All posts tagged 'budget'

The Friday Five: The week in Kent politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, March 21 2014

It has been  busy week on the political front in Kent this week. Here's my round-up of the five key stories affecting the county:

1. Chancellor George Osborne took plenty of people by surprise when he dropped into an interview with Andrew Marr on the BBCthat he was planning to build the first 'garden city' in north Kent at Ebbsfleet. But how 'new' was this?

His comments about a city for 15,000 new homes were not dissimilar to an announcement made by the government two years ago - only this time the number of homes was a little lower and there was a promise of an Urban Development Corporation to oversee the development.

That sparked some concerns that a quango would bypass the democratic planning system and the views of local councils. Still, Osborne sees it as an important symbol of the government's determination to build more homes - and took aim at Labour's failures in the past saying its track record was "more ebb than fleet". Alright, not the best joke but not bad for the politician who many see as having had a sense of humour bypass. 

However, some of the shine was taken off when it emerged that parts of the area where new homes were planned could be at risk of serious flooding.

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2. Many have tried; many have failed. Yes, the fate of Manston Airport hangs in the balance as its latest owner stunned many with an announcement that it was to close. A 45-day consultation with 150 staff is underway and many see it as the end of the road for the site, at least as an airport. MPs and council leaders rushed to denounce the proposed closure but there are signs that this time, the end is nigh. The airport was bought by Ann Gloag, a Scottish businesswoman, for £1 last November and there seemed to be the prospect of a brighter future.

But the transformation team brought in to assess its prospects apparently concluded there were none. Now, there are whispers and rumours of the site being sold for housing development.

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3. Could the picturesque Weald of Kent prove to be the new Texas? Unlikley though it may seem, the prospect of parts of Kent sitting on a huge oil bonanza have been raised in an as yet unpublished government commissioned report from geologists.

It is said to conclude that huge energy reserves could be under The Weald. Stand by for a rush for black gold and the sight of people dispensing with their tweeds in favour of  ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots. Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley gave the news a qualified welcome but some of his colleagues were rather reticent.

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4. If it wasn't exactly a give-away budget, Chancellor George Osborne sprinkled enough goodiesaround to keep his party happy and set the backdrop for the next election - astutely delivering some good news for the sort of disaffected Conservative supporters who just might be flirting with UKIP.  

For Kent, there was news of an extra £140m for flood defences; confirmation of the Ebbsfleet 'Garden City' scheme and news of more duty on fixed odds betting machines. 

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5. County Hall has been a little quiet but we did get news of changes in the Conservative-run cabinet.  Although it  was hardly a reshuffle. In the light of the "Facing The Challenge" re-organisation, the cabinet has been tinkered with so that the ten-strong group is aligned with the smaller number of directorates. Opposition parties were quick to query why, if the council was slimming down so much, was it necessary to keep ten politicians in the executive overseeing just four directorates.

One notable change in the cabinet will come in August, when Cllr Jenny Whittle, the well-regarded cabinet member for children's specialist services, goes on maternity leave.  Her job will be taken by Peter Oakford, who was elected to the council last year.

That in turn will leave the cabinet as an all-male group. There are some who think that once Paul Carter has had his fill of the job, Jenny Whittle would be well-placed to succeed him. 

 

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County Hall balances the books but worse is to come

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 14 2014

In the end, there wasn't quite as much political drama as there might have been at Kent County Council's budget meeting.

After seven hours of debate and the usual slew of opposition amendments, the figures remained exactly as they did before 84 members trooped into County Hall to consider the best way of spending £1.6bn of public money and whether to back the first council tax rise in three years.

The ruling Conservatives had managed to diffuse a potential flashpoint by dropping its original plans for a cap on the popular children's Freedom Pass.

If the new plans did not completely neutralise the opposition parties, they did enough to ensure that potentially disaffected backbenchers in their own ranks did not rebel.

Indeed, it was pretty obvious that the Conservative group were under instructions to rally round the beleaguered cabinet member David Brazier, who has come in for a lot of flak for the way things have been handled.

We were told - not altogether convincingly - that far from being a humiliating U-turn, the heroic Mr Brazier deserved credit for having 'listened to the people' and responding accordingly with different plans. (Or a U-turn...)

