By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Fearful county councillors have warned that “tough” decisions lie ahead to fill a budget gap of up to £200million next year.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) elected members met with more than 60 Conservatives overwhelmingly voting in favour of an emergency budget for the remainder of this financial year.
It means £12.8m of “savings” will be delivered over the next six months, including reductions to councillor grants and allowances. This will be used to help cover a reduced financial hole of £23m from Covid costs and revenue losses.
Opposition parties raised objections as County Hall’s Liberal Democrats voted against the revised budget while Labour’s five members abstained.
However, cross party consensus was reached over the growing challenges faced by the county council next year as KCC chiefs forecast that between £150m and £200m of “spending reductions” and “savings” will be required.
This would amount to around 15% of County Hall’s £1bn spending budget.
KCC leader Roger Gough (Con), who took on his post last October, said: “The challenge is big but we have some form in rising to it.”
The county council has successfully lobbied for £116m of grant funding from Boris Johnson’s Government to help cover the budget costs this year, with KCC executives pledging to “press” for more support for 2021.
KCC deputy leader Cllr Peter Oakford (Con), who is also County Hall’s finance cabinet member, warned that “tough policy decisions” lie ahead and said: “The real challenge for us is going to be next year and we recognise that.”
During today’s virtual public meeting, he added: “We will continue to lobby Government and our MPs to make it clear we need extra funds.”
KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), said: “The £150m to £200m is an eye-watering prospect and way in excess of cuts which were required during any of the past 10 years of austerity.
“It will worry many Kent residents who rely on council services and clearly worry the KCC staff.”
Staff at KCC have cited risks around further spending on adult social care services, such as care homes, alongside school support and highway repairs.
Cranbrook county councillor Sean Holden (Con) said he looked at next year with “some trepidation” and said: “We have to see how that is going to happen, but this is a national emergency.”
He added: “There is no magic bullet from the Government to stop KCC being affected by it one way or another.”
KCC Green Party leader Martin Whybrow also raised concerns. He said: “I think today is the start of a much bigger and painful conversation after a decade of austerity.”
The Folkestone member added: “It would be wonderful to think central Government has woken up to the true value of local government as a result of the last six months, but I don’t think anyone is holding their breath.”
Then they need to stop making rash decisions on wasting £millions on white elephant projects such as a new Thanet rail station for starters. It won’t save the full amount but would help. There is too much waste still, when they have no money to waste. Instead they will be cutting back on essential services that affect the disabled and social care no doubt.
Increase in council tax for all taxpayers in Kent population 1.5 million. KCC should also run their own lottery.
Then why on earth are they wanting millions on the Thanet Parkway? We have 7 stations already within Thanet. This is utter madness! This needs proper scrutiny.
Well said I agree
Both above comments i have lobbied for , Essex county council run their own lottery while Thanet parkway is being built on a lie that it quickens railways journeys
Did you lobby for people’s pension funds not to lost with Woodford.
A pension pool that the government and KCC managed with woodford and lost £150m.
Time for truths
Paul Carter lost us £90m.
Investing pension fund money. Did you lobby for this?
Did you get the money from offshore leaks. Did you lobby BARBARA KAHAN AND DUNSTANA DAVIES.
Woodford scandal, i was quoted in the daily telegraph and financial times condemning the misuse of taxpayers money. Also you might like to know that there will 2 books exposing the scandal coming out next spring of which i have been involved in, could be explosive!!
Ramsgate Town Council will help with the shortfall if they can waste £10,000 on backing their friend Jenny Dawes in a judicial review to stop employment they should be surcharged £10,000 to put in KCC money pot. We don’t want the police budget cut. It would be better and save a lot of money if all the town and parish councils in Kent were abolished.
We don’t want or need them. They are full of people who think they are important, we jo public, know different.
Get yourself elected then…..
The money spent on the judicial review is money well spent. Money spent on a brand-new railway station in Thanet will however be money wasted.
Jenny Dawes is not only the “friend” (I take it this word is used in a general rather than personal sense) of the council but of the many Thanet residents who do not want Thanet to be polluted by aviation at Manston.
Build more council housing for the people who are on the waiting list
I suggest that rather than just moaning on here that we all write directly to KCC that we think Thanet Parkway is a folly in these times and that the money that they don’t have should not be wasted in this way. It is completely irresponsible of not only KCC councillors but also all others involved at KCC in making this decision.