Mar 01 2013

Harrow’s 2013/14 Budget: Pay more, get less

harrow_council_logo2Here’s our take on the oft-called “budget built on sand” that Harrow Council passed at its meeting on Thursday. No doubt, there’ll be further analysis in the days ahead, but here’s the headlines:

This budget will probably see those services that residents most depend on get savagely cut, some of which are likely to affect Harrow’s most vulnerable. In the opening pages, the Labour-run administration point out that they are “no longer in a position to continue to fund the…quality of services”. Seems that the Great Leader’s memory is failing him, as only last year he promised to ‘protect and defend’ those very same front-line services.

So what gets cut? Meals on wheels for starters. Disabled children respite care for another.

Remember, this is the council that turned down a £1,000,000 government grant, which could have frozen council tax, and the same council which continually compares its grant funding to that which Brent receives. It’s not comparing apples with oranges that they’re doing, it’s comparing apples with chair-legs.

This is the council that decided not to follow Hillingdon’s lead and save £1,000,000 a year by moving it’s email to the cloud, but instead spent an extra £1,300,000 on giving the whole lot to Capita to manage. We’ve reported many times on the IT problems that have become apparent ever since that started.

And this is the council that reluctantly (not confirmed, of course, but we’re sure it’s the truth) told Cllr James Bond it had blown through over £4,000,000 on consultants over the last couple of years.

More cuts at the slash-and-burn council: £75,000 by merging the Civic Centre library with Gayton, despite saying they wouldn’t close any. £96,000 by their Libraries Transformation project, although the breakdown of that isn’t clear. Redundancies in just about every direction you look. Cutting £600,000 from the Community and Culture budget (some 7.5%), so you can expect to seem some ‘commercialisation’ of places like Harrow Arts Centre. Taking £800,000 from ‘Older people: integrated care’, which is currently unexplained, but could simply mean leaving older folks to die alone, at home, sitting in their own faeces, instead of looking after them in their old age.

Meals on Wheels will lose £190,000 in the next few years. What are they going to do? Send out boil-in-the-bag meals by second class post once a week? Meals on Wheels is more than just about dropping off a luke-warm and flavourless meal to old folk: it’s about seeing that they’re still alive.

Under One Sky has gone pear-shaped, with, apparently, not enough sponsorship, needing the council to throw another £25,000 at it to keep it afloat. Lack of sponsorship? In a recession? Who would have thought it… We wouldn’t be surprised if Under One Sky got canned again this year, but then they’d need to dream up another excuse – can’t blame it on the Olympics this year, chaps!

86% of residents said clean streets were important to them. Your listening council has, therefore, introduced huge cuts to its grafitti removal services, decided it might not be locking -up parks and cemeteries, spend less on picking up dog crap from the pavement, and sweeping streets once in a blue moon. And if you think clean streets will be a thing of the past, thing again: if it all goes to plan, and Harrow’s £273,000 saving in highways maintenance goes ahead, without any PR-spin-induced quick cash dumped into it, you can expect to be needed a 4X4 to drive along what remains of Harrow’ pot-holed and rutted roads.

Parks unlocked all night? They’ll soon be returned to nature, with only “full maintenance” taking place, and the council expecting residents with a fleet of Flymos to attend to them instead. Pay more, get less.

Want to stay safe? Forget it. CCTV monitoring is getting cut, and so is CCTV maintenance. When you get beaten up whilst crossing a darkened Harrow street because the street-lights don’t work, even if it does happen in view of a CCTV camera, there will be nobody to see you.

Children’s services get attacked as well. £300,000 savings here, £130,000 there, £240,000 elsewhere. It all adds up to over £835,000 is funding cuts.

There is, however, a plan to sell off some of the council’s buildings, to raise £22,000,000, which could involve the sale of the Civic Centre. Sure, it’s past its best, and has all the charm of a train station waiting room – even if it does have the recently installed Labour-only sink – but could this be the start of a move to a “new, modern, environment” – our words, but we’d bet they make an appearance in the future. After two years of fire-sales, it drops to about £2,000,000 per year, suggesting the council is scrambling to raise cash, flooding the borough with property that nobody wants or needs.

No mention about downsizing the Chief Exec, or removing the Mayor’s car. But they have managed to turn off the fountains outside the Civic Centre, probably so someone can scoop all those pennies out of the bottom of the pond.

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  1. MouthAlmoghty

    This council is savage! Cutitng meals on wheels to the tune of £190,000? That must be our useless CEO’s salary alone. Get rid of him and give the old people their meals. How do these people sleep at night? Not much good is happening in Harrow and we the taxpayer continue to be fleeced. Why is there not more of an outcry from the residents of what was formerly a very nice Borough to live in? I just dont understand it. This incompetent admininstration has not got the first idea about financial management and if this was the private sector, they would have been sacked a long time ago
    ( and without a golden handshake or a gold plated pension pot). I have never voted Troy in my entire life but am prepared to do so at the next election just to make sure this current lot are kicked out.

  2. Morepowertothepeople

    The information alone above should be enough to get rid of the CEO his hangers on, and a bunch of shameful Labour Cllrs! This borough has turned into a joke, it is dirty, run down, and run by people who only care about themselves, the money they make, and regularly fleece us out of! The next time I move it will be as far away from Harrow as possible!

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