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KENT'S EARLY BUDGET LAYS FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE

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The first autumn budget in Kent's history was described today as the turning point in the county council's long fin...
The first autumn budget in Kent's history was described today as the turning point in the county council's long financial crisis.

Leader of Kent CC, Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, said: 'We are four months ahead of schedule with the county council budget. We are tackling massive financial problems, including a debt of£600m. But by getting the Kent county council finances on a more even keel we can move forward with a five point plan to make Kent a great place to live and work. This budget is the turning point after a long period of financial chaos.'

The Efficiency Report states that of the£27m savings proposed, the majority come from Restructuring and Efficiency.

Bruce Lockhart, who is also chairman of the policy and resources committee which accepted the budget proposals today, said: 'We have had to deal with a revenue deficit forecast of some£68m but we have set to with reorganising the county council to reduce overheads, streamline the organisation and pump as much money as possible into services. I am determined to return the council to careful long term financial planning so we can build in steadily improving services.'

The five main aims of the county council once the financial problems are solved are:

-- value for money services

-- raising standards in Education and Social Services

-- creating safer and securer communities

-- protecting and enhancing Kent's environment and country-side

-- helping to promote Kent and the county's business interests.

'All this plus the massive problems that have been highlighted nationally with the sudden influx of hundreds of asylum seekers into Dover. This has not only placed a massive drain on our resources, for which we will be demanding government help, but has shown the clear need for an organisation the size of the county council to deal properly with an emergency of this scale. I pay tribute to the staff involved for the superb way they have responded to this influx.

'Returning to the budget, we need now to get on with being a positive county council and responding to the many opportunities ahead. I believe the staff in Kent CC who have endured great periods of uncertainty over recent years will respond to the many challenges ahead.

'Kent's own economy is at a period of unique opportunity arising from our new transport links like the Channel Tunnel and international passenger stations at Ashford and Ebbsfleet. We must promote and market Kent as the best business location for trade to and from mainland Europe.

'I want this to be backed by a county council that has a reputation for excellence second to none and provides first class services. We can achieve this together with our partners in the parishes and district councils and with the help and co-operation of the business and voluntary sectors. First however we must work our way carefully through the present difficult budget situation so we can move on to the long term issues and challenges and raise the quality of life in Kent'.

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