There is also some talk of bringing in a pay-by-installments scheme to ease the burden on parents who have to buy more than one pass. It remains a tricky issue for KCC however: the cost of the post-16 pass at £400 is likely to prove too much for many and given the bleak financial outlook for councils, it may be something that KCC will be forced to revisit.

It was interesting to see some strange political alliances among the opposition parties - notably UKIP teaming up with the Lib Dems and the sole Green councillor - and although their efforts to amend parts of the budget were all voted down, I suspect we will see more of this opposition rainbow coalition.

It was also interesting to see that the Conservatives have clearly decided to go on the offensive against UKIP.  The role of chief tormentor has been handed to Cllr Jeremy Kite - also the leader of Dartford council - who relishes verbally duffing up the Ukip group in the way he did with the Lib Dems.

In a sense, this rather flatters the 17-strong UKIP group, who six months on since the county council election are beginning to show signs of being rather more effective in their role than they have been, notwithstanding the occasional naive amendment.

The main message coming out of County Hall is that while the books are balanced this year, there is worse to come.

Leader Paul Carter indicated that the need to save a further £90m in the next two years was likely to result in more pain for taxpayers. Whether the "Facing The Challenge" programme can deliver transformation without cuts to key services remain to be seen.


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Kent County Council carried out an extensive consultation over its budget plans this year and succeeded in getting many more people to respond than it has ever done before.

One interesting finding was that while residents clearly understood the need for restraint and broadly accepted the need for a council tax hike, when it came to whether there should be more privatisation or outsourcing to save money, only 13% supported the idea.

Underpinning this scepticism was the belief that private companies ultimately are more interested in how much money they can make from contracts rather than the quality of the services the provide.

KCC's transformation agenda envisages the council doing much more outsourcing and privatisation and is currently in the first stage of examining the level of interest there is among contractors to run services, including libraries.

The issue is whether, if contractors are not interested in some of these services, KCC feels able to continue with them given the financial cosh it is under.



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Categories: Politics

County Hall goes into reverse gear on Freedom Pass

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 7 2014

It would have been a surprise had Kent County Council not acted to address the mounting opposition to its planned changes to the Freedom Pass. 

The ramifications of imposing a £350 cap on a new smart card became obvious the moment the council announced the proposal to limit journeys, leaving parents to find the rest once children had spent up to the cap.

The key question that KCC has not answered is why no-one - either politicians or officers - realised that its new scheme hardly represented value for money for parents, especially those living in more rural parts of the county. Did no-one get a calculator out and investigate the cost by factoring in bus fares to and from a sample of different locations?

Certainly, the opposition parties were swift to raise the issue but failed to get much of an explanation when they did. Even when they suggested limiting the pass to just school journeys, the were told it would not save enough money.

So, the answer has to be no and in failing to spot the shortcomings, KCC contrived to get into a mess all of its own making. One explanation might be that the council was not required to carry out an equalities impact assessment because the scheme is a discretionary service and did not need one.

Another possibility is that KCC rushed its decision, conscious that it needed to curb the costs of the Freedom Pass as part of its contribution to an £82m savings package that has to be signed off next week.

Politically, it has been a bit of an embarrassment, despite presenting the U-turn as an illustration of its willingness to listen to residents. The Conservative administration has not exactly covered itself in glory and there were - as there always are - rumours of backbenchers planning to revolt. 

There was also the threat of a rainbow coalition of the opposition parties, who had held meetings to discuss a united effort to block the changes at the budget meeting and could, with the help of a couple of Tory backbenchers, inflicted what would have been a damaging defeat.

Politically, the ruling administration at KCC still sometimes seems to operate as if it has a huge majority and still seems to think that in any political battle of wills, it will always prevail. On this occassion, it came perilously close to a defeat. A climbdown now rather than the 

No-one under-estimates the financial cosh that KCC is under but the crude way it went about saving money on the Freedom Pass - a flagship scheme and one that has proved hugely popular - suggested its usually astute political antennae were not, his time, switched on. 

 

 

 

 

 

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County Hall goes into reverse gear on Freedom Pass

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 7 2014

It would have been a surprise had Kent County Council not acted to address the mounting opposition to its planned changes to the Freedom Pass. 

