Annual Report 2020
Published: 01 June 2020
Due to the current Covid19 outbreak very few Parishes will be able to hold an Annual Parish Meeting for their residents. Under the Local Government Act such meetings should be held between the 1st March and the 1st June each year. Whilst we all pray that current restrictions may be lifted before the 1st June it appears unlikely.
Well done to Teynham Parish who held their Annual Parish Meeting on the 10th March before the restrictions on public meetings were in place. Unfortunately, despite the presence of most members of the Parish Council, the two Swale Borough Councillors Lloyd Bowen (Con) and Mike Whiting (Con) and myself as the County Councillor there were no members of the public in attendance.
My defeat in the Swale Borough Council Elections in May 2019 freed up many extra evenings. Consequently, I have been able to attend even more meetings of my 23 Parish Councils, indeed most weeks I attend one every evening Monday through to Thursday, often managing to get to two in the same evening.
Over the last year at County Hall I have continued to Chair the Regulation Committee. With its Panel meetings to hear Home to School Transport Appeals, footpath and village green creation and diversion applications etc it can easily take up a day a week. I have also chaired the Member Development Working Group and the Commissioning Advisory Board. The latter is a cross party back bench committee which reviews and comments on any new or changes to service contracts before they go to the Cabinet for decision.
I also sit on the Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee and on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Since March I have also joined the County Planning Committee.
Revisiting my monthly reports, it is obvious that two issues have dominated. Highways, flooding in particular but all highways maintenance issues being one. I hope the increase for this service in Kent County Council’s 2020/2021 Budget will help here.
The second issues which continues to annoy is that of litter and fly tipping. We all have a part to play on both issues, it is after all not the Council that litters fast food containers and coffee mugs along our hedgerows and verges. Also, you should all check that anyone paid to remove rubbish of any sort from your property has a valid Licence to do so. If it ends up illegally dumped the householder shares the legal responsibility unless you can prove you have checked that a licence is possessed.
Regarding highways, to prioritise the use of funds Kent Highways are encouraging all Parish Council’s to draw up and approve a Highways Improvement Plan. I am already engaged in working with Hernhill Parish Council, Sheldwich, Badlesmere and Leaveland Parish Council and Selling Parish Council (which I Chair) to get these approved by Kent Highways.
Traffic, especially on the rat runs between the A2 and the A20 affect many of my Parishes. Selling is also affected by rat runs between Faversham and Ashford and East Kent.
There are also many localised issues which I have been dealing with, the Solar Park at Graveney, Construction Work along Brogdale Road, Utilities work along the A2 at Teynham & Lynsted and Highways works associated with the Stones Farm development at Bapchild being amongst those which have taken up a lot of my time.
All of these alongside working with and for individual residents on School Admissions and Home to School Transport Appeals. Every week I get many calls regarding potholes, obstructed footpaths, etc although an increasing number of residents are discovering the speed and ease of reporting these directly online.
I am not sure whether when the current crisis is at an end Parishes will desire or be allowed to hold Annual Parish Meetings, in the meantime I am happy for this report to be shared with residents by any means remaining available.
All I can do is pray that we all keep well. I am looking forward to seeing you all again when we “come out on the other side” of the current outbreak.
Please feel free to contact me on:andrew.bowles @kent.gov.uk