Just who is go­ing to pay for Stack ‘so­lu­tion’?

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Rebuilding London Bridge Station -

With a rather eye-wa­ter­ing £468m es­ti­mated as the cost of a “so­lu­tion” to Op­er­a­tion Stack, who will pay? Kent County Coun­cil is mak­ing it clear it won’t be putting up a sin­gle penny for the costs of any of the op­tions, the most ex­pen­sive of which is a hold­ing area for up to 4,000 lor­ries some­where off the M20.

It is hard to see the Trea­sury sign­ing off a cheque for the full amount given its aus­ter­ity pro­gramme.

But KCC and Highways Eng­land have done what was asked of them by Mr Cameron at the height of the cri­sis.

The ball is firmly in the gov­ern­ment’s court. If noth­ing is done and we get a re­peat of the cri­sis, the fin­ger of blame will be pointed firmly in the di­rec­tion of Westminster.

Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lors are clearly un­der in­struc­tions not to re­fer to an Op Stack lorry park, ap­par­ently fear­ing its neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions with the public.

The politi­cian in charge, cab­i­net mem­ber Cllr Matthew Bal­four, is strug­gling to stick to this line de­spite weigh­ing his words care­fully.

In an in­ter­view with Off The Record, he twice slipped up and sought to cor­rect him­self quickly. Next time, it will be a case of send­ing him to the head­mas­ter’s of­fice and 100 lines.

Is the Ukip op­po­si­tion group at County Hall run­ning out of ideas? It has tabled an amend­ment to this week’s full coun­cil meet­ing ask­ing that the an­swers to ques­tions tabled at meet­ings be recorded in the min­utes. Yes, se­ri­ously. A con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis looms.

There has been much ex­cite­ment in town halls about the gov­ern­ment’s much-vaunted “de­vo­lu­tion” agenda, which prom­ises coun­cils more power and free­dom.

The gov­ern­ment has just an­nounced with great fanfare that it has had some 36 pro­pos­als from coun­cils the length and breadth of the coun­try to take some pow­ers away from White­hall.

And the num­ber in­volv­ing Kent coun­cils? A big fat zero.

Crime com­mis­sioner Ann Barnes is keep­ing her coun­sel over whether she will take a sec­ond run at the £85,000-a-year job, although it seems she is in­ter­ested in stand­ing again next May.

But who could she be up against? The Con­ser­va­tive se­lec­tion process is get­ting un­der way and it seems there could be quite a crowded field.

Among those who have con­firmed their in­ten­tion to put their name for­ward is the chair­man of Kent Con­ser­va­tives An­drew Mack­ness, who is a Med­way coun­cil­lor.

Also likely to run is the for­mer Thanet coun­cil­lor Jo Gideon, who had a go at the nom­i­na­tion last time around.

As to Labour, its can­di­date Har­riet Yeo, a for­mer Ash­ford coun­cil­lor, has since de­fected to Ukip so it is search­ing for a new name.

Fol­low Paul on Twit­ter @PaulOnPol­i­tics

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