News

New asylum rules could cost Kent £4m....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 11, 2003 - 06:17 AM

A proposed change in the way unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Kent are supported could result in a £4million bill for the County Council.

KCC currently supports 2100 unaccompanied minors, children under 18 who have arrived to claim asylum without parents or guardians, the highest number of any county in the country.

The costs of providing support and accommodation have, in the past, been reclaimed from the Home Office but this arrangement is set to change under proposed new rules, a meeting of KCC’s Cabinet heard today.

From April, the County Council will no longer be able to reclaim these costs for young people aged 16 and 17 who are given Exceptional or Indefinite Leave to Remain. Instead KCC will be given 8 weeks to place the youngsters on benefits and move them into privately rented accommodation, if the changes go ahead.

Kent County Council’s Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “Kent has 2100 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and we have repeatedly told the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) that there is a problem with moving these young people on.

“We are already still supporting 180 young people who have turned 18 and should have been transferred to NASS. The new rules, if implemented, would add another 500 onto that figure.�

Sir Sandy added: “We estimate that to support these young people would cost the County Council in excess of £4million for this coming year. The alternative would be to evict large numbers of young people, leaving them destitute and homeless.

“Frankly NASS is in chaos and the sudden change in grant reclaim rules would simply add further confusion.�

Kent County Council is seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Office to discuss the proposed changes.

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Public meeting call, over Community Centre...11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:41 PM

It is a concern that this long awaited community hall should now be traded off before we have used it yet and one part turned into a church.

The village should be asked formally to approve this in a public meeting and the Hawkinge Parish Council is answerable to the residents.

This is all our village and we should be given the chance to have our say.

Only in a public meeting can we be heard by the Hawkinge Parish Council.

Set a Date Now?

Comment in the poll...name withheld

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Let all villagers benefit equally....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:30 PM

Your poll on the church in the village hall had a good response, mainly against the idea but with some saying 'what does it matter?

' It matters because it is public funds paying for the hall from which it may be assumed that all users should have equal use at equal cost.

The Parish Council want the Church because they have messed up the budget and need a lump sum from the church who will then pay a 'peppercorn' rent.

Running costs of the hall are going to be high (particularly heating), so will be costs to users unless it is subsidised by tax payers.

I welcome the church, if that's what they want BUT on an identical use in contract to every other user.

Peter Hogben

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Is it legal for the Community Centre to become a church?....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:15 PM

Has anybody checked the legality of the new Hawkinge Community Centre becoming a church?

It has been suggested that the way the building has been funded precludes it from being used as a place of worship.

Personally I have no real gripes about the meeting rooms being used by any particular groups (within reason, perhaps not Al Quaeda or the BNP) but surely this constitutes a change of use.

I have been to several public meetings about this particular project but until I saw a story on this website about Hawkinge Baptist Church moving to this site I had no idea that the Parish Council were making such decisions.

Surely the villagers ought to consulted or is this just a money making scheme for the Parish Council? What other deals will be revealed in the future? I'm sure that the Parish Council will attempt to reassure us that they only have our best interests at heart - they will probably suggest that they are just trying to secure a regular usage for the building but could they be honest enough to tell us how much this deal is worth and how the price of a lease compares to the price of a new church?

Is this good value for money? Will this deal have any impact on the other uses for the building i.e. the use of a bar with an alcohol licence for social events etc?

I would like to think that the Parish Council have already sought legal advice on this issue as any breach of terms might preclude us from seeking further funding in the future.

Nigel Best

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Church in the Community Centre....an open letter from Peter Hogben...10 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:10 PM

Dear Cllr Smith

You will recall that I wrote to you raising questions as to the legality and logicality of the Parish Council's (P.C.) decision to grant exclusive rights to a potential user of the new village hall. I requested detail of the district coundl's involvement in this decision, (also copied to you a letter to the chairman of the P.C. informing him of my official complaint to the P.C.

I would like to explain my reasoning for concern which I would request each member of the P.C. be made aware of preferably by copy of this letter.

I have found it very difficult to obtain information about this issue and totally accept that if any point I make is incorrect I will be pleased to be corrected. I found information about the granting of a lease via the Hawkinge Gazette web pages. I could not find reference to the P.C's decision (resolution) in the official listing of minutes published on the P.Cs. own web site.

