The Council is facing an estimated £40-50million black hole for this financial year following the Covid emergency.
Despite this, as reported in the Times last week [July 8], the cash strapped authority still voted through a new members’ allowance scheme during lockdown, which will see county hall Councillors receive a 4.2 per cent rise in their pay packets.
But now it is appealing to residents to ask their opinion on what services it should protect as it prepares to make swingeing cuts.
KCC is expecting to receive £10million in funding from the government, following an announcement earlier this month from Housing, Communities and Local Government minister, Robert Jenrick.
This is in addition to the £67million the authority has already received from Downing Street to cope with the Covid crisis.
But KCC says its additional spending during lockdown was around £96.6million and it lost more than £21million of income for this financial year, leaving a shortfall of between £40-50million.
It is not yet clear whether the Government will further bail out councils, which means KCC are preparing a new budget and to cut services.
KCC Deputy Leader Peter Oakford, who is also the Cabinet Member for Finance and a Tunbridge Wells County Councillor, said: “Local government still does not have certainty in relation to its financial position as we emerge from the immediate impact of Covid-19, and that makes financial planning far more challenging than would usually be the case.
“However, we anticipate that we will have to cope with extra financial pressures to some degree.
“We are therefore launching this public consultation so that residents can outline their priorities and thereby help us formulate our plans for an amended budget, which the County Council will be considering at its meeting on 10 September.”
The four-week consultation, which was launched on Monday July 13, is inviting residents’ views on spending priorities by visiting the website kent.gov.uk/budget and completing the online questionnaire.
Residents will be asked what out of the many services KCC provides they wish to protect.
These include services for children, young people and families, such as children’s centres, children in care, mental health services, social work cases, the KCC travel saver and special educational needs; services for all residents and communities such as public health and wellbeing services, highways, waste management, libraries, and community safety, as well as services for older and vulnerable people.
Residents who are unable to take part online can request a hard copy from County Hall.