A ‘black and bleak future’ for council in wake of funding cuts

Chris Hayward, Herts County Council
Chris Hayward, Herts County Council

Massive local government funding cuts will threaten Herts County Council’s vital front line services, warn the opposition.

On the last day of Parliament, the central government announced a 24.5 per cent cut to local government spending, which means Hertfordshire’s Tory-led county council will face £45million in cuts next year.

Officers are currently working out what this will mean for county services, but oppositon party Herts Lib Dems claim subsidised bus services could be binned, libraries put under threat, fire fighters made redundant and stations moth-balled and sold, plus the road maintenance budget reduced.

Liberal Democrat leader, councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, said: “It’s clear that this government no longer cares about local councils and frontline services and actually wants them removed.

“This is a very black and bleak future at Christmas for any local council.”

“Local government relies on not only a council tax income but also grants paid from central taxation.

“Yet after a 50 per cent cut in grants over 10 years,the government has slipped in a further cut just before Christmas –making George Osborne more like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

“In some cases local councils will have no central government funding come 2019 under these plans.

Chris Hayward, Conservative cabinet member for resources and performance, said the provisional funding settlement for Herts ‘is extremely disappointing’, with cuts ‘much deeper than anticipated’.

He said: “The combination of pressures on our budget, mainly from increasing numbers of older people needing care along with the cost of the national living wage, mean that we would need to spend an additional £35million next year, just to keep up with demand.

“With the announcement that our central government grant is to be cut by £46million, we will be left with a gap of £40million next year (2016/17), after making further efficiencies on top of those already made.

“Even if council tax is put up by two per cent and taxpayers are asked to pay the new social care precept, we will still be left with a gap of about £20million – most of which could only be met by reducing local services.

“We will be lobbying central government to reconsider our grant settlement.”