Ashford Borough Council Conservative Manifesto 2019

                    Ambitious for Ashford - Working and Caring for our Community

As residents of the Borough, we make use of the same services, we enjoy the same parks and green spaces, we put out and recycle our rubbish, use the same shops and restaurants and visit the same leisure and health centres as you.  That’s how we know that the decisions made by the Council have a direct impact on all our lives.  

As councillors, the decisions that we take on behalf of you are never taken lightly, as we remember that every pound spent has been earned by you. We work hard to ensure that the services we provide offer great value for money for all the residents of Ashford, with all spending carried out sensibly, diligently and responsibly to ensure that every pound spent works as hard as it can and always with the best interests of ordinary working people at the forefront of our decisions.

This is why over the last four years we have been doing things differently as a Council. This has meant going beyond the traditional remit of a borough council by putting the wellbeing of our residents and businesses at the heart of everything we do, and of every decision taken, while still working hard to provide you with the best, most cost-effective, high-quality servicesand all the while keeping your taxes as low as possible. In spite of economic challenges, we have been successful in maintaining the lowest Council Tax in Kent since 2015 and we are committed to maintaining the lowest Council Tax in Kent for the next four years.
The Council’s work is built on excellence, forward thinking, innovation and offering great value for money.

Over the last four years your Conservative led Ashford Borough Council has delivered for the residents of Ashford. We have worked hard to become self-sufficient, rather than relying on central government funding, enabling us to serve you better. Over the last 10 years we have gone from receiving a Government grant of 8.1 million pounds in 2009/10 to receiving no grant funding at all in 2019/20. 

We have successfully reduced costs, wastage and cut bureaucracy, whilst at the same time increasing income to make up the shortfall in our spending plans by investing in property, such as Elwick Place and International House in the town centre, in order to earn a return. Through innovation and tough choices, we have protected our services for all residents.

The Borough remains one of the safest places in the county. Over the last four years working with our partners we have had a positive impact on reducing the number of reported incidents of fly-tipping, illegal encampments and in reducing the number of anti-social behaviour incidents, as well as providing more support for victims of domestic abuse.

Although we are proud of our achievements and how we have met the challenges of the past four years, we know there are many more challenges to come.  

Ashford Borough Council Conservatives have always been ambitious for the communities we serve. We will continue to make sure the Council delivers excellent services and always provides the very best value.  The wellbeing of our residents and those visiting the Borough will continue to be the focus of everything we do.  

As a positive, active Council this means that we want all our residents to lead long, happy and healthy lives.  A great deal of what we already do as a Borough Council makes a significant positive contribution to your quality of life and sense of wellbeing as residents. As Conservatives we are ambitious for our communities and we want to deliver even more to the community by taking the right long-term decisions for Ashford’s future security and prosperity.  

At the heart of this manifesto is the wellbeing of your Borough and of all of you, the residents. Wellbeing isn’t just about access to health services.  It is primarily about providing decent, suitable homes for people to live in within a safe, healthy and protected environment; it is about enabling a strong local economy that provides the jobs and services we need; it is about our lifestyle choices and opportunities to plan our future and the provision of services that keep the people of the Borough living independently for longer. We also understand that even small changes can result in a significant impact and that we can play our part in supporting, promoting and delivering these.  At the same time, we want to support our businesses and help them thrive and prosper

This manifesto sets out how we will make this happen for you and with you, using five themes:  the environment, our economy, community safety, housing and health. We will build these on the foundations that support everything we do: excellent services, innovation and quality always making sure we deliver the very best value for money.                

A Pleasant Environment
We are proud of our Borough’s high-quality natural environment. Ashford Borough has the largest land mass of any district in Kent and our dark skies and range of wildlife are a feature of the area.  We know that this plays a vital role in the wellbeing of all our residents and our focus is on protecting the very special environment of the Borough for future generations. We believe that keeping the Borough clean and tidy is one of the most important services the Council provides. We are proud to have the highest recycling rates in Kent and recognise the key role you as our residents play in this.

1: We will protect our high-quality natural habitat, including the designated green corridor, green open spaces and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, by having a robust local plan that provides planning policies and development that respects and protects the Borough’s unique character. We will take particular care to respect the intrinsic character and special characteristics of rural areas and manage the pace and scale of development.

2: We will deliver the highest quality services, by continuing to improve our already high recycling rates and rubbish collection services and by taking a tough approach to fly-tipping.

3: We will improve the Borough’s environment, focusing on monitoring and improving air quality, by continuing our work with our partners to look at all forms of traffic management, transport and connectivity across the Borough.

A Thriving Economy
The Borough’s economy is hugely influenced by our proximity to London. As the economy changes, new jobs will be created and skills required. We will support businesses and you, our residents, through the transition ahead, with our tailored support for businesses and a focus on making sure our towns and rural economies are ready for these new opportunities. Both digital and mobile connectivity will be a priority, making sure the Borough can fully benefit from future opportunities.

