Further cuts to central government funding for County Councils will mean “tough and painful decisions”

KCC County Hall

Further budget cuts from central government to already-stretched services supporting Kent’s residents are going to be extremely challenging and hit hard, says Kent County Council.

The sobering message comes from the cabinet at Kent County Council (KCC) as members try to secure services while clawing back a significant budget deficit.

The County Councils Network (CCN), of which KCC is a member, has this week written to the Treasury to say that the prospect of funding reductions on top of soaring inflation would be ‘unthinkable and devastating’ for services across the country and be ‘worse than austerity’. It says a bare minimum approach under those circumstances could be the only option for some councils to stave off bankruptcy.

Peter Oakford, KCC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services, said: “We cannot doubt the gravity of this financial situation and there is a clear picture of the causes, above all the surge of inflation coupled with the increasing demand on services, especially social care.

“We have been acutely aware that post-pandemic spending would be tight and local government would feature further down on the priority list.

“We know the Chancellor has some very difficult decisions to make and we look to him and Michael Gove, back as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to consider the pressures we face in Kent and to work with us to best safeguard the services that matter most to people and which support the most vulnerable.

“That said, we do need to be realistic about the prospect of large-scale support and we must intensify our approach across the board to mitigate the effects of the current economic climate. What that looks like is a combination of resisting pressures, managing down our costs and having to make some tough and painful decisions.

“Soaring inflation ​and ​increasing demand pressures are affecting our delivery, from home care to road maintenance, waste disposal to home to school transport. Increased energy and fuel costs are hitting frontline services, from staff travelling to provide domiciliary care to increased energy prices in social care settings.

“Around £1.3billion of our annual budget is subject to inflationary pressures. We are, of course, seeing the same level of increase on our costs as residents and we are currently experiencing £70m of unbudgeted inflationary and demand-led pressures this year alone.

“Our Capital programme is also severely impacted with materials and building costs rocketing by over 30% ​and the increasing interest rates impacting on any required borrowing.

“We constantly strive to make the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money to provide the services our residents need most and, since 2010, we have achieved savings in excess of £820 million as we responded to cuts in government funding, coupled with an increase in demand ​and complexity for many of our services.

“However, presenting a balanced budget is getting harder every year and tough calls are inevitable now.”

The concerns from the CCN came in the same week as directors of public health from across the county added their voices to the debate around the potential impact of impending cuts.

Dr Anjan Ghosh, KCC Director of Public Health said: “Public Health in Kent County Council provides vital leadership and services to our residents. Many of the services form an essential lifeline to our children and their families, young people and older people.

“This has been provided despite the year-on-year cuts during the period of austerity. As we face the cost of living crisis it is crucial to maintain continued and increased investment in public health. Cutting the public health grant would be devastating for the most vulnerable communities in Kent.”

Kent County Council (KCC) spends over £1.8 billion per year on services including social care, schools and SEN, public health and highways.

Council Tax currently funds almost half (46%) of total spending budget (excluding schools), there are also government grants, payments by service users and business rates.

In the years between 2010 and 2019, the council has had to respond to reductions in government funding, placing a greater reliance on local sources of funding (e.g. Council Tax, Business Rates and fees and charges for services) and at the same time there has been an increased demand for some  services and costs rising more than the funding available. KCC has had to make savings of over £810m since 2010.

A 2023/24 budget consultation earlier this year has prediction KCC will need to make a further £60m od savings on top of the £36m of savings already earmarked.

24 Comments

  1. I cannot understand the logic of cut cut cut pubic spending. Taxpayers do not want inferior services we want plenty of police low crime well funded schools / NHS / clean streets/ Army / Navy Airforce. They cost what they cost taxpayers don’t mind paying for something as long as they are getting what is being paid for. With the Tories everything goes up and public services go down.
    Billions of pounds it TAXPAYERS money has been wasted by the Tories by selling off public services giving their “friends “ like track and trace which is currently being investigated by the police.

  2. Kent county tories waste money on their vanity projects like thanet parkway station, spend money on more bus lanes while destroying the actual bus service and even worse outsourcing services to private companies who cream off the money that should be spent on the people

    • But the Tory Governments have reduced local authorities’ funding, so less is available. At the District level, remember Richi Sunak’s announcement that he wanted to divert money from needy areas (like Thanet) to areas like Tunbridge Wells, specifically.

  3. No doubt the KCC bosses will be looked after & plenty more money for the Turner Centre, Dreamland, the BLM hair lecturers & all the other ‘creative arts’ will still keep coming though. Only hard times for the poor, not for the wealthy/connected/virtue signalers with right-on credentials & their vanity projects.

  4. Wow years of neglect with regards to graffiti, weed growth litter picking,road sweeping etc and more cuts.
    Britain is heading towards the Third World.
    I thought Brexit would make us wealthier.Getting our Sovereignty back we could self govern.If this is self governance Heaven help us all.
    I cannot see any benefits from Brexit.
    Our inflation is the highest in the G20 apart from Russia.
    Well done.

    • Dave

      You are describing thanet the rest of Britain isnt like thanet.

      Not every place in Britain is covered in graffiti, weeds and litter.

  5. The whole reason for the existence of the Toies is to cream off as much public money as possible, and divert it into private pockets. If, on the way, the occasional bus runs, a broken leg is fixed and moderately potable water runs out of the tap, that’s a bonus.
    It’s no coincidence that since the Toies came to power, the rich have got richer, and the poor poorer.
    It’s the Tory way.

  6. Think they are over staffed, maybe let the wfh’s go. Dont think they will be missed in the office.

  7. How about reducing the enormous salaries that senior cabinet members receive outraged as they cut important services in the county🙄

  8. ‘Tough and painful decisions’ – I am sick of hearing this pathetic political platitude. In the main all they really care about is losing their seats – power for power’s benefits.

    What’s really tough is the effect on real people of their pathetic management of the country right down to local government. Few Tories give a toss!

  9. How many more billions of pounds would be available if they weren’t wasted on unsafe and ineffective experimental covid19 jabs, enormous fraud in covid support for businesses and the West’s warmongering in Ukraine (going back to the shameful 2014 regime change days and before). Plus local government cyber attacks through insecure systems and now the funding Serco is giving via the government to pay landlords for five years with very generous rental provision for immigrants in their care. Some immigration is legitimate, but much at the moment isn’t. What will happen to local renters and the homeless when the landlords all flock to Serco? There’s a complication tale of complete financial mismanagement of the people’s money from all political parties. Meanwhile lobbyists and arms dealers flourish. Serco link here: https://www.serco.com/uk/sites/serco-aasc/landlords

    • I rather think that, without the speedy intervention of a world-wide vaccine programme, the world’s nations would be counting the cost, both in terms of human tragedy, and £££, of untold millions of unnecessary deaths.
      And that’s got very little to do with our current situation, which is almost entirely due to more than a decade of mismanagement by both national and local government.

      • Our own vaccine role-out would’ve been far slower if we’d stayed in the EU, and not many countries had such a generous furlough scheme. Two of the many, many things that still make our nation great.

  10. KCC is a money hole, they have not taken the opportunity to modernise when it was there, took the soft option, kept incompetent processes and staff. its 1980 there still…
    We are now expected to pay for it, through national taxes or council tax.
    silo working, infighting for funding, internal charges (moving piles of sand around) for work within departments, its a shat show the needs shutting down. its too big, it cant be managed in its current state or set up. kill it, before it kills us

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