‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce’
In Feb 2004 the then Tory led Shepway District Council voted for a 39% increase in its council tax. This was thought to be the highest increase in the country. Band D property owners were be required to pay £1,247, a rise of £67.40.
In May 2004 the Tories were swept from power and the Lib Dems were elected and the Liberal Democrats had to sort out the financial mess made by the Tory Council.
As the newly elected Council, the Lib Dems inherited empty coffers and difficult decisions to make. They needed to make savings and fast. One of the proposed savings was to close and sell of some, but not all, of the public toilets in the district. They also resolved to cut back on the verge cutting saving £50,000 a year.
Fast forward to 2023/24, the Green & Lib Dem led Council, supported by Labour, find themselves in a similar position. The Tories have left a massive deficit of £18.5m. One must not forget both a Lib Dem & Green sat on the Tory led Cabinet and supported many of the financial decisions made by the Tories.
The newly elected council have to address this financial mess left by former District Leader Cllr David Monk (pictured), a failed double glazing salesman four times over, and his fellow cabinet members.
The current Cabinet met informally on the 3rd and 4th of October 2023 with senior officers to find ways to challenge existing service provisions, budgets and spending plans with the aim of achieving better value for money and diverting resources into council priorities and away from non-priority areas. They went through 5,000 lines of budgets, so as to find budgets which could be cut reducing the base budget by £3m.
On Tuesday, 31st October the Overview and Scrutiny Committee met at 6pm to discuss these issues regarding the Budget Update for 2024/25. The video of the proceedings can be watched below.
Potential savings raised at the meeting for all Cllrs consideration at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and later Full Council were:
Close/not provide toilet cleaning service – exploring transition to TC & Parishes in 2024/25 – Saving of £157,000
verge cutting – not a statutory service Saving £98,612.
On-Street Car Parking – (additional income range of £200k – £300k) Saving £200k
Other saving suggested would mean increases in fees and charges to the public in the time of a cost of living crisis. Some recommendations were:
Reduce Litter Bins – Saving £30,000
Increase Bulky Waste Collection Fee – Saving £5,000)
Above Inflationary Increase in Garden Waste Charge – saving £30,000
Re-introduce the policy to charge for replacement residual waste bins – Saving £40,000
Now to make it clear these are recommendations for all Cllrs to consider throughout November. Nothing has been voted on and nothing has been decided yet. But what we can say, and will say, here and now, is come February, our Council will still have the highest Council Tax in Kent.
The options on those will be published pretty soon and will be going to the Overview & Scrutiny committee on the 14 Nov, among other places. Cabinet members will be questioned on the unavoidable cuts which need to be made, Is there a need for them, and what will be the benefits and consequences of each of the proposed cuts put forward.
Cllrs will have to make tough decisions and they will not be able to avoid the hard choices which must be made and decided upon. Cuts to budgets of £3m must be made.
If anybody now believes Folkestone & Hythe Tories are not profligate with other peoples money, they have to be deaf, dumb and blind. Voting Tory locally always ends up being a tradegy as evidenced in 2004, and farcical as evidenced in 2023. And that good people is a fact.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful