by political editor Paul Francis
As many as 1,500 posts at County Hall could be axed as the authority tries to plug a £340m black hole in its finances.
Councils across Kent face a 28 per cent reduction in the money they get from government between now and 2015 - equivalent to 7.1 per cent each year - while Kent Police is contemplating a 16 per cent reduction in its budget over the next four years.
Kent county council leader Paul Carter warned the authority would begin drawing up plans to slash spending immediately and predicted that as many as 1,500 jobs would disappear.
Conservative county councillors are meeting today to discuss how to meet the shortfall and deal with the consequences of the government’s spending review.
Cllr Carter said: "We are going to work as hard as we can to be the leanest organisation that we can which will mean shedding a significant number of jobs in the next two to three years. We are now discussing what we can do less off and what we can stop altogether. I can see over the medium term a reduction of 1,500 jobs." That would not include schools’ staff.
He said he was yet to be convinced that the private sector was in a position to absorb the impact of the job losses.
"That remains to be seen. We do not know what the state of the economy is going to be. If we do not start to build momentum, then the tax receipts from employers’ contributions and from corporation tax will drop and the welfare budget will go through the roof."
Opposition KCC Labour leader Cllr Les Christie said: "How these job losses will benefit the economy is beyond me. I do not see how taking people out of the tax and National Insurance system is of benefit to the national economy."
Meanwhile, unions warned that severe job losses would trigger industrial action.
Zoe Van Dyke, regional organiser for Unison south east, said: "Residents are going to see cuts in services the like of which they have never seen before. I am certain there are going to be many of our members who will want to take action. People are beginning to recognise this will be the biggest battle they have fought for 30 years."
She added that large-scale redundancies would hit the local economy.
"The likelihood is that there will be a dip in the economy because thousands of people will not be contributing to the economy.
"If you take a place like Maidstone, where there is a large concentration of public sector workers, sandwich bars and other businesses are all more likely to go out of business."