Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Message from Your County Councillor – February, 2014

A Message from Your County Councillor – February, 2014
As many of you may be aware my wife Jo and I have just returned from our first proper foreign holiday for over 10 years.  We achieved what has always been a lifetime ambition for us both in visiting New Zealand.  After a few days in Auckland we cruised down the East Coast of New Zealand, through Fjordland, across to Tasmania, then Melbourne and finally Sydney where we spent a few days before flying home. A wonderful experience.
I am sure we are all thankful that despite the atrocious weather we have not, so far, in Swale East suffered as badly as other parts of Kent.  I realise this is little consultation to those people who have suffered damage to their houses or property.  I am also acutely aware that on the latest Kent Highways listing the only two roads in Swale closed due to flooding are both in my Division, Oversland between Selling and Boughton and Brickfield Lane in Boughton.  With ground water levels at or close to the surface and both these roads below the level of the adjacent fields there is no easy solution.  I have ensured the Highways Officers regularly visit and inspect both locations.  Officers have accepted that despite spending a lot of money at Oversland Bridge they will have to seek funding for a more expensive long term solution.  Brickfield Lane is one of several in the Division that badly needs pot holes repaired and more extensive surface works.  I am working closely with the Parish Councils to ensure these works are carried out when conditions allow and finance can be identified.
It seems wrong that we cannot maintain our Highways in a useable condition and the Chairman of the Environment Agency says we must choose between protecting Towns or Rural areas whilst at the same time we send Tax Payers money to Countries that can choose to afford major space exploration programmes.  Residents views welcome.
As I write this I am preparing for the Budget setting meetings at both County Hall on the 13th February and then Swale Borough Council on the 19th.  Current draft Budgets show a 1.99% increase from Kent County Council (and a similar amount form the Police and Crime Commissioner) and a zero increase from Swale Borough Council for what I think is either the fourth or fifth year in succession.
I am hoping later this year to again hold my Participatory Budgeting Meeting if there remains sufficient Officer Support to help run the day.  The total amount available to be spent in each County Division by local decision is set to be approximately halved this year. As Kent Highways will be charging a significant amount for design and administration on all Highways schemes I shall be seeking to encourage applications from voluntary groups, sports clubs, village hall committees and Parish Councils etc. for community projects rather than Highways Schemes.  I shall be writing further to Parish Councils on this subject after the Budget is finally agreed.
Since Christmas I have attended Parish Council Meetings at Dunkirk and Selling in January and Doddington at the beginning of February

Andrew Bowles

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