The setting of the annual KCC budget is always a complex and challenging process. It is proving all the more difficult for 2024-25.
The Government demands local authorities deliver a balanced budget, where expected revenues are equal to the total planned spend.
The deep-felt impacts of inflation, cost of living pressures, population changes and complexity of need mean that spending demands are increasing much more than additional funding from local taxation and central government. This results in the Council needing to find savings from spending reductions and income from other sources to balance the books.
There was a significant overspend on the budget last year, largely on social care services for older people and children, and there are similar challenges in this current financial year, with a continuation of the increasing demand for and cost of providing services.
The priority for KCC remains to ensure that resources are directed where they are needed the most and spending managed within the finances available.
If this is not achieved, the budget will become unsustainable and will threaten the viability of the services provided. Action is required to reduce spending in the current year and tough choices must be made about priorities for the future. Since 2011, KCC has had to make savings of 67p in every £1 it currently spends.
“The more feedback we get, the more we understand the needs of our residents and we need that feedback before we have to make some tough decisions.”
Over 80% of the Council’s day-to-day spending is on six service areas:
- Care and support for vulnerable adults’
- Care and preventative services for vulnerable and disabled children
- Older persons social care
- Public transport services
- Waste recycling and disposal
- Management and maintenance of Kent’s highways
All of these services are highly valued, and all are being reviewed to see whether we are prioritising our limited resources in the right areas and where we should look to make further savings.
Peter Oakford, Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services, said: “It’s really important for us to understand our residents’ views before we set our budget.
“Legally, we have to set a balanced budget therefore we cannot have any overdrafts at the end of the year. Most of our funding comes from the residents of our county, and therefore it’s only fair we should ask residents where we should be spending money in a time when we are going to have to make some reductions in some areas of spending.
“We say it every year, but things do get harder every year. We’re coming out of the punishing COVID period, we’re hitting inflation at a 40-year high, we’re seeing the complexity of cases that we support through our social services network increasing, we’re seeing the demand increasing, and of course inflation is impacting on all the service providers that we deal with. Therefore, our costs are increasing at the same levels.
“People always ask us questions on the budget, so we are starting slightly earlier this year as we want as much feedback as possible.
“The consultation has started. You can get involved between now and 6 September. The more feedback we get, the more we understand the needs of our residents and we need that feedback before we have to make some tough decisions.
“Anyone can participate, our website has all the details. I’d urge you to do so as soon as you possibly can. The sooner we get the feedback, the earlier we can feed that into the decision-making process.”
To get involved visit: www.kent.gov.uk/budget
If you are unable to take part online, a hard copy of the questionnaire can be requested via our Alternative Formats team. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03000 421 553 (text relay service number: 18001 03000 421 553).
This number goes to an answering machine which is monitored during office hours.