Warning of tough choices as county council looks to save another £80m

County Hall

By Local Democracy Reporter Simon Finlay

More than £80m of savings will have to be made next year if the county’s largest local authority is to stave off going bust.

Senior officials at Kent County Council (KCC) have warned of “tough choices” – with job losses and service cuts looming large once more.

An estimated £81m budget gap will have to be found as revenues from central government will once again fall well short of what is needed.

KCC has admitted it will also be forced to plunder its reserves in order to cover the cost of statutory obligations such as social care and looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

The authority must balance its books by law or face having to issue a section 114 notice and effectively declare bankruptcy.

Cranbrook member Cllr Sean Holden said: “Of course we will have to look at services – I mean, do we need 99 libraries?

“As for jobs, we’d always try natural wastage first and manage it that way but a huge proportion of KCC’s costs does come in salaries.

“What we can’t have is a section 114 notice because the government would appoint commissioners to come in and run the show and they are not particularly discriminating where they cut. They just keep cutting until the numbers add up.”

The council said it has had to find more than £1bn in savings and efficiencies in the past 15 years.

A KCC statement said: “Significant spending demands and cost increases, largely for the most vulnerable residents in the areas of adult and children’s social care and home to school transport, continue to squeeze the budget.

“Complex needs, population growth and people living longer are all factors that are contributing to the financial pressures of authorities across the UK as well recent high levels of inflation and significant increases in national living wage in recent years adding pressure on budgets.

“The Government requires local authorities to deliver a balanced budget, which means planned spending must be managed within funding resources available.

“However, taking these actions is not enough and the financial challenge faced in 2025-26, like in previous years, is significant and means difficult policy choices will be needed in February 2025 when the budget comes before the full council.”

KCC will be passing next year’s budget weeks before going to the local election polls.

The Conservatives won three quarters of all the 80 seats at Sessions House at the last local election in 2021, but many now fear it may land into the hands of an opposition rainbow coalition.

KCC Labour spokesman on transport, Cllr Barry Lewis said: “We need a radical programme of change in transport alone.

“We need to think differently. For example, we need to employ the right technology to fix the potholes rather than going back every six months to patch them up.

“On buses, we should connect with other forms of public transport to get cars off the road, create some local revenue and protect the highways from further damage.”

Other backbenchers want to see consultants axed by making better use of in-house expertise.

KCC has called on members of the public to put forward “innovative” suggestions to “prevent a further shift towards reducing statutory services to a level it legally has to provide”.

The consultation exercise ends on August 7.

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26 Comments

  1. Trying to run public services on a shoe string never works, because shoestrings have a habit of breaking! The Tory’s are going to be swept away at the next General Election because they failed to increase taxes to pay for public services! The country has a growing elderly population, many with complex welfare needs, that need to be paid for. Cutting these will hasten the KCC Tory’s out of power next year when County council elections will be held, and good riddance!

    • Increase taxes, I can’t stop laughing. They are already at a 70 yrs high. Not the best idea from not the brightest star in the night sky?

      • In every poll taken in Europe asking people if they are happy, its always the Scandinavian countries that top the list, and they pay the highest community taxes! I was in Germany when the Berlin wall came down in 1989, and thousands came into West Germany, and I remember members of my German family asking where will they live? My German father-in-law said that Dortmund City council had built 20,000 council homes to0 many, which were soon occupied by the “Ossies” from the East as they were called! Tax the rich, then see how much happier you will be!

  2. This set up involving different layers of Councils is old fashioned and causes confusion and duplication. It must now be time to go over to Unitary authorities that locally based and avoid duplication of services and are responsive to local needs. A huge white elephant at County level and 18 district councils could be changed into 8 or 10 Unitary councils and we could then save money and make services closer to the people they are supposed to serve.

    • You might want to consider the East Kent Housing fiasco when you consider merging council services for more efficiency. Never has been disclosed how much that cost the various authorities involved and as each was a 25% owner you’d have thought they’d have tried a bit harder.

    • Unitary authorities can be much more efficient on magement labour costs when 4 or 5 departmental heads and deputy heads are replaced by one person. Sadly the cuts are normally made at front line worker level leaving the bloated management hierarchy intact with minimal savings.

      I remember a former neighbour who ran a building company queried a proposal to employ a tree surgeon at £1400 per day. When given the name he recognised it as a sub contractor he employed at £140 a day. Typical local authority efficiency.

  3. What about all the money going overseas-Ukraine Affica? Should put a stop to that. Sunak just given Ukraine £248 million.

    • It’s not the miniscule amount of aid we give to foreign countries that you should be worried about.
      What about the £££Ms that was bunged to Tory friends for totally useless or non-existent PPE during the pandemic?
      What about the £££Ms of public money syphoned off in PFI contracts?
      What about the enormous amount of our money the government has bunged to the energy companies, because they arbitrarily chose to shove up the price of gas?
      Currently, lots of towns in Ukraine don’t have libraries. They don’t have any buildings at all.

  4. “do we need 99 libraries?”
    Not I’d there’s effective public transport to get people to and from whatever libraries would be left.
    In some villages, the only community resource is the library.

    • Even in the 70s, the Isle of Sheppey had a mobile library to serve remote communities. Perhaps that’s the way forward?

  5. Considering how big Kent is, and the number of towns and villages it has, 99 libraries certainly doesn’t sound like too many.

  6. Given the dwindling number of people using libraries and the fact they are so vocal in opposing any cuts, can I suggest they pay an annual fee to use them which covers the cost of providing them ?

  7. I’m guessing they won’t be doing the work that’s required on Royal Crescent in Ramsgate then it will end up even worse .3 months the scaffolding was ment to be up for this November it will be 8yrs .the balcony’s are rotten the steel work is broken and rusted away .

  8. Totally incompetent beyond believe how do you save £80 million? Was it wasted in the first place or was it spent on what taxpayers paid for? That’s all we’ve heard for the past 14 years cut cut cut austerity grab did nothing back In Norway, the taxes are alright but all public services are excellent because that’s what one expects when one pas tax.

    • I have some sympathy for those running KCC (despite them being the polar opposite of me politically).
      Firstly – they have been desparately underfunded by central government.
      Secondly – some of the biggest costs they have are the invisible ones, like social-care, SEN provision etc. Most people never come into contact with these so it feels like money’s being wasted.
      When push comes to shove, it all comes down to the political choices made by the Conservatives in 2010.
      They wanted to shrink the state and roll back investment under the false premise that “we’re all in it together”.
      This lack of investment has led to the slow death of the UK over the last 14 years and now it needs fixing.
      The next government (hopefully Labour) will have their work cut out.

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