Taxpayers in Kent could be expected to cover a £4.6 million shortfall for child asylum seekers coming into the county.

Despite the latest figures showing that fewer child asylum seekers are moving into Kent, funding from Westminster does not cover the full cost of housing, schooling and other services for them.

Cllr Roger Gough, Kent County Council's cabinet member for children’s services, revealed the shortfall at the children’s, young people and education cabinet meeting on Thursday, January 18.

He said Kent’s bill is one of the largest in the country as other local authorities are “unwilling” or “reluctant” to take these children.

He said: “Between what we spend in total compared with what the government gives us, the gap is £4.6m, estimated for this financial year.

“The national dispersal system got off to a good start. There’s been signs that it’s slowing but I think that some of the problems around that actually relate to the structural issues.

“Some of the local authorities are unwilling or reluctant to take unaccompanied asylum children because they look at the funding gap.”

Opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird said that the scheme is voluntary and there is "no legal requirement for other authorities to take these children".

He said: "Once they have been cleared by the Home Office, then the unaccompanied child asylum seekers are passed to Kent County Council for care.

"Kent County Council has no choice in the matter.

"These are children who cannot be expected to fend for themselves, particularly in a foreign country.

"If the proper care support were not put in place, then they would be put at risk of exploitation and harm."

In addition to the child asylum seeker funding shortfall, KCC is also obliged to provide support for these young people until they are 25.

However, the government at Westminster stops its funding when they turn 18.

The Home Office has been contacted for a comment.