The Liberal Democrat opposition on Kent County Council have labelled the Kent County Council budget issued today as a typical pre-election budget from the Conservatives with large scale raids on reserves and savings based on unsecure (and unpublished) projections. Unlike in previous years, there is no detailed projection for the next three years, despite it being clear that partially due to this budget another £100 million of savings will be required next year, and reserves will no longer be available.
Hidden within the proposals there are:
The County Council had expected to start refunding previously spent reserves by £1.4m this year, but have not done so, and gone instead for a huge additional raid on reserves.
Kent's much vaunted £3m Big Society Fund (which was originally set at £5m two years ago) now has yet another £1m removed in the next year.
On top of the massive County wide re-organisation started 2 years ago and which has already shed over 1,600 non-schools jobs, another 100 jobs are now budgeted to be shed in the next year.
Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition Trudy Dean added:
"The chickens have come home to roost on past waste. Huge pay-offs to senior staff, investments in companies that went wrong, and spending on pet projects like Kent TV which never paid off. Even now it continues: for example
the only department that seems to be increasing its staffing is the press department which is proposing to increase from 64 to 66.
"The Conservatives claim to spend your money wisely, but the reverse is so often true.
"At the same time, Kent's schools continue to suffer with Ofsted continuing to rate Kent's Primary Schools as some of the worst performing in the country. Services like Child Safeguarding suffered a damning Ofsted report in 2010, which has cost millions to recover to even an 'adequate' position. Kent has failed to give our children the start they deserve and this budget does nothing to tackle that."
"This budget has written the briefing note for the administration that controls County Hall from May 2013. That note reads: 'Sorry Councillors - there is no money left'."
Liberal Democrat Opposition Finance Spokesman Tim Prater said:
"After the years of reorganisation and heartache caused by the 'once and for all' reorganisation, staff will rightly feel let down by seeing proposals for another 100 to go in the next 12 months.
"The raid of reserves in this year makes it absolutely clear that the money is running out, and that the Conservatives have done their best to mask that in the run-up to the election, with staff bearing the brunt yet again. There are massive questions on how future budgets can be delivered without devastating cuts to services: we're running towards a fiscal cliff edge, and the drop will be painful.
"This is a typical pre-election budget: the Conservatives have now used the last of their room for manoeuvre. From next year, either taxpayers or service users will bear the brunt."