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Kent County Council consulting on 2018 spending plans

By Paul Francis

Kent County Council has warned that vital frontline services could be hit by budget cuts next year as the authority struggles to save £75m.

Council leaders have begun a six-week consultation on next year’s spending plans today.

They say the authority faces a "day of reckoning" and that without more money from the government, it will struggle to balance the books.

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Student finances are often tight
Student finances are often tight

In an unusually candid warning, the Conservative leader of KCC Cllr Paul Carter said the government must draw a line under its austerity regime and recognise the "enormous pressure" facing councils.

“KCC has done extraordinarily well in making public money go a lot further and our budget has decreased substantially over the last four years while the pressure for services has risen dramatically.

"The population is growing, there are more elderly people who need help and support and more young people with high educational needs than ever before.

"There are unprecedented pressures on our budget and yet we are spending less money.”

The council’s financial plight is likely to spell more bad news for residents with council tax bills likely to increase by the same amount as last year.

That saw a 4% increase, consisting of a 1.99% general increase plus a further 2% to raise more money to spend only on adult social care services.

A 4% increase would push average Band D bills up to about £1,091 from £1,047 last year.

Each 1% increase generates about £6m for the authority.

It is unclear at this stage what exactly KCC plans to do to save the £75m but more details are expected to be provided at a press conference.

A sign of the pressure the council is under came last month when finance chiefs revealed this year’s budget was already overspent by £18m.

Since 2010, the council has seen government funding cut by £221m at the same time as it has faced a steadily increasing demand for services, costing it an additional £387m.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve provided councils across England with more than £200 billion and the certainty to plan ahead through our four-year funding settlement. Funding is allocated taking into account the needs and resources of each local authority.

“Kent County Council’s core spending power is actually increasing by 4.7% over this five year spending period. As a result they will have available £4.5 billion in funding up to 2020.”

For details of the consultation and how to have your say visit the KCC website.

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