Councillors in Hertfordshire are to consider plans to increase council tax by 2.99 per cent - as part of a package of budget measures.
That would mean the county council council tax on a Band D property would increase by £39.48 a year, to £1,359.94. And that’s the the most it could be increased by without triggering a referendum. The proposed council tax increase - which would generate an estimated £17.6million for the county - is at the heart of a package of measures designed to balance the budget. But Hertfordshire County Council estimates it will still have to make savings of £19million this year - with further savings of £90million needed by 2023. Commenting on the proposed council tax increase, Cllr Ralph Sangster, county council’s executive member for resources and performance, said: “Our recent budget consultation showed that the majority of residents (67 per cent) would rather see council tax increases than service reductions. “While we’d rather not place this extra burden on council tax payers, we have a responsibility to provide timely front-line services to those who need them the most.” Cllr Sangster says that by the end of 2019/20 the county council will be saving £335million a year, when compared to 2010. And that, he says, has resulted in savings of almost £2billion since 2010. But with further savings of £19million needed this year - and £90million by 2022/23 - he says the budget process becomes progressively more difficult. “Balancing the books is getting harder every year as it becomes more and more difficult find savings and efficiencies,” he said.”This is very unlikely to change over the next few years.” Meanwhile a package of ‘efficiency savings’ across council services - outlined for the first time in a report to Cabinet on Monday (January 21) - will be considered over the next five weeks. And after a series of scrutiny and cabinet panel meetings, they’ll be put to a meeting of the full council in February, alongside the proposed council tax increase. For example, in Adult Care and Health there are proposals to reduce costs by promoting independence and the use of technology, by reducing the reliance on residential care and seeking better value for money in the nursing care market. In Children, Young People and Families there are plans to recommission children centres, restructure Youth Connexions and to make savings from the services and support offered to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. In Community Safety and Waste Management costs will be reduced by renegotiated waste disposal contracts and plans to renegotiate ‘mutual support arrangements’, as well as the removal of some policies that are pending consultation on the IRMP. The proposed budget does, however, include funding for a new household waste and recycling centre in Welwyn Garden City. In Education, Libraries and Localism directorate, the county council is looking to make savings in the costs of home to school transport, as well as further savings in libraries. Meanwhile there are proposals to increase fees for planning applications, as well as charges for advice. There are also proposals to increase the charges for Savercards. In Highways and Environment there are plans to make savings - estimated to be £1.752million a year by 2021 - by the continued roll-out of LED street lighting. In Public Health there are plans to reduce ‘lifestyle services’ and to re-procure both drug and alcohol services and sexual health services.