THE Conservative leader of Kent County Council (KCC) has appealed directly to ministers to end the austerity programme after warning there will be a ‘day of reckoning’ if frontline services face severe cuts next year.
Speaking at a KCC cabinet meeting Cllr Paul Carter ON Monday [September 25] the consequences for next year’s budget are ‘really very significant’, after it emerged around £73million in savings will have to be found.
This comes after a similar amount was cut from this year’s budget and an admission KCC is forecast to already overspend by between £11-18million this year.
Cllr Carter said: “So far we have always been able to say that we have broadly protected frontline services but there is a worry whether we will be able to do that at the next budget setting meeting in February next year.
“I have enormous concerns about the impact next year. The elastic is absolutely at its breaking point now, we cannot to the impossible, and there will be a day of reckoning if this continues.
“I have written to all our MPs setting out the consequences of next year’s budget on public services. I hope we can make a case to government to give county councils some relief.”
Cllr John Simmons MBE, Cabinet Member for Finance, said the council could no longer rely on the ‘easy remedies of the past’ to implement further cuts.
He added: “I could take comfort in the fact where we are now is roughly where we were last year. But when you bear in mind the amount of savings we have made since then it gets increasingly difficult.”
Cllr Simmons said he was ‘confident’ the authority can still deliver a balanced budget next year, but it will be ‘tight’.
“One hopes that this will improve as time goes on but… the longer this continues, and we really have had about seven or eight years of austerity, the more difficult it is going to get. It is gloomy.”
In total, KCC has a gross expenditure of around £2.15 billion during the 2017/18 financial year.
Cuts in the budget during the current financial year are expected to result in up to 400 job losses spread across all of the county’s services, except in schools.