Kent residents are being asked for their opinions on how their council tax should be spent so their views can be taken into account as the County Council considers its 2022-23 budget.
As the financial impact of COVID-19 continues, KCC is launching a consultation today (28 July) which focuses on the challenges it could face if additional funding is not provided by the government. KCC would like to hear residents’ opinions on:
- The future of services – how comfortable would they be to see spending reductions on a range of services?
- Council tax – is a modest rise acceptable if it helps to sustain the services they most value?
- Doing things differently – what are the most important things KCC should consider when deciding how to do things differently?
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “We want to be open and honest about the possibility of needing to make spending reductions if we do not get the financial support we need.
“We may have to make some difficult decisions, so it is very important that as many people as possible take part in this consultation to let us know what is important to them.
“Later in the year we will start to develop our new 5-Year Plan for the county to set out the longer-term outcomes we want to achieve for Kent and the responses from this consultation will help feed into that.
“We will also talk to Kent’s residents, businesses and communities about what is important to them and what they want from their county council.”
An indication of the proportion of KCC’s expenditure that goes on supporting its various services and how KCC is funded can be found in the consultation document.
KCC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance Peter Oakford said: “We had been anticipating changes to the way the government funds local authorities, which might have benefited Kent, but those changes have been further delayed.
“The money we spend on services has to be met from a combination of council tax, a proportion of business rates and government grants, plus income from people and businesses who use some of our chargeable services.
“The Covid pandemic has resulted in higher spending, combined with a negative impact on council tax receipts, which make up 46% of our annual income.
“The government has compensated local authorities to a large extent to help them cope with the financial impact of the pandemic and KCC still has some of that funding in reserve, but we cannot tell at the moment if that will be enough to meet Covid-related costs as the effects of the pandemic continue.
“We also do not yet know what funding we will receive from government in our annual settlement because that will come with the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review later this year.
“Our planning so far has shown the most likely outcome could be a shortfall of between £40million & £60million between our forecast spending to maintain existing services and the forecast income, but it is too early to assume this until we have more information from government.
“Since 2010, we achieved savings in excess of £777 million as we responded to cuts in government funding coupled with an increased demand for some of our services.
“But the impact of Covid on the economy could present KCC with its toughest financial challenge for many years.
“With strong support for doing things differently and more efficiently, we are already exploring how we might share spaces with our partners and deliver services in conjunction with local communities across Kent.
“We are also thinking about how we can best use technology and digital solutions to improve your experience and make it quicker and easier to access the services residents’ need.
“We now want to explore some of these options further and understand what considerations are the most important to our residents.”
The consultation is launched today (Wednesday) and runs until 19 September. To take part, visit www.kent.gov.uk/budget
Hard copies and alternative formats are available via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03000 421553 (text relay service number: 18001 03000 421553). This number goes to an answering machine which is monitored during office hours.