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Kent County Council faces budgetary pressures as funding remarks become talking point following Prime Ministerial hopeful Rishi Sunak's Tunbridge Wells appearance

As the prospects of a recession looms, councils are becoming increasingly vocal about the impact that rampant inflation and soaring energy costs are having on their budgets.

Lurid reports that hard-pressed councils are desperately trying to find new ways to make savings by lowering the temperature of swimming pools may be an urban myth but there’s no doubt that many authorities are in a parlous position.

Difficult budgetary decisions are being taken at councils across the county
Difficult budgetary decisions are being taken at councils across the county

One council in Kent has recently announced it is increasing cremation costs to account for rising prices. As the saying goes: there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, be prepared: the phrase ‘in-year budgets’ is going to be mentioned rather a lot in the coming months.

Councils already struggling to make ends meet are warning that things are going to get even worse. Why? Just like anyone facing a cost-of-living crisis, councils are having to respond to the impact that spiralling inflation and energy costs is having.

The figures are pretty eye-watering - Kent County Council estimates that it is facing £40m to £50m unbudgeted inflationary costs this year alone - covering virtually every service.

The major issue for councils is that they have little room to manoeuvre - increasing council tax is a no-no and even if they could, the government has set a cap.

Rishi Sunak during a visit to Tunbridge Wells. Picture: Simon Walker
Rishi Sunak during a visit to Tunbridge Wells. Picture: Simon Walker

So balancing the books will depend on what they can raise through other means and that is likely to see increased fees and charges - what some say are stealth taxes.

There is always the option of going cap in hand to the government asking for a bail out but getting the Treasury on side can be a battle.

Kent is firmly in the sights of the two contenders vying to become the next Conservative party leader and Prime Minister.

Rishi Sunak appeared at Lenham today, marking his third visit on the campaign trail - a campaign which like Bob Dylan’s never-ending tour just goes on and on.

A lot of what they say at hustings they have said before and the trick is to find a new formulation of words to make it seem as if they are genuinely pronouncing something new.

Mr Sunak found himself in hot water after boasting about how, as Chancellor, he had begun to unravel formula devised by Labour which favoured urban towns and cities and was intending to ensure places like Tunbridge Wells got the money they deserved.

There was a predictable torrent of outrage about this and it was a careless slip - particularly given the social demographics of Tunbridge Wells.

But which government doesn’t funnel money to special causes - usually ones in marginal seats - and then has a ready-made opportunity to publicise its investment or for the local MP to tell the Commons - and voters - just how generous the government has been.

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