It’s goodbye cuts, hello to transformation
County Hall Conservatives have banned the use of the word “cuts” when it comes to explaining how they intend to cope with an £80 million shortfall in this year’s budget. The emphasis is firmly on “transformation” of services, which the ruling administration contends will mean more or less every frontline service has emerged unscathed. Or as one report put it: “The New Ways Of Working Programme is a foundation to the council’s ‘Doing Things Differently Initiative’ which in turn is key to KCC’s future in ‘Facing The Challenge’.” Got that?
One area of the county council’s budget that has attracted the interest of opposition UKIP and Labour councillors is the £3.6 million the authority spends on democratic support services – that’s the department that administers and manages committees. A crude calculation is that this equates to £43,000 per councillor. There does not appear to be much appetite from the Conservatives to see if this could be “cut”. As Cllr Susan Carey, the deputy cabinet member for finance, put it when the issue was raised: “There is a cost to being democratic and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.”
Still, we at least got an insight into what keeps KCC’s finance officer Andy Wood awake at night. When asked by Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Bird what area of the budget was most likely to prevent a sound night’s sleep, he replied: “If only it was one thing.”
Will the jeering mob that greeted UKIP leader Nigel Farage on a visit to Thanet be a factor when he decides whether to stand as a candidate there at the next election? If anything, it might persuade him that it is the best option. The danger of not putting his name forward to be the prospective candidate is that opponents will be able to contend he was scared to do so.
Barely a week goes by without some rumour of defections from the Conservatives to UKIP – and the other way. UKIP had hoped to present its latest defector during Nigel Farage’s visit to Kent. But we hear the recruit got cold feet at the eleventh hour and having handed over his membership form, decided to “resign” 48 hours later.
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