The Liberal Democrat-led St Albans City and District Council has successfully passed a balanced budget this evening, Wednesday 22 February 2023 - despite the pressures caused by the Conservatives' bungling of the economy.
Councillors say the plan preserves the best aspects of living in St Albans, Harpenden and the areas around, and keeps the council moving forward through tough times.
The council is restricted in how much it can raise in council tax so has focused on ensuring that the most vital services can be provided, while still maintaining its commitment to social housing investment and leading on environmental projects.
Councillor Paul de Kort, leading on the budget, said:
“The decisions we have chosen to make come against the background of years of cuts to council funding by Conservative governments in Westminster - as well as the Conservative economic disaster of autumn 2022 which, at short notice, made a challenging situation much worse for all local authorities.”
To bridge the budget gap, caused by inflation soaring way above allowable council tax and business rate income increases, the council has had to increase charges for residents for discretionary services such as parking and garden waste management. A further £1 million has been generated by a cost-saving programme, which has focused on savings which will not harm the most vulnerable in our community.
Despite these essential measures, councillors say that Liberal Democrat values of fairness, community focus and protecting the environment from pollution and carbon emissions are at the heart of the budget. Speaking at the meeting which passed the budget, council leader Chris White emphasised that no decisions were made in secret but instead were the result of an open process under the council's committee system.
“I am delighted that, within this very difficult budget, we have been able still to deliver on our commitments to improve the size and quality of our social housing, take further steps to decarbonise our operations and to continue to promote fairness and inclusion in our community. Under our watch, the district will remain one of the best places in the country to set up business and bring up families and enjoy leisure and cultural pursuits."
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