Coun­cil tax up but do we want In­ter­net TV?

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPERATION SUNSHINE - by po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor Paul Francis

HOUSE­HOLD­ERS in Kent will see their coun­cil tax bills rise by nearly five per cent this year af­ter Kent County Coun­cil voted through an above-in­fla­tion in­crease.

Coun­cil­lors for­mally ap­proved the 4.95 per cent in­crease as part of the county coun­cil’s spend­ing plans for the year at a bud­get meet­ing last week.

It will push up bills for homes in Band D by about £45 to £964, a fig­ure that ex­cludes the amount charged by lo­cal dis­trict, bor­ough and parish coun­cils, the po­lice and fire ser­vice. County Hall’s Con­ser­va­tive lead­ers de­fended their £1.5 bil­lion bud­get, say­ing that it pro­tected front­line ser­vices in the face of a gov­ern­ment spend­ing squeeze.

The bud­get in­cludes around £30 mil­lion of sav­ings.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties ac­cused the Con­ser­va­tives of wast­ing money on unim­por­tant ac­tiv­i­ties and sin­gled out a con­tro­ver­sial plan for Kent TV, an In­ter­net-based broad­band television ser­vice which will cost tax­pay­ers £800,000.

Unions also protested at pro­posed job cuts. Around 190 jobs are un­der threat and al­ready 77 li­brary staff have been is­sued with let­ters telling them that their jobs are at risk.

Coun­cil leader Paul Carter said KCC had been “short-changed by the Gov­ern­ment” com­pared to Nor­folk or Dorset. He ac­knowl­edged there would be job losses in what he termed a “man­aged staff re­duc­tion” which would take ad­van­tage of nat­u­ral turnover to try to avoid com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies. De­spite this, he said, KCC was com­mit­ted to “fur­ther im­prove­ments in ser­vices”.

The Labour party de­nounced the in­crease and put for­ward an al­ter­na­tive bud­get that would have seen bills in­crease by 3.6 per cent. Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy ac­cused the Con­ser­va­tives of “whinge­ing.”

“The de­crease of 5.3 per cent in gov­ern­ment grants the Tories claim is based on fan­tasy fig­ures that do not com­pare like with like. The Tory whinge­ing is like a spoilt teenager who gets £10 a week pocket money while his mates get £12,” he said.

For the Lib­eral Democrats, leader Cllr Trudy Dean said that the bud­get was based on “an in­com­plete and mis­lead­ing pic­ture of gov­ern­ment fund­ing”, adding that KCC’s spend­ing pri­or­i­ties were wrong.

KENT County Coun­cil has main­tained its po­si­tion as one of the best-per­form­ing au­thor­i­ties in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to coun­cil league ta­bles pub­lished last week. The county coun­cil was again awarded the high­est fourstar rat­ing on the ba­sis of an as­sess­ment of its ser­vices by in­de­pen­dent in­spec­tors. Its rank­ing makes it one of the two best per­form­ing county coun­cils in the coun­try and in the top ten of all au­thor­i­ties. Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil leader Cllr Paul Carter said the rat­ing was a “cause for cel­e­bra­tion, par­tic­u­larly against a back­drop of a con­tin­u­ing fund­ing squeeze on coun­cils by cen­tral gov­ern­ment. The pub­li­ca­tion of the league ta­bles co-in­cided with KCC’s bud­get meet­ing on Thurs­day which was set to ap­prove a 4.95 per cent in­crease in coun­cil tax bills and £30mil­lion sav­ings. Mr Carter said: “This is a tremen­dous per­for­mance. A trib­ute to ev­ery­one who works for KCC who is will­ing to go that ex­tra mile in pro­vid­ing value-for-money .” The league ta­bles are com­piled by the Au­dit Com­mis­sion and as­sess in­di­vid­ual ser­vices, value for money and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.

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