Lack of cash holds council back
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.”