Kent County Council is facing its toughest financial challenge for many years – greater even than any it faced during 10 years of austerity.
Coping with the demands of Covid-19 has required a huge increase in spending at the same time as reductions in its income from council tax and business rates
KCC is now looking ahead to its budget for 2021-22 and is launching a countywide consultation today (14 October), asking residents about their preferences on the tough decisions the council will have to consider in order to balance its budget.
The council is legally required to balance its spending with what it receives from council tax, business rates, government grants and other income.
Peter Oakford, KCC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Since 2010, we have made savings in excess of £710million as we responded to cuts in government funding coupled with an increased demand for some of our services.
“But this is the biggest financial challenge we have faced in that time. The future is uncertain, and even though we will not know how much funding we will receive from the government, we have to make plans now to balance next year’s budget.
“We have to consider making some difficult decisions about where to reduce our spending. We are asking residents for their opinions so we can take those into account in drafting our next budget.
“We are therefore asking residents to let us know their views on two key areas –which of our numerous services they think should be most protected and whether they support an increase in council tax to help fund them.”
The council consulted residents recently on amending the current year’s budget which was needed as a consequence of the additional spending pressures and loss of income arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Continue to lobby government for additional funding” was residents’ top option for closing the budget gap and KCC has continued to do that. However, the council still needed to make savings of nearly £13 million this year to close the budget gap.
The full impact of the pandemic on both spending and loss of income, specifically council tax and business rates, is not yet fully known and KCC does not yet know how much government funding it will receive for next year.
Council tax and business rates account for almost half of the total funding KCC receives for its annual spending. The recession is likely to impact both council tax and business rates income, which will reduce the amount it receives.
The government has traditionally set a maximum limit for council tax increases without holding a referendum and assumes KCC will increase it by that amount.
Last year this limit was 2% and the government has not yet confirmed what this limit will be for next year.
An increase of just under 2% would add £24 per year (or 46 pence per week) to the KCC element of the bill for a typical band C property and take the total KCC element of council tax to £1,225.12 (or £23.56 per week). Such an increase would raise £14.4million towards the council’s rising costs.
A 2% increase would raise a further £14.4million to be spent on adult social care services and increase the KCC element for a band C property by a further £24 (or 46 pence per week).
This would make the final estimated band C bill, after the social care levy, to be £1,249.12.
The consultation runs from 14 October to 24 November 2020 and the document and questionnaire can be found here: www.kent.gov.uk/budget.
If you are unable to take part online, a hard copy of the consultation document and questionnaire can be requested via the Alternative Formats team: email email@example.com or call 03000 421553. This number goes to an answering machine which is monitored during office hours.
Consultation responses will be considered by Members at their Cabinet Committee meetings taking place throughout January 2021 before the budget is debated and approved at the full county council meeting in February 2021.…
KCC provides more than 300 services including:
- 84 children’s centres and early years services
- Supporting 1,600 children in care, and 1,700 care leavers
- Fostering, adoption and 10,000+ social work cases
- Working with 583 schools on places, planning and access
- Special educational needs and disability including transport
- Apprenticeships, skills and career pathways for young people
- Public health and wellbeing services
- Sports, arts, culture and heritage
- Highways, waste management and concessionary travel
- Active travel, public rights of way and country parks
- 99 libraries, mobile libraries and archives
- Community safety, emergency planning and trading standards
- Registration and coroners’ services
- Economic development and strategic planning
- Support for 4,900 adults with learning disabilities
- 4,100 permanent residential care placements
- Support for 3,200 social care clients with mental health needs
- Support for 1,200 older people in nursing care homes
- 7,000 people receiving care and support at home
- Support for 5,300 adults with physical disability and sensory needs
- 2,400 people using day care services in their community