Hertfordshire County Council set to end financial year more than £700k under budget

Data is suggesting an underspend of £714k - though some services were over budget

By Deborah Price , Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 10:08 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 10:10 am
Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council

Latest data suggests Hertfordshire County Council is expecting to end the 2021/22 financial year with a £714,000 underspend.

Last year the county council – which provides services such as social services, waste disposal, highways, public health and the fire service – set a revenue budget of £894m.

But now data – based on the nine months between April and December 2021 – is forecasting an underspend of £714,000.

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According to a report presented to a meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel on Friday (February 11), Covid-19 related costs are calculated to be £26.9m.

But, says the report, those additional costs are expected to be met from the ‘Covid-19 Emergency Funding’.

And further pressures relating to the pandemic, says the report, will be managed from retained Covid-19 funding and additional funding to be allocated as part of the ongoing budget process for 2022/23.

At the meeting the council’s director of finance Steven Pilsworth highlighted that within the overall projected underspend, there were some areas of ‘overspend’ – pointing in particular to transport services for looked after children and children with SEND.

And Labour Cllr Sharon Taylor suggested the need for a more detailed report in next financial year, to see if steps being taken in these areas were providing ‘resilience’.

Meanwhile councillors were also told that capital expenditure – which had been forecast to be £319.79m in 2021/22 – is now forecast to be £271m by the end of the financial year.

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And at the meeting councillors agreed to recommend to the council’s cabinet that that underspend of £44.434m will be reprogrammed.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Sally Symington suggested that such reprogramming was a ‘recurrant theme’.

And while she said she understood the reasons, she suggested the council was not delivering on its promises to residents.

Following the debate, executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering welcomed the council’s two-year balanced budget proposals, that will be considered by a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (February 22).

And he said: “Obviously, in principle, it’s terrific we are able to present a balanced budget for two years.

“But of course, it's a big budget – its got a lot of budget lines – and some lines are more under more pressure than the others. It was ever thus.”

After pointing to the role of council officers who are constantly monitoring the council’s finances, he said: “That doesn’t mean that the pressures go away.

“But I think it's fair to say that we manage pressure as well as we realistically can.

“And it's one of reasons why we have been able to put together a budget that will be balanced for two years.”