Local News

Councillors Asked To Approve Budget Consultation

Councillors Asked To Approve Budget Consultation

Councillors are being asked to approve consulting on Swale Borough Council’s draft budget next week.

The policy and resources committee will be discussing a report on the draft budget for 2023/24 on Wednesday (30th November).

The report sets out how the council proposes to tackle significant inflation, increased pressure on key services and delays to the government’s local government funding review.

The draft budget outlines £2.8m of proposed savings, efficiencies and increased income for 2023/24, leaving a budget gap of £2m, which would be funded from reserves.

The draft budget consultation would ask for feedback on issues such as:

  • restructuring council services to save £516,000, including £100,000 from senior management
  • no inflationary pay award for council staff, except those on the Real Living Wage, with salaries frozen and working hours reduced
  • increasing council tax by 2.99%, or more if the Government increase the previous cash limit
  • increasing income from fees and charges by £581,000
  • reducing grants paid by £227,000.

Cllr Mike Baldock, the Leader of Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “Like all households, we’re facing significant increases in our costs, and we are being forced to take some tough decisions. Inflation is really biting as our costs increase, but we’re also dealing with more and more people approaching us for support with things like housing, which is a significant cost for us. At the same time, funding from the revenue support grant from central government has fallen from £4.1 million in 2014/15 to £120,000 this year, and we’re still waiting for a funding review to put local government on a more solid footing. Our share of the final council tax bill that residents receive is only around 10 per cent of the total, but we know our services make a real difference to local people. This is why - if the committee agree to consult - it’s vital we get as many responses as possible.”

If the Policy and Resources Committee agree, a consultation will be launched shortly afterwards. The results would then be reported to the policy and resources committee on Wedesday 8th February 2023 before full council is asked to approve the final budget on Wednesday 22nd February.

Local Man Arrested In Canterbury Drug Search

Local Man Arrested In Canterbury Drug Search

Illegal drugs with an estimated street value of more than £1,600 have been found after officers pulled a vehicle over in Canterbury.

At around 4.30pm on Wednesday (9th November), officers from Kent Police’s Proactive Targeting Team were on patrol in the Longport area of the city when they received a report from another patrol of a Toyota being driven in a suspicious manner nearby. They saw and stopped the car. It was searched, resulting in a large amount of cannabis found hidden in cavities within the body of the vehicle. Phones and a quantity of cash were also seized.

A 38-year-old man from Sittingbourne was arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs, with intent to supply, and taken into custody while enquiries continue.

More Support For Swale’s Vulnerable Residents

More Support For Swale’s Vulnerable Residents

People struggling to feed their families and pay their bills could be eligible for more support this winter.

Swale Borough Council has received more than £250,000 from Kent County Council’s (KCC) Household Support Fund to help households access food boxes, get vouchers to pay their electric, gas and water bills, and purchase the items needed to keep warm.

The money has been allocated to organisations within the local community who have been on the ground helping people navigate the cost of living crisis.

Swale Food Bank and Children and Families will be delivering emergency food parcels, West Faversham Community Association will be providing meals to the young people visiting their youth hub and Age UK will be delivering hot meals and shopping to pensioners.

The council’s fuel and water home advisor and Citizens Advice Swale will be providing Fuel Bank Foundation fuel vouchers to people with pre-paid meters, and Children and Families will be providing Mastercard vouchers for people with billed utility accounts.

People can also request help with items that will help keep them warm this winter such as water bottles, blankets, and draft excluders from the council’s fuel and water housing advisor.

Cllr Richard Palmer, chair of the community committee at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “We’ve received more than £250,000 from KCC’s household support fund this time around. We received money from the first round this summer, and used it support almost 8,000 households around Swale. Unfortunately, we haven’t received as much money as we did in the first round, but the criteria for who we can help has been relaxed this time, so we hope to be able to reach the households that weren’t eligible last time.”

Cllr Elliott Jayes, vice chair of the community committee at the council, told SFM News: “Alongside helping with energy bills, we can also help residents with the cost of hot water bottles, blankets, and draft excluders. The funding is available until March, so anyone struggling to feed their family or keep their home warm this winter can contact us for support.”

To find the right support for you visit the Swale Borough Council website via this link: www.swale.gov.uk/hsf.


New Pay Machines For All Council Run Car Parks

New Pay Machines For All Council Run Car Parks

Parking in one of Swale’s pay and display car parks should soon be easier with new pay units being rolled out by the council from next month.

Swale Borough Council are installing 38 new pay units that accept debit or credit cards and contactless payments, as well as the existing cash or RingGo App options.

The new pay units are being installed in the council’s 24 pay and display car parks around the borough from November.

