The budget takes into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and changes in rules on the assets we can invest in, with a predicted £2.1 million shortfall of income and additional expenditure due to this. The council will meet some of these from its financial reserves in the short term.
Although the government has announced that ‘core spending power’ of local authorities will increase by an average of 4.6%, which includes councils levying the maximum council tax increase, for East Herts the increase in core spending power is just 0.3%.
To enable the council to carry on providing vital statutory services, East Herts Band D Council Tax is set to go up by £5 a year to £179.09 from the new financial year starting on April 1 2021. The rise, which amounts to 10p a week, means that residents of Band D properties will pay £3.44 a week towards funding all the services provided by East Herts Council.
The council tax figure forms part of the council’s medium term financial plan which will run until 2024/25. It’s built around the council’s corporate principles of sustainability, economic growth, engagement and digital by design.
Councillor Geoffrey Williamson, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Financial Sustainability, said afterwards: “Managing our budget for the coming years is a challenge in the face of reducing income and increasing demands as a result of COVID-19.
“This continued financial uncertainty unfortunately means that we will need to raise the council tax rate in April. We only get to keep 10p of every £1 of council tax collected and like the vast majority of councils across the country, the pandemic has put a strain on our finances so we have to cut our cloth accordingly in order to protect our vital statutory services for residents and businesses.”
Over the next four years the council will look to save £6.2million by generating income through charging for some non-statutory services such as garden waste collection as well as transforming the way the council operates internally.
Cllr Williamson added: “We will be reviewing the services we provide and the way we provide them. We will be looking at all our processes to improve efficiencies and these reviews will help us to provide the right services to the right standards for less cost.
“Moving forward we want to better use technology to create online access to our services so customers can do everything they need to on the website 24/7. We will get better deals from new contracts, and build upon the home-based working that has been necessary during the pandemic, so we spend less on office buildings and travel costs. Our aim is to keep the services we offer broadly the same but the savings we need to make will mean some tough choices ahead.”
To view the full budget report, please visit the East Herts Budget 2021/22 page of the council’s website.