Council agrees budget for 2023/24

Ten pound notes laid out underneath pound coins
East Herts Council approved spending plans last night (Wednesday, 1 March) to balance its budget for the financial year ahead.

Full Council voted to approve the proposals that will see the authority save £800k in 2023/24 as it continues to make better use of technology and expand online access to services.

Inflationary and other pressures continue to strain council finances nationwide. For East Herts, rising costs are expected to add an extra £5m to its budget gap over the next three years. This is set in the context of the authority already having saved £5.4m since 2019.

Despite these challenges, and recognising the cost of living pressures households face, the council agreed to a below-inflation tax rise of 2.99% that would see the average Band D household paying £3.65 a week (£189.59 per year) for East Herts services.

The council’s capital programme - funded not by council tax but by borrowing and capital receipts - will continue to stimulate the district’s economy and includes the revitalisation of Old River Lane in Bishop’s Stortford and the Hertford Theatre growth and legacy development.

In addition to its capital spending programme, the council will invest £1.77m of new money from the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund directly into local communities. The funding will make additional grants available to local groups and businesses, invest in green technology and support town and village centres through new infrastructure projects.

Councillor Geoffrey Williamson, Executive Member for Financial Sustainability, said: “Like all councils, we face tough decisions in the months and years ahead to balance our books due to spending cuts, high inflation and recession.

“We have saved £5.4 million since 2019, with minimal impact on frontline services, but the scale of the challenge to come is significant. To find a further £5m over the next five years will risk cutbacks to frontline services, something we have and will continue to do our utmost to avoid.

“In setting council tax, we strive to strike the right balance between funding the services people rely on and protecting households from increases – a balance I believe we have found in agreeing a 2.99% rise below inflation.”