Kent County Council has launched a six week consultation campaign to explain the impending scale of the county council’s budget challenge for next year.
The council estimates it needs to make £80 million of savings for the 2016/17 budget.
This comes on top of savings of £433 million already made over the last five years.
The council will be asking people how they want their money spent in the face of increasing demands for county council services at a time of reduced funding.
The savings are required largely because of two main factors:
1) £58 million of additional demands being placed on the council’s budget, which include:
• £31 million for the estimated impact of rising prices and excess demand next year
• £12 million of one-off funding from reserves and underspends which supports the current year’s budget and can’t be repeated
• £4 million investment in invest to save initiatives
2) The council is expecting a reduction in government funding of £33 million.
As part of the campaign KCC is consulting with residents whether they would accept a small proposed increase to the council tax up to the amount permitted without a referendum – currently 1.99%.
KCC says a raise would contribute £11 million towards balancing the books. The consultation asks residents for their views on this proposed increase.
The county council is launching the campaign ahead of government announcements of its spending plans for the next four years at the end of November.
Kent County Council Leader Paul Carter said: “We have to launch this campaign based on our best estimates, as there will not be sufficient time to wait after the government announcement.
“Councils are facing unprecedented pressures on two major fronts – rapidly rising demand for adult social care and continuing reduction in government funding.”
Cllr Carter is warning that extra costs of the National Living Wage and the demands placed on children’s services to deal with the ongoing asylum crisis have not been factored in, as he fully expects government to fund these.
“We will have an even bigger problem if they don’t,” Mr Carter added.
KCC Cabinet Member for Finance John Simmonds said: “We have already achieved savings of £433 million over the last five years meaning future savings will be harder to achieve.”
In its budget of February 2015, KCC indicated that future savings would be made around further developing and transforming the way adult and children’s services are delivered.
This work continues with plans to invest in quality preventative services that avoid wherever possible expensive interventions, such as taking children into care.
Cllr Simmonds added: “So far we have managed to make our savings in a way that will not have affected most people. Future savings are likely to affect more people.
“It is anticipated this pattern of additional spending demands, funding reductions and therefore significant savings will continue until 2019/20 at the earliest.
“The decisions we make in our budget will affect everyone in Kent. That’s why we want to engage with as many residents as possible and we feel that online, through the council’s website, is the most effective medium for the vast majority.
“There will be other ways for people without online access to engage.”
There will be the opportunity for people to give their views on council tax and the services that are most important to them, as well as any other comments they wish to make about the forthcoming budget.
Click here to take part.