What would you think of plans to introduce charges for county council services that are currently free or subsidised?
That’s one of the questions being posed by the council as part of its budget-setting process.
The online consultation starts by asking residents to what degree they agree – or disagree – with the council’s budget proposals for 2022/23.
And then it asks for views – with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about a number of approaches that, it says, might be considered to be more cost-effective.
That includes streamlining services and making processes more efficient or introducing or increasing charges for services that are currently free or subsidised.
It also includes working in partnership with other organisations in Hertfordshire or helping people to help themselves, ‘so that there is less reliance on public services’.
The county council hope to receive responses from a range of groups including residents, businesses, parish and town councils, charity, voluntary and community groups, young people and council employees.
And responses to the online consultation – which will run until February 1 – will be considered as part of the budget-setting process. To have your say on the consultation visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/consultations/council-budget/have-your-say-on-budget-spending-2022-23.aspx.
Cllr Bob Deering, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance said: “We’ve put forward a positive and well balanced budget that includes a series of significant investments in areas we know are important to residents that will help deliver a cleaner, greener and healthier Hertfordshire.
“Before we finalise the budget at Full Council in February, we would like to hear what residents think about our proposals and I would encourage all residents to respond to the consultation that’s now underway.
“Hertfordshire County Council continues to be a well-managed organisation operating on a sound financial footing.
“Over the past few years, we’ve maintained services while delivering significant savings and we will always welcome residents’ comments as to how we can continue to be cost-effective in these challenging times.”
Meanwhile councillor scrutiny sessions of the budget proposals are being held in public for the first time this year.
As part of the process, small cross-Party groups of councillors meet with the relevant executive member and senior council staff to scrutinise each portfolio area.
In previous years the discussions have been held in private, with only their recommendations reported in public.
But this year each session is being held virtually and webcast on the county council website.
Explaining the change, the report to the first scrutiny group – drafted by head of scrutiny Natalie Rotherham – says: “There has been general agreement across the political groups that there should be greater transparency of the Integrated Plan (IP) Scrutiny.
“This makes it consistent with all other scrutiny undertaken at County Council; therefore, the IP scrutiny will be held in public and webcast.”
And chair of scrutiny Cllr David Andrews told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Scrutiny in my view is better for being done in public – and I feel passionately that it should be done in public.”
Amid continuing high numbers of Covid-19 cases, the scrutiny sessions – which are deemed to be evidence gathering – are being held virtually on January 26 and 28, and they can be viewed at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/watchmeetings.