Kingston continuing to deliver for residents despite nationwide financial challenges
Along with most councils across the country, Kingston is facing an extremely challenging financial situation.
This is caused by rampant inflation, increasing demand for vital support and significant long-term underfunding from central government.
These national pressures obviously impact on Kingston. Careful financial management in recent years means the council has been in a stronger position than many. However the challenges the borough is now facing are more significant than ever. This will mean there are difficult decisions ahead about how to allocate the finite resources available.
The majority of Kingston's budget, along with many councils’ budgets, is spent on supporting the increasing social care needs for children and adults and providing accommodation for the growing number of people needing temporary housing - this year the council will spend over £100 million on this vital support. These needs are rising all the time.
As well as providing support to more people in need, the costs of delivering services are increasing, often faster than the headline rate of inflation.
Despite the financial challenges, Kingston Council is continuing to deliver for residents.
It is building much-needed new council homes. Families have moved into brand new council homes at Arun House in Kingston and more are about to move into new homes at York Way in Chessington. This is part of the small sites programme which will deliver over 101 sustainable council homes at four sites across the borough. This is alongside the major regeneration of Cambridge Road Estate.
It has opened a new specialist autism school for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities which will eventually cater for up to 90 pupils aged 4-19.
Through its new £720k Community Resilience Fund the council is delivering grants to enhance the community support available to people struggling with the cost of living crisis, providing spaces and activities to support health and wellbeing and tackle inequality and isolation. Community and voluntary groups across the borough have received funding for projects including the refurbishment of community kitchens, expanding a community fridge programme, one-to-one ‘money buddy’ advice for vulnerable people with mental health and learning issues, a money and mental health telephone support line and wellbeing activities for unpaid carers.
Kingston is also continuing to deliver on its climate action plan with the introduction of an all-electric waste collection fleet. It has also planted 500 new trees and installed 250 new electric vehicle charging points across the borough.
The council’s income to deliver services and support for residents and businesses comes mainly from council tax. Kingston receives very little funding from central government - practically all of its core grant has been removed since 2010. Despite the growing need for essential support, the government has reduced Kingston’s central grant from £66m in 2010 to just £180k this year.
Leader of Kingston Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance Andreas Kirsch said:
“We have been very prudent and careful in our financial management over the past few years. However rampant inflation, increasing demand for essential support for vulnerable people and long term structural underfunding of local government mean we, along with most local councils, are facing severe financial challenges.
“Alongside our prudent financial management, we continue to take decisive action to reduce costs. We are completely transforming how we provide services to make the best use of the money we have to support people in the most need while maintaining the essential services that keep the borough running. We are also managing core costs through a council spending and recruitment freeze.
“But to properly address the ongoing financial challenges facing local government, major funding reform is needed. Kingston is working with other London boroughs to lobby for an urgent review of local government funding to deliver a fairer deal for councils and their residents.”