Local News

Council Appoints New Chief Executive

Council Appoints New Chief Executive

Swale Borough Councillors have approved the appointment of Larissa Reed as the new chief executive of the council.

The appointment was approved at last night’s (Wednesday, 7th October) full council meeting and follows the death of the previous chief executive Mark Radford in May.

Larissa is currently Executive Director of Neighbourhoods and Environment at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council where she is responsible for services including community safety, street cleaning, waste services, highways and parking, parks and open spaces, regulatory services and town centre management. She grew up in Faversham and began her local government career at Swale Housing Association as housing officer manager. She has extensive housing and local government experience and has been a director at Brighton and Hove City Council, Canterbury City Council and Thanet District Council.

Cllr Roger Truelove, Leader of the council, told SFM News: “We had some exceptional candidates for the role, and I’m delighted we are offering Larissa the position. She will bring a wealth of experience to the council and, having been born here, she shares our passion for the borough. The interview panel were unanimous in the decision to offer her the role, and I can’t wait to start working with her.”

Larissa told SFM News that she was: "very excited to have been appointed chief executive. I am looking forward to working with councillors, staff and communities to deliver the priorities of the council and achieve the best outcomes for our residents. There are many challenges ahead as we are still in uncertain times, but I look forward to getting started.”

The appointment followed a national recruitment process, which assessed 18 candidates to produce a shortlist of six. These went through a rigorous assessment process before three took part in the final interview stage on Wednesday 30 September.

Larissa is expected to take up the post in January 2021.

Council Leader Issues Coronavirus Statement

Council Leader Issues Coronavirus Statement

The Leader of Swale Borough council, Cllr Roger Truelove, has called for a renewal of "community spirit" to help people get through the next six months of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the last few weeks, the government has announced new measures to try to prevent the spread of the virus, including limiting opening hours for pubs, bars and restaurants, making collection of contact details a legal requirement for businesses, and making it illegal for groups of more than six people to gather socially.

Cllr Truelove's Statement reads: “Recent Government decisions have signalled a new phase in the fight against coronavirus. We are anticipating another set of extra responsibilities for our council and I am naturally concerned about unemployment and homelessness increasing. Having had the intense lockdown phase from March to June, we then had a period of comparative respite through the summer, with people patriotically eating out to help out. Now we are embarking on a long six-month winter of hibernation, with the possibility of further restrictions on individual lifestyles. We cannot underestimate the impact this may have on the economy but also on people’s wider health and especially mental health".

“People are going to find restrictions much harder to accept during the winter months and we will need to renew the community spirit of the first lockdown. We must not relax. We have had a comparatively low level of infection compared with some parts of the country and we must continue to follow the public health advice, to regularly wash our hands, wear masks and observe social distancing. At the same time, we must have a vision of our future as we come out of this crisis. Much will depend on the competence of our government, especially in tackling the severe economic climate. But as a Council we have to have a clear idea of where we want to go."

“We will continue to fight to protect Swale from unrealistic planning demands from government; to seek ways to provide more affordable housing; to fight the climate emergency locally, to work more closely with community voluntary groups, to build a local economy with wider job opportunities and make improvements to our town centres, our open spaces, our tourist centres and our heritage to increase our sense of pride in the place called Swale.”

For more information regarding COVID-19 and Coronavirus local please visit the council's website at: http://swale.gov.uk/news-and-your-council/coronavirus.

Witness Appeal After Assault In Sittingbourne

Witness Appeal After Assault In Sittingbourne

Kent Police are appealling for information following the report of a motorist being assaulted by a jogger in Sittingbourne yesterday (Tuesday 29th September) afternoon.

An altercation between the pair is reported to have taken place following a collision on St Michael’s Road at around 5.20pm. During the incident, the runner is said to have opened the driver’s door and assaulted the victim, a man in his 50s. He sustained facial injuries which required treatment at a local hospital.

The suspect is described as being white, in his late 20s and around 5 foot 10 inches tall with brown, wavy hair. He was wearing a light grey tracksuit at the time.

Kent Police officers are investigating the circumstances and would like to hear from anyone who witnessed the incident. They would also like to obtain dash camera footage, or privately held CCTV, that captures the incident.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Kent Police on 01795 419 119 quoting 46/174604/20 or, alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers free and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or complete an online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

KCC Cabinet Member Ignores Government Advice

KCC Cabinet Member Ignores Government Advice

Swale Borough Councilor (Cllr) Richard Palmer (pictured above) has public condemned the KCC (Kent County Council) Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport, Cllr Michael Payne, for ignoring residents’ concerns about the failure of KCC to fully refund money paid for the KCC school bus travel scheme that could not be used because of COVID.  

Cllr Palmer says that he has raised this with Cllr Payne on more than one occasion, but as yet, Cllr Payne has failed to respond to his concerns.

