My first impression of the Gateway for Sheppey was its location. It was the former Woolworths, band in the middle of the high street. It’s accessibility was excellent. It’s make over was fresh, modern and spacious. The facilities were set out on two floors, ground and first. Each floor had sets of disabled and child toilets. Services such as the library and computers on the first floor. A comprehensive array of advice services on the ground floor with a sitting area and cafe.
When you walked into the building, there was a large reception desk with the words ‘Meet and Greek’ in bold letters. On the desk was a trained receptions to guide and put clients at ease and make sure that they were directed to the right area. Children could read books or draw whilst their parents accessed services. Every social need was catered for; Mental Health, Domestic Abuse and Health charities hosted pop up surgeries on a weekly basis; the council were on hand to advise on housing, rates, planning roads and homeless issues. Food bank vouchers were available on request. Upstairs KCC floating support services and adult education teams had offices, with ‘return to work’ training available in the afternoons.
Under years of Conservative government, we have no direct access to public services. Tory austerity has nearly broken our community. In Whitstable we have become a disenfranchised community, not knowing where to get help or challenge anything which is being imposed on is.
Kent County Council has a number of under utilised buildings in our town; a proactive council could approach them to improve access to what KCC services we have and start up a Gateway or Hub which will centralise new advice services. It would help us gain access to services we have paid for! This is our right!
A high street hub would make the council more accessible, so why is Canterbury one of the only districts in Kent not to have them. The Council’s own community profile acknowledges that whilst Canterbury is relatively affluent, areas of Whitstable (Gorell, Seasalter) and Herne Bay (Greenhill and Eddington, Heron) are amongst the 20% most deprived areas in the country. So why is this council removing services from those most in need. I want what Sheppey and Margate have got for Whitstable.