The ramifications of imposing a £350 cap on a new smart card became obvious the moment the council announced the proposal to limit journeys, leaving parents to find the rest once children had spent up to the cap.

The key question that KCC has not answered is why no-one - either politicians or officers - realised that its new scheme hardly represented value for money for parents, especially those living in more rural parts of the county. Did no-one get a calculator out and investigate the cost by factoring in bus fares to and from a sample of different locations?

Certainly, the opposition parties were swift to raise the issue but failed to get much of an explanation when they did. Even when they suggested limiting the pass to just school journeys, the were told it would not save enough money.

So, the answer has to be no and in failing to spot the shortcomings, KCC contrived to get into a mess all of its own making. One explanation might be that the council was not required to carry out an equalities impact assessment because the scheme is a discretionary service and did not need one.

Another possibility is that KCC rushed its decision, conscious that it needed to curb the costs of the Freedom Pass as part of its contribution to an £82m savings package that has to be signed off next week.

Politically, it has been a bit of an embarrassment, despite presenting the U-turn as an illustration of its willingness to listen to residents. The Conservative administration has not exactly covered itself in glory and there were - as there always are - rumours of backbenchers planning to revolt. 

There was also the threat of a rainbow coalition of the opposition parties, who had held meetings to discuss a united effort to block the changes at the budget meeting and could, with the help of a couple of Tory backbenchers, inflicted what would have been a damaging defeat.

Politically, the ruling administration at KCC still sometimes seems to operate as if it has a huge majority and still seems to think that in any political battle of wills, it will always prevail. On this occassion, it came perilously close to a defeat. A climbdown now rather than defeat in the council chamber was chosen as the least-worse option.

No-one under-estimates the financial cosh that KCC is under but the crude way it went about saving money on the Freedom Pass - a flagship scheme and one that has proved hugely popular - suggested its usually astute political antennae were not, his time, switched on. 

 

 

 

 

 

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County Hall goes into reverse gear on Freedom Pass

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 7 2014

It would have been a surprise had Kent County Council not acted to address the mounting opposition to its planned changes to the Freedom Pass. 

The ramifications of imposing a £350 cap on a new smart card became obvious the moment the council announced the proposal to limit journeys, leaving parents to find the rest once children had spent up to the cap.

The key question that KCC has not answered is why no-one - either politicians or officers - realised that its new scheme hardly represented value for money for parents, especially those living in more rural parts of the county. Did no-one get a calculator out and investigate the cost by factoring in bus fares to and from a sample of different locations?

Certainly, the opposition parties were swift to raise the issue but failed to get much of an explanation when they did. Even when they suggested limiting the pass to just school journeys, the were told it would not save enough money.

So, the answer has to be no and in failing to spot the shortcomings, KCC contrived to get into a mess all of its own making. One explanation might be that the council was not required to carry out an equalities impact assessment because the scheme is a discretionary service and did not need one.

Another possibility is that KCC rushed its decision, conscious that it needed to curb the costs of the Freedom Pass as part of its contribution to an £82m savings package that has to be signed off next week.

Politically, it has been a bit of an embarrassment, despite presenting the U-turn as an illustration of its willingness to listen to residents. The Conservative administration has not exactly covered itself in glory and there were - as there always are - rumours of backbenchers planning to revolt. 

There was also the threat of a rainbow coalition of the opposition parties, who had held meetings to discuss a united effort to block the changes at the budget meeting and could, with the help of a couple of Tory backbenchers, inflicted what would have been a damaging defeat.

The ruling administration at KCC still sometimes seems to operate as if it has a huge majority and still seems to think that in any political battle of wills, it will always prevail. On this occassion, it came perilously close to a defeat. A climbdown now rather than the prospect of losing a vote on its budget next Thursday was probably regarded as the least-worst option.

No-one under-estimates the financial cosh that KCC is under but the crude way it went about saving money on the Freedom Pass - a flagship scheme and one that has proved hugely popular - suggested its usually astute political antennae were not, this time, switched on. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Savings here,savings there but still the bills rise

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, January 17 2014

Kent County Council, like every other authority, is facing a huge challenge trying to balance its books in the face of Draconian cuts in government grants.

Having frozen the council tax for three years, the Conservative-run authority now plans a hike of just under 2% - meaning that the savings it has to make are a little over £80m rather than £90m.

