Kingston launches drive to be a “more human” council by 2020

Government austerity cuts and rising needs of the vulnerable lead Council to balance reduction in spending with increases in Council Tax.

Over half of all our spending comes from Council Tax, and severe cuts to the grant received from Government  - 41 per cent this year growing to 112 per cent in four years - has meant we've had to find savings of £14.8m this year, rising to £40m by 2019/20.

The Council has taken the decision that most of the shortfall should fall on savings to services (£12.2m) and that we should raise the remaining £2.6m from Council Tax.

The consequence of this is that to protect the vulnerable and continue to have a better, brighter borough we are having to raise Council Tax by 1.99 per cent. Additionally, the Government has calculated its grant to us with an expectation that councils will levy a new special ‘social care precept’, for older and other vulnerable people's care, of 2 per cent, which will bring the total rise to 3.99 per cent. 

The GLA precept for the London Olympics ends this year, reducing our Band D Council Tax bills, in cash terms, by £19. This means the overall cash increase for a Band D household will be 2.15 per cent, or £36 per annum.

Councillor Kevin Davis, Leader of Kingston Council, said:

“It gives me no pleasure to say that the Government has got this wrong but at short notice it is impossible to re-open the Treasury's financial coffers. We are an innovative administration that has found ground-breaking ways to reduce expenditure but this additional £2.6m announcement at Christmas has been too much to find at short notice. We are therefore proposing to implement the Government’s Social Care Precept of 2 per cent and then adding a modest increase of 1.99 per cent of our own to protect vital services.”

Councillor David Glasspool, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Treasury at Kingston Council, said:

“During the first two years since the local elections of 2014 Council Tax has remained frozen. Given the scale of the problem before us we have decided that it is best to let the main burden of the £14.8m savings fall on services and balance this with the minimum increase in Council Tax possible under the Government’s settlement. 

“This increase will see a Band D taxpayer pay an extra £36 per annum and ensure that the most vulnerable in our community receive the care they need and expect.

“We will now be sharing our budget plans with the community at our forthcoming budget conversations, scheduled to take pace over the next few weeks. These conversations will help shape not just this budget but inform the outcomes against which we judge future budget proposals.”

How are those savings being delivered? 

Kingston is an innovative Council and is widely recognised as having led the way in many successful changes to Government policy. The savings that have been made have been done through the ground-breaking Outcome Based Budgeting approach. Rather than salami slicing services we have taken each service and matched it against the needs of the residents before deciding whether we should continue with it or close it down completely.

Additionally, taking the first steps towards a coordinated Health Council service for Kingston. We are working with the health sector to create a more person centred approach to the provision of adult social care and health. New care Hubs and advanced carers will look directly after the needs of the individual rather than vulnerable people being driven through process by a system. This will create a people centred service that increases resident satisfaction and drives down costs.

We are also launching, through the outcome based budgeting approach, a drive to be an ‘enabling’ council by 2020 where a “more human” approach is taken to the needs of local residents and where we act as the facilitator of services - publicly organised but not necessarily publicly delivered.

Councillor Kevin Davis, Leader of Kingston Council, said:

“For too long councils have put the needs of residents too low and in a new dynamic world we need to improve the communications and understand better the needs of residents. But we also need to drive down costs. The Council needs to become a “more human” hub, where it matches the needs of all residents to the services that can be provided by a greater range of private, public and voluntary sector organisations. This hub approach will mean that by 2020 we will have fewer directly employed staff and a single building, but there will be a range of new organisations providing services to our residents and organised by this new model council of the future.”

See more details in our supplementary press material about the Kingston Budget 2016-17.