Christmas and New Year Message from our Borough Councillor.

Hollingbourne Parish Council has received the following message from our Maidstone Borough Councillor, Patrik Garten. Please read more for further information.

This month I am pleased to pronounce two big hurrays:

1) Days will get longer and owners of solar panels will soon start to produce electricity again! Yes, I know, they also work in December but, in fairness, the electricity they generate at the moment is laughable. A six panel array produces less than three hot cups of tea per day. However, if you are intending to install solar panels and receive money for your produced electricity (there will be lots in the summer), you’ll have to pull up your socks: The so called feed-in tariff is only available to installations which are completed before 31 March 2019. On a positive note, solar panels have never been as cheap as they are right now.
2) Second Hurray: Maidstone’s new Strategic Plan has been approved! Finally! We dwindled the key points down to four! It almost reads like the 2012 Conservative Manifesto 🙂 NB: we are still the opposition party.
As I write, the MBC website has not been updated yet, but the plan can be found at: https://meetings.maidstone.gov.uk/documents/g2993/Public%20reports%20pack%2012th-Dec-2018%2018.30%20Council.pdf?T=10 (This is a 354 page document and comments about the Strategic Plan be found from page 186 onwards. Councillor Garten will talk about the Plan at the next Parish Council meeting on Monday 14th January 2019 at 7.30pm in the Cardwell Pavilion. All are welcome).

HOUSING
In 2004 MBC took the decision to relinquish all its housing stock and to contract out the provision of housing. That’s why most affordable housing is being provided by Golding Homes these days.
The Community and Housing Committee recently took an initial step to reintroduce council ownership of some housing. It is envisaged to secure £15m pa total over a 5 year period, to acquire new housing stock. This would be a co-investment between the Council and a Registered Provider, each providing funding of £7.5m per annum.
The target will be to achieve a 50% market share of the S106 affordable housing market in Maidstone.
It is early days yet and the resolution will still have to pass the Policy & Resources Committee, which holds financial responsibility as well as Full Council. However there seems strong support for this idea on both sides of the political spectrum.
I am rather sceptical, for now, and, so far, I voted against this proposal.
I appreciate that this is a difficult issue and I very much welcome your comments.
I am YOUR representative and I will take ALL opinions forward which reflect my ward’s community.

At the committee, I voted against this proposal, because this plan would reverse the 2004 council decision. While the local authority has a statutory duty to ensure adequate housing, currently the provision thereof is entirely in the hands of independent providers. The recent decision means that MBC will reassume the additional burden and cost of becoming a housing provider. Possible failures of commercial partners in this venture would negatively reflect on the Council and tarnish its reputation.
MBC’s involvement would only apply to new developments. MBC’s responsibility would no longer be clearly defined and confusion in the public perception may occur. Shortcomings of independent existing housing providers with old stock (eg Golding) may inadvertently also reflect on Maidstone’s reputation.
I would much rather prefer the promotion of Co-Op housing schemes within the Borough, where residents are in charge of their housing. Co-Ops are generally more efficient than any scheme by large providers whether independent or Local Authority owned.

RURAL EXCEPTION SITES

As part of this decision, but not necessarily reliant on it, a programme of engagement with Parish Councils will be commenced. The Council wants to gauge the appetite for bringing forward rural exception sites for affordable housing. These would be extra sites for affordable housing, which are not yet marked as development land in the local plan. I am aware that there is some desire amongst residents for more affordable housing in Hollingbourne. As I previously stated in my June newsletter, I am open to hear your thoughts on this.

AND FINALLY …..

Let me wish you a Happy Christmas and may 2019 bring us lots of good health – and wise politicians, locally and especially nationally.

PATRIK GARTEN
MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward

Email: patrikgarten@maidstone.gov.uk
Phone: 01622-807907

Pictured below is Councillor Garten with local MP Mrs Helen Whately.

Local MP Helen Whately pictured with MBC Borough Councillor Patrik Garten.