Published: 08:51, 14 February 2020
| Updated: 08:52, 14 February 2020
County councillors have voted through a budget that will see average council tax bills rise by 4% - despite the government increasing grants to help cushion the impact of growing pressure on key services.
The budget will mean bills for homes in Band C will go up by £46 to £1,201.
Paul Francis joined Louisa Britton on KMTV to discuss the budget
The Conservative administration said that while the extra money from the government was welcome, it did not cover pressures on the council, notably on social care.
While the opposition parties largely failed in their efforts to make changes to the budget, there was one notable exception.
Labour saw its call for £400,000 to be invested in a scheme for more detached youth workers to work in every district for four days a week unexpectedly supported and passed unanimously.
But there was less consensus on other opposition proposals, including a call for an additional £800,000 to tackle domestic abuse and a Liberal Democrat bid for more money to install more power charging points across the county. KCC hailed the budget as one that would keep services broadly spared from cuts and in many cases, more money being spent.
KCC leader Roger Gough said: “KCC continues to spend public money wisely and we are keeping council tax increases manageable, finding the right balance of funding from government and council taxpayers.”
“I want to focus on the spending priorities and services we provide that matter most to our residents and make the most visible difference, whilst still achieving value for money for the Kent taxpayer.”
But he accepted that the financial outlook remained challenging and there was continuing pressure on some services.
“This budget deals with these pressures,” he said. The investment in preventative services would help head off problems.
Cllr Rob Bird, opposition Lib Dem leader, told the meeting:“Although we may be told that austerity is coming to an end, we are still having to deal with unpalatable cuts to services. The government’s sticking plaster may be a bit bigger, but it’s still nothing more than sticking plaster.This is not the best way to encourage councils to plan and invest for a sustainable future.”
He added that there was a concern over the spiralling costs for high-needs children.
“If mainstream schools cannot provide the necessary specialist support, then the extra cost burden falls on the County Council.This is a national problem.But the government does not seem to be in any rush to come up with a solution.”
KCC will face additional spending pressures of £107m from April 2020 to March 2021.
Around £37.4m will be met through Government grants but savings of £29.7m will have to be made.
While the pressure on adult services remains, the county council has identified children’s care as a rising issue. Concerns include a growing financial deficit over education provision for students with special educational needs and the rising numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children coming into Kent.