Kent County Council has had to take some difficult decisions in order to balance its budget as it tackles the impact of Covid on its finances.
The pandemic has resulted in extra costs this year totalling £96.3million. Although much of this has been offset by central government grants and underspends on activities that could not go ahead as planned, the council still needed to take action to save £12.8 million over the remainder of the current financial year to balance its budget.
These actions include a reduction in member allowances and member grants and the decision not to re-open any buildings which have not already re-opened as part of the council’s planned programme to resume services following the pandemic.
Many services are now being delivered from more than 100 Covid-secure re-opened buildings across the county. However, to ensure the council continues to ensure financial resilience for the rest of the financial year, the remaining unopened buildings will stay closed for the coming months.
Among those services affected are Libraries, Registrations and Archives, Children’s Centres and Community Learning Services.
Although ideally the council would like to reopen all its buildings, it has made the difficult decision that those libraries, children’s centres and community learning buildings not yet reopened will remain closed this year, to avoid the considerable costs in making them Covid secure.
At the full county council meeting, members discussed proposed amendments to the Revenue Budget 2020-21, which highlighted how the council had been able to reflect the additional Covid-19 related budget pressures, additional spending, and loss of income. They also considered the undeliverable savings and reviewed the government grants and underspends within services that have arisen from lockdown.
Peter Oakford, KCC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Across the authority we are working hard to ensure our vital services continue to be delivered.
“For now, we must focus on reassessing our delivery priorities, ensuring the continuity of our services and finding ways to ensure we offer flexibility in our support to residents and our communities.
“As far as libraries, children’s centres and community learning services are concerned, our decision was not an easy one. We know that these are popular service and residents may be disappointed by our decision, as will those staff who will not be able to work at their usual building.
“In common with all councils across the country we are facing huge uncertainty and are working hard to understand what the impact of Covid-19 will be on our budget for next year.
“Work is under way to develop our financial strategy to make sure we remain financially resilient and continue to provide those services that are vital to our residents and communities.”