Plans to defer 1% of social care precept questioned by Hertfordshire cllr

Questions have been raised about Hertfordshire budget proposals to defer part of a council tax ‘levy’ specifically allowed to support social care services.

Monday, 8th February 2021, 1:18 pm
Updated Monday, 8th February 2021, 1:20 pm

This year councils have been given the option to impose a three per cent council tax increase ring-fenced for social care – on top of a 1.99 per cent general increase permitted without a referendum.

But Hertfordshire County Council is proposing to limit the social care increase this year to two per cent – deferring the remaining one per cent until 2022/23.

At a meeting of the county council’s adult care and health cabinet panel on Wednesday (February 3) Liberal Democrat Cllr Ron Tindall questioned the decision to delay the levy.

Plans to defer 1% of social care precept questioned by Hertfordshire cllr

He stressed that the additional one per cent would amass a further £6million for social care in the county, at a time when services were said to be ‘under pressure’.

And he questioned whether the proposals – drawn up by the council’s Conservative administration – were connected to the timing of county council elections, due to be held in May.

Panel chairman Cllr Richard Roberts – executive member for adult care and health – said that the point was “a political one, that was better made at full council”.

But he said that the decision took into account the circumstances facing residents in the county, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the proposed budget would provide the services that residents needed and support across a range of providers, including in the voluntary sector.

And he said that in the wake of Covid-19 and furlough, there were residents who were ‘really feeling the pinch’.

So he said they believed they could manage the next year financially without taking the additional £6million from residents.

Cllr Tindall asked what the additional funds could be used for by the county.

But director of adult care Chris Badger said: “Ultimately the decision around council tax increases is clearly one for the administration, a political one.

“We set our budget proposals based on the funding envelope that is made available based on council tax decisions, grants etc

“The budget lays out how we spend our budget of approx £350m. There are countless ways £6million could or could not be spent.

“Clearly it’s for councillors from all parties to make their own proposition how that money would be spent if they were in a position that they would be levying the higher council tax than the administration.

“It wouldn’t be for us to comment on how extra funding would be decided , because clearly there’s all sorts of different things that more or less funding could be agreed on.

“We set the budget based on the amount we believe is available in collaboration with the director of resources.”

Meanwhile Labour Cllr Nigel Bell said he was “surprised” that ‘others’ were wanting to put council tax up further.

And he said that after what residents had gone through over the past year, he would be wary of talking about council tax rises at the moment.

According to a report presented to the panel, costs associated with Covid-19 this year (2020/21) are expected to be in excess of £130m. And, says the report, it is expected to have “a significant impact” on the financial year 2021/22.

The county council’s adult care and health budget proposals include in excess of £1.5m in support for the voluntary and community sector and homelessness funding.

That includes £500,000 to support multi-agency teams to support homeless adults with complex needs, £200,000 to develop HertsHelp and £200,000 for services to support people in financial difficulty.