Folkestone Town (parish) Council has put £400,000 towards a World War One memorial arch organised by a group called Short Step. The charity has failed to raise its part of the money, so taxpayers face the prospect of being lumbered with another £19,000. It’s a worthy idea, but is it really the best use of taxpayers' money?
Surely this is something better left to private charitable donations rather that spending huge amounts of taxpayers' money without necessary safeguards. Local feeling is running high and the Folkestone Herald newspaper has launched a readers’ poll as to whether their money should be spent thus, or the project abandoned – Folkestone already having several war memorials. At the time of writing the poll is about to close and the “no’s” stand at 72% (over 1,200 responses).
However, the MP, Damian Collins, is behind the plan, and the council has said it’s going ahead regardless. Interestingly, the rival local paper, the Folkestone & Hythe Express, has come out in favour of the project, which it regards as good for Folkestone, and quotes a different website petition that has had a poor response.
Down the road at Dover District Council, it's been reported that £12.5m that was ring fenced for repairing council properties has been moved from the housing revenue account to a general fund for all services. Tenants (and council opposition) are livid, claiming the cash is needed for urgent repairs to dilapidated housing. It transpires that the government disapproves too, because new rules have just come in on 1 October outlawing the practice. Dover acted just days before this rule change came into force. A political row has since erupted involving Dover & Deal MP Charlie Elphicke and the Labour group on the district council, who abstained rather than oppose in the crucial council vote.
Canterbury City Council (a district council) have gone and done exactly the same thing, transferring £1m from housing revenue at the last moment before the new rules took effect. This time it was condemned and opposed by the LibDem opposition, who described it as “an act of theft” in the Kentish Gazette.