By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent County Council (KCC) have mooted the idea of holding a referendum on increasing council tax unless it receives more Government cash, councillors have threatened.
KCC continues to lobby Whitehall chiefs for much-needed funding to cover a £50m “black hole” forecast in County Hall’s budget over the next 12 months.
Calls have been made by KCC’s Labour group leader Dara Farrell to “leave everything on the table” as councillors forensically examined the financial impact of Covid-19 on Kent councils during a virtual meeting earlier today (June 9).
At the scrutiny meeting, he asked KCC’s finance cabinet member, Cllr Peter Oakford (Con): “Nobody wants to see council tax increased, but would you consider threatening a referendum on the council tax increase threshold?
“When councils have done that previously, suddenly Government has been able to find them some more money.”
Cllr Oakford did not rule out the move as he reiterated that there were no financial “sacred cows” being offered to the county council by Whitehall bosses.
The deputy leader said: “I would support it, but I can’t speak for the leader or other cabinet members. I think we are in such a position where we will have to challenge the Government.”
Other members suggested lobbying Kent MPs to put more pressure on Government while also re-prioritising the use of KCC’s £40m reserves to cope with the growing economic strain on its £1bn budget.
On council tax, a referendum must be held if fees are likely to rise by six per cent or more. Band C homes across Kent saw bills rise by £46 to £1,201 this financial year. It was agreed at KCC’s full council budget meeting in February.
Warwick District Council considered holding a financial referendum on a 34% council tax hike for its 2020/21 budget to raise funds for its climate emergency plans in February. However, this was dismissed at late notice.
KCC scrutiny committee chairman, Cllr Andy Booth (Con), described the economic pressures faced by Kent councils as “monster” during today’s two-hour virtual public meeting.
His comments came amid a debate amongst a dozen councillors over the financial fallout of Covid-19 on the budgets of Kent’s 14 councils, who together will see a shortfall of at least £245m from the crisis.
The 14 councils have made £129m extra spending commitments to key services, but simultaneously face income losses of around £212m over the next 12 months, according to a KCC paper.
The losses include £110m of council tax; £47m from fees and charges, such as £3m from car parking, £26m of business rates and £6.6m of housing revenue.
KCC’s corporate director for finance, Zena Cooke, described the pressures as “unprecedented” and said: “Council tax losses will be dependent on the type of recession we are having, how deep the recession is and how long that lasts.”
KCC’s main costs include a rising £50m demand on adult social care, a sharp rise in the number of asylum-seeking children coming into Kent while plans are in place to manage the financial fallout from Brexit.
Cllr Oakford said: “There is significant uncertainty around our financial picture and that has made planning for the future substantially more difficult.”
A council paper will be submitted to KCC’s cabinet on June 22 setting out County Hall’s next steps around its financial recovery. KCC’s full council will then meet in September to consider a revised budget.
The majority of people are going to be suffering financially after this – not just KCC. I hope it is just bluster about raising Council Tax beyond referendum levels as this will hit people hard who are already going to be much worse off in the coming years.
Now that furloughing has an end date in sight there will be a huge number of businesses closing for good and making people redundant. The numbers are likely to dwarf the last recession.
The money will have to come from somewhere to pay for all the support given to individuals and companies since the onset of the CV pandemic. I have no doubt that VAT and income tax will rise, too.
stupid remark when people are suffering financially no wonder people never voted labour at the last election with that thinking
Whose is the “stupid remark”?
Don’t forget before the virus came along we had 10 years of austerity where the government banked billions and billions of pounds. Also we are told that by leaving the EU the UK will save £69 billion per year. The government doesn’t need to bring out the begging bowl just yet. However I expect council tax will rise.
This is no surprise to anyone with half a brain. The huge costs of furloughing and the massive loss of taxes has to be supported somehow. I won’t like it, you won’t like it but as sure as eggs is eggs we will all be affected by it!
Good point by Ann.
We’ll be leaving the EU in a few months thus saving the country £Billions. Boris said so, so it must be true.
We’ll be getting tax cuts!
Borrow some from Central Government, they seem to be throwing cash about ?
