Kent County Council budget voted through despite dismay at council tax increase

    Opposition members of Kent County Council [KCC] have criticised the authority’s leaders for passing plans to raise council tax by 4.99 per cent.

    County Hall, ruled by a strong Conservative majority, voted through their 2018/19 budget yesterday [Tuesday].

    This included the tax hike, which means owners of a band D property in Tunbridge Wells will pay an extra £80 a year with a total bill of £1,718.

    Liberal Democrat Councillor Rob Bird, Leader of the Opposition, criticised KCC for cutting funding for Early Help & Preventative Services by more than £1million.

    His party also argued that KCC had ‘no plan’ to deal with supporting children into specialist education and that the authority is facing a ‘backlog’ of highways problems it is not financially prepared for.

    Meanwhile, County Hall has also come under fire for paying its lowest earning staff £8.10 an hour, which is below the £8.50 offered by many other authorities. An amendment to rectify this was voted down.

    Last July KCC members controversially voted to award themselves a 15 per cent allowance rise.

    Cllr Bird said: “This budget demonstrates that they have learnt nothing from the massive public outcry the allowance rise caused.

    “Even with the extra monies found since the draft was published a few weeks ago, we are being presented with a budget which fails to meet current needs and heaps up problems for the future.”

    With Conservative members occupying 67 out of 81 KCC seats, including all of those in central Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, the result was never in doubt and the budget was passed by 59 votes to 13. No councillors abstained.

    The Lib Dems have seven seats, Labour has five while both the Green Party and an independent group have one.
    Council Leader Paul Carter has long-since blamed cuts to central government grants for KCC needing to implement cost-cutting measures.

    He said yesterday: “This is a fit for purpose, intelligent and well thought through revenue and capital budget for the County Council.

    “The opposition needs to accept there is no money tree.”

    Labour councillor Karen Constantine saw her amendment proposal to spend an extra £175,000 on mental health services voted down.