It believes council taxpayers will, with some reluctance, accept the hike - although they haven't got much option.

The council is delivering a strong message that despite the budget shortfall, its latest "transformation" project will mean frontline services will be spared and those who rely on them won't notice any difference.

That of course depends partly on what you call a key service.

Although it is discretionary, for example, there are lots of families who are discovering that the school Freedom Pass will cost them substantially more than they have been accustomed to paying for their children to get to and from school.

As with all council budgets, the devil is in the detail - and in KCC's case, you can't say it doesn't deliver on that front.

The difficulty is the rather imprecise and occasionally vague way some savings are described.

This year, the phrase of choice is "review" and there are more "reviews " than you would get at the opening night of the an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Some examples:

  • A review of the education psychology service, saving £280k;
  • A review of inclusion budgets, saving £193k;
  • A review of economic development activity, saving £640k
  • A review of staff management structures and other efficiencies, saving £1.05m.
  • A review of arrangements across the gateways porfolio, saving £150k

I am told  the word review has been chosen to reflect the fact the savings target is "deliverable" but  the precise way it will be achieved has not been determined. Which begs the obvious question of how does the council know it is 'deliverable?'

Elsewhere, the language is more precise in describing various reductions. For example:

  • A reduction in directors and managers, saving £750k;
  • A reduction in the use of agency staff in social services, saving £492k
  • A reduction in school improvement activity, saving £250k
  • A reduction in the libraries book fund, saving £150k

Some of the headline savings - or cuts - are already known, such as the £12m being saved in budget for looking after vulnerable elderly people and the £2m being cut from the budget for children's centres.

Elsewhere, there are references to "right-sizing," "procurement efficiencies" and "demand management" - all part of the local authority lexicon where budgets are concerned.

Given the scale of the savings being forced on it by the government, residents might need some persuading that Kent County Council is managing this without any cuts anywhere, no matter how they are described.

Still, this year's challenge of squaring the budget circle will not be the end. In 2015-16, the council has said it will have to save £43m and in 2016-17, a further £44m. As yet, the savings have not been identified.

Stand by for further reviews.

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Categories: Precept

Is KCC about to thaw over council tax freeze?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 6 2013

It is a few months before councils decide how much residents will have to pay next year by way of the council tax but it looks like many are weighing up whether continuing with a freeze on household bills is viable and sustainable.

Some councils in Kent have already bitten the bullet and ignored the government's edict to freeze bills this year, arguing that they have had no alternative in the face of the budget cuts enforced on them by the government as it grapples with the public sector deficit.

Kent County Council's Conservative administration will be setting out its draft budget proposals at the end of the week and it will be interesting to see whether the spending plans include an option to hike up bills.

A number of county councils rejected the government's offer of a one off grant equivalent to a one per cent increase in bills - including Oxfordshire, which just so happens to cover David Cameron's constituency so KCC would not be striking out alone. Others that chose to increase bills said it was not worth taking the government's grant handout.

KCC has already prepared the ground for the possible ending of the freeze. In its medium term financial plan  for 2013-15, finance chiefs acknowledged that the freeze "creates additional pressure on future years budgets..while the council remains committed to keeping council tax increases to an absolute minimum, at this stage an increasefor 2014/15 cannot be ruled out."

One of the challenges for KCC next year is that its longer term "transformation" project - involving another re-organisation and the outsourcing of many services - is unlikely to be delivering enough savings anticipated to ease the pressure on the council's coffers.

Councils are already fearing the worst and are ramping up the pressure on Eric Pickles, the Communities minister.

This week, the Local Government Association warned that some councils were getting close to being unable to meet their statutory obligations because of the spending squeeze. It said some councils were at breaking point - a rather dramatic claim. It urged the Chancellor to reverse £1bn of cuts to local government grant to provide some stability for authorities already creaking under the impact of successive years of government enforced cuts.

KCC is keeping tight-lipped until it unwraps its budget but my guess is that an option for a modest council tax increase might be incorporated into the draft budget - if only because it won't want to risk dipping into its reserves again.

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Doing more with less - Kent County Council's £240m funding gap

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, July 10 2013

Doing more with less has become a familiar challenge for all councils in recent years, particularly since the coalition decided budgets for local government would not be protected in the same way as schools and defence and foreign aid.

