Kent County Council (KCC) is launching a seven-week consultation, asking residents for their views on proposals to increase Council Tax to help fund vital services and their ideas for making further savings.
The setting of the annual KCC budget is a complex and challenging process involving not just detailed financial analysis, but crucially conversations with Kent’s communities.
In the absence of any additional funding from central government, KCC is considering an increase in next year’s Council Tax up to 3% and a reduction in spending on council services.
Peter Oakford, Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services, said: “It’s an incredibly difficult time for all of Kent’s residents and KCC faces exactly the same amount of pressure. We see inflation and the cost of living rising and the fuel price increasing, higher than they have ever been. All of this impacts on KCC’s budget just as much as it does our own personal expenditure.
“KCC has faced huge challenges in recent years and has already had to make over £810 million pounds worth of savings since 2010. We already know the government doesn’t intend to provide any additional funding to us next year, so we have to make do with the money we’ve got. The only area where we can increase our funding is through Council Tax which of course isn’t something we want to do but during the current situation we could be forced to do it.”
Work to prepare the new budget typically starts in March. An essential element now the numbers are crunched is providing residents with the financial picture and asking them for support in the next stage of the decision-making process.
Peter Oakford added: “We urge everyone to take part in the consultation and to have their say. It’s an important process which is fundamental in informing how this budget is shaped.
“We have an annual budget of £1.8 billion which does sound like an enormous amount of money but then you look at the services that KCC provides it doesn’t go very far.
“We need to know from our residents their views on increasing Council Tax to partly help meet rising costs and demand for our services. Even with an increase in Council Tax, some new savings and additional income would still be needed to balance our budget. We therefore also want to hear their ideas for where they think that perhaps we could make some further savings and where those savings would have the lowest impact to our communities.”
How do people get involved?
The consultation runs until 5 September 2022. To take part, please visit: www.kent.gov.uk/budget.
This year there are two ways people can get involved and express their views:
- Answer a few quick questions about Council Tax and if they have time some optional questions to help us better understand their views.
- Tell us their ideas for how we might make further savings.
If people are unable to take part online, hard copies of the consultation material can be requested via our Alternative Formats team: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03000 421 553 (text relay service number: 18001 03000 421 553). This number goes to an answering machine which is monitored during office hours.
Easy Read and Large Print versions are available.
Consultation responses will help inform decisions ahead of the publication of the detailed draft budget proposals in early January 2023 and will then be considered by Councillors at their Cabinet Committee and Cabinet meetings taking place throughout January 2023 before the budget proposals are finalised and considered for approval by County Council in February 2023.
Residents can sign up to the KCC newsletter to learn more about council services and receive the latest updates and information. Follow the link here:
Since 2010, KCC has achieved savings in excess of £810 million as it responded to cuts in government funding, coupled with an increased demand for many of the services.
It is starkly understood that everyone in Kent and the country is currently dealing with a very concerning rise in the cost of living. The deep-felt impacts of rising inflation, followed swiftly off the back of the punishing pandemic, is also presenting KCC with significant financial challenges.
Soaring inflation is affecting delivery across the board, from home care to road maintenance; from waste disposal to home to school transport.
It’s essential to make the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money to provide the services Kent residents need and value most.
KCC is saving money wherever it can – accelerating the use and scope of digital technology and reviewing the KCC estate to ensure the right buildings in the right place to do the right job and also achieve the Net Zero ambitions. The authority continues to make a case for fair funding from the government.