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St Albans City and District Councillors approve a budget for 2024/25 in the face of tough financial challenges

Publication date:

St Albans City and District Councillors have agreed a budget for the next financial year along with a long-term plan setting out their priorities.

The Council, in common with other local authorities, is faced with a challenging economic climate that has put intense pressure on its finances.

This has included high inflation, rising costs and increasing demands for some services such as homeless applications.

By law, the Council is required to produce an annual balanced budget where spending is matched by income, grant funding and, if appropriate, the use of reserves.

It was faced with a budget gap of £2.39 million for the forthcoming financial year, 2024/25, unless action was taken.

Among the measures now agreed are substantial cost savings and a District Council tax rise of 2.99%, the maximum allowed unless a referendum is held. 

The Council tax rise is lower than the current inflation rate of 4% and amounts to an average increase of 11p a week for a Band D property.

Councillors also approved a rent rise in accordance with Government guidelines of 7.7% for its social housing properties. 

The budget was approved at a meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday 28 February. 

Councillor Paul de Kort, Lead for Resources, said after the meeting:

I am pleased that despite the severe financial challenges confronting us, we have managed to produce a balanced budget whilst protecting key services. This has been done without the use of our very limited reserves.

These key services include a wide range of leisure, community and cultural facilities and a continued crackdown on fly-tipping. We will also push ahead with the production of a Local Plan that will provide high environmental standards for the District's future growth.

I hope that our residents will understand and support the work we are doing to navigate a way through the financial challenges that we have been faced with.

Homelessness and Social Housing

Cllr Jacqui Taylor, Lead for Housing, said:

Councils have a statutory homelessness duty and the need for this service is projected to triple in net cost to the Council this year compared to last. This budget prudently ensures we can continue to provide that safety net in the coming year in the face of the financial pressures and sadly rising demand.

Full Council also agreed the budget for the Housing Revenue Account. This is a ring-fenced account for Council-owned homes and is financed by rental payments from tenants rather than Council Tax. 

Cllr Taylor added:

I am pleased we are pressing ahead with insulating Council tenants’ homes and installing solar panels under our social housing decarbonisation programme which is supported by grant funding from our successful bid to the Government grant scheme. This keeps tenants' energy bills lower than they otherwise would be in addition to the environmental benefits. 

There is also £13m for new social housing which is focussed on building more three-bedroom homes to try and alleviate some of the overcrowding for families in smaller properties. These one and two-bedroom homes are then freed up for others waiting for a home. It is also important to maintain the housing repairs service and there is investment of over £11m so all Council tenants can have a decent home to live in.

Council Plan

Full Council has also approved a Council Plan for the next five years which includes five priorities. These are:

  • Combating the climate emergency.
  • Providing more social housing.
  • Supporting the local economy.
  • Enhancing the District’s cultural offer.
  • Promoting equality, inclusion and fairness.

Cllr de Kort said:

Although much of our focus has been on the current financial challenges, we have not lost sight of our longer-term goals.

Our Jubilee Square regeneration project will soon provide new social housing as well as shared ownership homes for those looking to get on the property ladder.

In the next few weeks, we will be launching the St Albans Greener Together campaign which will give schools, community groups and businesses an opportunity to help achieve our ambition of turning the District carbon neutral by 2030.

These along with other programmes set out in our Council Plan will ensure that we will continue to make the District an even more vibrant place to live and work.

Details of the budget, including the savings, together with the Council Plan can be viewed along with the meeting papers here

Media contact: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727- 819533;