Cllr Richard Palmer, chair of the community committee at the council, told SFM News: “We have invested £146,000 from the civil enforcement reserve into these new pay units, which will keep Swale up to date with current technology. Lots of popular car parks now give users the option to pay with cash, card, phone, contactless or parking app, and now we can too. The new technology will allow people to pay by debit or with credit card, and to use the contactless method of their choice to pay for their parking – card, phone, smartwatch, Fitbit, ring or pay fob. Alongside these new additions, people can also still use RingGo to pay by phone call, text message, or app, which allows drivers the option to extend their parking session while away from their vehicle.”

Cllr Elliott Jayes, vice chair of the community committee at the council, told SFM News: “Some of our old pay units have started to be out of service more regularly and we know this frustrates residents. It’s important that visitors have varied and current ways to pay for their parking. If you prefer to use cash, you can. If you prefer to manage your money on your phone or watch to make quick and easy contactless payments, you can. If you forgot your cash and prefer not to use contactless options, you’re still covered.”

Police Make Arrest Following Machete Threats

Police Make Arrest Following Machete Threats

A suspect has been remanded in custody following reports he made threats with a weapon towards two men in separate Swale incidents.

At around 8.45pm on Monday (31st October) evening, it is alleged a victim was threatened by a man with a machete on a platform at Sheerness train station.

Later the same evening, it is reported the same suspect threatened a second victim whilst holding a machete at Sittingbourne train station. The threats continued as the victim left the station and ran into Mill Way. It is understood neither victim suffered any injury and within a few hours of the second incident, a man was arrested in Kemsley.

Joe Tubb, of Gillingham Road, Gillingham was later charged with two counts of affray and two counts of possessing a bladed article. The 21-year-old appeared before Medway Magistrates’ Court where he was remanded to a hearing at Maidstone Crown Court on a date yet to be confirmed.


Action Taken Against Suspected Poachers In Sheppey

Action Taken Against Suspected Poachers In Sheppey

Robust action was taken last week against suspected poachers in Sheppey.

Kent Police's Rural Task Force officers attended Thomsett Way in Queenborough last Friday (21st October) following reports that poaching was taking place on the land.

Upon arrival officers witnessed four people with eight Jack Russell type dogs who were seen flushing out rabbits from the reeds before chasing them.

A 33-year-old man attempted to evade officers by running away and into a dyke. However, he was detained and subsequently arrested for breaching a Criminal Behaviour Order which was in place due to previous similar offending. Sydney Samuels, of Castlerough Lane, Kemsley, has been charged with breaching a Criminal Behaviour Order. He is due before Medway Magistrates’ Court at a later date.

Officers issued a 32-year-old man with a Community Protection Warning and a 29-year-old man was issued with a Community Protection Notice.

The warning serves as a deterrent. If this is ignored then the next time someone commits an offence they are issued with a notice. The notice details preventative conditions to prevent further offending, which includes not to trespass and/or walk dogs off leads on private land. If a notice is breached the next step is arrest.

A 12-year-old boy who was also with the men was given words of warning.

The legislation applies across seven forces which are made up of Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Cambridge and Bedfordshire.

The seven forces work supports Op Galileo – a national initiative set up to primarily combat hare coursing and poaching. The agreement, which has been completed with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service, has allowed the seven forces to work as one when exercising certain powers. This includes sharing interactions and movements, the use of automatic number plate recognition and seizing dogs.


Council Joins Police On Flytipping Crackdown

Council Joins Police On Flytipping Crackdown

Waste Carriers were targeted on Friday (21st October) as part of a day of action to crackdown on fly tipping in Swale.

Swale Borough Council teamed up with Kent Police’s Rural Task Force to carry out enquiries, arrest people suspected of fly tipping, seize vehicles and collate evidence with a view to prosecuting offenders for waste related crimes.

The outcomes from the day were:

  • 2 vehicles stopped and searched
  • 2 Fixed Penalty Notices issued
  • 1 vehicle seized by Police.

Cllr Julian Saunders, chair of the environment committee at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “People who dump their waste in our countryside and in our streets, are thoughtless and irresponsible. We spend almost £1.3 million a year keeping our streets clean of litter and flytipped waste, and we’ll continue to clamp down on the criminals that illegally carry and dump their waste.”

Cllr Tim Valentine, vice chair of the environment committee at the council, went on to add: “We issued two fixed penalty notices (FPN) totalling £600 to a driver with a van load of end of life tyres with no paperwork, and one vehicle was seized by the Police for not having a driving license or any insurance. Thanks to this joint effort this is one load that won’t end up in our countryside. Remember, if using a waste carrier, it’s your responsibility to make sure they’re licensed. If any illegally carried or dumped waste leads back to you, you could receive a £400 FPN. Always ask to see a waste carriers license before using them.”

