Kent County Council braced for job and service cuts as funding deal falls short

KCC County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Simon Finlay

A “hugely disappointing” government funding settlement to Kent has prompted fresh fears of service cuts and job losses.

Communities secretary Michael Gove has announced a 6.5% increase in budgets to help town halls cover the increased cost and demand for social care.

But many local authorities claim the £64bn in extra cash will not cover their bills and many face the spectre of issuing a section 114 notice, an effective admission of bankruptcy.

Kent County Council (KCC) leader Cllr Roger Gough said the government had shown a “blatant disregard” for local authorities’ needs.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough

Cllr Gough added: “We are hugely disappointed that the local government financial settlement announced today does not go anywhere near addressing the severe and mounting financial pressures being exerted on well-run county and unitary authorities such as KCC.”

Despite repeated pleas to central government, he claimed KCC is now in “an unsustainable financial position”.

Cllr Gough added: “In providing no additional funding to local government, the government has shown a blatant disregard for local authorities, who passionately care about the residents they represent, and want to shape strong and prosperous communities. And yet here we are just doing our level best to survive.

“To balance our budget this year we now have no choice but to severely cut many services that residents value, slash investment in projects designed to improve life in Kent, and impose a council tax rise that will further impact our residents in what are already such gruelling financial times.

“However, the stark reality is that even these measures will not ensure we can align our revenue and expenditure to deliver a balanced budget next year.

“The government has simply not listened to local government across the UK and the outlook is bleak.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Councils are the backbone of their communities and carry out tremendous work every day in delivering vital services to the people they serve.

“We recognise they are facing challenges and that is why we have announced a £64bn funding package to ensure they can continue making a difference.”

Deputy cabinet member for finance, Cllr Harry Rayner, warned discretionary spending will be targeted to protect services KCC is legally obliged to perform.

He said: “The message coming from central government to local authorities is – please use your reserves. It’s going to be a difficult budget both now and in the years that follow.”

Recent KCC papers showed that at the time, the authority had £400m of usable reserves but will have had to spend £100m of that sum by March next year.

KCC staff should brace themselves for job cuts, said one Tory member.

A senior Conservative councillor said: “There has to be a loss of roles right across the board – nowhere and no one can feel protected. You can’t sustain what you can’t afford.

“If you compare Kent with the so-called basket cases like Birmingham and Woking, we’re a model local authority. Yet the residents of Kent are being made to suffer.”

KCC has said it will publish its updated draft budget on January 3 but its own report conceded it will have to be “leaner” in the future.

Local Government Information Unit

Local authorities have been in trouble since the 2008 financial crash and left on the brink since the pandemic, which exposed many councils’ weaknesses, especially around large borrowings.

Chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, Jonathan Carr-West, told LDRS: “If you take the headline increase of £64bn and apply that to the shortfalls at hundreds of councils across the board, it won’t be enough to fill many holes.

“It’s just too little, too late for many councils. As ever, the devil will be in the details.”

Mr Carr-West said the leaders of Conservative authorities, like Kent, are at a loss to understand why the government is unwilling to finance councils properly.

He believes council finances are not high on the government’s priority list.

Mr Gove has acknowledged deep concerns raised by the Local Government Association that some councils are in danger of going bust.

He said: “It is certainly the case that local government faces significant funding pressures.”

Kent’s greatest pressure is felt in social care, providing for special educational needs and other areas such as the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

A recent LGA survey found 17% of senior council executives thought it was “very or fairly likely” they would have to issue a s114 order this or next year.

Mr Carr-West is confident KCC can survive this year but with auditors estimating £86ms cuts needed next year, that is when it is at its most vulnerable.

PM Rishi Sunak,

A Tory County Hall backbencher said: “We just don’t get it, we really don’t. The government just seems happy to let councils go bust.

“A cynic might feel Rishi Sunak is happy to leave Sir Keir Starmer a world of strife to deal with when he becomes Prime Minister next year, particularly with those Labour councils which are closer to going broke than the likes of Kent.”

Forty-eight members of the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities (SIGOMA) wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to warn him the settlement  must be sufficient to cover cost of statutory services.

