Council

Are you happy with the overall performance of St.Albans district council?
*
 Yes
 No

Speeding Problems

Is there a speeding problem on your road?
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 Yes
 No
Name of your road

Issues

Which do you consider the greater current issue?
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 Education in St.Albans
 Road Maintenance
 Congestion in St.Albans
 Housing overdevelopment
 Crime and Anti-social Behaviour
 The environment
 Cleanliness of streets
 Local business/commerce
 NHS
 Overall Tax burden
 Gypsy sites
Restaurant, Bar or Café of the year

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the major services run by the County Council?

  • Schools
  • Social care for adults (elderly; disabled; learning disability; mental health)
  • Social care for children (child protection; fostering; adoption)
  • Highways
  • Waste disposal (not waste collection)
  • Waste and minerals planning
  • Libraries
  • Fire & Rescue

2. Why is the Council Tax so high?

Council services are funded partly from council tax and partly from grant funded through national taxes. The Labour Government has deliberately held down its grant contribution, pushing up council tax. It’s another Labour stealth tax.

3. Why has the County’s council tax gone up more than inflation – and more than my District/Borough?

The County Council suffers two major costs which are in addition to inflation and which District/Borough Councils do not face.

The major one is caused by the aging population. Each year, more and more people become dependant on social care – whether at their own home or in a residential home. The increased number will cost us an extra £11.8m in 2009/10 – adding almost 3% to the council tax.

We also have to pay a tax back to the government on the household waste that cannot be recycled and currently goes to landfill. Although we are reducing the waste, the rate of tax goes up year and costs an extra £3m a year.

Without these two exceptional costs, we could have frozen the council tax and this year’s increase (3.5%) is the lowest since 1996.

4. Will you freeze the Council Tax under a Conservative government?

Yes. A Conservative government will play fair by Hertfordshire and we are confident that will allow us to freeze council tax for at least two years.

5. Why can’t you be more efficient?

The independent Audit Commission says that Hertfordshire gives good value for money. We have made efficiency savings of £57m over the last five years – and have promised to find a further £36m over the next two.

6. Why do you pay your Chief Executive so much money?

The County Council is a big and complex business and we need the very best management to ensure high quality services for local residents. We need to employ the best and that costs money, but have cut the overall cost of the Chief Officer team by reducing the number of them.

7. What pay rise and bonuses have you agreed for the Chief Executive and Chief Officers this year?

The salaries of all Chief Officers have been frozen and we do not pay bonuses. The figures seen recently in the press were for last year.

8. Why don’t you repair the roads better?

We recognise that some of our roads and pavements are not in the condition we would like. This is simply because there is not enough money to do everything we want. Over recent years we have made a significant impact on the backlog of highway maintenance and will do more in the future. Over the last four years, we resurfaced over 600 miles of road and have introduced ‘hot fill’ as the standard for pot-hole repairs. But remember, in their budget, the LibDems said “we want to see less money spent” on road maintenance contracts.

9. Why did you invest £28m in Iceland?

As a large organisation, the County Council has very significant cash flows and usually has about £300m on deposit overnight pending payment out. The rules require us not to deposit too much in any one bank, which is why it had to be spread widely. The Audit Commission has looked at the judgements made by councils and concluded that seven of the 100+ (but not Hertfordshire) had been negligent. We have made a claim to recover the sum (plus interest) and remain hopeful that a substantial amount (and, possibly, all) will be returned in due course. Recent press report suggest that around 80% should be repaid fairly soon. In the meantime, this has had no impact on our services or the increase in the council tax.

10. Aren’t your Home Care services failing?

No. Our Adult Care Services are recognised by Inspectors as among the best in the country. We provide home care services through private contractors approved by CSCI and it is true that some have not performed as required. We have terminated those contacts and made new arrangements.

11. Didn’t you get a poor rating for your Children’s Services?

Two years ago, Inspectors found that some of our processes were inadequate. The problems were more to do with systems than with the quality of care. We immediately tackled the problems and this year’s inspection rated our Children’s services as ‘good’ overall.

12. Are you going to shut any more fire stations?

We have no plans to do so, but we must always review changing patterns of risk and travel times when deploying resources. Home fires are fairly rare these days because we put far greater emphasis is put on prevention – and that must be a good thing.

13. Are you going to close any more schools?

We need to match the capacity of schools in an area with the number of local children. The number of primary-aged children had fallen substantially and, over the last few years, we had to close or amalgamate a number of schools to ensure that they were all financially and educationally viable. That review has been completed and no further reviews are planned.

14. How good are Hertfordshire’s schools?

Inspectors judge that more than three-quarters of our schools are good or outstanding. Over 71% of young people get 5 or more A*-C GCSEs (up from 59% in 2004) and only three schools (out of 528) are in OfSTED categories. We are taking firm action to improve schools that underperform.

15. How can the Council help during the recession?

While the Council can’t bail out non-viable businesses, we are leading a new economic partnership to help prevent job losses and to support those who need new skills for work. We are also supporting the Citizens Advice Bureau and Credit Unions to help those in financial difficulty. We will pay our bills promptly and try to make it easier for local businesses to win work with the County Council.

16. How are you going to stop our quality of life being ruined by overdevelopment and expanded airport capacity?

We have taken the Government to court to oppose their ridiculous housing targets for Hertfordshire and are opposing the second runway application at Stansted. A Conservative Council will always stand up for Hertfordshire and its people – but only a Conservative Government can tear up Labour’s centralised plans and scrap airport expansion.

17. What are you doing to tackle anti-social behaviour?

We part fund some PCSOs including 38 Youth and Schools Officers; have extended the Youth Connexions service and have worked through the Fire & Rescue Service to reduce arson and hoax calls. Our trading standards people are tackling unlawful alcohol sales which lie behind so much trouble. In addition to being tough on this generation of troublemakers we are supporting difficult families with younger children in the hope of preventing the next generation going down the same road.

18. Has the County Council got any ‘green’ initiatives to its credit?

Yes. We have signed the Nottingham Declaration on climate change and reduced our carbon emissions by 21% over the last ten years. We have promised to reduce by a further 25% between 2006 and 2013. We are working hard to reduce fuel used in our buildings and street lighting.

19. How can I influence the Council between elections?

We are developing a range of initiatives called Hertfordshire Local to help local people and communities be better informed about issues that affect them and to influence our decisions. We have already allocated modest locality budgets to be spent on local concerns and will be going further during the next four years.

20. Can users have a real say over social care services?

Yes. We believe very strongly that those who need social care services should have the key say in what is provided, how and by whom. In some cases, this extends to offering people the money instead of providing the service ourselves.