Kingston Council’s balanced budget proposals for 2020-21
Despite significant financial challenges and having to make some tough decisions, the Council is proposing a £6.6m investment to meet priorities and continue to provide key services for residents.
Much of our investment continues to support the most vulnerable residents and communities to reach their full potential and meeting increasing demands in children's and adult services. There is a proposal to increase investment in services to support adults with learning difficulties, children looked after and young people leaving care.
As part of the budget proposals we are planning a capital investment programme of £135.6m to provide improved infrastructure across the borough. This includes new school places and a new dementia care home.
The council has saved £110m over the last 9 years, but still needs to make £34 million in savings over the next four years, at a time when demand for our services continues to increase.
The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) does not, and has not for a number of years, cover the cost of supporting the increasing numbers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Historical underfunding makes our challenge in Kingston even bigger. The historical shortfall in funding will reach £20 million at the end of March 2020.
We are now supporting more elderly and vulnerable residents than we have before and Kingston’s ageing population means that demands on these vital services will also continue to rise. Costs of adult social care services alone are predicted to total £53m and will account for 38% of the council total yearly spend in 2020-21. A further £29.9m (21%) will be spent on ensuring we are safeguarding and providing services to vulnerable children.
In addition, Kingston’s overall population continues to grow year on year and we are now providing services for 20,000 more residents than in 2011. The population is expected to reach 202,234 by 2030.
The council no longer receives additional funding from central Government - this is down from £66 million in 2010 and means we are more reliant on council tax and business rates to balance our budget.
Councillor Liz Green, Leader of Kingston Council, said:
“Like all councils across the country Kingston is under significant pressure to meet rising demand and ensure services are adequately funded. Finding sufficient resources to provide the services everyone uses whilst doing our best to look after our most vulnerable residents is the perpetual challenge now that we receive zero government grant.
“As with previous years, we are being forced to make some tough decisions when it comes to this year’s budget. We promised to look after the Council’s long term financial security, and through careful budget monitoring and ensuring value for money in everything we spend, we believe this budget is the best deal for all residents.
“We will continue to prioritise spending on adult and children's social care and the people who need our support the most with increases to match increased demand but we also increasing funding to do our bit to help tackle climate change.
“The most worrying aspect for long term financial sustainability remains the increasing overspends for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. This is supposed to be paid for by the Government in a separate ‘Dedicated Schools Grant - High Needs Block’ budget, rather than paid for by local taxes, but put bluntly there is not enough money. We will not let our SEND children down because the Government is not recognising this urgent problem across the country. However as this sits within our overall accounts, we are required to have sufficient savings to cover this deficit. We continue to lobby, with councils of all political parties, for the Government to step up and fund these children who deserve the best start in life and their families.
“I know many residents will share our frustrations that to provide the services needed, we have had to increase council tax again this year. I have said before that we are a community in Kingston and the council tax and business rates you pay go directly to help those that most need our help - children in need of care or with SEND, all who have mental or physical health problems or learning disabilities, the elderly who need assistance, anyone suffering domestic violence, housing needs or a multitude of other concerns. I know all residents want us to do this and in return we promise to use your money wisely.”
The council draft budget for 2020-21 will be going to all the strategic committees before it is presented at Full Council on 27 February 2020. You can view the budget pack here. For more information on committee dates or to watch live, visit our website.
As part of planning for the year ahead, residents were asked to share their views on the proposals and to help shape the council’s financial plans and meet the additional demand on council services. You can read more about this on our Let’s Talk consultation portal www.kingstonletstalk.co.uk.