Today at Kent County Council’s 2021 budget meeting, Kent Liberal Democrats, who are the largest opposition group, challenged the fairness of the council tax system and called for council tax to be abolished.
Our amendment called for the council to write to the government to ask for council tax to be reviewed and an alternative system used.
It was proposed by Faversham councillor Antony Hook.
Council Tax is an unfair system that takes no account of ability to pay and based on bands that are considered arbitrary.
Swale Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Ben J Martin has sent an open letter to Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Helen Whately & Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson raising concerns regarding new immigration rules and their effect on Rough Sleepers.
New rules, introduced on December 1st 2020, make rough sleeping grounds for removal for non-UK nationals. 141 charities, lawyers and local authorities have already written to the Home Office.
In the Open Letter to the local MPs, Cllr Ben J Martin says “In order to support rough sleepers to get off the streets and to start new lives, charities and local authorities first have to build trust and rapport with the rough sleepers. This can take months of work and relationship building. It requires rough sleeper outreach workers to break down the barriers many rough sleepers have built to protect themselves, alleviating fears and offering hope. These new rules are a retrograde step, which will further strengthen the feeling of fear and suspicion of authority within the rough sleeping community.”
Cllr Martin asks that the MPs contact the Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick asking them to “reconsider the policy”
Cllr Ben J Martin said, “I have worked closely with the rough sleeper team at Swale Borough Council, I have seen first hand how difficult it can be to get rough sleepers to trust people. This new policy will make it more difficult to build that trust and support people. Many Rough Sleepers don’t have any form of ID and thus it can be difficult for them to prove their nationality. I believe this policy will have severe consequences and will play into the hands of traffickers, while also making it more difficult for Local authorities to support rough sleepers to get off the streets and into accommodation.”
We want a working bridge over Faversham Creek that not only connects the two sides of the town by land, but also opens to allow boats to travel up the Creek to the basin.
This vision represents a big social and economic opportunity for the town including the creation of new jobs and businesses.
Like many local people, we are frustrated that this bridge is still awaited after 5 years of broken promises by Conservative-run Kent County Council and the government.
The Liberal Democrats are asking people across our community who care for relatives to get in touch and share their story – to mark national Carers Rights Day.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey has said he wants the party wants to be a "strong voice" for the millions across the country – including 9,850 people in Faversham & Mid Kent and 11, 274 people in Sittingbourne and Sheppey who care for those who need it.
Ed himself knows the burden put on carers for family members - having been a carer for his mum when growing up and now caring for his disabled son.
Carers can get in touch and share their experiences at www.libdems.org.uk/carerssurvey
Lib Dem County Councillor for Faversham Antony Hook said:
"Millions of people across the country act as unpaid carers for loved ones. This year has highlighted more than ever the issues many of them face."
"If you are a carer - or someone who receives regular care support from a relative of a friend - we want to hear from you. Please get in touch with us and share your story."
Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat councillor for Faversham, has asked ITV News to explain a statement that the Covid infection rate "in and around Faversham" is the second highest in the country.
The Swale Liberal Democrats have called on The MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, Helen Whately MP to this week vote in favour of safe and legal routes to sanctuary for vulnerable refugees.
In a letter to Helen Whately, Liberal Democrat Councillor Hannah Perkin argued that safe and legal routes are the best way to “combat people smuggling and human trafficking” and to prevent “dangerous attempts to cross the Channel.”
The votes come on Wednesday [04/11/2020] in an amendment to the Immigration Bill just days after four people, including children, tragically lost their lives trying to cross the Channel.
The Liberal Democrats, who are also urging the public to back their petition, want MPs to back proposals that would maintain the rights for refugees in Europe to be reunited with their families and ensure that unaccompanied child refugees can be resettled in the UK.
Swale borough Council’s cabinet has unanimously approved the formation of a new local housing company to provide affordable homes in Swale including a £23 million investment. The proposal, from Swale Liberal Democrat Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Ben J Martin, follows months of work by Cllr Martin, officers and cabinet colleagues.
