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Kent County Council anticipates no help from Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour government after general election 2024

A senior council leader has warned of “localised austerity” measures in Kent as Labour are set to sweep into power at the general election on July 4.

Kent County Council cabinet member for communications and democratic services, Cllr Dylan Jeffrey, said the cash-strapped authority cannot expect to be offered any financial help from Sir Keir Starmer’s new government.

County Hall, Maidstone. Stock image
County Hall, Maidstone. Stock image

Cllr Jeffrey told KCC’s top table yesterday (June 20) there is no “knight in shining armour coming over the horizon” if Labour gain power.

The cabinet was discussing the need to keep a close eye on its spending as another round of savings will be required to balance the books in the next year.

While KCC is in an “exceptionally better” position than it was last year, the council will have to “move harder, swifter and smarter” in the coming months, said Cllr Jeffrey.

The rising cost of providing children’s and adult services remain areas of deep concern, and KCC has already identified a budget gap of £81m next year.

Cllr Jeffrey told cabinet colleagues: “At this time, we are just two weeks away from a new government and I think there’s no knight in shining armour coming over the horizon.

“We know from what looks like an incoming Labour government, they’re not going to offer us anything, quite frankly, and we are going to have to travel on this path of localised austerity in Kent.

“Just like when the last Labour government left, they left a note saying the cupboard is bare, and I think they’re coming into this and the cupboard is bare from the outset.”

Roger Gough, KCC leader Picture: Phil Lee
Roger Gough, KCC leader Picture: Phil Lee

Local authorities across the country are teetering on the edge of going broke and have complained at having insufficient funds from central government to carry out its statutory obligations.

Some, like Birmingham City Council, have already had to issue a section 114 notice and declare themselves effectively bankrupt.

KCC leader Roger Gough told his cabinet: “We pretty much know what our external environment is going to be whatever happens on July 4. We know it is going to be a pretty difficult environment and salvation has got to rest in our hands.”

County Hall Maidstone
County Hall Maidstone

In its manifesto, Labour has pledged multi-year funding settlements and an end to “wasteful” competitive bidding.

The pledge states: “We recognise good jobs deliver better services that local communities can rely on.

“Labour will provide capacity and support to councils, and will overhaul the local audit system, so taxpayers get better value for money.”

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