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  1. Iain McBride

Council to cut almost a quarter of a billion pounds from its budget

Kent County Council is to cut almost a quarter of a billion pounds from its spending budget. Unions have raised concerns that the move could cost up to 1,500 jobs.

The council leader, Councillor Paul Carter, admits the level of savings needed to balance the local authority's budget is "eye watering", but he has pledged to protect frontline services. Iain McBride reports.

The interviewees are: Councillor Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council (Conservative); Councillor Roger Latchford, Kent County Council (UKIP); David Lloyd from the Unison union.


Kent children's centres to close

Kent County Council is planning to close 20 children's centres across the county.

The council says it needs to make savings and the closures will make savings of at least £1.5m.

The children's centres provide early childhood services and important support for parents and carers.

Kent council is launching a 12-week consultation today to get the views of local parents and the wider community who use the centres.

Kent County Council is committed to continuing to provide the services we currently offer through our Children's Centres and continuing to make a difference to the futures of families we help through those centres. We need to make efficiency savings and will seek to do this by minimising property and management costs."

– Jenny Whittle, Kent County Council cabinet member for specialist children's services
  1. Jamie Stephens

Council criticised for failing vulnerable child

Kent County Council has been severely criticised by local government watchdogs for its treatment of a 16-year-old boy who had been abandoned by his parents.

The Local Government Ombudsman says staff failed to properly care for the vulnerable teenager, who was left homeless. This report from Jamie Stephens includes an interview with Nigel Ellis, Investigations Director for the Local Government Ombudsman.

The report is followed by an interview conducted by our presenter Sangeeta Bhabra with Mairead MacNeil, the Director of specialist children's services at Kent County Council.


Concerns over lane rental

A spokesman for utility contractors who face paying for road works that cause congestion on during busy times on peak routes has said he's not convinced the scheme is needed.

But the National Joint Utilities Group Ltd (NJUG) said it wanted to place on record its appreciation for the inclusive and collaborative way in which Kent County Council consulted with it and its members in the development of its lane rental scheme. It added:

Whilst NJUG is yet to be convinced that lane rental will deliver substantial additional benefits over and above the existing legislation already available, we believe that Kent County Council’s approach takes a sophisticated look at using lane rental in a very targeted way, balancing the need to reduce the unfortunate disruption which sometime arises from both utility and authority essential street works, with the need to invest in essential utility services and the road network, and not unnecessarily increasing consumers’ and ratepayers bills. ”

– Mark Ostheimer, Operations Director of the National Joint Utilities Group

He said they looked forward to continuing to work with the council on the plan.

A12-week trial began in March after the scheme was given the green light by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin. Companies began incurring fines from 28th May 2013.

Road rental plan could be rolled out nationally

Plans to charge utility contractors for the disruption they cause digging up roads have won the support of Transport Minister Norman Baker MP, who said he would be watching how effective they were, ahead of a possible national rollout.

Under the plans, which cover more than 465 roads in Kent, utility companies will be charged a daily rate for the inconvenience caused by road works on popular routes at busy times.

Money paid into the scheme will be invested in further work to cut congestion in Kent.

I am pleased that Kent’s pioneering lane rental scheme is now active. It provides a strong incentive to those carrying out road works on the busiest networks to make sure they complete improvements or repairs on time. This will help minimise disruption and congestion, but also provide a better service to drivers, cyclists and passengers. I look forward to seeing the results of the Kent and Transport for London schemes in due course, which will help me decide on the future rollout of lane rental at a national level."

– Norman Baker MP, Transport Minister

Kent County Council said it was committed to keeping traffic moving, but it was difficult when companies scheduled road works on heavily-used roads during rush hour.

The Kent Lane Rental Scheme forced companies to really think about the scale and duration of works on our key routes, or face a sizeable charge for the disruption they cause for Kent’s travelling public It is the perfect way to keep our network of roads as clear as possible and get drivers to where they need to be as quickly as possible; a truly remarkable scheme."

– David Brazier, Kent County Council

Plan to cut roadwork congestion

A scheme aimed at cutting congestion on Kent's busiest roads by charging companies lane rental while they carry out roadworks is now up and running.

The county council has set up the new Kent Lane Rental Scheme. Companies will now be charged up to £2,000 per day for the inconvenience caused by digging up the busiest roads on the network at peak time.

Kent is the first county council in the country to run the scheme, which is designed to get contractors to work on the roads during the night and at off-peak times, or to use techniques such as tunnelling more often to avoid closing roads.

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