In his introduction Cllr Martin noted that Swale was by no means the first council in the country to go down this route, siting the examples set by Liberal Democrat led councils in Portsmouth, Torbay and Maidstone, in addition to those in Brighton, Hastings and Bexley.
Cllr Ben J Martin said “I am delighted as this will enable us to directly intervene in the housing market. Swale Rainbow Homes will enable us to provide the much needed affordable housing in Swale, in a financially viable, environmentally friendly way. It should be seen as a key indicator of this council’s commitment to delivering increased numbers of quality affordable housing in the borough.”
Liberal Democrat Councillors Hannah Perkin, Eddie Thomas and Mayor of Faversham Alison Reynolds attended Faversham Recreation Ground last Friday evening to see for themselves the level of lighting on the Rec and the youth outreach work by the Pavilion that had recently started.
The youth outreach project, which received funding from Faversham Town Council, will be traveling to different parts of Faversham and the surrounding villages providing an array of facilities and activities for young people.
Cllr Hannah Perkin said, “after the recent incident at the Rec, we are taking residents concerns very seriously and want to ensure the Rec is safe and welcoming for everyone. The public footpath running from the 'long bridge' to the Pavilion, is now very well lit as is all around the Pavilion and that is where we met the youth outreach activity being held by 'the Benefice of Faversham Community mobile unit at their Little GEM trailer.' I've been told that the Police have increased their patrols monitoring the Rec, and since the summer have seen a reduction in anti social behaviour and crime.”
Faversham Mayor, Cllr Alison Reynold said "I am impressed with the range of facilities and activities the youth outreach project has been able to provide. Facilities for young people like youth clubs which use to be provided by the county council have been cut significantly over the years, and its important that we work with partners to ensure we support young people, and give them access to the same opportunities we had when we were younger."
The Liberal Democrats are calling for an extension of the Government’s furlough scheme until the jobs market is “ready to bounce back” in the wake of “staggering job losses” across the country.
With 7.2% of people in Sittingbourne and Sheppey and 5.3% of people in Faversham and Mid Kent now relying on Universal Credit, the Party claims that extending furlough would help “stop this crisis getting even worse” and protect jobs for the future.
Despite the Chancellor promising last month to do “whatever it takes” to support households and businesses through the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has so far failed to agree a plan beyond the end of the furlough scheme on 31 October.
The Liberal Democrats have also warned some of the worst hit are the country's self-employed workers, three million of which are still not covered by support. The Party has called for support to be extended and urged the public to join its campaign to protect jobs.
Cllr Ben J Martin, Liberal Democrat group leader at Swale Borough Council said:
“With so many families in crisis, the Government should be doing everything in its power to protect jobs in Swale and right across the country.
The fact that 5210 people in Sittingbourne and Sheppey and a further 3155 people in Faversham and Mid Kent are now relying Universal Credit shows exactly why the Chancellor must extend the furlough scheme, at least until the middle of next year.
Ministers need to act now to stop this crisis getting even worse and extend financial support for the millions of people currently excluded from the Government assistance.”
Local Liberal Democrat Councillors are horrified at the Conservative government’s proposals to increase their demands for more houses to be built in Faversham and Sittingbourne, and the failure of Helen Whately MP to condemn these crazy building plans.
The changes, detailed in the Conservative Government’s “Planning for the future” white paper and “Changes to the Current Planning System” document include moving to a zonal planning system, broadening the definition of what is consider a ‘small development’ and a new method for calculating local area housing targets.
Currently the government’s target for house building in Swale is 774 homes per year, very soon to increase to 1000 homes per year. This new Conservative proposal would increase the house building target even further to 1483 houses per year.
Swale Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Ben J Martin (Watling Ward) said “the Conservative's proposed new method for calculating housing targets is completely unacceptable. There is no way Swale can cope with such high numbers of new houses. If the proposal goes through, Swale would be forced to include every site put forward, in the local plan. The Zonal planning proposal would cut local input to the local planning system, as once an area is allocated, developers wouldn’t need to apply for detailed planning permission. That would give them free reign to build whatever they want, with no opportunity for local people to have their say. This is completely undemocratic. People should be able to have their say on planning matters, with decisions taken locally and not by unelected bureaucrats."