This report sets out the public questions received for this meeting.
Question A - Raza Griffiths of Chatham asked thePortfolio Holder for Front Line Services, Councillor Filmer, the following:
“Having a decent public transport system is the sign of a good, forward thinking city. At the moment the people of Medway get a terrible deal from its main bus provider Arriva. It is critically important to:
Could the Portfolio Holder explain what powers, if any, the Council currently has to ensure that bus companies, which provide an essential service, are delivering an adequate service?”
Councillor Filmer thanked Mr Griffiths for the question. He said that most bus routes in Medway were operated commercially and that the Council did not have direct powers over the companies that ran them. Where the Council provided a subsidy for a bus route to operate, the contract with the operator was a way of ensuring a good quality service was provided.
The Council also had an Enhanced Partnership agreement with bus operators, which saw joint working to ensure Medway residents had access to good quality bus services and information. Feedback about bus services across Medway was welcome and issues raised and what improvements could be made would be discussed with bus companies at regular engagement meetings. Arriva had recently announced that they now had five new Euro 6 buses operating at the Gillingham depot and that these would operate on the 145 and 164 routes.
Question B - Simon Buckingham of Chatham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Growth and Regulation, Councillor Chitty:
“I am aware of the actions of a specific private company going around with a Council logo on their uniform using, what some may consider to be "bully boy tactics". I have been assisting an elderly resident who has been unfairly fined by this organisation.
Does the Portfolio Holder accept that the tactics of District Enforcement, when they are not hanging out at the private Medway Motorway Services fining individuals, are likely to reduce people wanting to go to town centres?”
Question C - Damola Animashaun of Chatham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Resources, Councillor Gulvin:
“I want Chatham Town Centre to succeed. I’m very concerned to hear service charges for those businesses in the Pentagon are increasing by more than double inflation. This follows the previous year’s increase also being well above inflation.
What does the Portfolio Holder say to a business considering moving out of the Pentagon due to this increase?”
Question D - Caroline McGrath of Chatham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, Councillor Filmer:
“Every other road in Medway has potholes. I drive down these roads trying to avoid the big potholes and to try and avoid damage to my vehicle.
When is Medway Council going to address all these potholes?”
Question E - Paul Everitt of Chatham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Adults’ Services, Councillor Brake:
“Why isn’t more being done with Medway Maritime Hospital?
Building more apartments more flats and houses, population growth getting bigger, but the hospital hasn’t changed that much. Most of the hospital was built in the 1900s.
The people of Medway deserve an up to date hospital.”
Question F - Julian Sutton, on behalf of the Medway Green Party, submitted the following to thePortfolio Holder for Children’s Services (Lead Member), Councillor Mrs Josie Iles:
“Hoo Village, and indeed much of the rest of the peninsula, has suffered from the distressing effects of noisy and speeding motorbikes, quad bikes and cars for some years. It is easy to blame the youngsters for these problems, but what else is being offered for their recreational activities!
It is obvious that the quality of life for many peninsula residents is seriously affected by this anti-social behaviour. The noise of the motorbikes (some without licence plates or the rider not wearing a helmet) is deafening. This behaviour also makes the peninsula less safe and reduces the quality of peninsula residents’ lives.
It is a bigger problem than the Police can or wishes to deal with on its own. It will take a multi-faceted approach and, whilst we may wish for it to be, it is unlikely to be solved over-night. It will take investing in a long term coordinated plan to engage with the young population of the peninsula.
It is hoped that the Council has directed increased funding to Youth Workers and clubs to engage with the youngsters over recent years and that facilities are being planned to be constructed, ahead of further house building.
Therefore, what measures are the Council employing to engage with the young peninsula population, such as clubs and recreational activities?
If we do not change what we are doing, the problem will not go away.”
Question G – Kevin Fowle of Chatham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Business Management, Councillor Hackwell:
“Can I request that the Weedswood part of my King George Road address be removed and the original Walderslade historical designation and the title deeds be reinstated. My property and those of a lot of King George Road from Walderslade Road to Brake Avenue existed long before the construction in the 1950’s of the Weedswood council estate. It and Wayfield are distinct areas, built as social housing.”
Question H – Peter Bonney of Strood submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, Councillor Filmer:
“According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation the area of Central Strood bounded by the A2, Gordon Road and B2002, has at least twice the acceptable levels of pollution by Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM2). This is caused by excessive traffic, especially when it is standing still or very slow moving.
The A2 is not coping with the heavy weight of traffic heading towards the Bridge and so it constantly comes to a standstill. This is mostly caused by the totally inadequate crossroads at Gun Lane which needs a complete redesign.
