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Kent County Council agree to 5% rise in council tax

Council tax will increase by nearly 5%.

This will mean average bills for homes in Band D will rise by more than £62 from April.

The decision was made at Kent County Council's full council meeting today.

This increase was proposed as part of a plan to fill a £73m funding gap.

Kent County Council HQ (7126389)
Kent County Council HQ (7126389)

The main pressures on spending were due to a rise in wage for social workers to the national living wage.

KCC also has more vulnerable people to look after including people with physical disabilities and learning disabilities which have increased by more than £10m since last year.

A large chunk of the financial pressures are also due to interest on capital programmes and inflation.

KCC has also seen a reduction of £13.7m in government grants and business rates this year.

Council leader Paul Carter said: "The end of austerity at local government is in the hands of central government and the treasury to provide sustainable, medium-term funding in the coming spending review; anticipated in the late summer or early autumn.

"The end of austerity at local government is in the hands of central government..." Leader of the council Paul Carter

"My perception, from talking to colleagues particularly the opposition political leaders, is that the budget before us today is very much in line with members' expectations and this is the very best way we can deliver on behalf of our residents.

"This protects and enhances front-line services and delivers an ambitious capital infrastructure programme for schools, roads, bridges, railway stations, waste collection facilities etc."

To address this pressure the council has made around £33m in savings.

The amount of money councillors can contribute to community projects has been cut from £20,000 to £15,000.

The price of Young Person's Travel Pass has increased to £350 per year, which will generate an extra £1.5m.

Subsiding buses for school children costs the council more than £8m in total.

How much council tax bills will rise
How much council tax bills will rise

Cllr Dan Daley (Lib Dem) said: "The new £350 charge will be a heavy burden for many families, particularly for those with two or more secondary school age children.

"The new monthly payment scheme will make budgeting a little bit easier when finances are tight."

KCC have announced an option to pay for the pass in eight instalments for a maximum £10 fee.

Changes to opening hours for libraries and archiving services is also set to bring in £555,500.

Liberal Democrats proposed an amendment that would see KCC take out a short-term loan of £1m to stop these cuts going ahead.

"We shouldn't be cutting library services, we should be expanding... Cllr Karen Constantine

There is also a 5,000 signature petition which opposes the changes to libraries.

Cllr Rob Bird said: "Libraries encompass a lot of things and I think we all recognise that libraries are not necessarily just a room for books.

"They are increasingly important community assets and they should be used like that."

Labour's Karen Constantine, who voted for this proposal, shared her concerns that Newington Library could cuts its opening hours from 40 to 15 and Ramsgate from 53 to 32.

She said: "We shouldn't be cutting library services, we should be expanding.

Karen Constantine (7117610)
Karen Constantine (7117610)

"We should be looking at libraries as assets of community value and we should be protecting them by making them more vibrant not less."

This suggestion was voted down by the conservatives.

Charging for rubble and brick at £6 per bag could add around £1m to the pot.

On top of that the council plans to draw down £12.7m from their savings to make ends meet.

The budget was approved despite all opposition groups voting against the plans.

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