The County Councils Network (CCN) was left “bitterly disappointed” by today’s announcement.

48 Comments

    • It looks like your still having trouble with your medication Ms Pink, I know going through the change can be tricky for some, my wife became very “Coercive and Controlling” for instance, which is now illegal! Get help, if you can’t see a GP try alternative medicine, it could work for you.

      • Stop it, Dumpton. Many women have genuine problems with the menopause. The kind of help Peter Checksfield needs, however, have nothing to do with it.

        • Like many men who have suffered because some women turn bitter, nasty, coercive and controlling, and who fail to realise they are not the person they once were, or get help, it leaves a certain bitterness! I know I am very much happier without my ex wife, and can make my own decisions once again without her approval! Ms Pink should get help!

  1. So, it seems, all Councils are suffering,regardless of which Party runs them. Which suggests that the main problem is the deliberate withdrawal of funding from central Government. Presumably, this is to pay off “debts” but nobody ever says who we owe all this money to !!
    Just today, I read that Bang and Olufsen, suppliers of expensive musical equipment, are expressing confidence for their business future because only richer people can afford their stuff, and the rich are getting richer rather than having to cut costs.
    Just as predictably, the Starmer Labour Party will soon announce that they will not be restoring the money that local Councils need, because of all the “debts” we owe to…..somebody or other. (Rich people with Bang and Olufsen music systems, maybe?)

  2. Just for some financial perspective, fraud and error are likely to have cost the UK government as much as £16bn across the Covid-19 emergency loan schemes. A report by Transparency International UK says that a fifth of the Covid contracts awarded by the government contained red flags indicating possible corruption.

      • It doesn’t really matter what the left want.
        The reality is that the Tories have been in power for a dozen years. The Tories make no secret of their being a government of low taxation.
        A consequence of low taxation is that Central Government doesn’t have the money to pay for the things that society needs.
        For example, the Nuffield Trust announced today the NHS Dentristry is just about dead in the UK.
        Why?
        Because of dreadful contracts imposed on dental practises by the Tory government.
        The Prome Minister made the reduction of hospital waiting lists one of his priorities.
        Waiting times have gone up.
        Why?
        Because this Tory Government hasn’t funded the necessary resources.
        There is a national pothole crisis..
        Why?
        Because this Tory Government has cut the rate support grant so much that Local Authorities, on the verge of bankruptcy, just don’t have the money.
        You cannot blame the left for a dozen years of Tory policy.

        • The lazy arty left were moaning exactly the same 10, 15, 20 years ago. Theey can’t help themselves, it’s what they get up in the afternoon for.

          • But the “lazy arty left” aren’t in power.
            The Tory government is.
            How can the “lazy arty left” have had any influence over the current state of the Nation?. We are where we are because of a dozen years of Tory administration.

          • Because it is the lazy arty left who costing the country a fortune by their unproductivity. If only we had a few factories in Thanet.

        • Dear Andrew – cast your blinkers off and look back over two decades! Instead of going off all the time about Conservative Party, have a good close look at performance of other parties in previous three decades! Gordon Brown gave our gold reserves away, today we are reaping the results of Mr Blair dipping into world politics. I am old enough to look at a bigger picture and no political party has ever met my expectations since I was able to vote from 1966. All have their snouts in trough including local politicians. Having travelled the world and working in war torn countries, nothing change anywhere , believe me.

