St Albans district council tax is frozen as authorities tighten belts

NO council tax increase is likely this year as the county council and police authority joined the district council in opting to peg their precepts at the current level.

The county council, which levies 77 per cent of the overall council tax bill, approved its budget on Friday, agreeing to freeze its share at �1,118.83 for a typical Band D property for the second year in succession.

Herts Police Authority also agreed last week that it would not increase its 10 per cent share of council tax.

St Albans council, which levies 11 per cent, was due to ratify its cabinet’s decision to freeze its portion of the tax for another year at a meeting last night.

The county council maintains it has been able to protect essential services by months of careful planning, scrutinising expenditure and seeking out efficiencies but it is no secret that there will be a number of redundancies among the workforce.

Council leader, Robert Gordon, said: “We have listened to Hertfordshire residents and prioritised the services they value. We are committed to maintaining a full network of children’s centre activities across the county, sustaining a record level of investment in front-line highways maintenance and keeping all our branch libraries open.

“This is against the background of caring for the needs of our growing elderly population and building hundreds of new primary school places across the county.”

Most Read

But there was a warning from David Lloyd, executive member for resources, that the county council would need to continue pressing for further savings.

He said: “We know that the grant we receive from central government will fall further over the next few years while pressure to spend more will continue.

“Over the next year alone we need to find an additional �3 million to allow for inflation and �10 million to care for the needs of our changing population, such as older people and those with learning disabilities, so some reductions in funding have been inevitable.”

He added: “Where we have had to reduce funding, we have done so after careful consultation and after we have taken steps to minimise the impact of our decisions.”

The Herts Police Authority has had a 20 per cent cut in government funding over the next four years and among other measures, it will be saving money by closing London Colney Police Station and front office access to the public at Harpenden Police Station.

It stresses that despite the savings it has had to make, maintaining officers and staff on the streets has been its greatest priority.

Chair of the authority, Stuart Nagler, said: “It will mean we have to find different, more innovative ways to deliver our services including more collaboration with other forces, closer working with partners in the county and more productive ways of working for our officers and staff.”

The authority is hoping that an underspend of �5.6 million in the current financial year which has come about partly as a result of a vacancy freeze, will help offset some of the savings which will be required in the next four years.

Stuart added: “In total savings of �11.8 million are needed in the next 12 months so, even with our comprehensive savings plans, it will mean a reduction in officer and staff numbers.

“However, because of the vacancy freeze that was put in place last summer, we expect that most of these reductions will be achieved without redundancies.”