More spending cuts for Kent councils as decrease in government budgets revealed by minister Brandon Lewis
Kent councils face more budget cuts
Kent councils face a further cut to their budgets next year and could be forced to hold referendums on proposals to increase council tax bills.
The government has announced the amount of grant money it is to provide to councils will be reduced by an average of 2.9% in 2014 - prompting fears services already facing cuts will have to be trimmed even further.
And ministers say they are prepared to lower the threshold for any council tax increases at which local authorities must hold a referendum of voters.
The current threshold for public votes on referendums is 2% and a number of Kent councils have already indicated they are considering increases to bills at just below that figure - including Kent County Council - to avoid having to stage a potentially costly ballot.
The decrease in KCC's budget will be 1.4% - lower than some other authorities - and represents a loss of £14.1million in government grants. That in turn translates into a cut in spending for each household of about £22.
KCC leader Paul Carter said the announcement was broadly in line with expectations and had already been built into its draft budget for 2014-15.
However, he said the government was hitting local councils much harder than other parts of the public sector.
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter
"Local government has taken a greater cut than any other part of the public sector," Cllr Carter said. "It is not a fair distribution in terms of with the demand and need for public services."
The biggest losers in terms of government grants in Kent are Thanet, which will see a reduction of 4.3% in grant money and Dover at 4.2%.
Tunbridge Wells will see a reduction of 3.8% while Medway will see government grants cut by 2.1%.
Local government minister Brandon Lewis said the government was providing enough money to enable councils to freeze bills.
"We expect local authorities to protect taxpayers and help bear down on the cost of living. That is why we have provided up to £550m of extra funding to local authorities so they can freeze council tax for the next two years."
But KCC - like many others - says the sums do not add up and a tax increase will cushion the impact of dwindling grants on key services.
Its budget sets out an increase in the council tax that equates to about an extra £18 next year for households - but would generate an extra £10m to cushion some of the impact of government cuts.
However, the government said it was considering forcing councils to stage public votes at a lower level.
An announcement will be made on that in the new year.
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