Peter Oakford (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services), Zena Cooke (Corporate Director of Finance), Dave Shipton (Head of Finance Policy, Planning and Strategy) and Cath Head (Head of Finance Operations) were in attendance for this item.
1. Mr Oakford introduced the Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2022-23 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2022-25 proposals. He addressed the financial context that the budget had been drafted in, which included continued costs related to the pandemic, changes in work practices and increases in service demand. He confirmed that the Ten Year Capital Programme had been drafted to prevent project slippage. Regarding borrowing, he reassured members that it would only be used if required to fulfil statutory duties. He stated that whilst central government funding and the tax base had increased, that they would not cover costs increases without savings. Further reassurance was given that future savings would go out for public consultations and involve individual executive key decisions.
2. Mr Jones provided a technical overview of the £173.8m Growth, Environment and Transport portion of the draft revenue budget, which represented a £3.7m reduction from 2021-22. He addressed the key financial challenges faced by the directorate which included scarcity in supply, price increases, asset investment requirements and increased service demand. He reassured the committee that the directorate’s financial position was sustainable. Addressing the £1.5bn capital budget, he confirmed that most of the programme was funded through government grants and external funding. He raised concerns at the reduction in Department for Transport highways asset management grant funding from £73m to £59m.
3. Mr Brazier addressed key budget developments within his portfolio. He explained the cost pressures and acknowledged the complexity of the revenue budget. He confirmed that a reduction in the subsidy of the Kent Travel Saver scheme was included in the draft budget, which necessitated a price increase in the pass from £370 to £450 per academic year. The committee were informed that a separate key decision would be taken following the approval of the budget at County Council on 10 February. He highlighted a proposed £300,000 investment in rural swathe maintenance, which sought to support KCC’s commitments to biodiversity. He added that in excess of £500,000 had been allocated to fund Active Travel and Vision Zero projects.
4. Mr Baldock commented that given recent increases in population and service demand it was difficult to provide the same levels of service without further Government grant funding. He raised his concerns at the impact of the reduction in highways asset management grant funding on the network.
5. Ms Dawkins shared her concerns at the possible impact of the Kent Travel Saver price increase on families given the additional financial burden. Mr Brazier recognised the impact and acknowledged the difficulty faced in setting a balanced budget. He added that the subsidy of the scheme was non-statutory. He addressed alternative options which included withdrawing the scheme altogether and stated that the proposed change represented a lesser of two evils.
RESOLVED to note the draft capital and revenue budgets including responses to consultation.