Feb 03 2012

Budget to Modernise Council, Protect Front-line Services

harrow_council_logoA budget shaped by the views of thousands of residents has been announced today, as Harrow Council continues to modernise and protect front-line services.

The Council designated 2011 the year of debate as it consulted residents on how to safeguard or improve services while finding the savings demanded by an environment of rising costs and shrinking budgets.

Thousands of residents responded and helped the Council make difficult decisions on areas including adult social care, children’s centres, parks and cultural services. Their opinions fed into an extensive review carried out by each Council directorate to identify where savings could be made not only in 2012-13 but for the following two years as well.

Their feedback underpins a new wave of projects set out in the Council’s spending plan for 2012-13, that continue to transform the local authority.

The Council has identified £10.8m of savings to balance the books for 2012-13. This is in addition to the £19m of savings being made in the current financial year, which ends in March. Council Tax will again be frozen from April.

While making savings, the Council is also investing in a number of key areas. An additional £3m will be spent on adults services to meet growing demand for care as residents live longer. An extra £740,000 has been earmarked to tackle homelessness linked to the effects of the recession. An additional £1.1m is required to meet the increased cost of sending waste to landfill.

In other areas innovation, technology and partnership working will significantly reduce costs. Harrow’s reablement scheme, which helps hospital patients recover quicker and get back in to their own homes, will deliver a further £750,000 savings in 2012-13.

An innovative, cost effective new way of running children’s centres, developed in consultation with users, will keep them open and at the same time save £800,000. A further £452,000 saving is being achieved through a reorganisation of children’s services that provide a better, more joined up service focussed around the child and family.

Improving the way the Council buys good and services, demanding better deals from suppliers, will realise several millions pounds of savings. A Council wide restructure will see the 30 highest paid posts reduced to 20, delivering £1m in salary savings over three years.

The budget will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet on 9th February and then to Full Council on 16th February for approval.

Cllr Bill Stephenson, Leader of Harrow Council, said:

“Like never before we are working together with residents to modernise the Council and find savings that protect front-line services.

“The scale of the financial challenge we face is enormous. Government cuts, inflation and growing demand for services due to the knock-on effects of the recession and other Government ‘reforms’ mean we have to reduce our budget by at least 30% over four years.

“Much has been achieved as we manage the difficult financial situation. We saved £19m last year – a year in which Harrow was recognised as the best achieving council in the country.

“This budget sets out a further £10.8m of savings for 2012-13 but we need to reduce costs by another £20m as we seek to balance the budget by 2015.

“As we move forward it only gets harder. We are one of London’s lowest funded councils, with low-cost, high performing services.

“That is why we are involving residents so heavily in the decisions we make, and we listened to what they had to say during the year of debate on everything from adult social care and children’s centres, to libraries, parks and street lighting.

“To find the savings with the least impact on services, we are working with other councils on ideas to share services or find new ways of delivering them. We are reducing the number of senior managers and proposing to reduce the salaries of the highest paid staff while increasing salaries for the lowest paid.

“We are also taking a more commercial approach, demanding a better deal from suppliers, using technology, cutting red tape and reducing overheads.

“We are working hard to attract inward investment and regenerate the borough- a recent example is the £1.8m secured for Harrow Town Centre through the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund.

“Finally, the conversation with residents and all partners will continue to help us rise to the financial challenge, innovate and create an efficient and effective Council that supports the entire community.”

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