It’s good­bye cuts, hello to trans­for­ma­tion

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Council Tax Special -

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.

Fol­low Paul on Twit­ter @PaulOnPol­i­tics for all Kent’s break­ing po­lit­i­cal news.

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