Ashford Borough Council (ABC) has announced today (Wednesday 25th January), that it no longer intends to pursue discussions on the proposed creation of a single East Kent district council.
In July last year ABC’s Cabinet approved a Statement of Intent to explore a potential merger of the five East Kent district councils. Those five authorities – Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet – jointly commissioned the independent production of a business case to investigate the advantages, disadvantages and potential mechanisms for a merger.
Following receipt and independent examination of the business case, the authority has decided to not continue talks any further, but to retain flexibility to enable ABC to consider working with the other authorities and partners throughout Kent or those outside the county in the future.
A formal decision will be made in February when members consider a report put to Cabinet and then Full Council.
Ashford has decided to make the announcement at this point to allow the other parties the opportunity to progress discussions on the potential creation of a single East Kent district between the four authorities before formal decisions are made by their respective committee meetings in March.
Leader of ABC, Cllr Gerry Clarkson, said: “In light of the Government’s devolution agenda, financial challenges facing local government and the opportunity to drive improvements it was only right and proper that we thoroughly examined the idea, and we entered the process with an open mind and a clear intention to work with the other authorities to explore the options.
“However having received the business case we do not believe it is in the best interest for our borough or represents value for money for our residents. We also feel it is not in the best interests of the other four authorities for us to continue either.
“From the very outset of these discussions we have said any proposals must be right for Ashford and its residents. We are proud of having the lowest council tax in Kent and this was always our red line, and something we were not prepared to cross – we want to remain the lowest taxing authority in Kent.
“The council’s current financial position is strong; we have a clear medium term financial plan in place and a vision to continue our evolution into becoming more commercially minded and self-sufficient from central government funding.
“It does not mean we have ruled out exploring further opportunities to work more closely or share services with other authorities in the future. We have an open mind to this, but now is not the right time for Ashford.”
Ashford Borough Council 25 January 2017
Bob Shrubb, Chair of South Ashford Community Forum (SACF) attended the an information evening on the merger hosted by Canterbury City Council. His notes on the meeting ca be downloaded from: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8rLNXpJBFJ8R0ZBRHdSWHp6TUU
The business case and further information can be found on the ABC website at: www.ashford.gov.uk/ekcouncils