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Question to Kent County Council [with answer], 17 February 2011: Ashford Development & the Audit Commission

February 17, 2011 4:30 PM

Question by George Koowaree to Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development

Will the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development inform the council how he intends to work with Ashford Borough Council to implement the Audit Commissions recommendations to improve Kent's one-star rating for the management of the growth of Ashford for the benefit of the whole community and in particular how he intends to:

a) prioritise the proposals for the area, clearly identify impact of development projects and deal with the weak arrangements to manage performance and project risks,

b) place value for money at the heart of his plans to ensure he knows whether development schemes provide value for money in accordance with the high levels of public investment,

c) involve local people, community groups and businesses who are frustrated with the pace of improvement and the lack of social and community facilities in the development of Ashford?

Answer

Your question presupposes that we agree with the findings of the Audit Commission report, which for the most part we do not.

By working closely alongside the new Leader and Chief Executive of Ashford BC to maintain the momentum of the growth agenda, we have delivered, and are still delivering, a range of significant projects, among them shared space, Victoria Way, and the M20 junction 9 Drovers roundabout. All have come in on time and to budget. These projects will provide the capacity for Ashford to meet its aspirations for 31,000 new homes and 28,000 new jobs.

To be successful in securing funding for these projects we have had to demonstrate value for money and a strong return on investment, neither of which have been recognised by the Audit Commission. Local people have been, and continue to inform planning policy by being involved with Ashford Borough Council in planning exercises, and effective partnership working has seen the delivery of the Singleton Environment Centre, the Stour Centre Extension with a new Ashford Gateway and Art at St Marys currently under construction.

All of which puts Ashford in the enviable position of being able to grow in a controlled and sustainable manner for years to come - something which again the Audit Commission failed to recognise.