According to figures produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Kent County Council’s debt was, on 31 December 2016, a staggering £929million. Adding in pension fund debt and expensive PPI agreements for building projects across the county the actual debt is well over £1billion. But focusing on the £929 million worth of KCC loans, more than half is made up of long term loans from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB); a Government run bank which lends money to local councils and other public sector bodies. The rest of the debt is loans from high street banks and other financial institutions.
My colleague blogger, Bryan Rylands, who publishes ShepwayVox, and who is also standing as an independent candidate for Folkestone West in the forthcoming KCC election, has discovered that in the financial year 2015-16 KCC spent 13.2% of its annual council tax income on servicing its £929 million loans. KCCs council tax income in 2015-15 was £560 million. 13.2% of £560 million works out to be £74 million which was spent on loan repayments in one year. In the 4 years since the last KCC elections the council has therefore spent £296 million in debt repayment. That’s the equivalent of over 90% of the annual Children Services budget which was £316 million in 16/17.
The question must be asked about how this astronomic mountain of debt can be reduced and the money saved ploughed back into front line services, especially services like schools and social care for the elderly and disabled. As an independent candidate in the KCC election for the Ramsgate Division my answer to this question is that a starting point would be for KCC to have an urgent review of its 1788 registered landownings and properties and begin an asset disposal programe to raise some cash. KCC should also be looking at decentralising from Maidstone and co-locating as many of its services as possible in shared offices with the 12 Kent District Councils or other public bodies such as colleges or the NHS. A well-managed working from home policy could also free up property which could then be sold off. There is also the possibility of KCC using its buildings and land to generate power which can be sold to the grid or used to cut energy bills. But ultimately, the abolition of KCC and the devolution of its powers and budgets to a unitary councils across Kent is the answer to tackling this huge debt burden. Getting rid of KCC will save £millions each year and it’s a shame that the recently rejected proposals for an East Kent super council didn’t include taking over the work of KCC.
Further InformationShepwayVox can be found here https://shepwayvox.org/
A list and interactive map of KCC property holdings can be found here http://www.kent.gov.uk/business/property/property-owned-by-kent-county-council
Promoted and published by Ian Driver, 45 Sea View Road, Broadstairs, CT101BX