We the Shepway Vox Team get it wrong sometimes. When we do we like to be open about our mistakes, and if necessary apologise. This is one of those ocassions where we need to apologise. So we say sorry, to you the residents, for informing you it was the Lib Dems who were responsible for our district having the highest council tax in Kent, for the last eighteen years. It wasn’t them.
It was the Tories – that’s a FACT evidenced by the Audit Commission [now defunct].
Between 1999 and 2003 our Council had 56 Cllrs representing 25 wards. The composition of the council was Tories 29; Lib Dems 16 and Labour 11. At that time we had a Cabinet system introduced in 1999 by the Tory leader of the Council former district Cllr Rory Love. His Cabinet was made up of the following Cllrs:
Over the past two years work by the Audit Commission and the IDeA identified and reported on poor working relationships between some Members and senior officers and evidence of a blame and bullying culture at the council [2001 and 2002].
So the Tories while in power were bullies and harassed council officers – FACT.
The Council budget for 2003/04 was set in Feb 2003 by the Tories. It’s important to remember this. At the same meeting they raised Council Tax by 9.5% meaning a typical band ‘D’ property rose from £157.90 to £172.90 – a rise of £15.
In the May 2003 local election, the Tories were swept from power by the Liberal Democrats. They took 28 of the 46 seats [less numbers due to boundary changes], the Conservatives 16 one Labour and one independent. The Lib Dems, were led by Cllr Linda Cufley (pictured).
In a progress report letter referred to above, it states:
The council has made progress in tackling the issues of a blame culture and addressing concerns of bullying/harassment.
Making it clear the Lib Dems acted to stop what the Tories had started- Bullying and Harrasment.
In July 2004, after the Audit Commission had looked at the Council’s accounts, their Inspection Reportstates at Para 4 (page 4):
Shepway is a weak council. In the past, the leadership of the council has been undermined by poor relationships between councillors, and between councillors and officers. Following elections in May 2003 [when the Lib Dems took control], and as the result of improvement measures taken by the council, these relationships are now positive. Councillors and officers share a strong willingness to take the council forward and progress has been made on some fronts over the past year.
The report goes onto say:
Internal tensions between councillors and staff, and poor financial management by the council and its political leadership, undermined corporate focus in the period 1999–2003.
Moving on, in the same 2004 Audit Commission report on the Council’s finances, it states:
The net revenue budget [set by the Tories] for 2003/04 was £15.9 million and capital expenditure (including housing) was £11.6 million. The council’s debt at 31 March  was £31.1 million and projected revenue reserves amounted to £1.7 million.
All this debt was incurred by the previous Conservative administration and the 2003/04 budget was set by the Tories in Feb 2003, prior to the Lib Dems taking control in May 2003.
In Feb 2004, when setting the 2004/05 budget the Lib Dems had to make some hard choices due to the financial mismanagement of the Tories under former Cllr Rory Love’s leadership. To balance its budget, the Lib Dems needed to raise council tax by 39% which became 29% and ended up at 20%. The Lib Dems took the funding axe to the local tourism budget and decided to close all public toilets. All this happened because the Tories were so profligate with money, we hardly any reserves at all to use.
In April 2004, the Labour government announced that it considered the council’s budget to be excessive and was capping expenditure for 2004/05 at £15.494 million. This was £598,000 less than budget and necessitated additional cuts in service expenditure. The council appealed and lost, meaning the Lib Dems had no choice about making drastic cuts which were not of their making
So when Councillor Susan Carey said it was the Lib Dems who gave us the highest Council Tax in Kent, back in March 2021, she was no doubt suffering from a long term memory loss.
Cllr Carey was first elected in May 1999 to the Saltwood & Newington ward. She won the seat with 240 votes gaining 59.1% of the vote. She was part of the adminstration which bullied and harassed officers and led the council on the road to financial ruin. That’s a FACT.
We doubt if Cllr Carey will bother to even apologise for a blatant piece of misinformation/fake news or perhaps poor memory.
In July 2004, after the council lost its appeal regarding the capping of its council tax, the Lib Dems began fighting, and split into two groups. Naturally, the Lib Dems had no overall control and the leader of the Council, Linda Cufley, who put a stop to the Tories bullying and harassment,informed the then Chief Executive, Brian McAndrew of her the resignation, effective from midday on the 5 August.
And finally, it was the Tories who got the ball rolling on the £10 million of PFI credits secured for two new sports centres in Folkestone and Hythe. This all began in the last few months they were in office in 2003, as is made clear by this document.
It took the Council several years to unpick these PFI credits which ended up costing the council an absolute fortune.
So, it was the Tories who gave us the highest council tax in Kent for the last eighteen years, through their financial incompetence. It was the Tories who signed us up to £10 million of PFI credits which costs us a fortune to get out of; and it was a Tory – Cllr Susan Carey – who was so willing to spin the truth and mislead the residents of the district.
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