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Kent's council tax to rise by inflation-busting 4%

By Paul Francis

Kent residents face another year of inflation-breaking bills after the county council announced plans for a 4% increase in the council tax.

The Conservative-led administration says the hike is needed to help cushion the impact of yet another year of cuts totalling £75m.

If approved, the bill for households in Band C properties would rise by nearly £40 from £1,007.60 to £1,047.84.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter (Con)
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter (Con)

Council chiefs say they will use the option of increasing bills by an additional 2% to raise more money for social care - on top of a 1.99% hike.

Like many councils, KCC is facing rising demand for services, particularly those for vulnerable adults, at the same time as the government is giving it less money.

One pressure is the introduction of the National Living Wage, which KCC says will create problems for contractors by pushing up wage bills that would then be passed on to the authority.

KCC leader Paul Carter said the council had already identified £75m of savings but needed to find £108m to balance the books.

The increased council tax would bring in £23.7m of that shortfall leaving KCC to find a further £5m.

The draft budget will mean between 300 and 400 more jobs will be lost but of those, about 50 would be compulsory redundancies.

Councillors voted themselves at 15% allowance increase. Stock picture
Councillors voted themselves at 15% allowance increase. Stock picture

Cllr Carter said: “The government has placed an enormous challenge on us by imposing some of the biggest cuts compared to other parts of the public sector.”

“With forward planning and facing the challenge early on we are now in a better position than most. We totally understand that some transformational plans take many years to implement. We are forward-thinking, have made intelligent commissioning decisions and have the situation in hand.”

Opposition parties say the scale of the savings needed meant claims that frontline services would be unaffected were not credible.

UKIP opposition leader Cllr Roger Latchford said he did not believe the claim that cuts could be avoided.

"The budget is a wish list...I cannot find any details of what they plan to cut, the council is making assumptions about savings."

But he added that UKIP would support the additional 2% on tax bills for adult care. "We are very concerned about social care but it is a serious issue. The extra funding should be financed through central government, not by taxpayers."

Lib Dem group leader Trudy Dean said: "There is nothing in this budget to get your teeth stuck in to. I am concerned that they are making assumptions that may not happen. It is very imprecise. It is just not possible to say that services will not be affected."

Labour leader Gordon Cowan said much of the extra money KCC would raise through the additional social care tax would be swallowed up in meeting the national living wage.

"You cannot sustain this level of savings without making cuts to frontline services but KCC is not saying where they will be. If the extra money for social care was put into frontline services, that would be fine. But the reality is they are not," he said.

The proposed budget includes:

  • Saving £13.3m in adult care
  • Saving £2m from home-to-school transport
  • Raising £1.9m from selling school support packages
  • Saving £5.2m by converting streetlights to LED bulbs
  • The financial challenges facing KCC this year look set to continue for at least another two years and will require “further significant savings” according to cabinet member for finance Cllr John Simmonds.

There will be a six-week consultation on the draft budget. Full details can be found at www.kent.gov.uk/budget

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