On this site a letter from a Mr Johns was published which claimed to be on behalf ot the P.C. It attempted to explain reasoning behind the purpose of the building emphasising that the hall was a community facility This was dated, I believe, 8 May 2002. I am unable to find any amendment to the letter whereby commercial contracts would be allowed for and provided by and entered into by the P.C. to allow favourable use to any minority group of potential users of the hall under a long term lease for whatever reason.

On 3 Feb 03, I requested of a parish councillor the reason for the decision to grant preferential terms to one potential hall user. I was told "It is simply for the money" further asked if it had been considered that the new user may expect the minimal noise during services which would limit somewhat other use of the hall during church use and was told the hall is soundproof.

I consider the granting of exclusive use to one user by a long term contract unnecessary as use could be given on the same basis as to any other user. If a church considers a community hall is suitable for religious services taking place so be it but it should be on the same basis of use in contract as for any other user accepting that one part of the hall could have an aspect of exclusivity given to it due to the nature of its function and tie need to decorate in a specific manner. Other halls within Shepway are used on similar basis without long term leases.

If this is the case a serious deficiency in budgeting methods and monitoring is exposed. Further, it would appear that vast sums have been paid to architects and other professional bodies which raises the question as to why was this if a budget shortfall was predicted. Residents may have expected competitive tendering by all professionals involved to be on a basis of one fee for the whole project the total of which should have been known at the onset and included at contract signing stage to ensure budgeting control by the P.C. There is no acceptable reason for budget overrun if that is the case

My reasons for my complaint are as follows.

1 The village hall is paid for by public funds raised by various means. It is all public funds. Shepway District Council have overall control of the total. The funds should be used on a basis of equal value for every member of the residency area to which the hall is to be made available.

2 If a standard lease is to be provided by the P.C. it will contain a requirement that the landlord (P.C.) ensure terms to the effect of 'peaceful enjoyment' being granted to the tenant. A church may reasonably expect a minimum of noise whilst it uses the hall and this will lead to conflict at some stage if activity of any other user makes noise. (The building, I am now assured, cannot be made soundproof in any of its areas.)

3 If a contract (lease) is made between the P.C. and a lease holder it is doubtful that it would be acceptable that any member of the P.C. may serve on any management committee or trustee group connected to the hall as various conflict of interest issues could arise. That will diminish some control by future Parish Councils

4 Other potential users of the hall will be charged an economic amount for use which within the years ahead will have to be set on an, at least, break even basis, whilst the proposed lease holders are to be charged a 'peppercorn' rent. A Parish Council is not mandated to make such unfair arrangements to the financial detriment of the majority of users for generations ahead however much money is placed "up front as values of such amounts change. Future Parish Councils will be placed in an intolerable position.

5 The matter has become topical in the village with comment to the detriment of the proposal. A poll conducted by the web based Hawkinge Gazette shows a considerable vote against the hall being used as a church.

I believe the decision to grant the proposed lease is based on purely a money gaining method to balance the budget at the expense of all logic for the present and very much for the future. I suspect that a minimum number of councillors have led the council to this position and that it requires considerable more thought and discussion by all council members concerned on all aspects of the issue following a request for advice from Shepway District Council's solicitor.

Yours sincerely

P.F.Hogben

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80,000 new homes legal battle ruled out by KCC....10 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 11:39 AM

Kent County Council’s Cabinet was told today it could not legally challenge the scale of new housing outlined by the Government in its sustainable communities plan.

The Cabinet, having heard from the County Solicitor that a legal challenge was not feasible, instead demanded that the new housing should avoid green field sites wherever possible and be backed by the highest quality infrastructure – including proper road and rail improvements, new schools, community centres and health provision. The cost of the proper community backup must be met nationally.

Council Leader, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said: “We are deeply concerned about the imposition of 80,000 new homes – equal to a town the size of Swindon or Reading - on the County and the impact this could have on the Garden of England.�

Sir Sandy said: “We want the Government to be absolutely clear that before any of the new housing can start, the County Council will need cast iron guarantees of substantial new infrastructure funding across Kent.

“This must include commitments across Government departments, backed by the Treasury, for all the funding for new schools, roads, public transport, health, sports, leisure and community facilities of the very highest quality.

“The level of development set out by the Government will also mean that existing town centres will need high levels of new investment.

“We are adamant that there is no way that Kent can take new housing until Kent’s existing road and rail services are dramatically improved.

“New housing must go hand in hand with new jobs and we will be demanding substantial funds to support the growth of our existing Kent businesses, and for financial incentives for Kent residents to start new companies, as well as for inward investment. The County Council is not, and never will be, in the business of helping to create dormitory towns. We will need to be fully satisfied on all our demands before we give support to start any building.

