Councillor declares ‘Kent taxpayers are being treated like a cash machine’ in precept hike row

Financial news

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

A political row is brewing over Kent County Council’s (KCC) controversial plans to increase council tax by 5% from April.

County Hall’s 81 elected members are due to vote on budget proposals for the next financial year, worth £1.1bn, at a crunch meeting next week.

The Conservative administration has told councillors that the pandemic poses a financial “risk” to the authority as “sustained” lockdowns, three since March, have suppressed demand for services, such as social care and pothole repairs.

KCC’s corporate finance director, Zena Cooke, has warned that precepts will need to rise to the maximum level of 4.99%  in a report published earlier today, ahead of the vote, as the council seeks to avoid any cuts to frontline services.

She has told councillors: “Council tax is now the most significant source of funding for our services. Any lesser increase than that proposed would have an adverse impact on the council’s financial resilience.”

However she has admitted that County Hall is not in “imminent danger” of financial failure, but it is feared the authority could face a deficit of up to £163million from 2024, amid the recovery from a lengthy economic recession.

Opposition groups, including Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who together hold 13 of the total 81 seats, have publicly condemned the proposed 5% tax hike for more than 1.5million residents.

This comes as nearly 70,000 people living in Kent have made benefit claims in the last 12 months, with Medway and Thanet among the worst hit areas, as unemployment is almost double the levels seen in the 2008 financial crash.

Labour member Cllr Barry Lewis, who represents Margate at county level, said: “KCC are treating the people of Kent like a cash machine. They just put their request in and expect money to flow out of people’s banks.”

If approved, the annual KCC council tax bill could increase by £60 for a band C home, rising from £1,200 to £1,260. This makes up around 75% of the total council tax fee, but does not include precepts paid to the police, fire service or district and borough councils.

For D households, the growth would equate to around £67.50. In total, council tax would make up 73% of KCC’s £1.1bn total spending power for the next financial year, £802million, including an extra £37m from the 5% tax hike.

KCC’s main opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said last week: “It is an unfair burden on residents.”

Dissent has also emerged within the backbenches of KCC’s 63-strong Conservative party after former cabinet member, Cllr Gary Cooke (Con) questioned the need to “bolster” general reserves to more adequate levels.

Roger Gough

But Conservative executives defended the proposed tax hike. KCC’s leader Roger Gough (Con) said the council’s economic planning was “prudent” and last month warned County Hall cannot rely on more government aid.

County Hall has secured a Whitehall support package of £54m for the next financial year. No further support has been announced beyond April 2022.

A final decision will be made on whether to approve the tax rises at KCC’s decisive budget vote meeting next Thursday from 9.30am.

What does the KCC budget money pay for?

84 children’s centres and early years services

Supporting 1,600 children in care and 1,700 care leavers

Fostering, adoption and 10,000-plus social work cases

Working with 583 schools on places, planning and access

Special educational needs and disability including transport

Apprenticeships, skills and career pathways for young people

Public health and wellbeing services

Sports, arts, culture and heritage

Highways, waste management and concessionary travel

Active travel, public rights of way and country parks

Ninety-nine libraries, mobile libraries and archives

Community safety, emergency planning and trading standards

Registration and coroners’ services

Economic development and strategic planning

Support for 4,900 adults with learning disabilities

Permanent residential care placements for 4,100 people

Support for 3,200 social care clients with mental health needs

Support for 1,200 older people in nursing care homes

For 7,000 people receiving care and support at home

Support for 5,300 adults with physical disability and sensory needs

And for 2,400 people using day care services in their community


  1. Barry Lewis? Are you having a laugh?

    Is this the same Labour councillor that voted for his own allowance increase (despite KCC warnings that they couldn’t afford it), then there was public outrage and he then donated that tax payers money to charity thinking it was justified? Completely unacceptable and this is precisely what is wrong with Labour today.

    Kathy if you’re going to report about stuff like this, then perhaps let’s have the facts and both sides of the coin.

