Conservative-run Kent County Council is proposing to increase Council Tax by 1.99 per cent – just low enough to avoid requiring the consent of its residents via a referendum. This means they will be rejecting the grant from central government, equivalent to one per cent of their Council Tax revenue, which is paid to those that cut or freeze Council Tax. The total Council Tax revenue is just over half a billion a year. So to avoid making Kent residents pay an extra £10 million the council would have to save an extra £5 million.
Are the councillors seriously claiming this is not possible?
This is a council that spends £78 million a year on debt interest. Their debt mountain is over a billion pounds. They estimate their assets at £2.3 billion. £26.5 million a year is spent on asset management which could also be reduced if the footprint was shrunk. Yet efforts to sell surplus land and buildings are very modest – and any proceeds planned for spending rather than debt reduction.
The council also spends £406,000 a year on Community Engagement Officers. They are spending £12.6 million to keep 78 children in children’s homes – that’s £164,000 per child a year. £5.6 million a year goes on youth workers and “ensuring the voice of young people is heard through the voice of Kent Youth County Council”. Another £2.1 million goes on arts subsidies. £2.6 million on PR. £3.7 million goes on the “cost of supporting the 84 elected members”. That comes to £44,000 each.
For a huge organisation there should be great potential for shared services and savings in procurement. Their payments for November alone go on for 434 pages. Subscriptions, consultants, agency staff, conferences, training courses, catering, taxis to take children to school. Would it really not be possible to trim an extra one per cent?
Each Conservative councillor on KCC should think long and hard as to whether this tax increase is really justified.