Borough of Swale
Sittingbourne town centre
Sittingbourne town centre
Swale shown within Kent
Swale shown within Kent
Coordinates: 51°20′24.73″N 0°43′51.32″E / 51.3402028°N 0.7309222°E / 51.3402028; 0.7309222
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Non-metropolitan countyKent
StatusNon-metropolitan district
Admin HQSittingbourne
Incorporated1 April 1974
 • TypeNon-metropolitan district council
 • BodySwale Borough Council
 • MPsHelen Whately (C)
Gordon Henderson (C)
 • Total144.2 sq mi (373.4 km2)
 • Rank93rd (of 296)
 • Total154,619
 • Rank139th (of 296)
 • Density1,100/sq mi (410/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code29UM (ONS)
E07000113 (GSS)
OS grid referenceTQ9018863720

Swale is a local government district with borough status in Kent, England. The council is based in Sittingbourne, the borough's largest town. The borough also contains the towns of Faversham, Queenborough and Sheerness, along with numerous villages and surrounding rural areas. It includes the Isle of Sheppey and is named after The Swale, the narrow channel which separates Sheppey from the mainland part of the borough. Some southern parts of the borough lie within the Kent Downs, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The borough borders the Medway unitary authority area to the west, the Borough of Maidstone to the south-west, the Borough of Ashford to the south-east, and the City of Canterbury to the east.


The district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972 covering the area of four former districts, which were all abolished at the same time:[2]

The new district was named Swale, after the waterway which divides the mainland part of the district from the Isle of Sheppey.[3] The district was awarded borough status on 20 January 1978, allowing the chair of the council to take the title of mayor.[4]


Swale Borough Council
Swale Borough Council Logo
Founded1 April 1974
Sarah Stephen,
Swale Independents
since 17 May 2023[5]
Tim Gibson,
since 17 May 2023
Larissa Reed
since January 2021[6]
Seats47 councillors
Political groups
Administration (31)
  Labour (16)
  Swale Independents (11)
  Green (3)
  Independent (1)
Other parties (16)
  Conservative (11)
  Liberal Democrats (5)
Length of term
4 years
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Known By Their Fruits
Meeting place
Swale House, East Street, Sittingbourne, ME10 3HT

Swale Borough Council provides district-level services. County-level services are provided by Kent County Council. Most of the borough is also covered by civil parishes, which form a third tier of local government.[7][8]

Political control

The council has been under no overall control since 2019. Following the 2023 election a coalition of Labour, local party the Swale Independents, the Greens and an independent councillor have formed the council's administration.[9]

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[10][11][12]

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1986
No overall control 1986–2002
Conservative 2002–2019
No overall control 2019–present


The role of Mayor of Swale is largely ceremonial. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 2002 have been:[13]

Councillor Party From To
Andrew Bowles Conservative 2002 5 May 2019
Roger Truelove Labour 22 May 2019 27 Apr 2022
Mike Baldock Swale Ind. 27 Apr 2022 19 May 2023
Tim Gibson Labour 19 May 2023


Following the 2023 election, a subsequent by-election in September 2023, and a defection from the Swale Independents Alliance to the Labour Party, the composition of the council was:[14][15][16]

Party Councillors
Labour 16
Swale Ind. 10
Conservative 11
Liberal Democrats 5
Green 3
Independent 1
Total 47

The independent councillor and the Swale Independents sit together as the "Swale Independents Alliance".[17] The next elections are due in 2027.


See also: Swale Borough Council elections

Since the last boundary changes in 2015 the council has comprised 47 councillors representing 24 wards, with each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[18]


The council is based at Swale House on East Street in Sittingbourne.[19]


Swale is a mainly rural borough, containing a high proportion of the UK's apple, pear, cherry and plum orchards (the North Kent Fruit Belt[20]), as well as many of its remaining hop gardens. Faversham has the Shepherd Neame brewery. Founded in 1698 it is claimed to be oldest brewery in the UK.

Sheerness is a busy port and previously produced steel. Sittingbourne has a variety of smaller industrial sites.


The Roman Watling Street passed through the area, as witness the straightness of the A2 main road, now by-passed by the M2 motorway.

There are two railway lines in Swale: the Chatham Main Line and the Sheerness Branch Line, which meet at Sittingbourne.

Two adjoining bridges across The Swale link the Isle of Sheppey to the mainland: Kingsferry Bridge and the Sheppey Crossing.


In terms of television, Swale is served by BBC South East and ITV Meridian (East) broadcasting from the Bluebell Hill transmitter.[21]

Local radio stations are:

Local newspapers are Sittingbourne News Extra,[23] yourswale, and Sheerness Times Guardian that serves the Isle of Sheppey.


Further information: List of civil parishes in Kent

Most of the borough is covered by civil parishes. The parish councils for Faversham, Queenborough and Sheerness take the style "town council".[24] The former Sittingbourne and Milton Urban District is an unparished area, as is the Halfway Houses area on Sheppey, being the only part of the pre-1974 borough of Queenborough-in-Sheppey not to have been subsequently added to a parish.[8]


For the council's first four years it had a chairman rather than a mayor. The chairmen were:

From the grant of borough status in January 1978 onwards the chairman of the council has taken the title of mayor. The mayors have been:

Honorary Freemen of the Borough


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Swale Local Authority (E07000113)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  2. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 27 September 2023
  3. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973",, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 31 May 2023
  4. ^ Alteration of Status of Local Authorities June 1977 – January 1978 (PDF). London: Department of the Environment. 1978. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  5. ^ "Council minutes, 17 May 2023". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  6. ^ George, Martin (8 October 2020). "New Swale chief executive named". Local Government Chronicle. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  7. ^ "Local Government Act 1972",, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  8. ^ a b "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  9. ^ Boothroyd, David (19 May 2023). "As a Green councillor walked out one midsummer morning". Local Councils. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  10. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  11. ^ "England council elections". BBC News Online. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Swale Borough Council". BBC News. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Council minutes". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Harbert, Joe (14 September 2023). "By-election for Minster Cliffs ward on Swale Borough Council following Ken Ingleton's death". Kent Online. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  16. ^ "Minster Cliffs by-election results". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  17. ^ "Your Councillors by Party". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  18. ^ "The Swale (Electoral Changes) Order 2012",, The National Archives, SI 2012/2985, retrieved 29 September 2023
  19. ^ "Our offices". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  20. ^ Orchards
  21. ^ "Full Freeview on the Bluebell Hill (Medway, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  22. ^ "106.9 SFM – 100% Local Radio For Sittingbourne". Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  23. ^ "Sittingbourne News Extra". British Papers. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  24. ^ "Parish council contact details". Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  25. ^ "Photograph of Bob Geldof Receiving the Freedom of the Borough of Swale". Shutterstock. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  26. ^ Dunt, Paul (13 October 2021). "Former Sheerness RNLI Coxswain honoured with Freedom of the Borough". The Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  27. ^ "Photograph of Robin Swale Receiving the Freedom of the Borough of Swale". Twitter. Retrieved 31 October 2021.