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Mar 05 2013

Harrow Council Joins Minority in Increasing Council Tax

harrow_council_logoA third of local authorities in England of all political persuasions which responded to a national survey are planning to increase council tax, including Conservative led Wandsworth Council which is the latest London authority to propose a rise.

Wandsworth Council has joined the growing list of local authorities which plan to raise council tax – a total of six out of 33 London Councils including Harrow. The position outside of London shows 96 local authorities will increase council tax from April.

Latest figures published by the Local Government Chronicle include data collected from 301 out of 354 English Councils. The figures show that of the 301 councils with known plans, 102 are planning an increase, 11 will reduce council tax, and 187 intend to freeze the charge.

Many councils across the country are struggling to freeze or reduce council tax due to the way in which the Government formulates a local authority’s share of grant funding each year. However the situation is worse in Harrow compared to other London authorities because we have one of the lowest Government grants in the Capital.

In Harrow we receive £1,608 per resident whereas a neighbouring borough gets £3,317 – if we got that grant we would be £420m per year better off. This means that not only would we be in a position to freeze council tax for the fourth successive year – but reduce it. Latest Census data has also revealed the impact of changes in the demography of the borough over the past ten years. The Council must invest in services to support a 33 per cent rise in the number of children aged 0-4 and 1,000 more people over the age of 80 while overall population has grown by 15 per cent. This is why council tax has been raised by two per cent in Harrow which amounts to 46p per week so we can maintain our track record of being among the last councils in London to save all libraries and children’s centres from closure.

Like Harrow, Bromley, Wandsworth, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lewisham, and Croydon Councils are also set to raise council tax as follows:

  • Bromley 1.9% (Conservative)
  • Croydon 1.2% (Conservative)
  • Harrow 2% (Labour)
  • Kingston-upon-Thames 1.9% (Liberal-Democrat)
  • Lewisham 2% (Labour)
  • Wandsworth 3.1% (Conservative)

Harrow Council has launched its Campaign for Fair Grant to lobby the Government over the next few months for more money. The campaign will end with our petition being hand delivered to Downing Street. So far almost 1,000 people have signed the petition including the Leader of the Council, Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar, and Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas.

Harrow Council Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Sachin Shah, said: “The fact that so many Councils across the UK are planning to raise council tax speaks volumes. I would urge Councils across the country to join forces with Harrow Council through our Campaign for Fair Grant so we can lobby the Government together. It is simply unacceptable that some councils are forced to raise council tax just because the Government does not recognise the problems we face in our boroughs. For too long Harrow has been regarded as a leafy suburban borough. We are an outer London borough with inner London problems and our share of grant funding must reflect that. The unprecedented financial situation we are facing is not of our making. If we do not raise council tax the only other alternative is to make deeper and more painful cuts to the services we know residents care about most.”

Conservative Group Leader, Cllr. Susan Hall, said: “What this press release actually confirms is that, while Labour-run Harrow is putting up council tax, two thirds of councils nationwide are not. I could understand Labour issuing a triumphant press release if a majority of councils had joined them in putting up council tax, but with Harrow still very much in the minority on this their announcement seems rather desperate.

It’s also inaccurate for Labour to argue that the council tax increase wouldn’t have been necessary had Harrow received a ‘fair grant’ from the Government. Labour actually turned down £1 million of extra funding to assist with freezing council tax, so they cannot blame anyone else for the increase they’ve forced on Harrow residents. The issue of Harrow’s grant funding is quite separate; evidenced by the fact that other councils – such as Labour-run
Merton – which receive less grant per-resident than Harrow, are managing to freeze council tax.”

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