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
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’