Council tax increase and services cut for Harlow residents
Politics / Wed 22nd Jan 2014 am31 11:17am
HARLOW Council has outlined proposals to protect services from closure by increasing Council Tax by 1.49% or 6½p per week for a Band C property.
Plans for the increase on Harlow Council’s share of Council Tax for 2014/15 will be recommended to Cabinet on 30 January 2014 and Council on 6 February 2014. The increase is part of the Administration’s budget proposals for 2014/15, which aim to tackle significant reductions in the Council’s grant funding from central government while protecting services residents value.
Although Harlow Council collects Council Tax on behalf of Essex County Council, Essex Police Crime & Commissioner and Essex Fire & Rescue Harlow Council only keeps £17 of every £100 collected. The rest goes to the other organisations.
The budget proposes:
No service closures and no significant reductions to services.
The Playhouse, Paddling Pools and Pets’ Corner will continue to be funded by the Discretionary Services Fund.
Organisations running Harlow Museum, Parndon Wood Nature Reserve, the Gibberd Gallery and events in the Town Park will continue to receive financial contributions as part of three-year agreements.
Charges in neighbourhood shopping car parks frozen with the continuation of free parking for one hour.
No increases in Councillor allowances for second year running.
No compulsory redundancies.
Leader of Harlow Council, councillor Mark Wilkinson said: “In proposing this budget the Administration is protecting services from closure and any significant reductions whilst trying where we can to increase efficiency. The toughest decision is the proposal to increase Council Tax but a small rise will protect services. The proposed increase is an extra 6 ½ p a week for the average Council Tax payer in Harlow. We believe it is the right thing to do rather than close or significantly cutback services.
“Government spending cuts compounded by rising costs, reduced income and rising demand for services means that the Council has to budget to save a total of £1.5 million in 2014/15.“
Councillor Tony Durcan, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Resources and Enterprise, added: “We have worked hard looking at every single Council budget to save money and see how we can fund services and protect jobs. Increasing Council Tax is something Councils across the country are proposing. Clearly we are very reluctant to increase our share of Council Tax but we know that the services we can protect as a result are important to local people and we have resisted increasing Council Tax up to the current maximum permissible to protect local people.
“We are very aware that the Government’s on-going significant cuts in the funding of the Council means that the tougher decisions will have to be taken in the coming years. You simply cannot continue to lose that much money without having an effect on services and jobs. We have done well to balance this year’s budget but the future outlook is bleak.”
The budget includes over 43 savings proposals to save the Council £1.5m. Savings will be achieved through transferring further discretionary services (Community Safety and Leisure & Cultural Teams) to the Discretionary Services Fund, exploring shared services for back office services, reducing supplies & services and running expenses budgets, reducing building cleaning contract costs, savings on insurance costs, review of cost sharing between the Housing Revenue Account and General Fund, deletion of vacant posts and efficiency savings in the housing options and advice service.
Same old Labour - two years in charge - two Council Tax rises for hard pressed Harlow Residents. They are also making use of the Discretionary Services Fund, put in place by the last Tory Administration, and opposed by (you've guessed it!) Labour in Opposition. Do this lot have a single policy of their own, or even a vague clue as to what they are doing???