once again in Medway.
Through the year our council teams have worked hard to continue to bring you a huge range of excellent services from weekly waste collections, to maintaining our wonderful array of parks and green spaces, our excellent sporting facilities and heritage and cultural attractions and festivals that welcomed more than half a million visitors this year.
Our monumental regeneration project has continued at pace with the centre of Chatham being transformed to bring much needed new homes for local people and some exciting new cultural projects getting underway.
The wellbeing of our residents has been a priority over the past year with the launch of our new Medway Can campaign to encourage residents to keep active and our campaigns to prevent social isolation and loneliness. This year we were delighted to welcome the then Public Health Minister to our Smokefree Advice Centre in Chatham to find out more about the fantastic support we offer residents who wish to quit smoking.
I am also immensely proud of Medway’s work to support our children and young people and keep them at the heart of all we do. We have made significant progress with improvements to Children’s Services and also continue to develop our newly launched Child-Friendly Medway programme, ensuring our young people have their say on important issues in Medway and can join in an array of activities providing them with opportunities to succeed. 2022 also marked the 20th anniversary since the founding of the Universities at Medway Campus successfully bringing three universities onto one campus site and we are proud to have more than 12,000 higher education students now in Medway.
I have always been a firm believer in looking forward and building for tomorrow and despite the current climate, there is much to look forward to next year. We will continue to ensure we look after the most vulnerable in our community particularly our younger and older generations.
We have a wonderful line up of free activities, as well as events and festivals as part of our Medway Presents programme. I am looking forward to the return of Medway Light Nights in Chatham on Friday, 10 and Saturday, 11 February 2023, where there will be a spectacular display of lights in our city centre. The spring brings our first Food and Drink Festival to Rochester Castle Gardens on Friday, 31 March, Saturday and Sunday, 1 and 2 April.
All our work, projects and decisions are based on ensuring Medway has a successful, sustainable future. We have a great track record of securing external funding to benefit communities across Medway, and there are some exciting improvement projects coming up across Medway.
That leaves me to say; I wish you all an enjoyable festive period and a happy, and healthy, New Year. As you wake up on Christmas Day, please take a moment to recognise everyone who continues to work over the Christmas and New Year period to keep us safe, particularly our emergency services colleagues.
Thank you for your support over the years and I look forward to seeing Medway and its residents flourish.
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council