Difficult decisions on budget ahead

Hertfordshire County Council must save a further £28m from its budget next year if December’s Government Finance Settlement is agreed.

The settlement, which sets out the funding Government will give local authorities to spend on services for residents, was much worse than expected.

The Council’s Chancellor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance Chris Hayward, has already met the Minister for Local Government Marcus Jones MP to ask for a fairer share for Hertfordshire and has vowed to keep fighting for a better deal for the county.

The settlement proposes reducing Government funding by 33% - nearly double the amount predicted – which means some difficult decisions will have to be made in order to balance the books.

Councillor Hayward said: "We fully understand and support Government economic policy to lift the country’s finances out of the deficit but we do not believe this settlement is fair. Not only have county councils been asked to find significantly more savings than other parts of the country but also it has not given us time to plan.

"To bridge the funding gap, Government has given permission for a social care precept to the value of two per cent of council tax. Considering the demographic pressures on our services, we are seriously considering this. However, this simply isn’t enough to balance our books. Inevitably we will have to make challenging decisions on finding further efficiencies, how we deliver our services, and at this stage we can't rule out the need to increase council tax."

So far, Hertfordshire County Council has managed the financial challenges well by being more efficient, being innovative and working with our partners to reduce duplication. As a result, £211m (20%) has been saved from the budget since 2010. If this settlement is agreed further savings of £120m will need to be found over the next three years.

Hertfordshire County Council’s draft budget will be discussed at Cabinet on 18 January 2016 and will then be reviewed at the various Panel meetings through January and early February. The final budget and council tax levy will be agreed at Full Council on 23 February.