Hertfordshire Councillors clash over use of £10m additional government cash

“The council is failing to deliver services for children”
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Liberal Democrat Councillor Steve Jarvis has challenged the decision by Hertfordshire County Council not to immediately allocate an additional £10m of government funding.

It was just last month – after lobbying by councils nation-wide – that the government announced it was to make an additional £500m available for local authorities.

And as part of that Hertfordshire County Council has been allocated an additional £10m.

Hertfordshire County CouncilHertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council

On Tuesday (13 February) – as councillors set a budget that includes £46m of savings, the use of £11m of reserves and a council tax increase of 4.99 per cent – Conservative councillors indicated that the additional funds would remain in reserves.

In response leader of the council Councillor Richard Roberts said that the additional funding had been “very strongly and very actively” campaigned for – and he said it was “very welcome”.

Referencing the pressures and demands on council services, he said it would take “that little bit of pressure” off this year and next.

And with no expectation of increased funding after the General Election he suggested they had to be “very judicial” with any funding that came their way.

But that approach was challenged by leader of the Liberal Democrat group Councillor Jarvis.

Just hours earlier Lib Dem councillors had set out how they would use the additional funding.

And Councillor Jarvis questioned how residents would respond to the money being kept in reserves.

But in response Councillors Roberts accused the Liberal Democrats of misunderstanding the scale of what they were dealing with.

He pointed to the overall county council budget of £1.1bn – increasing to £2.5bn when schools budgets were also included.

And he said: “. . . we may well need that 10m quid in the coming year because of the pressures and demands on our services.

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“So the idea that it is not to be spent on or with our residents is for the birds.

“And the money that we saved in previous years is currently being spent with our residents to the tune, I think, of £35m from reserves over the last two years.”

At the meeting the Liberal Democrats proposed an amendment to the budget plan that would reverse cuts to youth services – as well as allocating funds to road safety and flooding problems.

And it had suggested that some of these measures could have been funded through the last-minute funding allocated by the government.

In a statement issued in advance of the meeting Liberal Democrat spokesperson for resources, Councillor Tim Williams said, “Like many other councils Herts is struggling to find the money for the increasing costs of looking after vulnerable children and older people.

“The extra £10 million that the government has given the council won’t solve that problem, but it could make a contribution.

“The Conservatives say they want to keep it as a reserve for the future, but the council is failing to deliver services for children and to cope with problems like flooding now.”