Feb 06 2013

Harrow Council Announces 2013/14 Budget

harrow_council_logo2Harrow Council will for the fist time ever deliver a two year balanced budget. The budget will protect the services residents care most about from the severest of cuts. By setting a two- year budget the council is able to take a longer term view rather than taking a year-by-year approach as it has done in previous years.

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 £11m in savings over the next two years. However, due to pressures outside of the Council’s control the funding gap increased to £24m.

In order to balance the books the Council has found the £24m in savings by making efficiencies in all departments, deleting posts, adopting a more commercial approach, and finding innovative ways to deliver services. The final budget papers will go to Harrow Council’s Cabinet on Thursday, February 14, where it will be recommended for approval by Full Council on Thursday, February 28.

The financial situation is worse than in most other authorities because the Government contributes less to Harrow than to most other London boroughs. For example; Harrow receives £1,608 per resident whereas neighbouring Brent gets £3,317. This is why we are proposing to raise council tax by two per cent as part of the final budget – which amounts to 46p per week for a Band D property. If the Council received the same grant as Brent we would be £420m per year better off and in a position to not only freeze council tax for the fourth
successive year but reduce it. The Council is currently lobbying hard to urge the Government to improve Harrow’s share.

The Government’s Welfare Reform agenda has also impacted upon the Council’s final budget which has driven demand for services such as housing. The recession has severely reduced the council’s income and the 2011 census shows the borough’s population has grown by 15 per cent since 2001. For all these reasons the Council has been forced to raise council tax so we can protect the services residents care about including children’s centres, libraries, employing more social workers, and investing in elderly care.

Cllr Sachin Shah, Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “Next year the Government will give Harrow £10m less than they did this year. This is a massive and unfair cut to Harrow residents. The Government has forced us to make big cuts to spending, but the Labour administration has done all it can to protect those most in need from the worst of these cuts. “Harrow Council and the Harrow Observer has launched a campaign for Harrow to get its fair share from government. I urge everyone to log on to www.harrow.gov.uk/fairgrant and sign the petition today.”

For the Conservatives, Group Leader Cllr. Susan Hall, said: “As is typical of the secrecy that has surrounded this budget, Labour have sent out a press release about it before it has actually been published. And what residents can confirm from this release is that their council tax is going up – for the first time, Harrow’s band D council tax will smash past £1,500.

Cllr. Sachin Shah has blamed the Government for this increase, and for the cuts Labour are making, but Labour actually turned down £1 million from the Government to help them freeze council tax. Just as Labour chose to turn down this money, they chose to spend a fortune on IT and have made a number of poor financial decisions over the last two and a half years.

We accept these are challenging financial times, but other councils which receive less funding per-resident than Harrow (such as Merton) are still freezing council tax. So for all Labour’s bluster, this council tax increase is down to the choices they have made.”

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