Bor­ough braced for pub­lic spend­ing cuts

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Sam Len­non slen­non@thek­m­group.co.uk

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

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