Kent County Council has this afternoon (12 February) agreed its 2015/16 budget.
The authority said it has managed to balance the books, but says it has been the toughest year since 2010.
The £83.1m of savings come on top of £350m of savings already made by Kent County Council over the last four years.
The Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said: “We needed to make £83.1m of savings. We’ve done that.
“We’ve preserved and protected front line services and our hope and expectation is that many of those services will go on and continuously improve.
“They may be delivered in slightly different ways but the goal is to make less money go further and support our residents in a good if not better way.”
The level of savings is unprecedented and is a result of a combination of reduced government grant and additional spending demands on services.
This year’s budget reflects:
• A decrease in government grants on a like-for-like basis of 15% (£55.5m)
• An increase in the numbers of vulnerable adults needing support
• An increase in resources for children in care
• A drive for better value through commissioning services from the private and voluntary sectors
The most significant savings have been achieved by further developing and transforming the way adult and children’s services are delivered, investing in quality preventative services that avoid wherever possible expensive interventions such as taking children into care and supporting independence for adults, helping them to remain in their own homes.
Further savings have been agreed with a move to buy in more services from the private and voluntary sectors where they can deliver the same or improved level of quality at a lower cost than KCC can achieve in-house.
The council’s Transformation Programme is set to deliver further staffing efficiencies.
The council has agreed to a small increase of 1.99% for its portion of the council tax which works out at an extra £18.96 a year for a Band C property, the most common in Kent.
KCC Cabinet Member for Finance John Simmonds said: “There is no doubt that this is the most difficult and challenging budget that KCC has ever faced.
“Balancing the books has been tougher than ever before but we have made savings where we can, while protecting frontline services, so that we can put additional resources where they are most needed.
“The transformation that KCC is undergoing is working. It’s all about providing better outcomes at less cost to the public purse, particularly in children and adult social care where there will be a major thrust and investment in preventative and support services.
“While these are tough times for everyone, I am confident that the Kent economy is beginning to see signs of recovery. But there is a long way to go if we are to cope with so many years of reduced government funding and increased demand on our services.
“We have to continue to innovate the way we run the council and transform the way public services are delivered.”
In this year’s budget consultation, which ran for 51 days, the public were asked three simple questions on how the authority should go about making savings.
Of those who responded, 75% of people said they would agree with a rise in council tax.
Cllr Simmonds continued: “The opinions of the people of Kent really do matter to us – as we clearly demonstrated in the recent consultation on Community Wardens.
“Our spending shows that we have listened carefully to the public and taken into account what services they value the most.
“We learned that looking after the elderly and vulnerable and children of the county is a top priority for the public and we have therefore not only protected the services we offer this group but invested more money so additional resources can be provided where they are needed.”
• An additional £4.75m into Specialist Children’s Services to fully fund the current and anticipated cost of placements for children in care.
• An additional £7.2m into Adult Social Care to meet anticipated increases in client numbers (particularly adults with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems).
More funding could be made available to support major new investments in the county as part of an ambitious £728m programme over the next three years:
• An additional £5.3m for financing the capital programme to KCC continues to deliver new facilities and improved infrastructure for residents, businesses, visitors and school places for the rapidly increasing number of school aged children.
• An additional £1m to cover the full cost of increasing adoption and special guardianship payments in line with foster payments, which will ensure more children are able to stay in the care of their wider family.
• An additional £1m to further raising the standard of our roads through the ‘Find and Fix’ programme
• An extra £11.2m to extend broadband access to 95% of households in Kent.
In addition, school places are being added to cope with extra demand in parts of Kent.
The budget also ensures KCC protects services valued by the taxpayer, including:
• Social Care services for the most vulnerable elderly, adults and children
• Gritting the roads
• Waste recycling
• Bus services
You can find more details about this year’s KCC budget at www.kent.gov.uk/budget