Published: 07:00, 09 October 2014
Spending on caring for the elderly and children at risk is to be the biggest casualty of Kent County Council's budget next year, with savings of more than £8m planned.
The county council's Conservative administration insists that it can save the money without any impact on key frontline services but opposition parties have questioned whether that will be possible.
KCC unveiled its draft budget today saying it faced unprecedented challenges and would need to save £81m next year to account for cuts in government grants and increasing demand for services such as care.
Council leader Cllr Paul Carter said the plans, including a 1.99% increase in council tax, would focus on preventative measures in social care that would be less costly without damaging the quality of services.
Between 250 to 400 jobs are expected to be lost over the next three years, on top of hundreds that have already gone.
Cllr Carter said: "We are stepping up the pace and scale of health and social care integration and investing in preventative services that will transform the way health care is delivered in Kent."
He said consultants employed by KCC to save money on adult care had already made changes that were saving money and would now do the same with children's care.
But he blasted the government for giving Kent a raw deal when it came to its grant allocation, saying it received only £103 per person compared to Westminster which received £207 per person.
The council's bleak financial outlook seems set to continue for another three years.
It will see a cut of £56m in government grants in 2015-16 but at the same time predicts that demand for services, such as adult care, will continue to rise.
Between now and 2018, total savings will be £206m.
Finance chiefs admit that although the council wants the public to have its say on the budget and has launched a major consultation, it is unlikely that there will be anything they will change.
"We have already had cuts to the youth service and Sure Start centres; now we are seeing proposals to cut community wardens and the library service..." - Cllr Derek Smythe
Opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Trudy Dean said the council was not being straight with taxpayers.
"We do not have any information about what they are planning to do to save money," she said.
"If [savings] are being delivered by being more efficient, that is fine but if it is about reducing services, that is not fine.
"In children's services, we have no reliable evidence that there is a decrease in numbers."
Labour finance spokesman Cllr Derek Smythe said: "Services have already been cut and will be cut again.
"We have already had cuts to the youth service and Sure Start centres; now we are seeing proposals to cut community wardens and the library service."
But he said KCC was being hit because of government cuts in grants as it safeguarded other areas like the NHS and defence.
"There is no question that councils have a disproportionate burden placed on them," he added.
On plans for a council tax increase, he said Labour would support it provided KCC specified how the increase revenue would be spent.
A public consultation on the draft budget is underway and will end in November. Details can be found here.
Stories you might have missed