Hertfordshire County Council ends financial year with £11m under-spend, despite £144m cost of Covid

Cllr Bob Deering reported at a meeting of the cabinet executive member for resources and performance

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 9:03 am
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 9:06 am

Hertfordshire County Council ended the financial year with a £11m under-spend, according to budget reports.

Over the 2020/21 financial year the county council – which set an annual budget of £885m – has spent £144m on the response to the Covid pandemic.

And earlier in the pandemic there were fears that funding from central government would not be enough to cover the council’s additional costs.

Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council

But at a meeting of the cabinet executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering reported that the council had ended the year with an £11m underspend.

And, he said, some of the funds allocated by the Government for the county’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic had not yet been spent.

However that £12.862 Covid ‘surplus’ will now form part of the funds earmarked for the county council’s ongoing Covid recovery strategy.

“We got substantial financial assistance from central government in order to meet expenditure we incurred,” said Conservative Cllr Deering.

“And I think central government deserves an acknowledgement for providing us with those funds.

“In financial terms, the upshot is that we have not quite spent all the money that the Government has provided us with in terms of Covid.

“We were not required to spend it within the last financial year – Covid is no respecter of financial years anyway.”

Overall, said Cllr Deering, the out-turn report was “an extremely positive report” that reflected well on the administration of the county council.

And during “this extremely difficult Covid period”, he also acknowledged the “superb response” by council officers.

He pointed to the 7,000 staff who switched home-working, to those staff who prepared and supplied 120,000 food parcels and to the setting up of Covid testing and vaccination sites.

And that was echoed by leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts, who highlighted the “extraordinary effort” by staff in the county council and in district and borough councils, as well as the voluntary sector.

“I think it is testimony to the strength of the organisation that the budget came in slightly under – which is fantastic,” he said.

“Although I would acknowledge there is significant tragedy behind some of those numbers.

“Particularly in adult social care where we did lose some clients from the older people’s settings – and also those with learning disabilities. And we should reflect on that.”

And looking ahead, he said: “The budgetary situation as it is and the Government support […] allows us to look confidently through this year and next.

“And it allows us to meet the need coming out of Covid, as this looks back at how we met it during Covid.

“And we will see the latest wave three is not suggesting that we are out of Covid yet, by any stretch of the imagination.”

Over the 2020/21 financial year a number of capital projects were delayed, many due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Capital expenditure by the county council over the 12 month period was reported to be £208m – against a budget of £310m.

The cabinet agreed to ‘reprogramme’ a further £84.34m – resulting in an underspend of £18.8m.

At the same meeting, the cabinet approved the ‘initial’ investment of £9.6m to support the ‘Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’.