Kent County Council is to try and square the budget circle and address an estimated £240m funding gap through yet another "transformation" that will involve it becoming primarily a commissioning authority.

Translated this means it will get others to provide services rather than deliver them itself. 

It already does a lot of this anyway and it is not a new approach. Outsourcing, to use the jargon, is commonplace across local authorities. KCC leader Paul Carter was keen to emphasise that he and his colleagues are open-minded about who should run services and if a social entrepeneur was a better bet than a large conglomerate then the council would look at it. The council will be acutely conscious of the problems other councils have had in trying to recast themselves as "virtual" organisations or hiving off everything that moves to the private sector.

He also underlined that the council was not planning a "slash and burn" approach to discretionary services.

A report setting out the approach does hint, however, that the council will be creative over its definition of what amounts to statutory services (those it has to provide), saying "wherever possible, we will seek to redefine and benchmark our baseline definition of what statutory services mean in terms of cost, quality and scale for the people of Kent. Where such services are not considered to be a high priority, KCC will provide appropriate de minimis funding to meet its legal obligations and may even seek to have those legislative requirements removed."

It adds that the council "will not prioritise spending decisions purely on the basis that services are statutory."

Translated, this appears to mean that KCC will only spend the minimum it needs to on some services based on how important residents think they are, which could be problematic.

The notion that it could seek to have statutory obligations removed is intriguing and is the sort of thing that could end up in messy court challenges.

We don't know what exactly is in the pipeline but some familiar arguments are being rehearsed over privatisation. Opponents say private companies are interested only in the bottom line - money - meaning they are much more likley to cherry pick the most lucrative or viable. And just because you outsource a service, it doesn't mean you no longer have any responsibility for it: KCC will still need people to manage contracts and make sure the job is being done and for councillors the task of being the checks and balances to make sure things do not go awry.

Supporters say services can be much more efficient under the private sector and less costly to run. Either way, KCC hasn't done much more than set out its strategic approach. A second report setting out options will be published in September, although sources say much of it has already been written. 

Whether these options will genuinely protect and even enhance services will rather depend on which side of the political fence you sit.

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As the official opposition at County Hall, UKIP has to date been rather quiet. Its 17-strong group has not exactly been vocal and there are one or two whispers that it is rather too close to the Conservative administration. Which would be understandable, not to say something the Conservatives would be keen to encourage.

So, what does it think of the county council's commissioning strategy? Its leader Cllr Roger Latchford said that in the circumstances, the strategy provided the best way forward for the council but the party would scrutinise things as they came along.

Meanwhile, a rather different tone was struck by Swale UKIP councillor Mike Baldock, who tweeted that KCC’s approaoch was “a sure route to poor services and less value for money - exactly what people don’t want to see. A failure in other councils.” Not exactly singing from the same hymn sheet.

 

 

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The price of care savings: Kent County Council and the £5.4m it wants to spend on outside care consultants

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, March 28 2013

If you are a political party in charge of a council that has just set a budget with savings of £95m, what would be the last thing you might be want to be seen doing a few weeks later?

How about giving a contract to consultants that could be worth £5.4m?

 And on top of that, awarding the contract to a company to help decide how best to achieve £18m savings from services you provide for some of the most vulnerable adults in society?

Savings, incidentally, that you already know are deeply unpopular with voters because you carried out a consultation about them in the Autumn. That is precisely the awkward position that the Conservative administration at County Hall is in. It has set in train a process it probably wishes it could halt until after May 2 but hasn't been able to.

 At its heart is the proposal to appoint what social services chiefs euphamistically describe as a "transformation and efficiency partner"  to advise on how best the £18m savings can be delivered. In other words, consultants from outside the authority and possibly the county who will  be drafted in to identify just what KCC needS to do.

No wonder there is a bit of a stink about it.

 The proposition was the subject of a report tabled to a backbench cross-party committee last week, which was asked to approve a recommendation that the Conservative cabinet go ahead with the appointment of an unnamed company.

There was a brief debate in the public part of the Social Care and Public Health committee before the chairman decided that some comments were straying into territory that might compromise the authority's financial interests.