    • This is a report from the Local Democracy service as the byline clearly indicates. It covers what was said at a KCC meeting.

    • It’s nothing to do with Labour. All Cllrs receive a sum from Council tax no matter which party they are in. Harping on about Barry Lewis everytime something political is mentioned is pathetic, what about all the Conservatives, Independents and Liberals. Anyone would think you are Ann they way you go on. Where is she by the way? She disappeared when you took over !

      • Kent Resident,

        It’s people like you that cause this site to drop the amount of visits they get. People don’t want to read your rubbish, move on man!

        You are right councillors are the same, but they must be held accountable, something that sleepy Barry doesn’t understand…

  2. I have never voted for a pay rise in my four years at council. Anybody can check as there were RECORDED VOTES.

    • No Mr Lewis but you and the rest of KCC Councillors are costing a small fortune for what? Records clearly show you claimed £2376 car usage and £15490 basic allowance for year 2019/2020. Total coughed up for KCC Councillors that year was £1,248,650.08. That’s without each Councillor have £15000 to donate for pet schemes. These sorts of amounts just not value for money

    • Barry,

      You still have not answered the simple question:

      What right did you have to accept tax payers money and then immediately donate it to charity? Double standards.

      Why not do what your honourable friend had done? Refuse it.

  3. I fully support an increase of 5% – as a D band council tax payer that equates to only £1.30 per week – less than a cup of coffee or lottery ticket! It is not a lot when you look at all the services that KCC has to provide. There is always a lot of shouting about improving roads, schools, libraries, social care etc etc. Where do people think the money comes from to support all such services? And for anyone in receipt of benefits they are probably not even paying council tax anyway so it will not affect them. Politics should not come into this – it is just economic sense!

  4. ‘FedupB’ and ‘the Box’get yourself elected instead of carping inanities from the sidelines, if you don’t like the way things are. Democracy costs money.
    You clearly have a beef over Barry Lewis and Labour, that’s your privilege, but don’t put things in that are not relevant.
    It costs money to do ward work and to attend all the many meetings that being a representative of the people entails,that’s what the money is for.In the old days Cllrs were paid per meeting, but that changed in the 90’s and it is taxed.
    What have you two ever done in the public interest? Cllr Lewis is at least putting his head over the parapet to get it shot off by the likes of you.

  5. As a PS to my previous posting:
    What I do not agree with are councillors being given an allowance to donate however they wish. Some do go to good, worthwhile causes, but much is for useless projects. For example, £1,020 of such money was used by one councillor for the sign on the roundabout by Margate station saying Margate is a Cinque Port is not only incorrect and of what benefit? Just some publicity for that councillor, Emma Dawson. Would have been much better if she had donated that to have more toilets in Margate!!

    • But having a sign on the green informing visitors that Margate is a Cinque Port is actually true. Margate is a limb of Dover and Ramsgate limb of Sandwich as is Deal. They are all Cinque Ports. They are an historical confederation of seaside ports which is now just ceremonial.
      Most other towns have signs of historical importance or twinning signs to inform visitors so it was good for Margate to get it’s own sign too.
      I see the Cllrs purse money to be spent on local issues that concern local residents to be beneficial to that community, whatever it is. The local council should be providing public toilets and litter bins for the town through council tax, not the councillors.

  6. I have been in Kent most of my life…. In the last 20 year road repairs have declined that is a joke… You do not maintain the roads as it is… Where I life crumbing road edges and crater size pot holes are the norm.

    I would like to see what KPI you councillors have and how you performance is judged.

    You would all be unemployed in the private sector.

  7. Come on we all know loads of pointless things the council pays for, who knows what they are drinking with there coffee before deciding on pointless 2 metre bike lanes at a give way junction. The point is this 5% rise is a joke it was almost 5% last year as well. How many times do we have to roll over and accept it!? About time they let the public vote on any rise above 1%

Comments are closed.