Building huge numbers of flats and houses in Rochester along Corporation Street, Rochester Riverside and recently announced plans for more at Bardell Wharf can only be exacerbating the problem.
The heavily polluted area in Strood concerns houses, three junior schools, four infant schools, three nurseries and two large old people’s homes all of whom are particularly susceptible to these pollutants and, incidentally, the schools are partly responsible for the high traffic levels in the area with the twice daily school run causing traffic jams and appalling driving behaviour within the residential area.
A residents’ traffic survey carried out in 2019 highlighted the rat running problem and a petition was handed in to solve the problem but despite this nothing has happened. A 20mph speed limit was deemed unnecessary.
Let me restate the fact that, according to the World Health Organisation, the area has pollution which is at least twice as high as the acceptable level of traffic-based pollution. The area is overwhelmed by rat running through a street network, which is totally inadequate for that sort of traffic level. The traffic is the source of the pollution.
What does the Council intend to do to correct the problem?”
Question I – Stuart Bourne of Rainham asked the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, Councillor Doe, the following:
“On 21st July 2022 I asked a question to Councillor Doe at a Council meeting regarding the 13,842 trees that were planted and how many were currently still alive. Councillor Doe failed to answer the question because he said ‘a full assessment has not been completed’. It is now nearly 6 months later. What is the current status of the assessment and the trees?”
Councillor Doe thanked Mr Bourne for the question. He said that a full survey was due to be completed in March and April 2023. This was the most appropriate time to undertake it as the trees would have started to leaf again. Survey results would be made available once it had been completed.
Question J - Vivienne Parker of Chatham asked thePortfolio Holder for Front Line Services, Councillor Filmer, the following:
“I note the amount of waste being deposited from the Kent County Council area at our household waste recycling centres.
Are Medway Council charging Kent County Council for this?”
Councillor Filmer thanked Ms Parker for the question. He said that Kent County Council (KCC) did pay Medway Council for waste deposited from its area. The charge was based on the actual number of KCC users as measured by Medway’s booking system.
Question K - Stuart Bourne, on behalf of Medway Liberal Democrats, asked the Deputy Leader andPortfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, Councillor Doe, the following:
“The cost of living crisis and record increases in people’s energy bills are forcing many people in Medway into having to choose whether to heat their homes or put food on the table. Many inspiring organisations, charities and churches across Medway are opening their doors as warm banks to help those in need. We would like to thank them all for their kind generosity in this time of economic crisis.
What is the Council doing to coordinate these efforts to ensure that there is a warm bank in every part of Medway and that people are made aware of them?”
Councillor Doe thanked Mr Bourne for the question and extended the Council’s thanks to the wide range of organisations in the community who continued to support vulnerable people. There were some excellent local organisations who supported residents in relation to a number of issues, including the cost of living.
Councillor Doe gave a new example of how the Council was supporting community organisations through the issuing of small grants to organisations who chose to be listed on the Warm Welcome website. He advised that the Warm Welcome scheme was a national initiative that Medway Council was backing. It was hoped that the grant would pay any extra heating and utility costs that the relevant organisation may incur and allow them to open to residents who wanted to access a Warm Welcome space.
Having a single website that multiple partners could promote should also mean that more residents would be aware of where they could go to find a warm space.
Question L - John Castle of Chatham asked thePortfolio Holder for Business Management, Councillor Hackwell, the following:
“Flood warnings are currently not issued directly by Medway Council, instead relying on third parties to issue such warnings.
Given the frequency of flood warnings within Medway Council, especially the riverside communities, would the Council commit to publicising flood warnings affecting Medway?”
Councillor Hackwell thanked Mr Castle for the question. He said that the Environment Agency had the remit to warn and inform of any tidal flooding event. The Agency maintained the expertise and were resourced to carry this out.
For any significant potential flooding events, the Council guided residents to the Alerts and Warnings provided by the Environment Agency via the Council’s social media channels and website.
Any residents who wished to sign up for flood warnings and alerts could do so at www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings or by calling 0345 988 1188.
Question M - Alan Collins-Rosell of Gillingham asked the Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, Councillor Doe, the following:
“Many people I've spoken to in Rainham are suffering greatly under the cost of living crisis. With skyrocketing energy bills, many are switching off their heating to save what little money they have.
I've already seen some great charities and churches, like St Margaret's Church in Rainham, open their doors and act as warm banks for people in need. But they can only do so much. One suggestion to assist people in need is to use the empty spaces in the Healthy Living Centre in Rainham as a warm bank, now that the cafe isn't operating, to act as a place for people to keep warm, recharge their phones or find out how they can be financially supported.