What we do know is that  in that private debate, opposition to the plan came not from just the usual suspects but from several Conservatives who were, to put it mildly, somewhat concerned about the whole idea.Some asked why it was necessary to bring in outside consultants in the first place and why KCC seemingly lacks the capacity and expertise to deliver a key part of its budget.

Others were unhappy about the fact they felt they were being bounced into endorsing the idea without a proper evaluation or discussion; some were simply horrified that the adminstration was embarking on such a path with the election a few weeks away.

The result was that - highly unusually for this type of committee - a vote was taken, after a motion tabled by the opposition Labour representative Les Christie to recommend that the cabinet not proceed with the appointment. Even more unusually, the proposal was supported by several backbecnh Conservatives with the result that the chairman Cllr Chris Smith was  forced  to use his casting vote to ensure Labour's alternative proposal was defeated.

 What does this tell us? Well, self-evidently there is serious disquiet in the Tory ranks about it all.

 It also tells us that maybe KCC isn't quite sure itself how it will manage to deliver the £18m savings and probably did not at the time it announced them - after all, if it did, why would it now need consultants to do the work for it?

 It might also be said that perhaps KCC, in its rush to cut jobs to save money, did so with a rather misplaced enthusiasm and ended up losing people who took with them years of experience and knowledge.

What happens now? The Conservative cabinet member for adult social care Graham Gibbens is reflecting on the comments of his collegues and weighing up what to do. He is a decent and straight politician and won't be enjoying his present discomfiture.

Either way, KCC has a serious addiction issue so far as consultants are concerned, seemingly believing they are the solution to any number of different problems.

It could do with weaning itself off them.

 

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Conservative back-pedalling on grammar school transport.

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, February 19 2013

Conservatives at County Hall are acutely sensitive to suggestions that grammar schools are increasingly dominated by children who have got there because they are somehow privileged.

The fact the county council has now acknowledged that the eleven plus is skewed towards those who can afford private coaching - and is trying to do something about it - reflects these sensitivities.

Now the authority has agreed to review its controversial decision to scrap discretionary transport subsidies for children who opt for a selective school - or a denominational school - above others nearer to where they live.

An estimated 4,200 families have lost out under the arrangements because their income means they do not any longer qualify.

Whether KCC would have done had it not been faced with one Conservative - Cllr Andrew Bowles, also the leader of Swale Council - breaking rank and publicly denouncing the policy is a moot point. 

I suspect the ruling administration would have faced down a similar Liberal Democrat call for a rethink but felt propelled to act knowing that Cllr Bowles might not be the only one to decide to speak out.

He made the point that other Conservatives have privately expressed, namely that ending transport support has adversely affected precisely the kind of children that Kent ought to be assisting when it comes to going to grammar schools.

A review, of course, is just that and there has been no commitment to a U-turn. The fact there will be an-party working group indicates that the Conservatives want to tie in the other parties to any changes that might be made.

And a review will help neutralise the opposition from contending that nothing is being done, even if it seems unlikely that it will report before the May election, which won't unduly worry the Conservatives.

The issue is complicated by the fact that KCC will also have to address the issue of whether it should bring back some kind of discretionary subsidy for children who choose a church school above others nearer to where they live.

And it is worth noting that in an environment where parents are sold the idea they can choose a school, some may question why discretionary support for transport costs should not available for those who choose a non-selective school above others nearer to where they live.

This anomaly was actually a factor when KCC originally determined that it would end most subsidies and it was suggested it could be legally challenged.

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Even the most fervent believers in transparency and accountability would have to question whether Kent County Council's annual budget meeting represents open democracy at its best. 

The gruelling day-long meeting was singularly lacking in political drama - with the one exception of the debate on grammar school transport - and enlightening debate and there was a distinct impression that county councillors were simply going through the motions.

There was an awful lot of Conservative councillors standing up to say what a good job KCC was doing and equally, a lot of opposition contributions saying they weren't.

Perhaps the format might also benefit from an all-party review.

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After hints that he might enjoy another run against the incumbent MP Helen Grant in Maidstone and Weald, it seems the former Liberal Democrat candidate Peter Carroll, who is now working for the Kent police commissioner Ann Barnes, is to give it a miss.

The constituency party will select its candidate this weekend from a shortlist of three - all men but Mr Carroll is not among them.

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Categories: KCC | Local Politics

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