4: We will lead in shaping improvements to our town and villages to enhance the visitor and rural economies, unlocking the Borough’s potential and improving facilities for our residents. We commit to maintaining the discretionary rural rate relief over the next four years to support our village stores, community businesses, charities and museums.

5: We will continue to support new and existing businesses by taking an entrepreneurial approach that backs business owners, thereby enabling a growing economy with flourishing small and medium businesses.  We will encourage support for our high street shops.    
6: We will work to deliver better mobile and internet connectivity for homes and businesses across the Borough and in rural areas by working with providers, land owners and communities to find new solutions.

A Place to Live
We know that for many residents the availability of suitable and affordable housing is a big challenge, whether you are young and looking to get your first foot on the housing ladder, a growing family needing increased space or an older resident looking to downsize. This is one of the biggest issues facing us as a borough. With the link between housing and health well known, we will ensure that we provide the right homes for our residents, and that housing is made more affordable, so that people within our community feel that they have the security and stability they need to provide for the future.  We want to help ordinary, working families to buy their own homes.  

The Borough’s history is closely tied to agriculture, with Ashford growing rapidly as a market town. We acknowledge that this agricultural landscape and heritage is greatly prized by existing residents and those that move here alike. When central government requires the Borough to deliver a target of new homes, we seek to ensure that it is located in areas which will not adversely affect the character of the borough and that those developments deliver affordable housing. 

7: We will deliver a range of homes to meet your needs as residents including affordable and social housing and homes for older members of our community, by continuing to implement our housing strategy. We are proud of the new award-winning independent living accommodation we have built, like Farrow Court and Danemore in Tenterden, and we will not stop there: the council’s waiting list for housing is too long, so we will bring forward over twenty sites for new social housing in order to tackle the housing crisis. We will also endeavour to control the spread of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).

8: We will ensure planning regulations are adhered to and that unauthorised developments are removed as quickly as possible.

9: We will ensure that all planning applications are dealt with the highest levels of scrutiny, transparency and governance.  Each planning application will be fairly assessed with local residents having the opportunity to comment on planning applications and the possibility of indicating how potential developments may affect their quality of life.  We will ensure that decision makers are aware of the impact of developments before final decisions are made.

10: We will continue to improve the quality and use of existing houses by helping residents of the Borough to be more energy efficient and tackling fuel poverty; encouraging residents to down-size when appropriate and continuing to turn around long-term empty homes back into use to deliver for those waiting for a much need home.

11: We will support those who are vulnerable, disabled and the elderly to live independently at home or to move to the best suited and appropriate accommodation for their needs. 47% of all rural local needs homes built in Kent are built in Ashford. There are 771 local needs homes in the county of which 364 are in the borough, across 32 local needs housing schemes in 27 parishes

Living and Ageing Well
We aim to make the Borough of Ashford the healthiest place possible to live and work. We will achieve this by continuing to link our leisure facilities, housing, open spaces, planning and environmental health work together, to create an environment that promotes wellbeing for us all.

As the population of the Borough ages we will provide first class services to support older people to live fulfilled, independent lives for as long as possible. We will focus on their wellbeing; including falls prevention, isolation and loneliness. We will work with Parish Councils and Community Groups to improve community transport provision for those living in less well-connected parts of the Borough so that everyone can benefit from the investments we have made in Ashford town centre and enjoy the new and planned cultural facilities. 

12: We will prevent delays for residents leaving hospital, by adapting homes quickly so people can be supported to return to independent living as soon as they are ready.

13: We will deliver first class preventative health and wellbeing services, by providing advice and support to our residents, by linking them directly to our core services such as leisure and housing, and by continuing to support the ONE YOU shop which we set up in Ashford town centre. 

14: We will reduce hospital admissions and GP appointments, by the use of falls prevention classes and home adaptations, while tackling other underlying causes of ill health such as conditions caused by isolation loneliness. 

Strong, Safe and Caring Communities
Ashford is already one of the safest places to live in the County with a strong sense of community, but we want our Borough to be an even safer place to live, work and visit.  We will achieve this by continuing to work hard with our partners to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and by building strong, safe and caring communities. 

Working with our outstanding voluntary and community groups to support our most isolated and vulnerable residents will remain our priority.

The way we live, work and relate to each other is changing as we move towards a more digital age.  We recognise this and have worked hard to create stronger, more caring communities where you, our residents, feel supported and connected. 

15.We will build strong, caring and connected communities where you feel safe, proud of where you live and have a sense of belonging.  We will introduce a range of community activities specifically aimed at combating isolation and loneliness.  

16: We will promote, support and value the Borough’s voluntary and community organisations in their valuable work to reach vulnerable and isolated residents by linking affected residents directly to these services and by supporting the voluntary sector. 

17: We will protect you by making sure all our policies, partnerships and teams, alongside local businesses, schools and communities are working together to safeguard residents, communities and children, especially on-line.   

Like you, we are ambitious for Ashford.

Let’s go forward together for a prosperous future for our Borough.