Hertsmere council leader will protect services ahead of budget cuts

PUBLIC services in Potters Bar will be protected ahead of the Government’s announcement on public spending cuts next month.

That is the message from Hertsmere Borough Council leader Morris Bright, who this week responded bullishly to questions about what services would suffer in the wake of the savage austerity measures expected to be announced by Chancellor George Osborne on October 20.

Some local councils – such as neighbouring Welwyn Hatfield – have already earmarked a proportion of next year’s budget for the chop, with public services expected to take a significant hit.

But Cllr Bright said the council would do all it could to safeguard the borough’s public services – but conceded the same could not be said of staff numbers.

Citing a report by the BBC News website, which placed Hertsmere 11th out of 324 local authorities as “most resilient to spending cuts”, Cllr Bright said: “Hertsmere comes from a position of good financial management.

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“We’ve been aware that this has been coming out of the traps for a couple of years. We’ve been spending a lot of time and a lot of energy planning for when the time comes.”

Cllr Bright said that out of the council’s �14m annual budget, around �10m goes on staff salaries – and that would have to change.

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“This year we’re looking to freeze council tax and not to reduce services wherever possible,” he said.

“We can’t promise that there won’t be a loss of jobs.

“We’re asking people if they would like to take early retirement or to walk away, and where possible we will redeploy people in different positions.

“What I don’t want to do is scaremonger. I don’t want the people of Potters Bar to worry that we’re going to be cutting a swathe through public services.

“We’re planning very carefully and I believe we’ll come through this.”

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