Hertfordshire County Council has drawn up plans to invest more than £100m in a package of proposals designed to make the county ‘cleaner, greener and healthier’.
The county council – which has responsibility for services that include education, social care, waste disposal, highways and even the Fire Service – has annual budget in excess of £900m.
And today (January 17) the 2022/23 budget proposals will be presented to a meeting of the county council’s cabinet.
That will launch a five-week process – including periods of consultation and scrutiny – before they will be voted on by a meeting of the full council, on February 22.
Within the proposals are plans to invest in the council’s key priority areas – including an £18m commitment to increase care worker pay and £22m to ensure there is support for the increasing numbers of older residents and those with disabilities.
There are also plans to invest £31m in waste infrastructure – including improvements to recycling centres- and £10m for plans to work towards making existing schools ‘net zero carbon’.
In addition £2m has been earmarked for additional investment in pathways, cycle routes and verges – and £5m for ‘decarbonisation match funding’.
There is also £10m plans to support the increase in the number of ‘looked after’ children. And there’s £1m investment to expand services related to domestic abuse.
According to the proposals, a further £2m will be invested in provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to manage the growing demand.
Leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts says the investments reflect council priorities.
And he points to opportunities they offer for the best possible health and wellbeing, a cleaner environment and making the county as green as it can be – as it works towards decarbonisation in 2030.
“This is putting our residents front and centre with our responsibilities to look after, care and support – particularly our most vulnerable residents,” he said. ” And that’s what we are doing.
“It’s also recognising there is a demand for a cleaner, greener, healthier Hertfordshire – and this budget meets that agenda.”
The budget document highlights the financial impact of Covid-19 and increasing demand for services, including pent-up demand – as well as high inflation, the challenging employment market and the significant savings already made by the council as factors.
As a result, it points to £95million of extra pressures – with leader of the council Cllr Richard Roberts suggesting ‘this is a council facing very very large financial pressures’.
The proposals do include £12m of proposed ‘efficiency savings’. Although most of the ‘savings’ were approved at last year’s budget – the latest proposals do include around £3.3m of new ‘savings’.
According to the document, ‘savings’ are becoming more difficult to identify. And it suggests that the extent of savings that will be required in future years ‘gives causes for concern’.
The budget for 2022/23 includes £413.6m of capital spend – of which £233.6 will be funded from borrowing.
Amongst that capital sped is £34.6m investment in waste infrastructure; £15.4m to redevelop accommodation and support for adults with disabilities, and £8.7m to invest in sustainable projects.
“Our capital programme is very big and very comprehensive,” said Cllr Roberts.
“And our borrowing is one of the means of maintaining that capital programme.
“As inflation increases and the cost of borrowing increases in future we will have to look very carefully at what we can afford. […] It’s something we have to keep an eye on.”