Borough braced for public spending cuts
ASHFORD must keep its nerve as the borough anticipates its share of savage public spending cuts.
That is the message from the boss of the public-private partnership Ashford’s Future as Chancellor George Osborne this week announced the first £6.2 billion in cutbacks.
The borough council is also preparing for tough times, but it is not yet known how jobs and services could be affected.
Ashford’s Future managing director Judith Armitt said: “These are difficult economic times, but it is important that here in Ashford we do not lose our nerve.”
She said it was still business as usual, with the current programme of improvements funded until spring 2011.
Mr Osborne’s attempts to slash the UK’s giant £156 billion deficit include Monday’s announced plans for councils to contribute £1.165 billion in savings.
The regeneration company says contracts have been signed for improvements to junction 9 of the M20, Drovers Roundabout, Victoria Way and the new Gateway Library Plus.
It says these works will continue while discussions take place on future funding.
The group might be vulnerable because most of its money is from central government.
Additional contributors are Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council, which are expected to suffer like all local authorities.
Ashford’s Future is not a quango but another contributor, SEEDA (South East England Development Agency), is – and these organisations will lose £600 million.
Mrs Armitt said she remained hopeful for Ashford because of its advantages, such as the high-speed rail service and cheaper house prices and office rents.
Ashford Borough Council explains it had anticipated the cutbacks for months, regardless of who won the general election.
A spokesman said: “It is too early to comment on specifics as the details of the proposals for local government funding have not yet been made clear.
“As soon as we receive full details, there will be a full appraisal and recommendations made to members.”
In February, council chief executive John Bunnett proposed a five-year business plan to reduce costs and set new priorities. Local people were asked in February and March for their views on how they want the council to spend money.
Following further consultation, budgets for 2011/12 will be prepared in October and will be voted on next February.
Judith Armitt, Ashford’s Future managing director