Spending fears as coun­cil feels pinch

Ash­ford coun­cil says it is do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to bal­ance the bor­ough’s bud­get with the pos­si­bil­ity of jobs be­ing axed rather than jeop­ar­dis­ing front­line ser­vices as the re­ces­sion squeezes. Mike Ben­nett re­ports from the ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News -

COUN­CIL chiefs are be­ing forced to make ma­jor sav­ings to bal­ance the books.

Deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), port­fo­lio holder re­spon­si­ble for rev­enue, ad­mit­ted to Ash­ford coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive they were fac­ing a £250,000 bud­get short­fall.

He said: “We have a strat­egy to man­age the prob­lem and con­fi­dence we have mea­sures in place to make it bal­ance.”

The four-pronged plan will im­pose:

Strict con­trol on all ex­pen­di­ture A re­cruit­ment freeze A con­certed ef­fort to de­liver all sav­ings tar­gets

A re­view of re­serve funds to see if some could be re­leased into the rev­enue bud­get

Cllr Bartlett said coun­cil rev­enue had been hit in many ar­eas.

He said: “We have not sold a coun­cil house since June and car park in­come is more than £100,000 down on what was ex­pected.”

That ac­cord­ing to Cllr John Kemp (Con) was be­cause of­fi­cial fig­ures showed that traf­fic was down 20 per cent as mo­torists feel the credit crunch pinch.

Cllr John Hol­land (Ind) re­minded fel­low coun­cil­lors it was not all doom and gloom. The car park­ing is­sue he said was self-in­flicted be­cause of the town’s ring road works.

He said: “Peo­ple have been re­luc­tant to come to Ash­ford. One of our jobs is to pro­mote Ash­ford and get it mov­ing again to bring back the trade.”

Op­po­si­tion leader Cllr Bob David­son (Lib Dem) said they had warned of the po­ten­tial prob­lems and that Ash­ford was not the only au­thor­ity hav­ing to im­pose bud­get re­straints.

“It is a long way to go un­til April but I hope of­fi­cers can take a re­al­is­tic look at over­all growth to meet the tar­gets, without go­ing into re­serves.

“Is this a clear in­di­ca­tion that we are looking for a re­al­is­tic rate in­crease this year?

“We agree the strat­egy in place on how tar­gets could be reached. Re­dun­dancy pack­ages are in place for var­i­ous de­part­ments but there is a dan­ger in los­ing ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers without cover.”

Leader Cllr Paul Clokie (Con) con­firmed that the bud­get would be bal­anced.

“We are a low-rated au­thor­ity and we will go on be­ing so.”

Paul Bartlett – ‘coun­cil rev­enue hit in many ar­eas’

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