‘Efficiencies can only go so far’ – government grants Herts County Council an extra £7.8m, but council tax hike still looks likely
- Credit: Archant
A cash-strapped council which has lost a third of its government funding has managed to secure a £7.8m grant from Whitehall to help balance the books – but there’s still a huge funding gap and a rise in council tax looks increasingly likely.
Herts County Council’s government grant for this year was cut from £119m to £80m in the Local Government Finance Settlement announced on Tuesday.
The government agreed to give an extra £7.8m in each of the next two years after the county’s finance chief Chris Hayward appealed to the minister for local government Marcus Jones.
Mr Hayward said: “I’m pleased that our efforts to lobby the minister have been successful and this money will help to alleviate some of the pressure over the next couple of years, but we are still facing a most challenging time.”
To bridge the gap the council is proposing to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent to raise an additional £10m, and to adopt Whitehall’s suggestion of a separate two per cent increase to help cover the cost of caring for the elderly and vulnerable – the county council’s top expenditure by some distance at £311m.
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County Hall has already made efficiencies leading to job losses and budget cuts in areas such as schools and buses to save £211m since 2010, and will have to save another £124m over the next four years.
Mr Hayward said: “We are always looking for ways to get the best value for your money.
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“We’ve saved £211m so far by stripping out waste, getting better value from our contracts and reducing our workforce. We also work closer than ever before with public sector partners to avoid duplication.
“But given the tremendous financial challenge we face, not least the escalating cost of adult social care, efficiencies can only go so far and some tough decisions lie ahead.”