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Cost of care for vulnerable adds 3% to Herts County Council's bill for householders

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Pensioners. Stock image (6556467)
Pensioners. Stock image (6556467)

Bishop's Stortford residents face a 3.99% increase in their council tax from April, with the bill for council services in 2019-20 set to rise for a typical band D home by £68.52, from £1,717.24 to £1,785.76 – or £1.32 a week.

Herts County Council – which is responsible for social services, education, highways, the fire service and libraries among other services – wants to increase its part of the bill, which accounts for just over three-quarters of the total, by the 2.99% maximum allowed.

If the recommendation in its draft budget is approved by the full council in February, its council tax demand for a band D home will rise £39.52, from £1,320.46 to £1,359.98 – or 76p a week.

The cost of caring for the county’s most vulnerable residents – the elderly, disabled and children – is putting pressure on Herts’ finances.

The number of over-85s is projected to rise by 137.5% to 67,700 by 2030, with the number of adults with learning disabilities increasing by nearly 15% to 24,200 over the same time frame. The council currently spends around £1m a day on these services.

At the other end of the age spectrum, it is spending significantly more on placements for some of the children and young people in care.

Cllr Ralph Sangster, HCC's cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “We have a strong track record of sensible financial management, tackling potential issues early, but we can’t be complacent. We need not look too far away to find high-profile examples of other local authorities where finances haven’t been managed so well and important front-line services have been affected.

“Our recent budget consultation showed that the majority of residents (67%) would rather see council tax increases than service reductions. While we’d rather not place this extra burden on council taxpayers, we have a responsibility to provide timely front-line services to those who need them the most.

“By the end of the 2019-20 financial year, we will be saving the equivalent of £335 million per year when compared with 2010. This has resulted in savings of almost £2 billion since 2010, although we need to save an additional £19m this year and a further £90m by 2022-23.

"Balancing the books is getting harder every year as it becomes more and more difficult to find savings and efficiencies. This is very unlikely to change over the next few years.”

Council tax bills in Hertfordshire are made up of precepts from four authorities: the county council, the district or borough council, the town or parish council and the police and crime commissioner on behalf of Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Hertfordshire’s police and crime commissioner is proposing a 14.6% rise in the law and order bill. David Lloyd says the money will raise £10.7m to pay for more officers.

The current 2018-19 council tax bill for a band D property in Stortford is £1,717.24, of which £164 goes to Mr Lloyd for policing in Hertfordshire. This would rise to £188 – £2 a month extra – from April if his proposal goes ahead.

The police precept accounts for around 40% of the force’s budget. Just under 60% comes from central government grant, which has been frozen for the next year, and the rest is from reserves.

The recommendation from East Herts Council is that its share of the bill rises by £5 – the maximum allowed without a referendum – to £169.09 for a band D property.

Bishop’s Stortford Town Council is planning to freeze its band D precept at £68.69.

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