A draft revenue budget for 2024/25 will be considered by Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet at its meeting on Thursday 14 December.

Like many other councils across the country, Herefordshire Council is facing significant financial challenges. This is mainly because of rising costs due to inflation and the increased demand for both adult and children’s social care services.

The combined pressures facing the council had led to a predicted financial gap of £28.8million between forecast revenue and expected costs in 2024/25. Following an extensive review of council expenditure and significant work to identify savings by council officers and Cabinet members, the council is now in a position to publish a draft revenue budget for 2024/25 which balances.

The total budget for 2024/25 will be £205.2million and as part of the efforts to balance the budget it assumes a total council tax increase of 4.99% (2.99% increase in core council tax and a 2% adult social care precept), along with £19.5million savings and efficiencies across council services.

Subject to approval by Cabinet, the draft budget will then be considered by members of the Council, the council’s scrutiny committees, businesses and members of the public. Any changes to the proposals, along with the outcome of the public consultation, will be included in a report to Cabinet on 25 January 2024 before the final budget is submitted to Council for approval at its meeting on 9 February 2024.

Councillor Jonathan Lester, Leader Herefordshire Council said: “We’ve had to take some tough decisions to get to a balanced draft budget. We are confident we can deliver this budget without recourse to reserves which due to overspends in previous financial years have diminished.”

“The council is still facing significant inflationary pressures and if council tax rises by 4.99% this is still well below the rate of inflation we’re seeing across the council’s contracts and so only goes some way towards balancing the budget.” 

“Over the last few months we have put in place strict financial controls to regulate spending and ensure best value for money and we will continue to enforce these in the financial year ahead. These measures alone will not be enough to make the savings needed and we will need to transform how services are delivered and review the organisation’s size and structure to reduce costs, along with looking at opportunities to maximise income. This is at a time when resources are already stretched, so that we can secure the delivery of key services for the long term.”

A budget consultation is currently underway which is inviting people to give their views on where council spending should be prioritised and to feedback on areas of additional income which could contribute towards balancing the budget. It also outlines a number of proposed increases in council tax alongside how much additional money each would raise.

Cllr Lester added: “Setting out our draft budget at this early stage means that people can see our proposals and provide feedback on them in an informed way. I’d encourage everyone to contribute.”

To give your views online please see the consultation at www.herefordshire.gov.uk/budget-consultation until Sunday 31 December 2023 or attend one of the in person sessions which have been arranged across the County.

The draft budget report is available on the council website.