It is the first budget under new Conservative Leader Roger Gough, who has pledged to spend more than £1billion on public services from April 2020, and will also spend nearly £1billion more over the next three years on the county’s infrastructure.
County Hall says after a decade of austerity, it has received an additional £28.6million from Central Government – the first grant rise in ten years – which ‘represents a significant shift from the very challenging budgets of the past ten years’.
But taxpayers will still see their Council Tax bills increase by 4 per cent in April 2020, adding nearly £50 to annual payments – or 89p a week.
The government now provides around £620million in grants to fund the council, but around half of KCC’s budget for next year – £749million – will come from taxpayers.
The extra funding, along with £34million from savings and other income, has allowed KCC to increase spending on day to day services by £68million for 2020.
County Hall will now spend more than £1billion of its £1.6billion budget on services for the county.
This includes elderly and vulnerable adults, subsidised transport for children, recycling and disposal of household waste, and investment in new or improved public infrastructure.
The money spent equates to around £663 for each individual in Kent, an increase of £38.
In addition, over the next three years, KCC will spend £906million of its capital budget – money set aside for infrastructure and assets – on priority areas such as roads and highways, waste services and improving the buildings in which services are based.
To balance its books, County Hall says taxpayers will see an increase in their Council Tax of 2 per cent to fund additional adult social care services and 2 per cent to pay for all other services, which for a Band D property would be around £46 a year.
KCC Leader Roger Gough said this extra money will mean the Council can press ahead with investing in the priorities it has outlined in its five-year ‘Strategic Statement’ plan, which is currently undergoing public consultation.
He added: “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, which we hope will be outlined in the Government’s Fair Funding Review.
“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.
“As Leader of KCC I want to focus on the spending priorities and services we provide that matter most to our residents and make the most visible difference, whilst still achieving value for money for the Kent taxpayer.”
He added although there was currently a shortfall of just under £2million to balance the budget plans, which go before Full Council on February 13, this will be met from changes to the final spending and savings plan.
Tunbridge Wells County Councillor and Cabinet member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services, Peter Oakford, added: “It is important that Kent residents and businesses understand that the Council has still got to make some tough decisions, on both spending on day-to-day services and improvements in public infrastructure.
“The 2020-21 proposals represent a significant shift from the very challenging budgets we have had for a number of years where money has been very tight, to a year of treading water with some additional money while we await the outcome of a Government Spending Review sometime later this year which should provide a clearer picture of the financial outlook for local government over the next few years.”
Where your money goes
KCC’s £1billion spending plans include £395million on adult social care, such as looking after older people and vulnerable adults.
£269million is to go on children, young people and education, including providing early years education, subsides school transport and other children’s services.
£177million is to be spent on growth, environment and transport, such as pathways, roads and waste facilities. £81million will be spent on strategic and corporate services, including the costs of running the Council and its estate.
£129million will go on general finance, including the cost of debt, insurance and audits.
The 2 per cent rise in general Council Tax will help fund additional services for children, including £4.9million for disabled children’s services, and £9.6million for other children’s services.
It will also provide £7.1million extra funding for highways transport and waste, including £1.1million for changes to waste recycling and disposal facilities, and additional spending on infrastructure in the capital programme requires £3million of financing. And £3.5m will go on high impact improvements in support of new Strategic Statement priorities, which will be announced at a later date.
Have your say
KCC has launched a consultation on its plans to improve the quality of life for the county’s residents over the next five years.
In its Strategic Statement consultation, County Hall has set out seven priorities, including: enterprise and investment, securing sustainable infrastructure, transport and communities, a cleaner and greener county, stronger and safer communities, more opportunities for children and young people, and improving the health, care and support of the people in the county.
“It’s vitally important that residents now have the chance to shape what those services will be like and what kind of county we are going to be living in over the next few years,” said Leader Roger Gough.
“The plan seeks to respond to what residents have already told us about their desire for services that protect and enhance the quality of life in Kent. We must particularly address the challenges that residents see in their daily lives: the increasing demand for local public services from an ageing and changing population; the impact of significant housing growth, and the pressure on our infrastructure.”
The consultation runs from 6 January to 17 February 2020 and more information is available at kent.gov.uk/5yearplan