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Hertfordshire County Council faces budget gap of £145million
Hertfordshire County Council may have to make some “tough decisions” if it is going to break even.
According to a report issued to its cabinet, the council could be forced to make savings of £145millon by 2017/2018 to avoid a gap in its budget.
The savings come on top of the £149m spending cuts the local authority has already made through efficiency savings, “trimming” libraries and part-night street lighting.
The shortfall comes from a 15 per cent cut in the grant the council will receive from the Government, as well as an expected spending rise of £20m per year because of inflation.
The council also anticipates rising population and an inceased number of elderly people will cost a further £10m a year.
Deputy cabinet member for resources Councillor Terry Hone acknowledged making the final savings would be hard.
He said: “In the past four years the county council has delivered savings of £149m, with 85 per cent of it being achieved through greater efficiency or redesign of services.
“To achieve about the same again will mean some tough decisions lie ahead, but we are determined to meet the challenge.”
He said the council would be engaging with members of the public, partners and providers to ensure vital services were delivered while it attempts to meet the “challenging” savings target.
He added: “Balancing the differing needs of our growing communities is the biggest challenge we face. Children, those with disabilities and the elderly need care and support to thrive and enjoy a good quality of life.
“We must also look after our roads and our buildings and ensure that Hertfordshire continues to be a great place for people to live and work and offers opportunities for all.”
Hertfordshire County Councillor Leon Reefe wondered what “vital” services would suffer in order to fill the £145m gap.
Speaking from the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, he said: “Council services are already squeezed too hard as it is.
“They’re cutting libraries, which will affect those who find it hard to afford to buy books.
“Part-night lighting is dangerous and will not deliver savings for the next four years.
“It is inevitable council services will be cut to the bone to meet these extra savings.”
Councillor Reefe blamed the Conservative government and its “acolytes” in local councils for initiating savings which disproportionately affected working people.
He added: “It always seems to be the working people who are most affected. The Government does not care about their needs.”
The representative for Borehamwood North said it did not have to be this way.
He added the Labour group had alternative policies, although he could not go into detail about them until he had gone over the budget with his colleagues.
However he did say one way of increasing the amount of money available would be getting rid of the “unsustainable” freeze on council tax increases.
He added: “We would certainly do things differently and there is scope for different thinking.”
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