“Low reserves aggravate Hertfordshire £90m funding gap”

County councils are at breaking point but most councils are operating on very low reserves these days:

“Hertfordshire County Council is facing a funding gap set to grow to £90m in four years’ time, with plans in place expected to account for half of the shortfall, according to a financial update prepared for senior leaders.

A report to next week’s meeting of the authority’s cabinet says costs of delivering services are expected to rise by £140m by April 2023 while income will only rise by £50m over the same period.

The county’s senior finance team is bringing forward the timetable for producing the integrated plan that informs the annual budget by “many months” so the council can “enhance its approach” to financial planning.

At £57m, price-inflation pressures are the biggest component of the £140m increase, followed by £42m anticipated for disability services related to “population growth”.

Vital service investments estimated to cost £24m and “legislative pressures” described as mainly related to the National Living Wage contribute the final £17m.

The report said that while Hertfordshire had successfully made significant savings of around £315m since 2010, it was “approaching a point where further efficiencies were increasingly difficult to deliver”.

Costs associated with the ageing population – Hertfordshire is on course to see the number of residents aged 85 and above rise by 137.5% over the next decade – were cited as an area where meeting rising demand was particularly challenging.

The report also noted that the county’s reserves were comparatively low when measured against peers. …”