Kent County Council members have begun budget talk at Detling this morning.
The County Showground is being used this year for a socially distanced meeting this morning as more than 80 County Councillors sit down to discuss issues.
Council taxes are proposed to rise by around 3% from April 2022 by the Conservatives.
KCC’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Peter Oakford (Con), said “extremely tough decisions” have to be made as County Hall faces government grant losses. KCC will receive about £7million less from Whitehall from April, compared to the previous financial year.
The council tax payments contribute to around 70% of income for KCC which is used for spending on council services. This will generate around £823m of a £1.182bn revenue budget, according to a County Hall report. This leaves the council relying on government funding to make up the other 30%.
Around £750million of savings have had to be made by the county council over the last 11 years, including the years of austerity, Brexit and COVID. This means that the council will have to try and find a way to squeeze budgets further or raise council tax for residents living in Kent to fund services such as adult social care, highways and school transport.
On the potential rises, Cllr Oakford said “We recognise there will be an impact on residents, but we have tried to minimise this as much as possible.”
Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab) responded by describing the budget as a “disgrace” for Kent residents amid major bill hikes for energy, food and NI. He said: “You are expecting people to pay more for less services. We are not treating people like human beings, but cash machines.”
19 amendments have been tabled by opposition parties including asking for more funding for the approximate 30,000 young carers in Kent. Cllr Sue Chandler (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for children’s services, said she agreed young carers need the county council’s support.
However, she said there are more young carers than the county council can identify with an “arbitrary” financial increase and a figure of £120,000 was put forward. Sadly, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens all voting in favour of the proposal, it was heavily defeated by the Conservatives.
In another amendment, KCC Liberal Democrats have called for a reduction to the proposed hike uplift in the Kent Travel Saver. This too has been defeated by the Conservative Party.