County’s £2.15 billion budget heads for vote amid tax hikes and service cuts

    COUNTY councillors are due to meet tomorrow (February 9) to vote on a new budget that was tasked with plugging a £112.7 million black hole for the 2017/18 financial year.

    The shortfall is due to reduced support from central government and expanding spending demands, council documents state.

    Of this, £34.5m will be raised through the implementation of a two per cent social care precept on top of a 1.99 per cent increase in Kent County Council’s (KCC) portion of council tax. Some of this additional revenue is also set to come from increased business rates.

    Leader of the council Paul Carter has called the increased tax rises ‘justifiable’, adding: “Whilst we would have liked to keep increases lower these are in line with the government’s spending plans, but is essential to raise additional funds towards rising costs and to protect frontline services.”

    While plans to raise taxes were announced and reported in the Times [ital] in October, details on how to find the remaining £78.2 million have only been revealed this year following a public consultation.

    In total, KCC will have a gross expenditure of £2.15 billion over the period. Most of this income is derived from charges and specific government grants.

    KCC leader Paul Carter
    KCC leader Paul Carter

     

    However £887.9 million is net expenditure and has to be raised through council tax, local retention of business rates and un-ring-fenced government grants.

    Almost all of the services which fall under the remit of KCC will see a reduction in their net expenditure, excluding small rises in children’s services and waste management.

    Proportionally the largest decrease is in ‘schools services’ while the single biggest area of current expenditure to be cut is ‘management support and overheads’. Total cuts to services amount to £23 million, the remainder of the shortfall is met through ‘generating income’ and the use of reserves. However, the use of reserves has been labelled a one-off action which ‘cannot be repeated in subsequent years.’

    Commenting on the need to make cuts Cllr Carter said: “KCC is approaching another year where again we have to make substantial savings on the budget in response to the ongoing squeeze on public spending.”

    Council documents also warn budget assumptions are based on ‘sustained economic prosperity,’ adding: “Should there be further economic shocks this could have a significant impact on future central government funding, local tax receipts and demand on local services. The Council maintains an appropriate reserve to help mitigate such shocks and other risks to the Council’s finances.”