Big sums prove too tax­ing

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPERATION SUNSHINE -

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.

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