KCC launches plan to Secure Kent’s Future

County Hall Sessions House, Maidstone image

County Hall in Maidstone

The Leader of Kent County Council says he is confident that the Council can ‘find solutions, make the necessary savings, and secure Kent’s future’, as a new report sets out plans to address severe budget pressures.

The report to a Cabinet meeting on Thursday 17th August reveals the first revenue out-turn forecast for 2023-24 of a projected overspend of £43.7m, and also sets out initial management actions which will reduce the forecast overspend to £26.7m. Further measures, both to close the in-year gap and set a longer-term sustainable course for the council, will be brought forward between now and a further Cabinet meeting on 5th October.

The council is facing an enormous rise in the cost of services, fuelled by inflation, market conditions and additional demands on its services from population demographic changes and complexity of need.The most significant pressures over the last two years are in adult social care and children’s services, totalling £24.5m and £33.7m respectively. This year there are forecast overspends in Children’s, Young People and Education totalling £28.4m, and in Adult Social Care & Health totalling £25.8m, reducing to £15.8m following initial management action.

KCC’s priority is to deliver a budget recovery plan that secures Kent’s future, restoring and improving financial resilience. The budget recovery plan sets out immediate actions to reduce spending in the short term, as well as the more structural changes necessary over the medium to long term to ensure the authority’s spending is sustainable and within the resources available from central government and council tax revenue.

The council will need to focus on the most essential activities and priorities until the financial position is brought under control. This will include a review of workstreams across all directorates, in particular Adult Social Care and Childrens’ Services. The greatest focus will be on these areas of overspend, but this work will have to embrace all areas of the council’s activities, to ensure that all available resources are directed in the most effective way and that savings and efficiency plans are delivered.

Kent County Council member Roger Gough

We are leaving no stone unturned and remain confident that we can identify and deliver these savings and ensure that KCC continues to be a sustainable local authority that delivers for Kent residents.

Roger Gough Leader of KCC

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Leader of Kent County Council (KCC) Roger Gough said,

“KCC is, like many councils across the UK, dealing with an extremely concerning financial position. However, I am confident that we can find solutions, make the necessary savings and, most importantly, secure Kent’s future. We are leaving no stone unturned and remain confident that we can identify and deliver these savings and ensure that KCC continues to be a sustainable local authority that delivers for Kent residents.

“Our finances are under enormous pressure, as we endeavour to keep critical frontline services running in the face of these sharply rising costs and increasing demand. We need to make urgent savings in the remainder of this financial year from spending reductions and increased income, in order to ensure that we balance the budget, without the reliance on reserves. The report published today represents the first stage of this process.

“However, our message to central government, and to our residents, is clear. Our funding is going up by less than inflation, ultimately making extremely tough savings decisions not only inevitable but urgent.”

A progress report will be presented at a meeting of Cabinet on 5th October, which will set out in more detail additional actions and decisions needed to bring the forecast overspend down to as close to a balanced position as possible. However, between now and October the Leader of KCC and his new Cabinet will be taking urgent decisions to address the budget overspend.

Roger Gough added “I am all too aware that a number of local authorities in the UK are in formal talks with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to start the process of issuing an S114 notice.

“KCC is not one of those local authorities that is having those conversations with central government, and we remain confident that we will not have to.”