Search

(UK) Kent: County facing $57M deficit; 'most significant' risk is to special ed

Oct 4, 2022, BBC News: Kent County Council's £50m [$57M] debt forecast leads to frontline service fears https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-63131677

SE England

A projected £50 million black hole in a council's budget has led to fears of tax rises and frontline service cuts. Kent County Council (KCC) is facing debt of about £50.6m by June 2023 after rising costs following Covid-19 and the energy supply crisis. Opposition groups say the deficit forecast - about five times higher than projections made last September - could lead to "maximum" tax rises. The council has an annual budget of £1.8 billion. 'EXTREMELY SERIOUS' CABINET MEMBER FOR FINANCE COUNCILLOR PETER OAKFORD DESCRIBED THE FORECAST AS AN "EXTREMELY SERIOUS CAUSE FOR CONCERN" AT A COUNTY HALL MEETING, ACCORDING TO THE LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTING SERVICE. "This is probably the most challenging forecast the council has seen in recent years. Some urgent and very difficult decisions will need to be taken to address this," he said. The "most significant" risk to KCC's budget will be to support special educational needs pupils (SEND), it was revealed at the meeting. This has been forecast to increase by £47m [$54M] over the next 12 months, from £101m [$116M] in June 2022 to £148m [$170M] in June 2023…. "The government gave around £340m in 2015/16 and this year has been going down to £197m."

KCC opposition leader Anthony Hook, of the Liberal Democrats, added: "We can make tweaks, but this will result in cuts to frontline services. Carers and vulnerable children will lose out."