Council balances books despite continuing COVID-19 pressures

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has outlined proposals to deliver a budget for the financial year ahead 2022-23, with no cuts to frontline services despite the impact of COVID-19 on several of its income streams and the continued reduction in core grant funding from central government.

Council offices

The council's priority is to meet local needs and significant savings have been made as part of its ongoing modernisation programme. The council is set to deliver a total of £129m capital investment in the borough. This investment includes the affordable housing programme, climate change initiatives that will continue to reduce the council's carbon footprint, introducing more electric vehicle charging points, the continuing regeneration of both Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City town centres and a new crematorium at the Lawn Cemetery.

The council will receive a lower-tier services grant of £131k to help fund increasing pressures on local services provided at district level, such as homelessness, planning, recycling and refuse collection, and leisure services.

The council faces significant inflationary pressures on utilities, goods and services, but has proposed a council tax rise below the rate of inflation, at 2.3%. These proposals will increase the average Band D tax by £4.95 - less than 10p a week -- to £224.10 for 2022/23.

Councillor Duncan Bell, Executive Member for Resources, said:

This budget gives us the foundation we need to protect our frontline operations and continue providing quality local services while also addressing the challenges we're facing from the impact of COVID-19.

We have managed to deliver a large number of savings through new ways of working but, reluctantly, have also needed to increase some fees for discretionary services. We know some of the proposals in the budget will not be popular but these options must be considered in order for us to continue providing the services residents value.

Despite the ongoing challenges, we are committed to doing the best for Welwyn Hatfield and I hope residents welcome our long-term plans for investment in the borough.

Once the 2022/23 budget proposals have been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 January, a report will go to Special Cabinet on Tuesday 18 January before a final decision is made by Full Council on 2 February.