Published: 13:40, 06 January 2020
| Updated: 12:12, 09 January 2020
Council tax payers face a 4% increase in their bills this year under budget plans unveiled by Kent County Council today.
The Conservative-run council says the increase comes against a backdrop of continuing pressure on some services, notably the rising demand for adult social care.
Roger Gough speaks to KMTV about the plans
The above-inflation rise being considered will push bills for householders in Band C properties up by £46 to £1,201. On average, the increase means householders paying 89p a week more than last year for the county council's share of the bill.
KCC says that after a decade of austerity which has forced it to make far-reaching cuts, the government has provided more money to help cushion the impact of rising costs.
There will be a £28.6m boost for the authority - an injection of cash that council leader Roger Gough cautiously welcomed.
But he warned the extra money was only for one year and there were no guarantees the government would continue to give councils more money.
“The extra government funds are very welcome and much needed, but we also need to remember that they are only allocated for the coming year, so councils like ours need to continue to push for better funding in the future,” he said.
“County council services have a major impact on people’s lives, through schools, roads and highways, social services for vulnerable children and adults and for elderly people and services that are important to families and their communities, such as libraries and country parks.”
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Rob Bird said: "It is a much happier budget than we have had in previous years and it is good to see some positive steps for the future. But we have still got a lot of pressure on children's services and special needs and home-to-school transport. The increase in the national living wage is welcome but will have an impact on both the council and those that it commissions services from, particularly in the care sector."
The council will increase council tax by 2% for adult social care services and 2% for all the other services it provides.
The rising demand for adult social care means that spending will go up from £375m to £395m.
The budget will also see spending on children’s services increase to £269m while spending on roads, the environment and regeneration will be £177m.
KCC will spend more than £1bn on essential day to day services in 2020-21 – representing an overall increase of £68 million (7%) over last year.
The final budget proposals, including the council tax, will be voted on by county councillors at a meeting next month.
It has become something of a yearly ritual for Kent County Council to lament the government's failure to give it enough money to provide the services demanded of it by residents.
But this year, the lament is rather more muted.
After a decade of austerity which has seen not just KCC but every other council pare services to the bone, there is some relief: the government has finally loosened the financial strings and given councils more money.
It won't lead to the Conservative-run administration rushing to hang out the bunting at County Hall but the additional £28m being provided by the government represents some modest improvement after successive years of cuts.
It comes with a health warning: the government handout is for one year only and there is no guarantee it will be repeated. But while it won't stretch far enough to make up for what councils have lost, it is a step in the right direction.