By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Councillors in Kent will be given less money to spend on helping the communities they represent from April after a major rebellion at County Hall was quashed.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) Conservative administration faced a strong revolt from its own party last week over a decision to reduce grants given to County Hall’s 81 elected members during the next financial year.
Typically, the public money is used to support enterprises such as food banks, homeless charities and for highways schemes, such as pedestrian crossings. The grants will be cut from from £20,000 to £10,000 over a 12-month period.
KCC’s finance cabinet member, Cllr Peter Oakford (Con), was one of 41 Tory county councillors who supported the major reductions during a virtual budget meeting last Thursday (February 11) as more cash is put into reserves.
Opposition groups and senior backbench Tories, including the former leader Sir Paul Carter, called for an urgent rethink during the vote. It came as KCC’s £1.1billion spending plan and 5% tax rises from April were agreed.
Cllr Carter, who stood down as KCC leader in October 2019 after 14 years, said: “Small charities and voluntary organisations are really struggling in fundraising endeavours at the moment. If ever there is a need to help and support them, this is it.”
Around 30 out of 71 councillors, including 16 Conservatives, voted in favour of a motion to set councillor grants at £17,000 for the next financial year. But they were defeated after the remaining elected members opposed the move.
The grant uplift would have meant an extra £581,000, a total of £1.3million, for good causes and projects from April 2021 to April 2022.
At Thursday’s budget meeting, Canterbury representative Cllr Ida Linfield (Lib Dem) was outraged, saying: “It’s a windfall that KCC is putting back into its piggy bank.”