What does our local democracy look like?
We all have some contact with ‘the Council’ and here is a summary of who does what and how it works.
Kent County Council – is the elected strategic authority for Kent – except Medway which is a unitary authority – it has the broad power under the Local Government Act 2000 to promote and improve the social economic and environmental well-being of the area and has responsibility for providing a range of services, including education, social care, highways and transportation, libraries, children’s services and developing the economy and skills of the county. The services are funded by central government and Council tax and external funding such as EU funds.
If you read the papers that come with your Council Tax Bill, you will find that the lion’s share – almost 70% goes to the KCC, including the Adult Social Care precept – with 10% going to both Swale Borough Council and the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner – the remaining 10% is split between Faversham Town Council and Kent Fire and Rescue.
There are 81 Kent Councillors. Faversham has just one for the four town wards, currently Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat, and another Andrew Bowles, Tory (who is also Leader of Swale Borough Council), who represents the rural part of Swale East, which includes Boughton. Elections are every four years. Currently a large Tory majority. It runs on a cabinet system i.e. Portfolio holders responsible for a service, led by the Leader, Paul Carter.
Swale Borough Council – is the district authority and its area covers Newington, Isle of Sheppey, Sittingbourne, Teynham, Faversham, Boughton, Selling, Seasalter and all other rural areas between. It has the responsibility for providing local services – rubbish collection, housing, parks and play areas, leisure, sport and tourism promotion, community services, collection of all Council tax, car parks and parking violations, environmental health, and is the planning authority, responsible for developing the Local Plan for the Borough and for advising on and receiving planning applications, including any works in conservation areas which always require permission. It has the power to enforce planning conditions when not met. Swale also has responsibility for running all the elections including parliamentary, European and parish council ones, and ensuring the lists of registered voters is up to date.
Swale also works on a Cabinet system, led by Andrew Bowles, with all decisions made by the Cabinet. With a Tory majority, the opposition currently comprises two Independents, Labour and UKIP members. The whole Council is up for election every four years (some Councils retire a third every year for three years). The next election is May 2019.
There are five Wards in Faversham and the surrounding villages:
- Abbey (2 seats)
- Boughton & Courteney (2 seats)
- Priory (1 seat)
- St Ann’s (2 seats)
- Watling (2 seats)
All seats, with the exception of Priory Ward, are currently held by Tory councillors. There are 47 Councillors in all on Swale Borough Council.
Faversham Town Council – is a Parish Council, which represents the four town Wards of Faversham, fourteen councillors in all – 4 for each of Abbey, St. Ann’s and Watling, and two for Priory Ward. Currently, 11 Tories, one Lib Dem and two Independents.
The next elections for the Town Council are in May 2019. A Mayor is elected every year in May and can serve up to two years. The Town Council has no statutory responsibilities, but can take over a service from Swale Borough Council, such as the allotments which it now runs. The Council meets every month and also regularly to consider current planning applications – although they have no planning powers they can comment, recommend refusal etc.
The Town Council runs on a committee basis – Finance and Policy, Heritage, Public Realm and Community Services. There is a Town Clerk, a deputy Town Clerk, finance officer, tourism officer and soon a business support officer and a town caretaker. It is funded through a precept, an amount added to Council Tax. For example a Band B property contributes £45 a year for 2018/9 – higher this year because of the purchase of 12 Market Place as new offices and a museum and gallery and additional staff.
The Council has small amounts of funding given out as grants to local organisations such as Christmas Lights, CAB. It owns Faversham Creek jetty and rents out berths to boat owners.