Kent

Anti-cuts demo outside Kent County Council budget talks

Protest Image copyright Kelly Tomlinson
Image caption Campaigners were opposing service cuts

Union-led protests against public sector cuts have taken place outside a meeting to set Kent County Council's (KCC) budget for next year.

KCC has approved a 3.99% tax rise including the 2% social care precept.

The Unite union said schools, libraries and street cleaning would be cut and Unison said the 2% social care precept would not cover costs.

Conservative council leader Paul Carter said plans maintained frontline services despite financial challenges.

Unison spokesman David Lloyd said residential care providers' costs had risen and the living wage would also see expenses rise.

Referring to the social care precept, he said: "Even with the increase it's going to be difficult to make ends meet."

Eric Segal, branch secretary of Unite, which organised the protest, said: "These budget cuts, driven by a Tory government, will have an adverse affect on much-needed essential services such as schools and libraries."

He said about 80 people protested outside County Hall in Maidstone, including union members, families, students, care home staff and library workers.

Image copyright Kelly Tomlinson
Image caption Members of Cheriton's Nepalese community protested against the closure of Pent Valley School, which many of their children attend

Parents and pupils also protested against the planned closure of Pent Valley School, which KCC has said should shut because of declining numbers.

Mr Segal said campaigners wanted KCC to set "a people's budget" based on community needs, and use its financial reserves in order not to cut services.

"They should draw on the £50m which is sitting idly by while they are cutting services and closing down mobile libraries," he said.

The authority needs to save £126m.

Mr Carter said the social care precept would raise £11m and cover living wage costs of about £8m - but an extra £31m was needed for adult social care.

He also said changes in government legislation including increases in National Insurance and the impact of the National Living Wage had brought additional costs of £13m.

"Our grant has gone down by about £40m every year which is a significant proportion of our budget - which is about £900m," he said.

He said while the budget had reduced each year, pressure on services had risen by £55m a year.

On Wednesday, KCC said it had received an extra £5.7m from the government which made the budget "slightly more bearable".

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