Leadership bid fails after KCC budget plan revealed

KCC councillors Roger Gough (left) and Peter Oakford

DEPUTY Leader of Kent County Council (KCC) and Councillor for Tunbridge Wells North, Peter Oakford, insists KCC is not heading towards bankruptcy despite financial challenges.

The Budget Recovery Plan, which aims to address the £37million budget gap in 2023-24, was discussed at a cabinet meeting last week (October 5) at County Hall in Maidstone.

The plan looks at the actions needed to balance this year’s budget and a strategy to “secure the provision of services for Kent’s residents”, but as the Times previously reported (August 2), £86million of efficiency savings still need to be found for the following year.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance Peter Oakford addressed speculation ahead of the meeting insisting that the Council is “most definitely not” on the brink of being issued an S114.

“When you manage an annual budget of £1.3billion, a gap of £37million, although a very substantial amount, is something that I know we can control.”

Significant pressures on local councils have been evident nationally following the S114 notice that was issued most recently to Birmingham City Council.

The largest local authority in Europe revealed that it could not balance its books and issued a S114 on September 5.

For KCC, the most significant pressures are in adult social care, home-to-school transport, and children’s services. The Times reported on August 30 that £10million is set to be cut from the adult social care budget.

Leader of KCC, Roger Gough, who survived a leadership challenge at the end of last week, echoed Oakford’s calls to central government, saying:

“As a local authority we are having to direct funds away from the areas that residents tell us they most value, in order to fund social care and all the other services that we legally have to provide.

“We are doing the very best that we can, and I am confident that the actions being taken in every part of the Council will ensure we manage to balance the budget into 2024/25 and beyond.”

At the KCC annual meeting on Friday October 6, Mr Gough faced a backbench revolt after Sarah Hudson, who represents the Malling Rural East ward, challenged his leadership.

According to sources she “declared her hand” saying that Mr Gough should include councillors who aren’t in the Cabinet circle in everyday business.

Ms Hudson believed she had the support of 24 members but lost the vote, falling short of the 31 needed to win.

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