2018/19 budgets set for North Herts, Stevenage and Herts county councils
PUBLISHED: 09:36 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 07 March 2018
North Herts district, Stevenage borough and Herts county councils have now set their budgets for the next financial year – and there are council tax rises from all three.
The North Herts District Council budget for 2018/19 includes a 2.99-per-cent increase in its share of council tax, as local authorities face the squeeze amid reduced funding from central government. This equates to a rise of £5.77 per year for households in band C, which contains a third of the district’s properties. The budget is £14.7 million, £1.7 million less than in 2017/18.
Councillor Julian Cunningham, responsible for finance at the Conservative-controlled district council, said: “This increase in council tax is necessary because the level of government support to councils is continuing to fall.
“Although this measure will help us to raise some additional funds to sustain the services we provide, it will not bring in enough to ease the financial pressures we are facing.
“Looking forward, we need to ensure that we deliver the savings set out in our budget, as well as identify and deliver a further £400,000 of savings by 2021/22. We are constantly exploring new ways of delivering services and seeking commercialisation opportunities, which can be implemented ahead of any forecast changes in funding.”
NHDC’s Labour group put forward several amendments, all of which were rejected. Among other things they called for plans to remove play equipment to be put on hold, for councillors’ allowances to be reduced, and for the district council to express regret regarding how financial decisions had been reached for the new joint waste contract with East Herts council.
Stevenage Borough Council is facing the same challenge of trying to balance its budget in the face of continuing government grant cuts.
The Labour-controlled borough council has faced a 74-per-cent cut in its government grant between 2011/12 and 2018/19. By 2019/20 this will have reached 80 per cent.
To compensate, it is having to increase its share of the council tax bill by the maximum allowed amount of 2.99 per cent. This means for a band D property, the share of the council tax paid to the borough council will be £204.46 per year.
The borough council is also making savings in other areas to help offset the cuts in government grants. This will include £85,000 in efficiency savings, £205,729 saved in procurement and £51,670 from increasing income from its services.
Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor told the Comet she believes the savings represent excellent value for money, given that the council delivers 120 services – and praised her financial staff for continuing to provide a balanced budget.
The county council, which is Conservative, has raised its element of council tax by a total of 5.99 per cent – with half of this going to help fund adult care services.
The increase works out at an extra £74.88 per year for average band D households.
County council leader David Williams said: “We will be investing more in key areas, including an extra £29 million for improvements on our unclassified road network.”
He added that a consultation had showed most residents would rather pay more council tax than see reduced services.
NHDC’s council tax setting committee determined the combined bill for its residents, also covering parish councils and the police and crime commissioner, last Wednesday night.