Small surplus but “difficult” times ahead - the financial outlook at Hertfordshire County Council

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Herts County Council recorded a £681,000 underspend last year, despite significant overspends on social and children’s services.

The budget monitor report - presented to the cabinet last Monday (June 10) - showed there were additional costs of around £8million incurred by adult care services and children’s services in 2018/19.

But the council achieved an overall underspend, thanks to one-off windfalls, unexpected grants, reduced utility costs, and rates rebates.

At the cabinet meeting Cllr Ralph Sangster, executive member for resources and performance, said this was the smallest margin recorded over a number of years - underscoring the difficult situations that had occurred.

And he warned that over the next few years the county council would be facing more “difficult times”.

Members of on the cabinet agreed that uncommitted contingency monies should be transferred to reserves. And they agreed that £6million should be transferred to transition reserves, which is intended to provide a short-term solution should the financial settlement from te government be less than expected.

When the same report was considered a few days earlier by the waste management and community safety cabinet panel, opposition councillors refused to back the move, with the Lib Dems wanting some of the reserves to be spent on service delivery and Labour’s Cllr Judi Billing spointing to their own alternative budget proposals.
The overall spend by the council in 2018/19, according to the report, was £789.216million.