Big sums prove too taxing
Behind the scenes at County Hall with our political editor It came as no surprise when opposition parties gleefully seized on the blunder during KCC’s budget meeting
WHEN you’re dealing with a budget of £1.5billion of taxpayers’ money, it can be hard to keep track of every penny. But county council leader Paul Carter endured something of a Charles Kennedy moment when he was quizzed about the impact of KCC’s spending plans during a radio interview. What, he was asked, would be the impact of a 4.95 per cent rise on council tax bills for average homes? Mr Carter hesitated uncertainly before declaring that it would be between £30 and £35, calling to mind Charles Kennedy’s infamous election mix-up over his party’s tax plans. The actual increase for Band D homes is about £45, so it came as no surprise when opposition parties gleefully seized on the blunder during KCC’s budget meeting. Unfortunately, the leader rather compounded his earlier mix-up when he declared he was not likely to get it wrong again after so much ribbing – before stumbling for a second time on the precise increase. Still, it was a long meeting. And a lot of money.
CONSULTANTS’ corner. Kent County Council contracted expert traffic consultants MCL to assess the viability of its scheme for subsidised bus travel for 11 to 16-year-olds in parts of the county, who concluded extending the scheme across all Kent would cost £8.3million. Their work earned them a tidy £15,000, county transport chiefs have revealed.
IT DOES seem rather odd that Transport Minister Douglas Alexander could find no time at all to meet MPs Damian Green and Michael Howard to talk about Eurostar’s plans to axe services from Ashford International. Perhaps it is because he has been busy fending off criticism about the Government’s plans for road-pricing. And it is the first time we have heard a minister assert that the views of local backbenchers might be more persuasive than any influence a member of the Government might bring to bear. But then this fatalistic approach might tell us something about how Labour sees itself.
DAVID Cameron may have travelled to a Norwegian glacier as part of his efforts to improve his party’s image on the environment. But his fervour has clearly not percolated down to some of his party. Off The Record was accosted by a county councillor who demanded to know why we had a green scarf on. “Have you joined the bunny huggers?” the councillor asked. We shall draw a veil over the identity of the individual.