'Unfair' government budget cut could mean council tax hike for Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 07:04 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 08:24 26 January 2016
A cash-strapped council has just two weeks to stop government funding being cut by a third, which could lead to an increase in council tax.
Herts County Council will have to save a further £28 million from its budget next year if the Government Finance Settlement is agreed on February 10.
County Hall has already made efficiencies which have led to job losses and budget cuts to areas including schools and bus services in order to save £211m – 20 per cent – from its budget since 2010.
If this latest settlement – which sets out the funding government will give to local authorities to spend on services for residents – is agreed, further savings of £120m will need to be found over the next three years.
The settlement proposes reducing Government funding by 33 per cent, nearly double the amount expected by the council, which means some difficult decisions will have to be made in order to balance the books.
County councillor Chris Hayward, cabinet member for resources, has met with MP Marcus Jones, minister for local government, to ask for a fairer share for Herts and has vowed to keep fighting for a better deal for the county.
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.”
Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “When local authorities account for a quarter of public spending, it was always the case they would have to carry their share of reducing the largest deficit in post-war history.
“Not only have they done so, but public satisfaction with their services has maintained or improved.
“More savings need to be made as we finish the job of eliminating the remaining deficit.”