More and more of these action days are taking place across Kent with a large amount of preparation beforehand, including the gathering of vital intelligence to support the Council’s Enforcement team with their duties.

What can you do to dispose of your waste responsibly?

 Fly tippers often target households via social media or local advertising, luring customers in with cheap rates to dispose of unwanted furniture, building rubble or garden waste. However, these unlicensed waste carriers often simply dump the waste where ever they can get away with it, including in Kent’s country lanes. Householders or small businesses found to be using criminals to dispose of their waste can and are being prosecuted by local authorities in Kent with fixed penalty notices that go up to £400 per offence. Failure to pay such an FPN may result in court action where fines can be significantly larger.

To prevent this, householders should check whether someone is licenced to carry waste by visiting the Environment Agency website below, or alternatively call 03708 506506. It also helps if householders receive a written receipt or transfer note, including contact details, description of waste removed and details of where the waste is being taken to.


The 13 Kent councils, along with Kent Police, are working in partnership to Keep Kent Clean. To keep updated with the councils’ efforts to tackle fly tipping and littering, follow #KeepKentClean.

Last-Ditch Attempt To Save Bus Services Fails

Last-Ditch Attempt To Save Bus Services Fails

Kent County Council's (KCC) proposed cuts to bus subsidies were debated, for the final time, at a Full Council Meeting on Thursday (20th October) afternoon.

The public consultation prompted 2,562 responses from residents, plus 55 individual letters and 4 responses from local MPs across the county but at the meeting the Conservative-led Council decided to go ahead with the plans.

KCC Leader, Roger Gough, told the meeting that: "it was necessary to balance KCC's budget for this year but we will still spending £3.8m on buses that would otherwise not run".

The cuts come as a blow to campaigners who wanted to retain services to outlying areas of Sittingobourne with Newnham, Rodmersham, Bredgar, Tunstall, Doddington, Conyer and Lynsted now being left without any regular bus services and Teynham and Bapchild seeing fewer services.

Cllr Mike Baldock (Swale Independents) addressed the council leader directly, saying: "It's really time you started to listen to people and stopped thinking you were above the concerns of mere mortals. In the consultation, 1,050 people said they would have no alternative means of travel to one of the withdrawn services. This is going to impact on the most vulnerable: - the elderly, the young and those in rural areas."

Cllr Baldock also argued that there would be other costs to pay in the long run - in terms of more congestion more pollution and higher road maintenance bills.

The 38 scheduled services across the county will cease at the end of October. To see if your route will be affected please click here.

Appeal Following Fatal Collision Involving Cyclist

Appeal Following Fatal Collision Involving Cyclist

Witnesses are being sought by Kent Police following a fatal collision near Sittingbourne last evening (Tuesday 18th October).

At around 5pm a yellow Renault Scenic was involved in a collision with a bicycle along The Street in Wormshill. The cyclist, a 71-year-old man, sustained fatal injuries and was confirmed deceased at the scene.

Two men from Sittingbourne, aged 35 and 55, were later arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and taken into custody.

Officers from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit (SCIU) are appealing for anyone who has CCTV or dashcam footage, taken in the Wormshill area and surrounding villages, which might show the movements of the car or bicycle around the time of the collision.

Anyone with any footage is asked to upload it via the Kent Police online portal at: https://kep.uk.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/opjapan

Witnesses can also call the Serious Collision Investigation Unit (SCIU) appeal line on 01622 798538, quoting reference AH/DH/116/22.

Arriva Bus Drivers Call More Strike Dates

Arriva Bus Drivers Call More Strike Dates

Arriva Kent bus drivers have announced another 13 days of walk-outs which will affect services across the county later this month and in to next month.

Drivers have already walked out on two days in September and on Thursday (6th October) and Friday (7th October) last week and Monday (10th October) and Tuesday (11th October) this week. 600 members of the Unite Union, based at Arriva Kent depots in Northfleet, Gillingham (our local depot), Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, voted by a 96.5% margin to take further industrial action.

The dates of the latest strikes will be three days from Wednesday 19th until Friday 21st October, followed by five consecutive days from Monday 24th until Friday 28th October and a further five consecutive days from Monday 7th until Friday 11th November and will affect routes in Sittingbourne.

Sharon Graham, the Unite union's General Secretary told SFM News: "Arriva could avoid the disruption by meeting workers' demands" saying the company, which is ultimately owned by the German state-run company Deutsche Bahn, "could afford it".

An Arriva spokesman told SFM News: "We have put forward a significant pay offer for our employees, which recognises the great work that they do and reflects the unprecedented cost-of-living challenge facing the region. We recognise that the strikes will mean upheaval for our customers and communities through this ongoing industrial action in the region and we urge the union to ballot on our pay offer as soon as possible."


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