Medway will see millions more invested in road repairs and for services supporting children and adults, after Medway Council agreed how its allocated funding would be used for the year ahead.
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, took the 2023/24 budget proposal to Full Council on Thursday, 23 February. Following a recorded vote, the majority of members raised their hands in agreement and the proposed budget was approved.
A staggering £18million will be added onto the existing budget for children and adults services, totalling an annual budget of £287million.
This includes ploughing £11million extra into services supporting children, such as education, SEN transport and to better support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The budget also commits to using any funding secured through developer contributions to invest more in play areas.
Helping children flourish
Cllr Alan Jarrett said: “This budget demonstrates our commitment to ringfencing funding for services supporting children, from helping them flourish at school to providing facilities, such as parks, for them to enjoy with their families. We are laying the foundations now to create a prosperous Medway for future generations, and I am pleased the most recent Ofsted monitoring visits acknowledged our progress to better support Medway’s children.
“The year ahead will continue to see great events organised as part of our Child-Friendly Medway work and more opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy.”
The budget also promises to maintain spending to support vulnerable adults, including work by adults services to support independent living by arranging additional help at home or care placements where required. The disabled facilities grant will be used to help residents with care needs continue to live at home and will help fund adaptations to homes, such as handrails. Adults with mobility issues or feeling isolated at home will also benefit from £150,000 being invested in a new, environmentally-friendly mobile library, which will be able to reach areas across Medway. Libraries and community hubs, found in the heart of communities, will also receive an additional £10,000 to help them continue providing comfortable spaces for residents to visit and enjoy.
Supporting residents most in need
Cllr Jarrett adds: “We also remain committed to supporting Medway’s adults most in need and the older generations who have given so much to the community we live in. Our staff in adults services work hard to help people stay living at home as long as possible. We also recognise that our library services are not only much loved by younger families, but also provide a lifeline and meeting place for older residents. As part of the budget, I recommended that funding was set aside to provide a mobile library aimed at reaching people in communities across Medway.”
Medway’s budget for the year ahead also addresses concerns around the condition of roads following particularly cold and icy weather. We will be investing an additional £1.5million in its highways, which will be used to repair potholes and for general highways maintenance.
Investing in Medway's roads
Cllr Jarrett added: “As well as investing in the condition of our roads, motorists will also be pleased to hear that we will not be increasing parking charges in our car parks across Medway.”
Those who enjoy exploring Medway’s open spaces will also see the benefit of an additional £1.7million going into environmental services, which works hard to protect and maintain Medway’s greenspaces, as well as help keep the area clean and tidy. Other active residents will also benefit from £80,000 dedicated to maintaining Medway’s sport and leisure facilities, and in recent months the council committed to developing a new family-friendly sports centre in Rainham.
Supporting businesses, boosting the local economy and creating job opportunities is also a priority for Medway. One of the major projects to help achieve this is Innovation Park Medway, which is anticipated to create 3,000 jobs.
We have a good track record of securing external funding and grants which is used to benefit Medway’s people, its town centres and local businesses, such as £14.4million from round 1 of the Levelling up Fund for historic landmarks in Chatham. It is also known as an innovative local authority due to its investment projects.
However, like other areas across the country, Medway has felt the effect of ongoing inflationary increases and the increasing cost of utilities. This has had an impact on the cost of services delivered through external contracts, such as waste, and Medway’s improvement projects.
Medway continues to offer its residents the lowest council tax rates in Kent, despite the difficult decision made during Thursday’s budget meeting to increase council tax by 4.994 per cent. This equates to an increase of just £1.53 a week and £79.49 for the year for a band D home, compared with the 2022/23 financial year. This will provide just under £11million of additional funding, supporting the council’s priorities and services which provide for Medway’s residents.
Providing support for older residents
On the rise in council tax, Cllr Jarrett said: “It is never easy to raise the council tax, but we have done this on the government’s direction and guidance. The additional funding this decision brings is poured back into services residents benefit from including maintaining our roads, supporting our schools and providing care for our older residents.”
Many residents across Medway continue to be affected by the cost of living crisis, and those on low incomes may be eligible to reduce their council tax bill through Medway’s Council Tax Reduction scheme.
Supporting residents in the future
Leader of Medway Council set out his commitment to provide the best possible support to residents of all ages and from all communities during Medway’s Full Council meeting. He added: “Our priority is ensuring that the funding available is used in a way which best supports our residents now and in the future. We have set out not only a balanced budget, but a commitment that will ensure our support services continue reaching those most in need and that Medway’s residents receive good value for the council tax they pay.”
The Leader of Medway Council also made a few new announcements, as part of his revised recommendations. Cllr Jarrett committed to providing residents with one free bulky waste collection per year, as part of Medway’s commitment to reduce fly-tipping and keep Medway clean and tidy. The Leader of Medway Council also announced free parking from 9am on Mondays in 10 named car parks: Chatham – The Brook and St. John’s; Rochester – Blue Boar Lane and Cathedral; Gillingham – Littlewoods and Balmoral Gardens; Rainham – Longley Road and Cricketers; Strood – Temple Street and Commercial Road. Following Medway’s celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee, Cllr Jarrett announced that £50,000 would be ringfenced for Medway to celebrate what is anticipated to be a historic, momentous occasion - the coronation of His Majesty The King, Charles III.
In his final budget-setting meeting before retiring as Leader, Cllr Jarrett concluded: “I am proud of everything Medway has achieved since its creation, and my lasting legacy before my retirement is meeting my commitment of providing and maintaining excellent key services for our residents, including our excellent weekly waste and recycling collections.”