Kingston Council 2024-25 budget approved with just three votes against

Kingston council members approved a budget proposal which outlined key spending of £178m for 2024-2025.  

Mayor Diane White presided over the Budget Council proceedings on February 29, where members voted to approve the budget which highlights support for delivering core services for residents most in need in 2024-2025.  

The budget was approved with 40 votes for, 3 votes against, and no abstentions. 

Leader of Kingston Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Andreas Kirsch, said: “The last couple of years have been challenging for local authorities. Setting a balanced budget has become even more difficult.” 

Kirsch said that whilst funding for local authorities has been reduced, there has been an increased demand on services.  

Kirsch highlighted that eight English councils have declared themselves bankrupt since 2018, with four of those in the last 15 months.  

He said that a recent survey from the Local Government Information Unit found that one in 10 councils have warned that they might face bankruptcy in the next 12 months.  

Kirsch said: “Challenges we are now facing are more significant than ever. This means we have had to take difficult decisions about how to allocate the finite resources available.” 

The budget promises to fund excellent services to residents, particularly those with special needs including people living with dementia, older people in need of social care, and younger people with special education needs.  

Kirsch also highlighted the council’s plans to manage the borough’s green spaces, “with this budget we are continuing to invest in our parks and green spaces to improve them further”.  

The budget also includes funding to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the crowning of King Athelstan – first King of England – with a six-month borough-wide celebration.  

Independent Residents Group Councillor Yvonne Tracey voted against the budget and said: “Residents across the borough are feeling the cost-of-living crisis and yet the council are proposing to increase council tax to the maximum of 4.99%.” 

“They do this whilst spending a six-figure sum on marketing the anniversary of King Athelstan, if money was no object, then of course, but with money being so tight I think that residents would rather their money be spent on things which reflect their lives today.” 

Conservative councillor Rowena Bass said that it was another “disappointing budget from the lib dems” and said it lacked “vision”. 

She said: “Under the Lib Dems council tax is one of the highest in London yet council services are further declining.” 

Bass said that dangerous potholes are getting worse whilst the council has reduced £150,000 of funding in highway maintenance.  

Bass concluded: “These are all the basics residents expect when they pay their council tax.”  

Liberal Democrat Councillor Griseldis Kirsch who backed the budget said that budgeting in these times is a “gargantuan task”.  

She said that it is easy for the opposition to “criticise the administration, but scrutiny is in [their] job description. They should have engaged with the difficulties and intricacies of budgeting in these difficult times.  

“They share the responsibility of our residents and the least they can do is engage with the budget. I am happy to say that in face of all the adversity our liberal democrat administration has managed to balance the budget responsibility. 

“We can keep the streetlights on and provide more than just the basic services…we continue to deliver to our residents, and I am proud to be part of it.”  

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