Cllr Palmer says “the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is clear that refunds must be made for parts of services or contracts not fulfilled owing to the current pandemic. It is time for KCC to do the right thing and issue refunds for periods that could not be used because of lockdown”. Cllr Palmer further states that “It is appalling that KCC has not complied with the Governments advice about refunds, which is on the Government website. This is further compounded by Cllr Payne ignoring this matter. Cllr Payne must now sort this out without delay and issue a public apology to those affected. I have emailed the link concerning the refunds, to Cllr Payne previously”.

The SFM News Team have asked Cllr Michael Payne for his comments on the above but as yet have not had a reply.

RSPCA Awards Council Two Gold Pawprint Awards

RSPCA Awards Council Two Gold Pawprint Awards

Pic: Tim Oxley and Melissa Herbert from the SBC Stray Dog Team

Swale Borough Council’s stray dog service has been highlighted as one of the best in the country by the RSPCA for the eleventh year in a row.

The service has been awarded the Gold Pawprint Award, which recognises good practice in animal welfare by local authorities in England and Wales. Alongside this award, the council has also been awarded the Gold Pawprint Award for Contingency Planning for the fourth year in a row.

The award for contingency planning is given to council’s that can demonstrate a comprehensive set of processes and procedures that protect animal welfare in the event of an emergency. The council also provides information to help animal-based businesses be prepared to look after their animals in the event of an emergency. 

Cllr Roger Truelove, leader of Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: "We’re delighted to be recognised for all the hard work we do in caring for stray dogs and the welfare of animals during an emergency. This is the fourth year in a row we’ve received the Gold Pawprints Award for contingency planning, which is well deserved for our resilience team who’ve been working hard to make sure we have procedures and processes in place to ensure the welfare of animals during an emergency.”

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for environment at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “The Gold Pawprints Award recognises us for going above and beyond to ensure the high welfare standards for the animals across the borough. Our stray dog team really does put their heart and soul into caring for the stray animals they find, as well as actively promoting the schemes and services we offer such as micro-chipping. We’ve received this award for 11 years in a row and we will continue to work hard to keep up the high level of service we’ve been recognised for.”

For news on stray dogs found in Swale, check the council’s twitter account or the service’s Facebook page.  

To find out more about how you can prepare to look after your animals during an emergency visit www.swale.gov.uk/emergency-pet-welfare.

To report a stray dog during normal office hours, the public should call 01795 417850 where arrangements will be made for the dog to be collected.

If a dog is found between 5pm and 9pm on weekday evenings, and between 9am and 9pm at weekends and on bank holidays, the public should ring the found stray dog line on 07795 237479.

Housing Allocation Consultation Coming To An End

Housing Allocation Consultation Coming To An End

People still have a few days to submit their opinion on the proposed changes to Swale Borough Council’s housing allocation policy.

The policy aims to provide a fair and transparent system that prioritises social housing by making efficient use of the homes available, promoting choice to applicants and developing sustainable mixed communities.

Agreed by the council's cabinet for public consultation in June, the eight-week consultation ends this coming Friday, (2nd October).

Proposed changes include tapering income considerations to provide a more realistic approach for single people and larger families that are at opposite ends of the spectrum is up for consideration. Another suggested change is moving homeless households from band C to B to make it easier for them to be moved from temporary housing into permanent accommodation. There is also a proposal to reduce the amount of time a resident is expected to have lived in the area from four to two years.

Cllr Ben J Martin, cabinet member for housing at Swale Borough Council, told SFM News: “We’re hopeful that these proposed changes to the housing allocation policy will have a positive outcome for residents who are in desperate need of social housing. The reduction in time needed in the borough, more realistic approach to income considerations, and changes that make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to move from temporary to permanent housing will prioritise those with the greatest need. Providing local and affordable housing is a key priority to use and we want to hear what local people think. We urge anybody who hasn’t yet taken part to get in touch and let us know your views.”

To find out more about the consumatation and take part visit www.swale.gov.uk/news-and-your-council/consultations/housing-allocations-policy-2020.

Two Men Jailed For Conspiracy To Steal Vehicles

Two Men Jailed For Conspiracy To Steal Vehicles

Two men have been jailed after investigators found photographs of stolen property on their mobile phones that proved they were responsible for a spate of thefts across west Kent and Sittingbourne.

Darren Mills (left) and William Adams (right) conspired to steal vehicles, trailers and plant machinery between Sunday 1st December 2019 and Tuesday 18th February 2020.

Together they stole three vans, two Land Rovers, a trailer, a climbing wall, a high pressure jet washer and attempted to steal a further trailer from locations including Sittingbourne, Maidstone, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Paddock Wood.

