Hertfordshire councillors told frontline services not at risk from recruitment limits
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FRONTLINE services will ‘not be at risk’ from a decision to limit recruitment at Hertfordshire County Council, councillors have been told.
Latest forecasts suggest that without cost-cutting measures, the county council could overspend by £16.4m by the end of the 2023/24 financial year.
And in a bid to reduce spending, recruitment at the council has already been frozen for all but essential roles and all departments having been asked to identify possible ‘underspends’.
The financial position was outlined to councillors at a meeting of the council’s resources and performance cabinet panel on Thursday (Oct 5).
Deputy chief executive Scott Crudgington said the ‘recruitment prioritisation’ would mean holding back on recruitment of ‘non statutory’ and ‘non essential’ positions.
But he stressed there would be areas where the county council would continue to recruit as normal to deliver statutory needs.
And he told councillors: “To be absolutely clear, there will be no risk to those front-line services as a result of that policy choice.”
It was reported to councillors that the bulk of the council’s forecast overspend has been driven by £12.9m of increasing costs and demands for children’s services.
Costs of school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are now expected to be £1.1m higher than originally forecast.
Costs associated with provision for separated migrant children is expected to be £1.7m higher.
And accommodation for some children in ‘care’ is expected to be £3.6m higher.
At the meeting executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering said the environment for local authorities was ‘very challenging’.
He said children’s services at the county council were ‘under pressure’ – suggesting that this may be a manifestation of the success of what it does.
And he said the council – which he said had a national reputation for sound financial management – was taking steps to address the pressures they faced.
“The steps may or may not be the steps that in an absolutely perfect world we would wish to take,” he said.
“But we are taking the because we are managing the finances of this council as carefully and prudently as we possibly can .”
The county council runs a number of services that include social care and education, waste disposal and highways, trading standards and the Fire Service.
And the overall operational budget for 2023/24 is just over £1bn.
The report on the council’s financial position will be further considered at a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (October 9), at 2pm. The meeting can be attended by the public or viewed online.