Posted: 13.01.21 at 12:53 by Deborah Price
A MULTI-MILLION package of spending proposals has been drawn-up by, as part of a spending review by county councillors in Hertfordshire.
Many councils are reported to be be facing deep budget cuts this year, as they face the financial uncertainties of the ongoing Covid pandemic, Brexit and a looming recession.
But at the heart of budget proposals published by Hertfordshire County Council this week is a catalogue of spending plans.
They include £53m earmarked for special schools and specialist resource provision, as well as £10m for projects to drive forward the council’s ‘sustainable Hertfordshire strategy’.
Also included is £10m to improve highways drainage, as part of the council’s climate change response – and £7million towards the roll-out of 20mph speed limits.
And there will be funding is to be set aside so that care worker pay increases can be extended, to include all those working in residential, nursing and supported living accommodation across disability and older peoples services.
Also among the spending plans is £1.5 million earmarked to support the recovery from the Covid pandemic, reduce health inequalities – as well as support for the voluntary sector.
The plans are catalogued in the council’s budget document – known as the ‘integrated plan’ – which will be presented to a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (January 18).
Executive member for resources and performance councillor Ralph Sangster says this is “the most expansive budget” for some time.
And he says planned investment reflects the coucil’s priorities in areas such as sustainability, addressing climate change and supporting the delivery of key services.
The budget proposals also reveal that the council intends to increase the county council element of the council tax by 3.99 per cent this year.
This includes a 1.99 per cent, which is the maximum allowed without a referendum.
And it also includes an additional increase of two per cent, which will be ring-fenced for adult care services.
Last year (2020/21) the county council element of annual council tax bills for a band D property was £1414.20. With the planned increase that would go up by £56, to £1470.62.
In addition to the spending plans the ‘integrated plan’ also includes identified ‘savings’ of £16.5m.
According to the plan, the vast majority of these savings have already been identified – and, says Sangster, made possible by ‘value for money’ investments in previous years.
They include plans to save £4.5m by reducing the number of looked after children who are in placements outside the county, £5.4m by supporting people to live in their own homes for longer and £1.2m of efficiencies in waste disposal, including shredding of waste at recycling centre.
But it does also include £900,000 of newly identified ‘savings’ which include more efficient use of property and resources – but also factors in the reduction of reducing the size of fire crews, which is being trialled.
Councillor Sangster accepts, in the wake of the Covid pandemic, the county council’s financial position is different to many other councils, allowing the to make the investments.
He says there are many councils who are ‘really up against the wall’ and having to make deep cuts to services.
But he says Hertfordshire – starting the year with a ‘balanced’ budget – is making ‘almost’ no service cuts and to invest in new services.
And he stresses that this is possible because of the financial choices that have been made over the past 10 years.
“The public health and economic effects of the pandemic has created a perfect storm for council finances,” he said.
“Many councils are launching their budget consultation plans now but are having to include savings proposals that will cut deep into the services provided to their residents.
“To be clear having strong financial foundations has been a key priority for this administration ans will continue to be so into the future.
“As a result the residents of Hertfordshire have been spared those tough choices other councils will have to make.”