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Ashford Lib Dems Manifesto

April 29, 2019 12:00 PM
By Ashford Lib Dems

Ashford Borough Council Elections May 2nd 2019

People become Liberal Democrats when they say to themselves, "someone must do something," when they look to the left and the right of politics and don't like what they see. Being a Liberal Democrat tends to mean you are centralist by your very nature.
On each membership card, it says:
"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."
For Ashford that means:
• Invest in the environment and streetscape of Ashford.
o Rather than expensive statues or art installations, Ashford needs effective cleaning and maintenance of public spaces. Paving needs to be replaced, rather than holes filled with ugly tarmac. Signs or railings which have been damaged need to be repaired immediately not left for months or years.
o Encourage Ashford in Bloom competitions for front gardens.

• Striving to reconnect the taxpayers and constituents of Ashford Borough Council with the Council.
o Setting up new community forums and strengthening those that already exist by giving them a budget from the section 106 moneys received from developers. Currently, it is Ashford Borough Council's policy to pool this money and spend it across the borough. The recommendation of the Local Government Act is to spend the money in the area of the impact of the development.

• Establish an objective to revitalise the Town Centre through the Council acting as the primary lease holder to Landlords then the Council subletting to start-up businesses to improve verity and choice of shops in Ashford
o Establish a Brighton Lanes style alternative craft and boutique shops through short term low risk leases. Currently a large percentage of Ashford spending power goes elsewhere due to the lack of variety available in Ashford in the evenings. In combination with Licencing and Planning generate a night economy with café, bar and restaurant environment.

• Flexible Parking arrangements.
o To encourage shoppers into the Town Centre by introducing two hours free parking at any time of the day and no parking fees on Sundays.

• We would set up development consultation meetings through the local forum groups to discuss upcoming development plans and applications.
o As it is the tax payers of Ashford who underwrite Ashford Borough Council borrowings, we feel there should be a stronger involvement of the tax payers of Ashford greater than voting once every four years. According to the Economist Magazine, Ashford is the sixth most in debt council in the country.

• Enhance the role of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to include the oversight of the privately-run property development company owned by the council.
o Although this company is run at arm's length from the Council there is a perception that it is outbidding and outmanoeuvring private contractors and developers in the Ashford area. It must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the tax payers of Ashford that it does not exploit its dominant position when competing with the private sector or queue-jump the planning process to the disadvantage of private investors and developers also investing in Ashford's future.

• Improve the relationship Ashford Borough Council has with Kent County Council. Establish key link roles for the Cabinet members of ABC with the relevant Cabinet members of KCC.
o Too often you hear a stock answer from Ashford Borough Councillors "Ah yes well that is a KCC issue not ours". That is an abdication of responsibility; it is the responsibility of Ashford Borough Council to have good open communications and relationships with KCC who run the schools, hospitals and roads. The poor relationship with KCC has a direct impact on Ashford: roads in parts of Ashford are shockingly bad. The planning and scheduling of school provision to coincide with the new housing estates is poor. In addition, it is clear that a number of GPs are closing their lists.

• To set up an open forum on Ashford's Future in a new section of the Ashford Borough Council web site which outlines the plans for Ashford over the coming years.
This will allow current local businesses to plan and invest as well as attracting people and business who can buy into the future of Ashford. It will also allow taxpayers to assess the value and security of the council's borrowings.

• Establish a Community seed fund money project for Community Wide projects.
o Organisations will be able to apply for funding to establish a community based competition for Ashford

These things and more to tap the huge willingness of Ashford people to make it the town they want it to be. By sharing the plans and being open with the people of Ashford local people can then see how they can get involved with Council run and supported programmes. If the Council underwrites the start-up risk, the skilled and inventive folks of Ashford will join in rather than standing back and waiting to see what happens. The Council needs to take the town's folk with it on the journey to a better more prosperous and vibrant Ashford.
"Reconnect the people of Ashford to what the Council are doing in their name and money".
Please help the Lib Dems of Ashford to fulfil our manifesto pledges by electing Lib Dem Councillors on May 2nd.

Adrian Gee-Turner, Chair, Ashford Liberal Democrats