Kent County Council Budget: The Lib Dem Perspective

Colored pie chart showing allocation of budget funds as a percentage of total spend.
Allocation of budget funds by Kent County Council – graphic copyright © KCC

Lib Dem Budget Amendments Adopted

Liberal Democrats tabled seven amendments to Kent’s budget last week.

Two of the amendments passed, with the ruling Conservatives caving in to Liberal Democrats’ arguments.

The successful amendments will:

  1. Save the disabled companion pass so that disabled people can use buses with the help of someone to travel with them, as many disabled people need.
  2. Prevent a planned Tory rise of £30 (25%) in the cost of the Kent travel pass for under-16s who receive free school meals. The pass will remain at £120 rather than go up to £150 as the Tories budgeted for.

Leader of the Kent Lib Dems Antony Hook said,

“Our group put forward arguments that made the Conservatives realise that the public would not accept their attacks on ordinary people in Kent.

“The disabled deserve our support and saving the companion pass was essential.

“Children who receive free school meals (FSM) are from the poorest families, usually on benefits like Universal Credit. Helping those children get to school is really important. The cost of living crisis is affecting us all and it is hitting these families hardest. It would have been very wrong for Kent County Council to raid £30 off families on FSM.”

Councillor Antony Hook

If Liberal Democrats gain power at the next county council election in 2025 we will produce a budget that won’t need amendments like this because we will put protecting our most vulnerable first.

All seven proposed Lib Dem amendments were fully costed and signed off by council officers as financially sound. The Lib Dem amendments proposed using £4million+ in share dividends that KCC received from company shares it owns. These funds are currently unallocated despite services being cut and council tax going up.

The 5 rejected amendments which would have benefitted people in Kent are:

  1. £600,000 for repairs of public rights of way, making it safer and easier for people to walk or cycle. Kent’s rights of way has a huge backlog of repairs that requires £5 million. This extra cash would be a big step towards doing what is needed.
  2. At a cost of £2.3m we will extend the Homeless Connect contract that the Conservatives propose to end. This service has been a lifeline for homeless people. Porchlight have criticised Kent’s plans to scrap it
  3. We will use £600,000 to allow disabled people to use their travel passes on buses at peak times, which presently they are not allowed to do. This will be a huge help to disabled people to get work and access medical appointment or other services in the morning.
  4. (Amendments 6 and 7) For young people we will stop proposed Tory increases in their cost of travel. The Conservatives propose to increase their travel passes to £450 for under-16s and £500 for over 16s. We will use £910k and £350k to prevent these increases that will hit families hard as the cost of living is driven up.

Antony Hook, Lib Dem Group Leader said before the budget debate:

“The Liberal Democrats in Kent are on the side of the public working hard to make life better for ordinary families. The Tory administration at KCC have been in power for too long and are out of touch. It is time for a change and we can start by changing this budget.”