HERTFORDSHIRE County Council expects to be allocated up to £10m from an additional support package being made available by central government, it has emerged.

The county council – which is facing mounting costs and increasing demand for services –  is currently scrutinising budget plans for 2024/5.

Those plans – referred to by the council as the ‘Integrated Plan’ or IP – include £46m of savings and efficiencies, the use of £13m reserves and plans to increase council tax by 4.99 per cent.

And for some time, the council – and other councils from across the country – have been lobbying the government for an injection of additional funding.

On Wednesday (Jan 24) the government announced that councils nationwide would receive an additional £600m to help them to deliver key services in 2024/5 last week.

And on Friday (January 26) it emerged that Hertfordshire County Council was expecting to receive a share of between £8m and £10m.

Executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering said that the money was "very welcome".

But councillors heard that no decision had yet been made on how it would be used – nor had their allocation from central government been confirmed.

“As of today we have not formulated our view as to how we will apply that money into the financing of the council,” said Cllr Deering.

“But it is very welcome and we will apply it in the best way that we can.”

Director of finance Steven Pilsworth said the announcement was "highly unusual".

He said it was the first time first since 2016 that additional funding had been announced for councils between the announcements of the provisional and the final settlements.

He highlighted lobbying by individual councils and organisations that included the County Council Network.

And he said that the announcement indicated the strength of that lobbying.

“At the moment we don’t know the allocation for Hertfordshire, indeed no councils do – that will come in the final settlement due early February,” he said.

“But the sort of range being talked about, £8-10m, is my current best estimate of that.”

The additional funding was highlighted as part of the budget scrutiny meeting, during a discussion on the council’s reserves – with councillors asking how the council intended to replenish reserves.

Mr Pilsworth acknowledged the council was using a "significant" level of reserves in the current and next financial years.

And he told councillors: “I think it is an entirely appropriate use of those  reserves to help protect services.

“But clearly it does reduce the level of reserves we hold. And, you will see in the IP, I am raising specific concerns about those reserves and how low they will be as a result.”

Mr Pilsworth said that, according to the budget plans, the reserves would not be topped up in 2024/5.

And he said: “I think given the financial challenges we face as a council it will be difficult to do that.

“So we will need to be even more careful with level of reserves and implications of that.”

As a result, he said that if financial pressures arose the council would need to take ‘more immediate corrective action’ in future – and would not be able to use the level of reserves they had in recent years.

Meanwhile commenting generally on the council’s approach to reserves, Cllr Deering said the council was ‘extremely prudent’ and ‘definitely not cavalier with our reserves’.

But he also suggested that the amount of reserves held by councils could impact on government decisions to allocate additional funding.

“. . . .if central  government thinks that a local authorities like us have got too much stashed away in reserves, they are a little bit less keen on handing out money,” he said.

“So there is just an interesting subtlety that we will have to be aware of.”

Nevertheless he said that that was  in no way at all to diminish the need to be ‘very mindful’ of the way reserves were used by the council.

“We are using reserves in this IP and it is very very important that we all acknowledge that,” he said. “It is an important part of this IP.”