Hike in council tax predicted for St Albans district

Cllr Chris Hayward, the county council's portfolio holder for resources

Cllr Chris Hayward, the county council's portfolio holder for resources - Credit: Photo supplied

Council tax payers in Herts can expect to pay at least an extra three per cent on their annual bills from April for 2017/18.

The county council, which takes by far the largest share of the overall council tax bill, is proposing to increase its core element by 1.99 per cent with an additional one per cent increase for social care.

With rises expected from both the Herts Police Commissioner and St Albans district council, it is likely to push the increase over three per cent.

Explaining the social care precept, Chris Hayward, the county council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “Recently, there has been much media coverage about the importance of social care services in supporting elderly residents and reducing pressure on the NHS.

“While we would prefer not to place this extra burden on local council taxpayers, we have to do our utmost to ensure the best for Hertfordshire’s elderly residents. The extra one per cent will cost a Band D taxpayer 23p a week, around half the cost of a pint of milk.”

The county council’s cabinet considered the draft budget for 2017/18 when it met on January 23.

In February last year the council identified that even if it increased its core element of council tax by 1.99 per cent in 2017/18 and raised a further two per cent from the government’s social care precept, a funding gap of at least £34 million would still remain.

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Since then, due to increased financial pressures particularly in providing adult social care services for the elderly and people with learning disabilities, the gap has increased to just under £48 million.

In addition, the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group recently informed the council of its intention to withdraw £8.5 million of funding next year that helps protect social care services.

Efficiency saving across all departments and the availability of new grants has helped reduce the financial gap but additional funding or service reductions are still required to set a balanced budget for the forthcoming year.

The cabinet believes the extra one per cent social care precept will balance the books without cutting key services.

Cllr Hayward said: “The money that this additional adult social care precept generates will be ring-fenced to protect our elderly and most vulnerable residents which, otherwise, could be funded by reducing other vital front line services such as fire and rescue, child protection, libraries or highways.

“We take the view that the whole additional cost of social care should not fall on the council taxpayers and also call for a complete review of social care funding by central government to ensure a more appropriate and sustainable means of funding in future years.”

Final recommendations on the budget will be made by cabinet on February 20 with the full county council given a vote the following day.

* St Albans council will also finalise its budget this month and while its precept has been frozen for eight years, leader of the council Julian Daly said the strategy going forward to 2020 was to keep council tax increases low while continuing to improve services by making them more customer-focuse

Herts Police Commissioner David Lloyd is proposing an increase in the police share of council tax around £5 a year for the average Band D household, warning that if the precept did not rise, the Chief Constable had warned him that local policing teams would have to be reduced.