How bad does in need to get?
“IT is not a disaster.” Those are the words Ashford council leader Paul Clokie used this week when responding to more questions about the unexpected departure of the man in charge of delivering jobs and houses for the area. Yet the fact the council leader feels compelled to even use the word is an indication that while recent events may not have not derailed the drive to make Ashford a boom town, it is facing some serious difficulties. If the gagging order given to councillors not to discuss the saga is anything to go by, the council clearly still has some lessons to learn about the merits of being more open and candid - not least about the challenges it faces delivering the promised jobs and houses. It has now emerged there are serious concerns that too little money is coming through to support the costs of building new roads, providing extra school places and the other associated infrastructure needs. A report by Ashford’s Future sent to ministers says the borough needs more than £300million if the government is to achieve its ambition to turn Ashford into Kent’s boom town. It warns that unless Ashford is given top priority - or “time-critically prioritised” - the bid to boost the area’s economy will not be “realised efficiently.” In other words, it will not happen. This sober assessment stand in stark contrast to the constant upbeat public pronouncements from those in charge of delivering the government’s growth agenda. Cllr Clokie may be right when he says it is not a disaster. But Ashford, like the England football team, needs to do much more than just talk a good game.
Cllr Clokie may be right when he says it is not a disaster. But Ashford, like the England football team, needs to do much more than just talk a good game.