A budget for the vulnerable
Kingston Council has passed a Conservative budget for 2017/18 which is designed to support and protect the vulnerable. In the budget for next year, all the increase will effectively go towards adult social care.
Basic council tax will increase by just under 2% and the social care precept by 3%. Kevin Davis, Council Leader, admits that this was not an easy decision, but pressure for services is growing, just as Kingston receives less cash from Westminster, and so the Council has to find other ways of funding these essential services.
London's older population is growing faster than elsewhere, as people are retiring into London. This has been the case for at least the last ten years, and the increased cost of caring for the elderly is something that both the Lib Dems and the current Conservative administration have struggled to meet.
Despite the Lib Dem's talk of “Tory Cuts”, the biggest reduction in Local Goverment grants followed the 2010 election when the Lib Dems were in Government. The trajectory of savings was set then and we are seeing the cost. They set the pace for an 80% reduction in Central Government grants over the decade.
Councils have found ways to cover this extra cost by reducing further spend elsewhere. Typically, the Lib Dems did this is by spending less on parks, playgrounds and potholes.
But, as Kevin explains, we cannot continue like that. We need our borough to look its best, not least because the residents here pay the highest council tax in London. We need to put into adult social care what it is actually costing, which is much more than just squeezing out inefficiencies as we go along. We will do that as well, but we also have to factor in the growth in numbers.
In 2014 we pledged to protect vulnerable members of our society, a pledge that we have delivered on and remain committed to today. Despite making over £60 million of savings in the past few years, the only way to cover the costs of these vital services for the next year is to raise council tax and the adult social care precept.
Kevin Davis, Leader of the Council
We are dealing with serious growth in demand together with cuts to funding, and this is why we rejected the Lib Dems attempt to hijack the budget with trivial proposals, such as the removal of new street litter bins and the provision of dog wardens, which they cut in 2013.
Kingston Conservatives want a better, brighter and cleaner Borough, not a return to the messy streets of Lib Dem years.
Last year (2016/17), Kingston Council collected £101.6 million in council tax, of which £16.7m was on behalf of the Greater London Authority to fund the police, fire brigade and Transport for London.
Proposed council spending by service area for 2017/18:
42.8% for health and adult social care (£56.2 million)
25.8% for learning and children's services (£33.9 million)
30.2% for environment and place-based* services (£39.7 million)
1.2% for support and other corporate services (£1.6 million)
0.1% for neighbourhoods (£0.1 million)
*Place-based services include planning and transportation, regeneration, environmental control, parks and green space, traffic management, parking and street scene services.