“Today, our Cabinet reluctantly agreed to accept the instruction of our lawyers that we must put aside a legal challenge. We also agreed to set out clearly exactly what Kent County Council will require to give its support to the new housing. Not only will this include prior guarantees of funding before the new housing is built, but we will also be insisting on the absolute maximum use of brown land – previously developed – to protect our countryside.�

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More money for top local schools...10 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 11:18 AM

Five Kent secondary schools including one from Shepway and another from Dover have been awarded the prestigious specialist school status.

he news, announced today (10 February) by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) means that each school will receive additional government funding over the next four years.

Pent Valley High School, Folkestone will specialise in technology and St Edmund’s Catholic School, Dover, will specialise in arts.

The other Kent schools, Invicta Grammar School, Maidstone, will specialise in business and enterprise;St Simon Stock RC Comprehensive School, Maidstone, will specialise in technology; and Swadelands School, Maidstone, has been awarded specialist sports status.

KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education Standards and Pupil Services, Paul Carter said: �We are extremely pleased that these schools have succeeded in their bids for specialist school status – very few schools are chosen each year. The extra resources that come with this status will not only help to raise standards further at these schools, but will benefit hundreds of pupils from other local schools too.�

Headteacher of St Edmund’s Catholic School in Dover, Chris Atkin added: “I am absolutely delighted. This is the result for which we have all been praying. It is very much a tribute to all the hard work, commitment and faith of the staff, parents, students and Governors alike.

St Edmund’s will now play a major part in the cultural development of the community as well as continuing to provide a Christ-centred first class education for its students.“

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Folkestone's decline... 9 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 09, 2003 - 03:21 PM

This a very interesting article published on the BBC website in August 2001.

It has kindly been brought to our notice by Gazette reader Jenny Barraclough.

Click here .....and enjoy!


Rail link powers up....8 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 08, 2003 - 03:12 PM

The power system which will carry Britain’s first high-speed trains across Kent is about to be switched on for the first time.

From Saturday night (00.01hours Sunday February 9), 25,000 volts will be running through the overhead wires which will power trains along CTRL Section 1, the 46 miles of new railway between Fawkham Junction (near Swanley in Kent) and the Channel Tunnel complex at Cheriton.

Chris Jago, Managing Director of CTRL client Union Railways South, said: “As planned we will turn on the power on Section 1 of CTRL this weekend and it is imperative that for their own safety no-one tries to get onto our railway".

“From the early hours of Sunday there will be 25,000 volts running through the overhead wires and soon we will be testing Eurostar trains at up to 186mph on the line. Anybody who tries to penetrate our security is risking their life.

Section 1 of CTRL is now 92% complete, on budget and set to open as planned later this year. The major civil engineering works for Section 2, the 24 miles between Southfleet in north Kent and St Pancras in central London, began in July 2001 and are now over 35% complete.

When complete in 2007, the £5.2 billion CTRL will halve journey times from central London to the Channel Tunnel. The CTRL will also provide for Kent commuters to benefit from new high-speed domestic services to London and back and will create three new international stations at St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Stratford, in addition to connecting with the existing Ashford International.

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Shepway to get share of £5m....7 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 07, 2003 - 11:48 AM

A new scheme, Countryside Communities, run by the Community Fund and the Countryside Agency, will soon provide more than £5million for Dover and Shepway.

The first Kent and Medway Lottery Conference heard earlier this week that Projects across the south east have already attracted £750 million of lottery funding, with more to follow.

The Heritage Lottery Fund alone offers various grants to involve young people in their heritage and groups looking after local landmarks and culture, restoring historic parks and gardens, preserving churches and regenerating historic town centres.

Opening the conference at Ashford International Hotel, KCC Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart told more than 200 delegates that good partnership working was the key to unlocking these funds.

He said the County Council spends £13 million a year with voluntary groups, and encourages 11,000 volunteers to tackle some of the social challenges in the county’s less well off areas. “We will only be able to tackle these challenges if we work in partnership with the public, voluntary and community sector in the interests of the whole of Kent.

“External funding is the key because our core budgets are getting tighter. At the moment twice as much lottery funding goes to the north than to the south. We all need to get our act together.�

Voluntary and community groups can get help and advice with applying for funds from KCC’s External Funding Unit, County Hall, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XQ, telephone (01622) 694055, email colin.maclean@kent.gov.uk.

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