Separately, between Monday 3rd February and Tuesday 11th February, Adams also stole a Land Rover, a caravan, a trailer and attempted to steal two further Land Rovers and a digger on a trailer from Paddock Wood, Kemsley, Marden, Sittingbourne and Burwash in Sussex.

Mills was alone when he also stole a van from Sittingbourne on Monday 2nd December 2019.

The pair planned the thefts over their mobile phones and used cars with false number plates to travel to the scene of their crimes and in some cases brazenly tow away stolen trailers when their owners were distracted.

Following the thefts they discussed disposing of the property via text and in some cases sent photographs of the stolen items to prospective buyers.

Mills of Rectory Road, Sittingbourne was arrested on 18th February and Adams of no fixed address was detained on 20th February.

Officers seized their mobile phones and were able to recover text conversations and photographs of some of the stolen property. Investigators proved they were responsible together or separately for offences where property valued at around £100,000 had been stolen.

Both were later charged with conspiracy to commit theft. They pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court and on Monday 14 September 31-year-old Mills was jailed for four years and one month and 21-year-old Adams was sentenced to three years and nine months.

Detective Chief Inspector Lopa McDermott, of the Kent Police Chief Constable’s Crime Squad, told SFM News: "These two criminals brazenly committed their crimes when the owners were distracted or drivers were making deliveries. They ran their offending as a business, discussing which items to steal and advertising the stolen property by sending photographs to potential buyers. Their arrogance was their downfall when investigators checked their mobile phones and found incriminating text conversations and the images. The impact on the victims should not be underestimated and in some cases businesses ceased trading due to the financial loss. It is only right that Mills and Adams are now in prison."

Injured Pedestrian Airlifted To London Hospital

Injured Pedestrian Airlifted To London Hospital

A person has been airlifted to a London hospital following an incident earlier this morning (19th September) at around 8.10am on the Avenue of Remembrance, close to Borden Grammar School.

Emergency services were called to the scene along with the Kent Air Ambulance, which subsequently carried the person to Kings College Hospital in London.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are fully known currently and are being investigated by Kent Police.

Police Seize Drugs From An Industrial Site In Iwade

Police Seize Drugs From An Industrial Site In Iwade

Class A drugs and 120 cannabis plants were seized by Kent Police from an industrial site in Iwade earlier today (Wednesday 9th September).

Two hundred wraps of heroin or cocaine were found at the location, off Raspberry Hill, following a dawn search warrant carried out by several agencies.

Four shipping containers are also reported to have been found being used to grow cannabis and three men, aged between 18 and 59, were arrested as part of enquiries into the cultivation.

Two dogs, two agricultural mowers and a caravan were also seized due to suspicions they had been stolen.

Swale Borough Council also joined Kent Police at the site following reports of planning conditions being breached.  

Cllr Roger Truelove, Leader of Swale Borough Council, told SFM News:  "This was a great multi-agency operation which we’re proud our officers from a range of teams helped to plan and carry out this morning. We’ve gathered valuable intelligence for ongoing investigations into alleged breaches of planning conditions. Working alongside colleagues from the different agencies has been a real success for all involved, and shows the importance of continuing this kind of collaboration."

Also present was the Environment Agency, who are investigating reports waste, including building rubble, was being illegally stored at the site. Sally Harvey, Area Director for the Environment Agency, told SFM News:  "The Environment Agency and our partners are fighting to put a stop to waste crime and we won’t hesitate to take action. Joint investigations will continue and if convicted as a result of illegal action, those responsible could face extensive fines and even prison sentences. To help avoid your waste ending up at an illegal waste site, ask for your waste collector’s waste carrier’s registration number and to see their waste transfer note; they must have them."

Chief Inspector Alan Rogers, Kent Police’s District Commander for Swale, told SFM News: "This activity is the culmination of close partnership work between us and our colleagues from several agencies. Working together we successfully applied for a search warrant from the court and executed it using our combined resources. Our partners play an important role in helping us protect the communities we serve, and we will continue to use our collective powers to target organised criminal activity and achieve the best possible results for victims of crime."

Police Appeal Following Weekend M2 Collision

Police Appeal Following Weekend M2 Collision

Kent Police are appealing for witnesses after a collision near to Junction 5 of the M2 in the early hours of Saturday (5th September) morning.

At around 2:00am a grey BMW 3 Series and a white Nissan NV200 Acenta were involved in a collision near the slip road that joins the Londonbound motorway.

Two people were taken to a local hospital for treatment to injuries that were not described as serious however significant damage was done to both vehicles.

A 34-year-old man from Snodland, the alleged driver of the BMW, was also arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drink and drugs and has been released pending further enquiries.

Investigating officers would like any witnesses to come forward with information. They would particularly like to view any dash cam footage that may have been captured of either of the vehicles travelling in the moments leading up to the collision.

Anyone with details should call 01634 792209 quoting reference 05-0124.

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