Council in limbo over cash cuts

THE axe is set to fall on a district council but it is not known how deep it will bite with the authority bracing for cuts anywhere between �500,000 and �700,000.

North Herts District Council is in limbo as Westminster prepares a raft of legislation that will reduce how much cash it will receive in 2013/2014.

At present the council is looking at all possibilities to meet the shortfall, but until details on the localisation of council tax benefit, the business rates retention scheme and the implications of the Localism Act and Welfare Reform Bill are revealed, it can only guess.

Les Baker, of the North East Herts Labour Party, has hit out at the cuts and worries what the impact on the district could be.

He said: “We are expecting that more cuts will be required by a government increasingly unsure of its own policies. There needs to be a change of thinking, which at the moment needs to revolve around meeting what people need rather that cutting things which affect everyone.

“It’s always been assumed that it would get even worse than what we have seen in the past 12 months. It’s beginning to come clear it could have a devastating effect across the whole county.”

The Medium Term Financial Strategy will be discussed at full council next Thursday and a report reveals the difficulties facing NHDC.

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It states: “The council will be under continuing pressure to adjust how it delivers services and review the things it does in order to deal with the on-going demands.”

It is not known what will be cut or streamlined at present but in the past two years youth groups and community services have been hit.

Charges have also been increased for the interment of ashes and burials, leisure facilities, resident parking permits and car park season tickets.

Cllr Terry Hone, NHDC’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “The way local authorities are funded is currently subject to a major review, and we will not have exact details of our level of funding confirmed until November or December.

“What seems clear is that funding for councils will be cut further by central government. Based on the information that we do have, it is likely that we will need to find further revenue savings of between �500,000 and �700,000 in the financial year 2013/14.

“To put that into context, we managed to find savings of around �600,000 for the current financial year in addition to ongoing savings of �1.9 million in 2011/12.

“While this demonstrates that the council has an excellent record at meeting the tough financial challenges we are presented with, it also means that further savings are increasingly difficult to find.

“We await confirmation from the government on a number of key issues that will determine the way we plan for the future.”