County council slash over �80m from budget

Herts County Council has made cuts worth �88.5m over the next year, hitting library services, street lighting, home to school transport and sheltered schemes.

The Conservative-controlled authority approved the proposals on Friday as part of a plan to slash �201m off its expenditure over the next four years.

Despite the severity of the cuts, council leader Robert Gordon said the authority had listened to Hertfordshire residents and “prioritised the services they value”.

“We are committed to maintaining a full network of children’s centre activities across the county, sustaining a record level of investment in front-line highways maintenance and keeping all of our branch libraries open,” he said. “This is against the backdrop of caring for the needs of our growing elderly population and building hundreds of new primary school place across the county.”

David Lloyd, executive member for resources and economic wellbeing, said �31m of the �88.5m had already been cut through efficiency savings. This will contribute �114m to the �201m needed by 2014/15, he said. But he added that further savings would still need to be made.

“We know that the grant we receive from central government will fall further over the next few years while pressure to spend more will continue. Over the next year alone, we need to find an additional �3m to allow for inflation, and �10m to care for the needs of our changing population.”

But Sharon Taylor, Labour leader at County Hall, said the cuts were “just the tip of a very large iceberg.”

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“The Tory-led government has forced these cuts on frontline services and it’s the less well off in Hertfordshire who will be paying the price. Cuts will affect younger and older people predominantly. But we’ll also see cuts to policing and street lighting, which will have a dramatic effect on crime and fear of crime in our communities.”

The Lib Dems abstained on the budget vote saying greater savings could have been made.

Robin Parker, county leader of the group, said: “In particular greater savings could have been made in communications and public relations where 17 staff are still employed churning out largely unnecessary press releases on locality budgets and the propaganda magazine, Horizon.”

He added that the council “should be investing more to save in highways maintenance and reducing bureaucracy involved in the inefficient highways operation”. As well as creating savings by greater collaboration between the legal, planning, human resources and IT departments.