Cuts in North Herts ‘worse’ than expected

CUTS totalling more than �4m over the next two years will be made by North Herts District Council (NHDC), even more severe than the “worst case scenario” they had budgeted for - making council redundancies “inevitable”.

A draft budget was present to Cabinet last week based on a reduction in Government funding of 14.2 per cent next year, and a 9.3 per cent reduction the year after, with Cllr Terry Hone, portfolio holder for Finance and IT, stating the recommendations were in anticipation of the “worse case scenario”.

However, Monday’s announced reduction of the Revenue Support Grant will see funding fall by 16.8 per cent - �1.283m - for 2011-12 and 13.4 per cent - �793,000 - for the following financial year.

An extra �423,000 worth of cuts will now have to be found to balance the budget for the next two years, with efficiency savings required totalling �4.023m over the period.

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of NHDC, said: “Our settlement for the next financial year is slightly worse than we expected, although we have known for several months that significant cuts would be made.

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“In the meantime, we have been examining every pound of our expenditure to identify where we can make savings while protecting front line services as much as we possibly can.

“We will now look to finalise our draft budget for 2011-12 which will be signed off by full council on February 10. “Alongside efficiencies in the way we deliver services, spending on capital projects will reduce and we will have to put up fees and charges for many services.

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“We will also be looking at substantially reducing the cost of our workforce which may, regrettably, mean that some redundancies are inevitable although we will do our best to keep these to a minimum.

“The financial challenges we face are unprecedented and mean we will have to make significant savings year on year for the foreseeable future.

“However, the needs of residents and local communities will be uppermost in our minds as we make the painful but necessary financial decisions in the months and years ahead.”

Labour Cllr for Hitchin Oughton, Joan Kirby, said: “I don’t believe the Government are looking at it sensibly - where they are cutting it’s unacceptable.

“I’m really concerned about the elderly and the cuts that are coming to them.

“I thought the Government were going to be looking after them but with these cuts I don’t think they are.”

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