Herefordshire Council’s Councillors will vote today on whether to increase council tax by 4.99%, as recommended by the council’s cabinet members.

Councillors have stated the need for an increase in council tax to help plug the gap they have been left with due to a cut in funding from the government.

Press release from the Herefordshire Coalition:

Local government will continue to deliver services and projects in Herefordshire, despite severe economic pressures and the worst  cost of living crisis in a generation.

Councillor Liz Harvey said that despite having to make savings, Herefordshire’s Coalition administration has produced a balanced budget that protects vital services in the county, delivers important capital projects – and supports those struggling financially.

Coun Harvey told cabinet members: ‘We all find ourselves impacted by the worst economic and cost of living crisis in a generation alongside spiralling food and fuel costs which disproportionally affect the least well off households.’

‘After delivering last year on the biggest programme of in-year savings this council has ever been faced with, alongside expectations that the county and the country start to move on from the worst effects of the recent pandemic, this should have been a budget where we looked forward to better times. Instead, this perfect storm of economic mismanagement and broken promises of government funding reform has driven many councils beyond the point where they are able to construct balanced budgets.’

‘Like most councils, we need to propose the full 2.99% uplift in general council tax and implement the 2% uplift ring-fenced for social care. In reluctantly exercising this local tax raising power we are very aware it places a further burden on our residents at a time of unprecedented difficulty. 

‘However, our public consultation has shown we continue to have public support for the principle that the better off amongst us to continue to pay more towards the delivery of council services.’

‘Whilst developing this very difficult budget, the administration remained determined to ensure that hard up households are supported during this cost of living crisis. We have established a £1.7m hardship fund. Waiving council tax payments entirely for households in financial difficulty is one of the important ways in which we continue to take a targeted approach to delivering financial assistance to those most in need.’

Funding rules for councils prevent capital grants from government from being used to fund the delivery of services. Instead, services must be funded through the revenue collected through council tax and the annual funding settlement from government. 

Herefordshire’s proposed budget for 2023 balances through the intended delivery of £14m of savings and efficiencies across all service areas. 

Coun Harvey said: ‘in doing this we are taking into consideration the feedback received from residents and businesses regarding services which continue to be a high priority for us to continue.’

Councillor Harvey said the proposed budget includes a capital investment programme (not funded by council tax), in excess of £140m. 

Delivery of this work programme is now overseen by the Project Management Office established by the Coalition Administration to ensure such projects deliver within their budgets and the overspends incurred by previous administrations remain a thing of the past. 

‘These projects will continue to strengthen and improve daily life for residents across the county by delivering a wide range of community infrastructure, transport, education, public realm, economic development, heritage and social care investments, in time and on budget, ’ she said.

‘I am pleased that as cabinet we are able to present a balanced budget to Full Council. A budget which delivers investments in community infrastructure and service transformation whilst continuing to provide all our statutory services and the majority of the discretionary services which so many of our residents experience and value on a daily basis.’

The proposed budget will be debated at a full meeting of Herefordshire councillors on 10 February.