In Council November '23

1 Dec 2023
Full Council

The theme of council meetings in November was very much that of cancellation, delay, and revisitation.  Two of the four Policy Advisory Committees were cancelled, two important updates (Town Centre Strategy and Biodiversity and Climate change), were delayed. Finally, the full council meeting sparked lively discussion by revisiting the decision previously reached being broadly supportive of the quarrying of Oaken Wood.

 

Communities, Leisure, and Arts November 7th

Cancelled due to lack of business.

Planning, Infrastructure, and Economic Development November 8th

It had been hoped that the Town Centre Strategy would have been discussed at this meeting having been presented two months previously, unfortunately it was delayed again.  The largest item on the agenda was the financial update and overspend due to lack of planning business whilst waiting for the new local plan to be adopted.

Works were also approved for minor improvements to the Medway Street Car Park to allow more bays, charging stations, and secure cycle storage.  Cllr. Clive English spoke as a visiting member to highlight the need for parking in the town centre, the revenue it generates, and to encourage members and officers to be mindful not to encourage development of low quality residential on car parking sites.

Housing, Health, and Environment November 14th

The temporary accommodation emergency formed most of the discussion in this committee.  The budget for temporary accommodation is presently forecast to be 85% over the estimate with problems arising due to interest rate hikes and the cost of living.  With 245 households in temporary accommodation, 140 of which are housed by the private sector, this has led to the forecast of this statutory obligation to rise to £1,690,000 from a budget of £910,000.  The committee voted to reduce the current three-year plan for acquisition of additional accommodation and changes to the private sector leasing plan to two years.  Whilst there would be a capital outlay, for costs for those using this scheme would be reduced by approximately 1/3rd.

Corporate Services November 15th

Much to the dismay of various members this committee was cancelled due to lack of business.  This came as something of a surprise given the promised update to the Biodiversity and Climate Change plan to allow progress to be effectively monitored and key deadlines to be set.  After remonstrations by various opposition councillors the cabinet member stated that work had yet to be completed and the deadline missed.

Overview and Scrutiny November 21st

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee continued to investigate waste and environmental crime with suggestions of maintaining the balance between education and enforcement.  During the discussion at the Committee at its last meeting it was established that the policy introduced by KCC and Medway of barring access to their respective Waste transfer stations to residents of the other authority was both inconvenient to residents and poses a risk of a significant increase in fly tipping.

As a result of the discussion, it was agreed the MBC Cabinet Member Patrik Garten and the Overview and Scrutiny Chairman Clive English should jointly write to the Cabinet Members at KCC and Medway.

Clive said " This policy is likely to cost Medway and KCC more in dealing with increased fly tipping than it saves. All parties across the political spectrum in Maidstone are asking them both to reconsider the matter."

At the recommendation of members all councillors are encouraged to report any waste crime blackspots.

Following persistent efforts from Brian Clark Liberal Democrat Member for South Ward the Council finally has a date for discussing the long delayed Integrated Transport Strategy with the agreement by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to discuss the Strategy in February.

Brian said: " It is absolutely vital that Maidstone starts to sort out its disastrous traffic system and stop building housing without putting in the necessary road and other transport arrangements to support it".  Brian also raised concerns about schemes not progressing despite having funding and the risk of that funding being lost due to lack of progress.

Full Council November 29th

The most controversial item from the full Council was the vote to ask the cabinet to reconsider their position on Oaken Wood to come out against the expansion of a quarry into Oaken Wood, more can be read here.

Other general items of business including polling station locations, synchronisation of parish elections and the annual report of the Audit, Governance, and Standards committee were moved and resolved quickly without need for debate.

Finally, a motion to put in place a detailed timeline for renovations or rebuilding the Mote Park Leisure Centre for the meeting of the Communities, Leisure and Arts committee meeting in February failed.  As a group whilst we felt it is important that decisions are made, and the motion was well intentioned part of the request will be dealt with in an earlier meeting and the placement of a strict deadline before having a clear picture of budgets placed a too greater burden against the uncertainty.