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Maidstone council's budget was approved, with amendments for the town centre, litter and housing from the Lib Dems

By Angela Cole

A Maidstone council budget strategy for the coming year, including a 1.99% council tax increase, was approved by councillors after a lengthy debate last night.

The Lib Dem group succeeded in getting three small amendments approved at the last minute by producing them at the vote at a full council meeting at the town hall.

They were agreed after a very long debate between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, which at one point prompted Labour’s Cllr Malcolm McKay to interject: “You’re in a coalition, you lot!”

Cllr Annabelle Blackmore: "We make the tough decisions."
Cllr Annabelle Blackmore: "We make the tough decisions."

The Lib Dem amendments included setting aside £50,000 from projected business rates growth for work on ideas to continue to regenerate Maidstone town centre and using half of any profit made from litter fines for awareness campaigns. They also wanted £40,000 be put towards new housing initiatives.

Some Conservatives argued that the amendments had been sprung on them and leader Annabelle Blackmore said they should have been presented at the cabinet meeting last week.

Maidstone town hall
Maidstone town hall

Others argued that the funding for litter awareness was already something which schools in the borough were working on.

But the Lib Dems said they were putting forward sensible suggestions.

Leader Fran Wilson said continuing to improve the town centre and having a plan towards providing its own housing were important priorities.

Cllr Denise Joy added: "We believe these are deliverable. If we didn't, we wouldn't have come forward with them."

Cllr Derek Butler (right)
Cllr Derek Butler (right)

Zena Cooke, director of regeneration and communities confirmed that the figures added up and that the budget presented to the council for approval would work with the additional proposals.

The meeting also saw the council tax for next year set. In 2015/16 a Band D council tax payer will pay £1,543.50 in total, of which £235.71 goes to the council. This year it was £1,513.36, of which the borough council’s share was £231.12.

Current Deputy Mayor, Cllr Daniel Moriarty, was voted Mayor Select for 2015/16, with Boxley councillor Derek Butler (Con) Deputy Mayor Select.

Earlier in the evening, a minute's silence had been held for former Mayor of Maidstone, Cllr Peter Parvin, who died last month. His widow, Daphne, who is also a councillor, was present.

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