Children’s Centres, libraries, registrations and archives and community learning services that have not yet been reopened will remain shut for the rest of the year in a bid to save £12.8million says Kent County Council.
The pandemic has resulted in extra costs this year totalling £96.3million. Although much of this has been offset by central government grants and underspends on activities that could not go ahead as planned, the council still needed to take action to save £12.8 million over the remainder of the current financial year to balance its budget.
Reductions in member allowances and member grants and the decision not to re-open any buildings which have not already re-opened will make those savings.
Services are now being delivered from more than 100 Covid-secure re-opened buildings across the county but savings will be made by not opening the remainder of the sites and so not having to spend to make them Covid-safe.
At the full county council meeting this month, members discussed proposed amendments to the Revenue Budget 2020-21, which highlighted Covid-19 related budget pressures, additional spending, and loss of income. They also considered the undeliverable savings and reviewed the government grants and underspends within services that have arisen from lockdown.
Peter Oakford, KCC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Across the authority we are working hard to ensure our vital services continue to be delivered.
“For now, we must focus on reassessing our delivery priorities, ensuring the continuity of our services and finding ways to ensure we offer flexibility in our support to residents and our communities.
“As far as libraries, children’s centres and community learning services are concerned, our decision was not an easy one. We know that these are popular service and residents may be disappointed by our decision, as will those staff who will not be able to work at their usual building.
“In common with all councils across the country we are facing huge uncertainty and are working hard to understand what the impact of Covid-19 will be on our budget for next year.
“Work is under way to develop our financial strategy to make sure we remain financially resilient and continue to provide those services that are vital to our residents and communities.”
County councillor Barry Lewis, who represents Margate, said the savings are being made in the wrong area. He said: “This is a disaster for ordinary people that rely on these services. KCC seems to think spending £5.7million on an unnecessary railway station is more of a priority than thinking about the welfare of people, including children.”