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Home Kent News Article
by political editor Paul Francis
Kent County Council is facing criticism over a public consultation about its budget after just 416 people out of a population of 1.2million took part.
The Conservative-run council launched a wide-ranging eight-week consultation over its spending plans for 2013-14 that cost £30,000.
But, despite a major publicity programme, its efforts to engage the public in a debate about plans for savings of £60m fell on deaf ears.
Of the 416 responses, 308 were from Kent residents - with 52 coming from KCC staff and the rest from other groups.
And those who did take part delivered a mixed verdict on the authority's spending plans.
While six out of 10 supported a proposed council tax freeze, there was criticism over KCC's plans to make £18.2m savings in adult social care and spend £3m less on vulnerable children.
Many questioned how the council would protect vulnerable children and adults, voicing what a report says was "a substantial concern" about the impact of cuts.
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean said: "It is a pathetic response. We said at the time that it was a ludicrous way of doing it.
"They [KCC] produced a 31-page document which, even if you did plough through it, did not contain enough information for people to answer the questions they asked."
Cllr John Simmonds, KCC cabinet member for finance, said he was disappointed - but explaining the complexities of a £2bn budget was difficult.
"Yes, it is disappointing that more people did not respond but it was still a worthwhile exercise and was the most comprehensive consultation we have done.
"We will look at what we could do better for next time. It is very difficult to get across to people how we spend £2bn."
A report due to be presented to KCC's cabinet on Monday reveals that over the eight weeks, there were 298 online responses, 105 written responses and just 23 e-mails and other letters.
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