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Taxpayers living in Kent could pay an extra 5% in council tax

Council taxpayers face an increase of nearly 5% under budget recommendations approved by Kent County Council’s Conservative administration.

The increase will see average bills for homes in Band D rise from £1,237.68 to £1,299.42 for KCC’s share.

The Conservative council leader Cllr Paul Carter insisted that despite having to find £57m savings, key frontline services would be safeguarded. But he said the costs associated with preparing for Brexit placed an additional burden on the authority and the government should provide more money.

Cllr Paul Carter (6490266)
Cllr Paul Carter (6490266)

“Local government has had the effect of austerity thrust upon it more than any other part of the public sector, where we are having to deliver services with a lot less money. We have found savings without materially affecting the delivery of frontline services,” he said.

Extra investment in social care was producing results by tackling bed blocking - known as delayed discharges - he added.

And it has emerged the council has appealed to the government for special funding to help it cope with the “unique impact” of pressures caused by Brexit - on top of the money that has already been committed.

Opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Rob Bird said KCC was being forced into imposing inflation-beating council tax rises because of government cuts.“Services are being cut anyway; KCC is being forced to increase the council tax because of the way the government is treating local government.”

How much council tax bills are predicted to rise (6793590)
How much council tax bills are predicted to rise (6793590)

He added that pressure on councils who were coping with increasing demand for social care was not being addressed: “We need a radical new approach but the government has sat on the sidelines for far too long.”

The council tax rise comes against a backdrop of dwindling government grants. The 5% increase is made up of just under 3% for all services - the maximum allowed without the need to hold a referendum - and a 2% rise specifically to support spending on social care where demand is rising because of a growing ageing population.

A report setting out the draft budget urges the government to allow KCC to retain a bigger slice of money from business rates for Brexit pressures.

Altogether, the council says cuts in grants, increased demand for some services and the need to replenish money used from its reserves equate to a £100m challenge.

There are signs that KCC is facing a backlash among residents with public consultation showing that an additional tax for social care was not supported.

According to the consultation, 54% disagreed with an additional 2% to raise more money for adult care.

The budget and council tax proposals will be decided at a full council meeting on February 14.

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