Agenda item

Budget 2024/25 and Medium Term Financial Plan


The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability presented the Budget 2024/25 and the Medium Term Financial Plan and ran through the highlights of the report. He said that the budget picture had improved slightly since the report was presented to the Audit and Governance Committee on 30 January 2024 due to the receipt of additional government funding of £200,000 which had been added to the council’s reserves.


The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said that £1.2 million of savings had to be found for 2024/25 due to the impact of inflation. The funding available to the council had increased with £1.5 million New Burdens Funding for the food waste collections and a 7.2% increase in the New Homes Bonus. He said that this extra funding would be used to cover the debt servicing costs and allow the administration to set a balanced budget for 2024/25.


The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said that the 2025/26 budget would be very difficult, hence the need to increase reserves this year where possible. He said that there would be pressures of approximately £5million and there was uncertainty in the projections at this time. He said however, the council by then would be benefitting from the income of Hertford Theatre. Due to the ongoing pressures, it was recommended that Council Tax be increased by 2.99% for 2024/25.


Councillor Brittain proposed that the recommendations in the report be supported. Councillor Hoskin seconded the proposal.


Councillor McAndrew referred to planning enforcement and said that it played a vital role in the district with the large developments across East Herts. He felt this service should not be cut and needed enforcement to encourage people to operate within the rules. He also asked the Executive Member to clarify the position around Blue Badge parking.


Councillor Brittain said that the items Councillor McAndrew were referring to were savings proposals that had been rejected by the Executive. He said the council would not be pursuing these savings in the 2024/25 financial year.


Councillor McAndrew referred to civil parking enforcement and asked the Executive Member to expand on the £4 million deficit and the plans to recover costs.

Councillor Brittain said the deficit had built up over time for on street parking and said the plans were for the council to gain more revenue from parking and said they were entitled to do that.


Councillor McAndrew then referred to the plans for the Executive to introduce a new parking policy to prevent congestion and penalise heavy pollutant vehicles.


Councillor Hoskin said in principle, heavy polluting vehicles should be penalised and said this would be part of the public consultation over the next 12 months.


Councillor Jacobs referred to page 60 of the report and the proposed list of asset disposals. He asked for an update on the progress of this following the discussions held at the Member Asset Reference Group.


Councillor Brittain said he had fed the discussions back to the Head of Strategic Finance and Property and said it was his understanding that it was unlikely that the Tesco car park would now be sold. He said the rest were still ongoing and did not have a specific update.


Councillor Jacobs asked if that also applied to the Waitrose car park.


Councillor Brittain said that car park would be looked at in the context of the Old River Lane project.


The motion to support the recommendations having been proposed and seconded was put to the meeting and upon a vote being taken, was declared CARRIED.


RESOLVED – (A) To recommend to Council the approval of the budget and Medium Term Financial Plan at Appendix A, Capital Programme at Appendix B, savings programme at Appendix C and increase Council Tax by 2.99%, which will result in a Band D Council Tax increase of £5.65 to £195.52 per year;


(B) Note the proposed savings requirements, that will need to be delivered to balance the budget in the medium term, the delivery profile of which without any smoothing is as follows: 2025/26 £1.441 million 2026/27 £0 2027/28 £0.526 million;


(C) Note the amended Capital Programme which pauses the Old River Lane Arts Centre, reducing revenue costs of Minimum Revenue Provision and interest by £1,514k per annum on current interest rates, a total saving of £7.442 million of over the MTFP period. Comment on the capital expenditure priorities:


i.                essential property maintenance to meet statutory requirements or to prevent loss or damage to neighbouring properties;

ii.              investment in ICT to continue but that the budget carry forward that has not been used for two years is deleted;

iii.            invest to save initiatives where the business case indicates that the cost of the investment will be recovered in under 10 years;

iv.            to allow pausing of construction of the Arts Centre at Old River Lane until such time as debt levels have fallen sufficiently to make the revenue impacts of new borrowing affordable while at the same time undertaking landscaping works on the arts centre site so that it is an attractive site rather than an undeveloped area blighting the retail and commercial units in the City Heart scheme;

v.            provide up to £170k for essential maintenance works for the URC Church Hall in Bishop’s Stortford;

vi. completion of Hertford Theatre, at as low a cost as possible, so that the entire venue is opened and run on a strictly commercial basis to maximise income; and

vi.            investment in depot works and waste containers for the new waste and recycling contract.

(D) Note the implication of the Autumn Statement that a further round of austerity is proposed by the Government and that the two major parties seem intent on keeping to the announced expenditure totals which will severely reduce government funding and inevitably require service cuts.


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