Take adult social care control including care homes away from county council control and put it under the national health service remit, also scrap the white elephant cliffs end thanet parkway station
the nhs have enough on their plate thanks Barry are you saying that NHS workers own care homes or override or what exactly? Lets see your social care home plan NOW!
Thanet parkway goes with the train running through manston airport, manston green the savills and thanet council joint agreement EKO scam where a KCC worker was paid £67k and the rest of the shitty things Barry goes on and on and on.
AM I paying for your pension Barry, yeah I am, I am sure you all took a hefty pay rise in April whilst all the problems are still here year after year after year.
Take social care away from mental health as in useless social workers.
I worked for KCC did a youth working course, I had done the child care matters course through Bromley council but KCC lost all my work. That to me makes me so angry I pay for incompetent staff.
My road needs re-surfacing they told me that the road was fine like hell it is not thanks.
Year after year youth services are cut social services are cut yet tax goes up.
Tell me Barry what is here in cliftonville for young people to do or old folk to do feck all! Year after year it is the same damn shitty services or either none of lack of! Does a wage increase warrant a rise in tax and services cut?
Vote Labour things will only get better they claimed and education sucks here too Barry we do not have enough schools
but we allow a criminal to use our port in Ramsgate for live animal exports
Money money money to pay your wages …think again!
What services Barry there is feck all!
If we all refuse to pay the council tax they can not take us all to court ! This is tax more than a payment for services , perhaps I should live in Calais and arrive in UK by an inflatable dingy ! My friend says , Great country UK I love it , everything is free , my family also comes here soon .
“Thanet parkway goes with the train running through manston airport”
Since when where these plans drawn up ? What line is going to spur of to manston ?
Just look at the land the logistics of that would cost millions.
Not going to happen.
Rebecca, I refused to take the 15 percent increases imposed on me by kcc tories, i give it to local charities and good causes.i do not get or will get any kcc pension as councillors do not receive wages but allowances unlike a m p.i receive personally £260 allowances per week plus my state pension per week. Thanks for your comments about other matters
All this talk of suffering to pay for the economic cost of the virus!!
How many people can remember the suffering caused by paying for the Second World War?? Not many, I’ll bet.
Because the debts were just spread over decades. Nobody talked of debts to be paid off in a few years. In fact, the Second World War was only finally paid for in 2010, when George Osborne was Chancellor. Sixty-five years after the war ended!
And, in that time, the cost of the First World War was still being met, the NHS was created and sustained, and Tory and Labour governments competed over how many houses they could build.(One theory has it that the Tories won by creating 800,000 new homes, though only managing to do it by building smaller, lower quality places, and more flats in skycrapers!) Either way, there was no talk of ” we can’t afford it! We may have to raise your taxes! Which tax do you want raised? Or which library, youth club, local hospital or Police station do you want to close?”
For that matter, do we all pay off our mortgages in, say, the first ten years? Of course we don’t! In fact, we take a lifetime of work to produce the funds to pay it off. We should take the same attitude to current government costs, especially as the interest rates on loans is so low.
And especially as the old mantra about ” we can’t just print money!” has been shown to be completely hollow. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s ,there WAS high inflation and this seems to haunt the thinking of the generation that started buying their houses at that time.
But this is no longer true. Ironically, the Tory Party that likes to bang on about having to have austerity and tax rises to pay for the pandemic, knows very well that the National Debt is not really a problem and they have every intention of increasing it if they need to offer us some goodies to get us to support them.
Complaining about “over-spending” is just talk to convince the worried and gullible.Austerity and tax increases that hurt those on low or median incomes is a political calculation and choice. It’s got nothing to do with actual economic necessity.
KCC must have that saying,we have a £50m shortfall on a bit of tape which is in a loop because every year they say the same thing,stop paying yourselves stupid size wages their wouldn’t be a shortage in funds,and stop taking more from the public our pockets are empty.
Plug the gap by pruning management back giving the remaining staff more to do so they can return home from work in the knowledge they’ve do a days work..
Also do not make staff redundant payIng inflated redundancy payments only for them to be recruited in a different department for same council some weeks later ( The Council Merry Go Round ).
Leave the cash cow Council Tax Payers alone for a change.