Budget consultation - Peter Oakford interview transcript

[Caption] Have your say

Interviewer: "So what is the consultation you're launching today?"

Peter Oakford: "We're about to start the budget process for next year and before we really get into it we need to understand what's important to the residents of Kent so we can make sure we take into consideration their views as we develop what's going to be a difficult budget. In the past, we've always been looking at where are the most important areas for the residents of Kent for us to spend our money. This year, unfortunately, it looks like we're going to be having to make reductions in some areas, so what we want to hear from the residents of Kent is: what are the areas that they believe we should be making those reductions in?"

Interviewer: "Tell us about the financial challenges that KCC's facing."

Peter Oakford: "We're in a period of unprecedented change within the financial world, let alone of Kent County Council. We will have a reduced Council Tax collection base this year, we know that, we've seen it through this year, so it's going to flow into next year's budget. We're seeing spending demands - adult social care, children's social care, the demands are increasing, so we have more pressures there. We don't know what our government spending allowances are going to be - we don't know that until December. With everything going on, we need to understand what is important to our residents, and if we know that now, before we have to make the final decisions, it will help that decision making process.

I don't think anybody knows how long COVID is with us. We know we've got challenges for at least another six months, as the Prime Minister has told us. We're anticipating that we've got pressures for the next two or three years, so the pressures are immense. There's a great deal of uncertainty around those pressures, so we have to do the best we can in stretching our budget as far as we can, to meet the needs of the most vulnerable residents within Kent."

Interviewer: "So Peter, why should people take the time to do this consultation?"

Peter Oakford: "We're going to have to make the toughest, and the hardest, decisions that we've ever made regarding the services that we offer to our residents. The consultation results will help us form our interim Strategic Plan, which will lead to the green shoots of recovery. As we come out of COVID and we start to understand what the new new norm will be for Kent and its residents."

[Caption] Visit www.kent.gov.uk/budget