Does the Council have any plans to work with people at the Healthy Living Centre to implement this, or, if not, is there an alternative location being planned?”
Councillor Doe thanked Mr Collins-Rosell for the question. He agreed that there were some excellent charities and faith settings that offered excellent support to people during what was a difficult financial period for many residents.
Councillor Doe extended the Council’s thanks to these organisations supporting people. The Council was not currently undertaking discussions with Rainham Healthy Living Centre, partly due to the different types of pressures that NHS and care settings were facing during winter months.
The Council was working in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including charitable and voluntary organisations. It had recently started to contact all voluntary and community sector groups to inform them of a new small grant scheme launched by the Council. It was hoped that this initiative would provide the necessary financial assistance for organisations to become Warm Welcome sites and be listed on the national Warm Welcome website.
Medway Council and its partners were promoting this website and it was hoped that residents who needed it would access this service.
Question N – Nina Gurung of Gillingham submitted the following to the Portfolio Holder for Resources, Councillor Gulvin:
“I know from speaking to local residents they are concerned about community safety. There is reported consultation to reduce overall numbers of uniformed personnel on the streets of Medway.
Does the Portfolio Holder believe that consulting on having less uniformed personnel on the streets will make local people feel more safe?”
Question O – Alan Stockey of Rainham asked the Deputy Leader andPortfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, Councillor Doe, the following:
“Medway Council recently responded to questions put by the Medway Environmental Action Network (MEAN) concerning the Council's progress in engaging and influencing its primary contractors, key partners and Joint Ventures with regards to their combined carbon emission reductions across Medway.
If as has been stated, the Council's own carbon footprint is assessed as being 1.4% of the Medway total footprint, can the Council please provide a breakdown of the residual (98.6%) footprint, specifically illustrating their top 10 specific influence priorities in terms of their primary contractors, key partners and joint ventures?
We assume that this will be based upon the Council's assessment of carbon emissions incurred in delivery of services to Medway, unless an alternative method has been used to prioritise it.”
Councillor Doe thanked Mr Stockey for the question. He said that the Council’s 2018/19 carbon footprint had been assessed as being 1.4% of Medway’s total footprint. The methodology for this calculation was described in the Council’s 2021 Climate Change Action Plan, which was available on the Council website.
Based on this methodology, the Council had not used the “residual footprint” to identify the top ten specific influence priorities. Instead, it was undertaking an assessment of the Council’s Scope 3 emissions and would use this approach to inform further actions and projects to reduce emissions more widely across Medway.
A 6-month work placement student from the University of Kent had been appointed to support this action and part of the work would include setting out options for a preferred calculation and reporting methodology. The Council was also working with the Kent Climate Change Network to identify best practice and share learning.
Question P - Bryan Fowler of Chatham asked thePortfolio Holder for Inward Investment, Strategic Regeneration and Partnerships, Councillor Rodney Chambers OBE, the following:
“We are seeing the effects of Permitted Development Rights legislation being used for building projects in Medway. Planning Committee Councillors have expressed their dismay at how this bypasses consideration by this Committee.
As Portfolio Holder for Strategic Regeneration, can you explain what Medway Council is doing to reduce the harm being caused by Permitted Development Rights?”
Responding on behalf of Councillor Chambers, the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Growth and Regulation, Councillor Chitty, thanked Mr Fowler for the question. She said that she shared Mr Fowler’s concerns regarding the use of the permitted development route. The Council had, over many years, consistently expressed concerns to Government and through responses to consultations.
Council officers had raised the issue through their professional channels to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the various professional institutes. Assurance had been provided by local MPs that they understood and agreed with the concerns expressed and examples had been provided to demonstrate the harm caused by the use of Permitted Development Rights.
Councillor Chitty said that, in response, there been some strengthening of the Permitted Development Rights criteria and the considerations that must be applied to such proposals, but that she did not consider this to have gone far enough.
Following recent comments made by the Secretary of State on ensuring the quality of development, the issue would be raised again with the MPs and in a meeting that was due to take place shortly between the Portfolio Holder and the Chief Planner from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Note: As Mr Buckingham, Miss Animashaun, Ms McGrath, Mr Everitt, Mr Sutton, Mr Fowle, Mr Bonney and Ms Gurung were not present at the meeting, the Mayor stated that they would receive written responses to their questions, 7B, 7C, 7D, 7E, 7F, 7G, 7H and, 7N respectively, in accordance with Council Rule 8.6.