Mar 02 2013

Great Leader’s Blog – February 28, 2013

great_leaderDespite the financial challenges that lie ahead for all Councils, I am proud to say that we have set a balanced budget for the next two years which protects those most in need. We are a responsible Council which is planning ahead for the future so we can protect the services we know you care most about.

It is easy to set a budget. I am an accountant by trade and I could balance the books in a relatively short amount of time. However, as Leader of the Council I have a responsibility to ensure my administration sets a budget that is morally right, a budget which protects our children’s centres and libraries from closure, a budget which ensures we invest in more social workers and shield those most in need from Government cuts to our benefits system.

Harrow Council, like most other Councils, is facing its most challenging financial situation in decades. When the draft budget was published in February last year, the Council had expected to find £11 million in savings over the next two years. However, due to pressures outside of the Council’s control the funding gap increased to £24 million. In order to balance the books the Council has found the £24 million in savings by making efficiencies in all departments, deleting posts, adopting a more commercial approach, and finding innovative ways to deliver savings.

Despite these major financial challenges Harrow’s future remains bright. We are on the side of our residents and we know that times are tough but we are doing everything we can to support them. This is why we are urging as many people as possible to sign-up to the Big Harrow Council Energy Switch which could help residents cut the prices of their gas and electricity bills by up to £200. It is a London-wide scheme which will use collective buying power to force energy prices down. Anybody can sign-up, however we will be focussing on those who are falling into fuel poverty, and those who are already struggling to keep warm and could really benefit from this opportunity. Signing up is easy just visit www.biglondonenergyswitch.org.uk

In mid April, councils in London will organise an energy auction and invite energy suppliers to offer their cheapest tariffs to everyone who has registered. Whichever supplier offers the cheapest tariff will then be able to offer residents a new contract. After the auction, residents will receive a personal offer and will be able to see how much money they can save.

I am also delighted to make two major policy announcements that will provide support for our residents throughout these tough times. Firstly, residents in the borough will be given 20 minutes free parking when they park in metered spaces in roads across the borough. The new policy will launch during the run-up to Christmas, giving residents, shoppers and local businesses a much-needed lift during the festive season. Secondly, the Council is to put an additional £200,000 towards filling in potholes in Harrow’s roads. This money is significantly more than the amount allocated in the budget and follows calls by residents to improve the borough’s roads – eroded by snow and ice over the last couple of years.

But we could do so much more if only the Government gave us a fair share of grant funding each year. This is why we have launched the Campaign for Fair Grant because the financial situation is worse in Harrow than in most other authorities as we have one of the lowest Government grants inLondon. We receive £1,608 per resident whereas a neighbouring borough gets £3,317 – if we got the same we would be £420m per year better off. If we received that kind of money not only would we be in a position to freeze council tax for the fourth successive year – we would be able to reduce it.

This is why we will fight for a fair share for Harrow. This is why we need the help of everyone across the borough. This is why you should sign our petition today by visiting http://www.harrow.gov.uk/fairgrant

Source: Harrow Council

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