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Council defends Conservative onslaught over next year's budget

Thursday 2nd March 2017

MAIDSTONE Borough Council’s budget has been approved with a 1.99% increase in council tax.

A Tory-led amendment, which called for a contingency fund to bolster planning enforcement, was defeated at a meeting of full council on March 1.

The administration was forced to defend its decision to continue funding the Maidstone Museum amid accusations the money could be spent on the front line.

Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Annabelle Blackmore said: "Conservative Maidstone Borough Councillors wanted a contingency fund for escalated planning enforcement action in the most serious of cases.

“Instead the Liberal Democrat cohort backed additional money into the museum which already received in excess of £1,000,000.

“How can this be right or allowed to continue? Liberal Democrat councillors have left us to look at eyesores across our Borough and it is totally unacceptable." 

But council leader Fran Wilson said: "At the full council meeting, the Conservatives voted against budget proposals for 2017/18, which included an agreed amendment to accept the Government’ s offer to increase  Planning charges, both of which earlier in the evening they had unanimously approved.

"They appeared to make this about turn in a fit of pique because their own budget amendment had been rejected.  This had suggested setting up a fund for accelerated enforcement action by raiding the Council’s modest savings and taking £50,000 away from the budget of the museum.

"While there is cross party agreement that significant improvements need to be made to Planning Enforcement the other groups considered this was not the way to go about it."

Defending the budget decisions, Lib Dem Cllr Emily Fermor said: “I completely understand the problems we face with enforcement and the need to review that part of the borough council as it’s not working at the moment.

“There is a review going on at the moment in the planning department as to what money is needed and where. The Tory idea was a sticking plaster without a long-term solution for the future.

“AS for the museum I believe that funding should stay in place as we have a rich history and must stay open, free at the point of use.”