Supporting Medway’s vulnerable residents is the focus of this year’s budget, with more than £9million being invested in children and adults’ social care.
We have set out our finances for the year ahead, outlining how we will spend allocated funding for the 2021/22 financial year.
Councillors met on Thursday, 18 February and discussed the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the council, as well as the plans to invest more funding in adults’ social care.
The council has played a leading role in the fight against coronavirus and has prioritised providing essential services as well as further support for Medway’s most vulnerable residents.
Supporting Medway’s vulnerable adults
We have outlined our ongoing commitment to supporting vulnerable and older residents and providing a high-quality service in the year ahead by agreeing to increase the Adults’ Social Care budget by more than £4.7million to a total of £72.9million. This will help us support the increased number of vulnerable and older people who need its support.
Our Adults’ Social Care teams provide support and advice to help vulnerable adults lead happy and healthy lives. We help residents live independently in their own homes, for as long as possible, as well as offering support to those who care for others.
We also support work to reduce delays when a patient is ready to be discharged from hospital. Together with Medway Maritime Hospital, Medway Community Healthcare and the Kent and Medway NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (KMCCG), we support residents to either return home or to alternative accommodation if they need extra support. This multi-agency work, which has been extremely important during the pandemic, helps avoid delays of people who no longer medically require a hospital bed.
Supporting Medway’s children and young people
Children’s Services is also set to benefit from a further £4.356million in 2021/22, making the service’s budget a total of £45.374million. Last month it was announced that Medway’s independent commissioner for Children’s Services was stood down in light of the council making good progress in its improvement journey to better support children and young people. We have significantly invested in additional staffing and training, with social workers having much smaller caseloads than before which has improved the quality of the team’s direct work with children. The additional investment will support us with making further improvements, as well as support our ambition to become a Child-Friendly City, with young people being put at the heart of decision making to ensure their voice is heard.
The additional funding being invested into children and adults’ services will come from a portion of residents’ council tax payments, ensuring that Medway’s vulnerable residents are provided with the support they need and deserve.
Medway continues to offer its residents one of 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. However, this equates to an increase of just £1.41 a week and £73.51 for the year for a band D home, compared with the 2020/21 financial year.
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, offering a revised payment plan or referring them to a debt advice agency to get help and support.
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “Supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities remains our highest priority which is why we have committed a further £14million to our children and adults’ services. This will help ensure that we continue to build on the progress Children’s Services has made in the last year as well as support vulnerable residents and older people to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.”
Supporting all residents throughout the coronavirus pandemic
We have continued to provide as many services as possible for residents throughout the pandemic, in line with government guidelines. Our services adapted incredibly quickly, and staff came up with innovative ways residents could continue to access services from home, especially during each lockdown, including Medway Sport’s home workout videos, online youth sessions and a new click and collect service at Medway’s libraries and community hubs. Another new service we launched was an emergency support project, which provided more than 100,000 meals to Medway’s most vulnerable residents who had no-one else to turn to. Then, in December 2020, Medway became the first area in the south-east to launch targeted community symptom-free testing.
At the meeting on Thursday, councillors thanked all of Medway’s key workers including NHS health care staff at Medway Maritime Hospital, voluntary sector partners, school staff and council officers who continue to ensure residents receive the help and support they need in these challenging times. We are also continuing to support residents on lower incomes through the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment scheme and is using the Winter Support Grant to further support those who are struggling to buy essential items, such as food and clothing.
Cllr Jarrett added: “Over the last year we have all witnessed Medway’s heroic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and I would like to thank all of our key workers, NHS colleagues and our own council staff for their tireless hard work supporting residents. Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide council services and ensure our most vulnerable residents received the support they need. We will continue to support residents and do everything we can in the fight against coronavirus.”
Powering Medway forward
Although our priority remains the fight against coronavirus and protecting local people, work on Medway’s major regeneration developments and improvement projects will also continue into the new financial year. We have an ambitious vision for Medway and are committed to providing residents with much-needed new facilities and businesses with opportunities for growth. Medway’s monumental regeneration programme has not taken a backseat throughout the pandemic and continues to push on, supporting the economy’s growth, providing continued job opportunities.
We have a strong track record of securing external funding to deliver vital improvement projects to help keep Medway a great place to live, work, learn and visit for now and in the future. This includes work on the £170million major developments in Hoo, ensuring that the necessary transport and environmental infrastructure is in place before providing potential new homes on the peninsula. In addition, last month we were successful in a £9.5million bid to further transform Chatham town centre into vibrant hubs for future generations, helping to protect and create job opportunities.
There are a number of other innovative projects planned for the year ahead to benefit both residents and businesses, including a new pioneering businesses park. Infrastructure works, including access roads and utilities, are due to begin at Innovation Park Medway near Rochester Airport later this year, giving businesses a chance to grow on a new site with excellent transport links and connectivity. In addition, the council’s own housing company, Medway Development Company (MDC), is continuing with plans to build apartments at Chatham Waterfront, deliver the Garrison Point development on the former Whiffens Avenue car park and build affordable homes in the loading bay of the former Britton Farm Mall supermarket. Work has also begun on creating an innovative adult learning and skills hub on the vacant top floor of the former shopping centre in Gillingham alongside works to transform the shopping mall area. We are also continuing to deliver on Medway’s climate change agenda and is committed to reducing Medway’s carbon footprint and tackling climate change.
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “It’s incredibly important that we continue to look to Medway’s future and invest in our services and regeneration programmes which will provide growth for all. We have a number of exciting projects which will begin to take shape this year, including the works at Innovation Park Medway and MDC developments, and I look forward to seeing them progress.
“We are committed to ensuring all of our residents receive high-quality services, whilst providing value for money, and I am pleased that we are able to continue doing so with one of the lowest council tax rates in Kent.”