County council slashing budget by £101m by the beginning of the next decade

The offices of Hertfordshire County Council.

The offices of Hertfordshire County Council. - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Anne Main has urged Herts County Council to build homes on Radlett Airfield as the authority considers making cuts of £101m.

The council (HCC) is proposing to make the savings by 2021/22 to mitigate the pressure of a rising young and elderly population and greater demand on services.

Mrs Main said: “While the county council continues to make savings, there must be a focus on the rail freight site.

“The railfreight site can help deliver much-needed homes and infrastructure the district needs. This would be a win for the county, a win for the district, and a win for local people.”

Mrs Main and HCC both oppose building a Strategic Rail Freight Initiative on the airfield.

£30m of the £101m is yet to be identified as services across the county are being targeted for savings, on top of a 5.99 per cent increase in council tax this year.

Also under pressure are the county’s schools, where HCC provides £26m of funding with the rest coming from a central government grant.

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Many of these schools are falling into deficit due to budget reductions such as an average four per cent real terms cuts to the grants in 2017/18.

The growing number of school-aged children in the county is also causing pressure.

Diane Secker of Fair Funding For All Schools St Albans said: “Parents will be shocked to hear schools are presenting deficit budgets this year, but local headteachers have been warning us for months about the funding difficulties they face. Parents are continually asked to make up the shortfall - with many of us now making regular monthly contributions. With budgets cut in real terms at a time when costs continue to rise, schools are struggling to make ends meet.”

The budget cut proposals, which were put before HCC’s cabinet last week, also revealed HCC is planning to accommodate the users of Nascot Lawn respite service in Watford in the council’s three existing short break units.

Campaigner and Nascot Lawn parent David Josephs said: “They certainly are going to need to find additional hours in their existing respite centres.

“We do not know the outcome of an upcoming judicial review, but I think it’s prudent for the council to prepare for what would be a significant outgoing.”

Sharing existing facilities means the children currently treated at Nascot Lawn, who have complex health needs, would mix with children with different, maybe even conflicting, conditions.

David said: “It’s something that needs to be looked at really carefully. What seems to be likely is Nascot Lawn will be closed down, but that is not what we want as parents.”

A HCC spokesperson said: “Like many local authorities, the amount of money we receive in core grant funding from central government is falling, and at the same time we have faced growing inflationary pressures, as well as increasing demand on certain services.

“Since 2010, the county council has made savings of almost £290m and we need to make further savings of £101.5m by 2021/22.

“Our priority will continue to be frontline services and the vast majority of savings (87 per cent) are proposed from efficiencies.”

On Radlett airfield they said: “We can confirm the cabinet is due to consider a report regarding possible responses to the ‘Call for Sites’ consultation in respect of various sites owned by the council, which has not yet been published.”

On Nascot Lawn, they said: “We would like to reassure the families we will do whatever practicable to give their children the respite care they need in Hertfordshire.”

They also promised to continue tackling potholes pockmarking the county with an addition £29m over the next four years.