“Service reductions, and increased charges” - say councillors after spending review

AUTHORITIES in Hertfordshire have given their opinions on last week’s spending review – and as expected, purse strings are to be firmly tightened.

Leaders from both North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) and Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) have admitted that savings will be a “challenge,” and spoke of “radical changes to the services,” as up to �160m combined is expected to be cut from the budget over the next four years.

Service reductions and increased prices of remaining services were also mooted by councillors.

Lynda Needham, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council, said: “The scale of the cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review is significant but not unexpected.

“Work to identify potential savings has been ongoing for some months as we have been preparing ourselves for a reduction in the grant we receive from Government.

“In the past six years NHDC has already secured almost �7 million in efficiencies. This makes future large-scale savings even more challenging and therefore we are likely to require some radical changes to our services over the next few years.”

The scale of NHDC’s cuts were stated at “�1.4m over the next four years,” by Cllr Needham, and said the council would do “what they can,” to protect frontline services.

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NHDC will put forward a first draft of their budget for consideration by December, with public consultation expected to take place before the final budget is submitted in February.

HCC leader Cllr Robert Gordon said that the cuts had been “pretty much along the lines of what they expected,” but admitted the reduction in central government grants looks to be “higher than previously assumed.”

“We have already set ourselves a provisional savings target rising over three years to �150m. We have identified �110 million in savings that will not compromise frontline services,” he said.

Cllr Gordon said that it is “likely” that money will have to be saved by service reductions and increased charges for remaining services. He also placed his trust in the people of Hertfordshire to appreciate the cuts.

“I am sure that, especially in light of today’s spending review, the people of Hertfordshire understand the national context for any difficult decisions we will have to make,” he said.