Lack of cash holds coun­cil back

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

A SHORT­AGE of cash is ham­per­ing Ash­ford coun­cil’s abil­ity to im­prove ser­vices and it is fall­ing be­hind in the drive to build more homes and bring jobs to the area, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by in­de­pen­dent in­spec­tors.

The ver­dict has come from the Au­dit Com­mis­sion, which has pub­lished rat­ings of all coun­cils as part of a new ini­tia­tive dubbed “One­place” that is de­signed to show how well all pub­lic ser­vices are per­form­ing.

The Au­dit Com­mis­sion says Ash­ford coun­cil rates as “ad­e­quate” – mean­ing it is only meet­ing min­i­mum stan­dards.

Its re­port sin­gles out a lack of money as a par­tic­u­lar source of con­cern as well as the slow rate at which homes are be­ing built.

In­spec­tors say: “The coun­cil’s ca­pac­ity is stretched and some­times it does not have enough staff and money to do what it wants to. This places some doubt on it be­ing able to sus­tain what it is do­ing now and de­liver fu­ture out­comes. House-build­ing has slowed dur­ing the cur­rent re­ces­sion.

“But even be­fore this new homes are not be­ing built quickly enough. As a re­sult the coun­cil is fur­ther from where it should be in en­sur­ing a steady sup­ply of houses onto the mar­ket.”

On the plus side, in­spec­tors say the coun­cil works well with part­ners to at­tract in­vest­ment into the area, say­ing that with Ash- ford’s Fu­ture, some £300 mil­lion has come into the town. It also says crime is fall­ing and con­cerns about anti-so­cial be­hav­iour are low com­pared with else­where.

Ash­ford coun­cil leader Cllr Paul Clokie (Con) said the coun­cil was al­ready ad­dress­ing the con­cerns high­lighted.

“We recog­nise there are ar­eas where there is room for im­prove­ment and are re­view­ing what we do and how we do them. Im­prove­ments are al­ready un­der­way in some ar­eas but given the un­cer­tainty in the econ­omy, the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion and the prospect of less fund­ing sup­port for pub­lic sec­tor fi­nances in the fu­ture it’s a chal­leng­ing pic­ture.”

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