    • Really, the nations tax burden is at a historic high in terms of gdp. The state grows ever larger and ecompasses evermore, a reltively recent additional cost to society are those associated with the gender /identity debate, how many hundreds of millions does that cost? (A relative is a swimming instructor a school pool they work at was recently rebuilt, in the name of inclusivity, there is one changing room, but this is divided into lots of changing cubicles , showers and toilets that are enclosed floor to ceiling , as a result each needs it’s own lighting and ventilation and cleaning is a much lengthier process, so in the name of inclusion people end up lin little exclusionary spaces. The costs for this were huge.
      The nation needs to cope with a population that is seemingly intent on eating excessivly and avoiding exercise to the extent it’s health is in steep decline, personal responsibility is unpopular and the state is expected to do everything that people don’t want to.
      It seems to have escaped everyones notice that we’ve tried spending our way out of every situation and it hasn’t worked and we now owe way too much money to all and sundry, yet society still wants ever more legislation and services to serve their wants.
      The creatives argument in other posts is all well and good, but whilst the core of the industry may well pay its way, there are huge numbers of aspiring creatives who earn next to nothing and likely never will, not a problem if they’re happy to live on a pittance and not expect society to support them , but they don’t.
      The nation needs to wake up and realise that we all need to pull our weight, but of course that’s not a popular idea and politicians avoid the awkward conversations.
      The public sector is rife with waste and dubious practice from top to bottom, largely a result of a culture where you’re spending other peoples money and where is you don’t point out the failures of others you can do pretty much as you please in turn.
      Many of Thanets issues could have been paid to be put right if we’d not wasted so much money, commercial property department, animal exports, port ramsgate jetty, east kent housing , dysfunctional management and it’s love of settlements and non disclosure agreements, to name but a few.
      Such failings are widespread in local and central gov, irrespective of political allegiance.

  3. i agree with ms pink , stop the arts funding immediately . then tell us how much of our money is being spent on the illegal invasion

  4. Right we get the message Lily the Pink and Mad world don’t like any funding for art and ‘illegal’ immigration.
    In fact arts funding is a tiny part of central govt spending and it may be bringing a return in income from tourism and sales of TV, film and book products.
    I know you two persons hate everything to do with the ‘woke’arts sector, but things are not quite as you believe them to be.I am not a great fan of lovey’s either but the arts are making a growing contribution to the national income.
    Next illegality.How do you enter the UK when we shut down our embassy in Afghanistan for instance.If we set up a proper processing centre in France we might properly weed out the undesirables and let in those who have a viable claim, which is around 75%. Better still let’s stop buggering up the environment and boost the aid budget, so they can stay and live sustainability in their country of origin,but of course you will have to accept climate change is a real threat and that it is not charity but common sense to enable people to make a living at home.I am not sure you two are ready for that, so I expect you both to continue to make silly comments.
    Talking of illegality P&O brought in low paid seafarers from overseas with the connivance of this govt and got away with using thugs to enforce the crew change two years ago,so don’t preach legality to me.
    All those shipping companies diverting container ships from the Red sea, not one UK owned.We were once the world’s largest shipping fleet and constructor of ships, now, nothing, and this Govt has allowed the decline to continue.
    Finally, the main point.The Govt has cut local govt income by 60%, but the demand for services has grown because we are an ageing population.Something has got to give, and the number of councils about to fail will grow and Give and Sunak will not be able to blame profligacy or mismanagement, because councils of all political shades are on the point of failure,including KCC.For KCC to fail is the equivalent of NatWest failing in the banking world.

    • You’re banging on and on and on, as always. But, if any art is potentially financially viable, then let them raise the money elsewhere – such as getting a proper job until they start making enough money from it.

      How can ANYONE justify funding for (say) the art shelter in Cliftonville? Instead, in Birchington at least, money is raised via jumble sales and quizzes, and they’re fully restored.

      As for the Turner, they’ve ripped out the ladies loos, and put loads of smallers ones, in order to cater for all three genders (no doubt to prevent perverts loitering). Yet the local theatres had leaking roofs and rusting pipes, because they weren’t “art”!

      As for your “growing contribution to the national income” – take Margate (if we must) for example. How much REALLY has a heavilly subsidised gallery contributed to the local economy? I still see a worse High Street than any other in east Kent, as well as closed theatres, boarded up toilets, rotting hotels, a crumbling tower block – and people sleeping (and messing) in doorways and shelters. Surely, say, a shopping centre would’ve done a lot more to bring REAL money here.

