In a press release today,  Kent County Council have announced that they are on track to deliver this year’s target savings of another £81m on top of savings of £269m over the last three years, but there are clear indications from government that the squeeze on local government finance will continue until at least 2018, which is a significant challenge.

The indications are that KCC will have to find a further £206m during the next three years, because of reduced levels of government funding and additional spending demands on services. These additional spending demands are often overlooked by central government and should not be played down.

As it seeks to set its budget, KCC:

  • is expected to lose a further 15% (£56m) in of Government funding in 2015/16
  • must absorb £36m unavoidable spending pressures – due to increases in charges we pay, and more people requiring vital services such as social care
  • must find £60m of capital to provide additional school places for the rising number of pupils in our primary schools
  • is asking Kent residents to accept a small (1.99% increase) to help reduce the amount of savings needed and protect frontline services.  This would raise £10m and equates to £19 for a Band C property.

At present, Dartford Council Tax Payers in a Band C property contribute £949.92 a year to KCC compared with £162.90 to Dartford Borough Council (details of other bands can be seen here).  In addition, there remains the possibility of rises in Council Tax from DBC, The Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority and Parish/Town Councils (if applicable).

Kent residents are being asked to ‘Help Make the Most of Kent’s Money – Your Views Count’  This consultation closes on 28 November and responses to the consultation will be considered before the County Council sets the budget in February 2015.

Full details of the Budget Consultation can be read here and there will be three quick questions to answer:-

Question 1: Council Tax – To preserve the most valued services (especially those we aren’t required to provide by law) we are planning to raise additional income through council tax (note this would not entirely remove the need for savings as this would require a 19% increase in council tax). What would you prefer? Please select one option only:

a) I don’t want an increase in council tax and the council should make more savings to balance the budget.

b) I’d accept a minimal increase of 1.99% (1.99% would increase band C charge by £19 a year –the maximum increase allowed without a referendum).

c) I’d accept a rise between 2% to 5% rise in order to protect more services from the reductions in funding (this would require a referendum and each 1% would increase band C charge by £9.50 a year).

d) I’d accept an increase in excess of 5% to provide greater protection for council services.

Question 2: Savings over the next three years – What approaches should we adopt to making these savings? Please tick one or more options:

a) Find more efficient ways to deliver the same level of service at a lower cost e.g. by buying in more services from the private and voluntary sectors, sharing services with other public agencies, etc.

b) Transform services so they are delivered in a different way with the same or better outcomes at reduced cost e.g. rely more on digital services rather than telephone or face to face contact, support social care clients so they can avoid residential care.

c) Remove or stop services which are least valued by Kent residents as identified through evidence-based research.

d) Restrict access to services to only the most needy

e) None of the above

Question 3: Balance of savings for 2015/16 – We have yet to identify around £7.5m of the savings estimated to be needed to balance the 2015/16 budget. What approach do you think the council should take to close this gap? Please select one option only:

a) Increase council tax by a further 1.5% (in addition to the 1.99% already mentioned). Note – this would require a formal and binding referendum which could cost in the region of £1.5m.

b) Use money held in the council’s reserves. Note – our level of reserves is low compared with other similar councils.

c) Raise additional income from other sources e.g. charges for services, tackling council tax avoidance, etc.

d) Deliver more savings from the areas identified in question 2.

e) Introduce a pay / price freeze for KCC staff / suppliers.

f) Other (please specify)

 

About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

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