Kent Messenger Column - 28-06-18
If Maidstone's roads are to become less congested our local authorities must work together toward a long-term plan; one that would include some form of Southern relief road. That is why I have been working together with my neighbour Helen Whately MP, to try and broker a constructive working relationship between Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council.
To that end we created a forum for leadership discussion and mediation in the privacy of my office at Maidstone East. After two positive meetings, KCC and MBC appeared to be moving in tandem toward a real solution for the people of Maidstone.
This month, completely out of the blue, I learned that MBC have instigated a Judicial Review against Kent County Council over their use of public money to investigate the potential benefits of a Maidstone relief road.
The legal arguments are a matter between KCC and MBC. The question is, why was this not brought up at any time during our collaborative meetings where we had every opportunity to put all our heads together to seek resolution. Neither Helen nor I were consulted or advised prior to the issue of proceedings and maybe some guidance from a Minister, or even a steer toward some central funding pot, may have averted this action.
I was a litigation solicitor for 23 years before entering politics and going to court was usually a matter of last resort, not least because of the expense. These JR costs could be upwards of £30,000, funded by the taxpayer via KCC or MBC (or both). Councils have a duty to mitigate public expenditure wherever possible; surely it would have been worth airing the proposed action with two fully engaged MPs?
I have raised this lack of transparency in writing with MBC and their response was entirely unsatisfactory. Serious public interest questions remain unanswered and must be addressed.
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