  5. Your point about shipping, the decline started long before this government probably the sixties, with the help of unions afloat and ashore, various wars didn’t help let’s not forget air freight and then we have countries who can obtuse workers by the thousands, they can build ships. faster and cheaper. There are many reasons why our seafaring declined, but I personally enjoyed my time at sea for 35 years. Many of them under a labour prime minister

  6. I don’t think cutting spending on the Arts will make much of a difference.
    In a recent budget, the Chancellor gave £390M to the arts.
    Meanwhile, he gave £40 billion to the energy producers (disguised as support to householders for rising gas and electricity bills)

  7. Before any JOB CUTS HOW ABOUT REDUCING THE NUMBER OF LEECHES IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER I somehow think that won`t happen not only K.C.C. but all local ones as well

  8. The shipowners and complacency in Govt helped kill the MN, the unions had very little responsibility for the decline.The ship yards were run in the same way they were in the 19th century.
    Lily is banging on about arts again,but as others point out it is minute compared to the bill for housing benefit, the NHS, and social care.I expect Lily didn’t get a grant back along and is feeling miffed about it.Two wrongs don’t make a right Lily as I have often said to you,and your obsession with arts funding and foreigners confirms that view.
    As I said austerity for councils has been ongoing for 13 years,yet demand for their services has grown during that period.
    Short term funding deals and sticking plaster competitive funding schemes have not been an adequate substitute for long term adequate funding,and the consequences are now being felt.
    Sadly, banning democracy isn’t going to make much difference to the average council budget.The ‘leeches’might not be up to much, but with a first past the post system the same sort of people will be running the show for the foreseeable future.
    We have elections on the horizon,so I think Lily and others with ‘simple’ solutions ought to step forward and offer themselves for election.

  9. Tory,Liberal Dem,Labour and all,it makes no difference.The country is finished.Kent is the Garden of England.When I look at our Garden of England it’s one of those that’s looks derelict One with dumped cars along with mattresses,litter everywhere, weeds,junkie needles, dog poo and deprivation. Thankyou KCC and TDC.I will not be voting for the first time in my life.Its pointless.

  10. I agree with Mr Checksfield. He’s written so many notable works, but none of these books are distributed anywhere beyond Amazon. No doubt due to some artsy lefty sticking their oar in and keeping it out of their smug DFL book shops.

  11. Never mind, I am sure in a 1000 years, assuming no right wing nob heads blow up the world,when they meant to destroy a ULEZ camera, the literary works that will endure will include those from Plato,the Venerable Bede, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, George Orwell and Peter Checksfield,otherwise known as Lily the Pink,the sage of Birchington.

  12. Also Julian of Norwich, Aphra Behn, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Iris Murdoch, Hilary Mantel and plenty of other women authors. And that’s just in Britain.

  13. TDC and KCC need to address the disaster of working from home, both have multiple departments that just don’t function efficiently if at all now that so many staff are able to do as they wish. This performance will decline ever more as new members of staff don’t get the training and mentoring they should , along with managers that can’t effectively manage from afar. But all will fudge the numbers and come up with imaginative excuses to protect their fiefdoms and superiors.
    It’ll ne much of the reason for the abysmal performance of TDCs commercial property department and why its poor performance wasn’t noticed by management.

  14. This is a government disgrace, a complete melt down and failure of there local powers experiment. Billions of pounds wasted on immigration plans that have not worked, sending money abroad for various reasons, but they will not look after the local authorities county councils or the NHS, why can’t afford it due to there expensive failures on white elephant projects. The first order of government is to protect its citizens and services. TORIES HAVE FAILED MONUMENTALLY. This mess of there own making will take decades to correct. Poor brexit decisions, poor immigration decisions poor management of covid, incompetent management by the Tories. OUT, OUT, OUT.

  15. The recent trend since covid of being allowed to work from home is the reason for Services being in decline in all sectors, companies cannot effectively manage, judge, train, monitor staff in this way. It appears most people can work from home 3 or 4 days a week and go to the office perhaps 1 day, if this practice is to continue this trend must change so you may be allowed to work from home 1 day a week and attend the office 4 days a week. Hi rents, mortgages are being paid for empty offices and local businesses are struggling as people are not attending lunchtime establishments. However these people want their cake and eat it, they want nights away on businesses trips domestic and abroad when this can be done by zoom, but do not want to travel to the office which cost public transport greatly in lost revenue. This will lead to cancellation of routes and increased fairs to cover losses and when staff want pay rises there is not sufficient income to allow for it. People even refuse jobs now if they cannot work from home. Break down of society and decent values of hard work. Just because MP’s are wasters, doesn’t mean we have to be.

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