Lib Dems call for furlough extension as 7.2% of people claim Universal Credit in Sittingbourne and Sheppey

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.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak

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.”

Cllr Ben J Martin appearing on Victoria Derbyshire

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Swale Lib Dems speak out against planning changes

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."

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Homelessness ‘will soar without support service’ report warns

A New report by the Salvation Army is calling on the Government to fund homelessness support services properly in this autumns comprehensive spending review (CSR).

Without this, it warns that homelessness will soar, and that families will be forced into expensive and unsuitable accommodation, as councils struggle to manage rising homelessness levels.

Rough sleeper in doorway

The charity’s report, “Future-proof the roof” sets out a range of solutions to sustain the progress made in recent months in helping rough sleepers off the streets. It says that temporary accommodation cost councils nearly £1 billion last year.

Swale Borough Council Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Ben J Martin (Lib Dem) said “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the significant challenges councils already faced supporting homeless people. Despite significantly increasing Swale’s budget for Temporary Accommodation for this year and introducing a homelessness prevention team we are already seeing increasing pressure on the budget. In the short term, to prevent any immediate rise in homelessness, the government needs to bring forward its pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’ which would help reduce the number of people being evicted. The Government must also commit to ensuring that Local Housing Allowance Rates (LHA) can fully cover the cost of average local private rents.”

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Swale Lib Dem Leader raises concerns over planned shake up of councils by Government

Swale Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Ben J Martin has joined Lib Dem Group leaders from across the country to write to the Secretary of State for housing communities and local government, Robert Jenrick MP raising concerns about the Government’s up coming white paper on Devolution and Recovery, due to be published in September. The letter signed by Council Leaders and Senior Councillors from 28 authorities sets out a number of key concerns.


In July Minister of State, Simon Clarke said that the paper would include “creating more elected Mayors in England, giving them and existing Mayors the powers they need to lead economic recovery and long term growth, and more unitary local authorities.”

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Lib Dem Councillors Secure Roundabout Improvements

Roundabouts installed on the A251 Ashford road and B2045 Western Link Road as part of the Perry Court and Davington Fields developments are to be improved following a request from Swale’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Ben J Martin (Lib Dem) and Faversham’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Trevor Martin (Lib Dem). The roundabouts, which have come in for much criticism since being installed due to HGVs regularly over running kerbs, were approved as part of the planning applications approved under the previous Conservative controlled council.

Cllr Ben J Martin at Perry Court roundabout

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Faversham Liberal Democrat councillor Eddie Thomas secures £6,000 grant towards new boiler for Faversham Strike Force Football Club

Faversham Liberal Democrat councillor Eddie Thomas has secured a £6,000 grant towards a new boiler for Faversham Strike Force Football Club


Players at Faversham Strike Force Football Club could soon have a new LPG boiler thanks to £6,000 grant from Swale Borough Council.

The club, which uses the club house and changing facilities at King George V Recreation Ground in Faversham, will have reliable hot water and heating once the new boiler has been installed.

The new, energy-efficient LPG boiler will replace the current electric convection system, which is unreliable, expensive to run and extremely inefficient.

The new system will deliver 97 per cent energy and cost efficiencies, making it more reliable for those who are using it, cheaper for the club to run and better for the environment. 

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COVID-19 Update 6/4/20

As of 9am 6 April, 252,958 tests have concluded, with 13,069 tests carried out on 5 April (this does not include data for Northern Ireland). Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

208,837 people have been tested, of whom 51,608 tested positive. There have been 793 confirmed cases in Kent and 153 in Medway.

As of 5pm on 5 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 5,373 have died.

There are many support groups being rolled out across our area. Council's at all levels are working together to coordinate, cooperate and facilitate help for those in our community that need it. 

In Faversham the Town Council has set up a helpline for residents. 




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COVID-19 What you need to do

COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus poses a significant threat to health. Government and expert advice is evolving day by day. It is important to take government advice seriously. 

There are varying levels of advice for different groups. Shielding for the most vulnerable. Self-isolation for those with symptoms, Household-isolation for those living with someone with symptoms, strong social-distancing for vulnerable groups and social distancing for the whole population. 

Information is available from Swale Borough Council, Swale Means Business, Kent County Council, Faversham Town Council and Central Government

please note details in this article are correct at time of publication and may have changed.

9pm update

people are only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household;
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

That’s all - these are the only reasons you should leave your home.

You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No.

You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.


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COVID-19 update

As the country deals with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we face many challenges. I'm sure we all agree that now is not the time for party politics, but is the time for all of us to come together to do what's best to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to protect each other from infection. the following information has been sent to all our email subscribers.

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Swale Elects new Mayoral team for 2020-21

Swale Borough Council elected its new Mayoral team at it's annual budget meeting on 26th Feb. 

In a break with recent tradition the Council opted not to elected current Deputy Mayor Cllr Roger Clerk to the Mayoralty, instead electing Swale Independent Alliance Councillor Paul Stephen (Woodstock Ward) to be Mayor for the next civic year.


Mayor-elect Cllr Paul Stephen            Deputy Mayor-elect Cllr Ben A Martin

Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben A Martin (Priory Ward) was elected unopposed to be the Deputy Mayor, following nominations speeches by fellow Lib Dem Councillors Ben J Martin (Watling Ward) and Denise Knights (Abbey Ward). 

Deputy Mayor-elect Cllr Ben A Martin said "I’m really excited about this new role. I hope to use my new role to help develop strong links and bonds throughout the borough." 

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