St Albans braced to take strain of local government cuts

A SIZEABLE reduction in the local government grant is to be met head-on in St Albans, with the district council declaring it is in a “strong position” to cope with any shortfall.

St Albans district council was bracing itself yesterday for the announcement of an anticipated total overall reduction to its government grant by 34 per cent over the three-year period of 2011/12 to 2013/14.

This follows the recent delivery of the Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who reiterated the government’s focus on reducing the deficit.

Colm O’Callaghan, the council’s deputy chief executive (finance), said the local authority had already experienced a 27 per cent reduction to its government grant over the two-year period 2011/12-2012/13.

He said the council has been “expecting a reduction in our grant,” so had planned for that likelihood and was “currently on track to meet our budget for 2013/14”.

Colm added: “In the 2012 Autumn Statement the government announced that there will be reductions to local government grants for the next spending review period of 2015/16-2017/18 and that these are likely to be in line with those we are currently experiencing.”

However this does not mean that the council’s budget will automatically be slashed by 34 per cent as a result.

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Colm explained: “It is important to remember that the government grant only makes up about a third of the council’s total overall budget as we receive income from a variety of other sources including, for example, council tax.

“For some years we have been planning our long-term budget forecast around a continuing reduction in our local government grant and we are currently in a strong position to weather future forecasted reductions.”

The St Albans council precept is just one part of overall council tax bills with the lion’s share going to the county council.