Sports players, gardeners and drivers in Watford face paying more for services next year.

The town's mayor Peter Taylor has warned his council must take “difficult decisions” to meet the higher cost of running council services.

The south-west Hertfordshire authority agreed to spend £14.962million on its day-to-day services in the 2023/24 financial year.

But a finance monitor for Quarter One – April to June 2023 – suggests Watford Borough Council will bust its budget by £3.026m.

Plans which the authority’s cabinet will debate on Monday, October 2, propose a raft of new fees and charges, due to come in between January and September 2024.

Watford Observer:

Car parks and permits

Some motorists face a hike of up to 50 per cent in their parking tariff.

The two-hour free parking will remain in place at Cassiobury Park Car Park, near Watford Met station, but for two hour stays or longer, fees are due to rise by £1 – so the tariff will work out at £1 per hour.

Prices at The Avenue – 80p for one hour to £3.20 for four hours – will be rounded up to between £1 for one hour to £4 for four hours.

Similar rises are proposed for the Town Hall car park – rising by up to 12.5 per cent – and Oxhey Activity Park – up to 10 per cent.

Some prices will be frozen, including all-day tickets at The Avenue and the Town Hall, and all tariffs at Longspring, off St Albans Road.

Parking permit prices for residents and businesses will also rise.

Residents in a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) face paying £31 for yearly permit – up from £28 – for their first car.

The cost of a second permit will rise from £61 to £66.

If the cabinet agrees these fees, they will come in on January 1, 2024.

Gardens and bins

Allotment holders, who are charged per “pole” per year, face a price rise from £7.75 to £8.50.

This means a five-pole half plot will cost £42.50 from April 1.

Watford Borough Council will charge £5 more for green lidded bin collections – rising from £50 to £55 – due to come in on September 1, 2024.

Rolls of 52 compostable liners will stay priced at £3.

Bulky collections of up to three large items will cost £5 more – at £50 from January 1.

Supermarkets that fail to collect abandoned trolleys from the authority within six weeks will face paying £9.10, up from £8.35.

Watford Observer:

Activities and events

Watford Borough Council will charge almost 30 per cent more for ghost walks – rising from £9.65 to £12.50.

Football, cricket, hurling and rugby pitch hire is also due to rise – by almost 9 per cent in each case.

Senior football players face paying £75 for pitch and changing facilities hire at the standard rate from the start of next year.

Tennis clubs face paying 8.7 per cent more for the May to September season – rising from £1,420.40 to £1,544.

Mayor: Fees must be ‘fair’

Councils face budget black holes throughout the country.

Home to Watford Gap, 55 miles up the M1, Northamptonshire County Council became the first authority in two decades to file a Section 114 notice in 2018 – effective bankruptcy after reporting budget shortfalls of £70m.

Slough, which like Watford lies in the Colne Valley, filed a similar notice in 2021 after finding a £760m borrowing debt.

Authorities in Croydon in London, Thurrock in Essex, Woking in Surrey and

Birmingham have also declared themselves in financial distress.

Watford Borough Council officers admitted the authority’s financial position is “challenging” in a September 2023 report.

They said budget pressures are the result of “high inflation, rising interest rates and the impact of the cost of living crisis on residents”.

But “ongoing pressures will be addressed through the council’s budget planning process”, the report adds.

A different report, for the borough’s cabinet, sets out a review of fees and charges is normal and usually takes place in the autumn.

“The inflationary environment means that it is prudent for this review to be undertaken sooner to ensure that fees and charges remain aligned to the cost of delivering services,” officers wrote.

The Mayor of Watford said: “Each year we set a balanced budget to ensure that we can continue to provide the excellent services that local residents in Watford rely on.

“However, the cost to provide these services rise and to meet these higher costs we have had to make difficult decisions, including a proposed increase in fees for some services.

“When setting these fees, we want to make sure that they are fair and recover some of the costs of providing them to residents.

“By doing that we are able to protect frontline services.”