Councillors in St Albans have deferred the consideration of the budget until next month.

Councillors had been expected to consider a package of budget proposals at a meeting of the full council last Thursday (January 16).

But at the 11th hour – following a series of meetings between the political group leaders – council leader Cllr Chris White asked for the item to be deferred.

The group leaders – who had met several times in the past few days – had, he said, “agreed virtually everything”.

But, he said, further work could and should be done before a decision was taken.

He said the timing of the General Election and the Christmas break had impacted on the budget-setting process.

And he put forward a motion – seconded by Conservative leader Cllr Mary Maynard – deferring the item until February 26.

The additional time is designed to enable more discussion and for more information to be shared.

At the meeting Labour group leader Cllr Malachy Packenham stressed that agreement on the budget proposals was close – and that the budget would be set before the national deadline.

He said there had already been “intensive discussion” between three of the group leaders.

And he assured councillors that while there was a job of work to be done, it would be done.

“This group will support the administration in getting the budget over the line,” he said.

“The law requires it, the public demands it and we will get a budget passed on February 26.

“There are a few items that need tweaking but I think we are 98 per cent there.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Cllr Maynard also thanked other group leaders – particularly for the series of meetings over the previous couple of days.

And she said: “We will have an agreement on something we can all consider and vote upon by the next council meeting.”

Had the budget proposals been discussed, the Conservatives would have called on the council to axe the £18.75million plans for the Harpenden Estate.

And this is believed to be one of the main areas of disagreement within the budget proposals.

The Conservatives would also have called for an increase to the one-off budget for climate change initiatives to £150,000, to fund “a serious programme of tree planting”.

They would have called for a reversal of the plans to switch to paperless committee meetings, of the proposals to reduce the number of Community News publications and of plans to restructure planning committees, from four to one.

Their planned amendments also included calls to amend plans to cut the cost of bulky waste collection to the council – reducing the planned charge from £25 to £15.

And they also wanted the council to commit to give a long term commitment to the local voluntary sector.

Meanwhile the Labour group would have called for the affordable housing element of the CCOS project to become social housing – which would reduce the projected income from the project by £80,000 a year.