Harlow Council will need to save over £1m in 2016/17 now the full impact of the Government’s Local Government Settlement is known.
On 17 December 2015 the draft Local Government Settlement was announced which sets out how much money Councils will receive from the Government. The Council had anticipated and planned for a cut to the main grant of 10% but the Government’s announcement exceeded this significant level of funding cut. For 2016/17 the Council will receive a cut from the Government of £346,000 more than the Council had anticipated.
Reacting to the impact of the settlement, Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “I am afraid that this is not good news for Harlow residents. Following year-on-year reductions in our main Government grant funding, along with increases in costs that we need to bear in 2016/17, we will have to save over £1m to balance our books. Having assessed the impact of the latest settlement we are a little bit clearer on what it all means for Harlow Council but we are still none the wiser on what the future of Local Government funding will be once the main grant is phased out for local Councils in the years to come. This creates further uncertainty for Council services and residents. We know we could face having to make further cuts of £3m up to 2021 on top of this £1m for 2016/17 and the multi-million pound savings already made in previous years.
“Since 2011/12 the Council’s main grant from Government, which funds nearly half of the Council’s services like waste and recycling, street cleaning, parks and open spaces, food safety, planning, licensing and pollution control, has reduced by over 65 per cent. The settlement will see funding from the Government reduce even further. Since 2011/12 the Council has saved more than £8m to balance its books due to these reductions while protecting the services it provides as much as possible.
Councillor Clempner, adds: “The Council will continue to work hard to protect services and jobs but there will come a point when this can no longer be achieved. We continue to look at ways to keep costs down by improving what we do and how we do it. The Council’s priority is to work with residents to make the money we do receive have the biggest impact on improving Harlow.”
The Administration’s budget proposals for 2016/17 will be considered by Cabinet on 28 January 2016 and Council on 4 February 2016 along with the Council’s Medium-Term Financial Strategy. At the same time the Council will also agree its Council housing budgets and its Capital investment budgets.
Councillor Clempner, said: “There remains considerable uncertainty over the future funding for Council housing. We already expect to have less income through proposals to change rent levels which will reduce our housing budget by £12.8m over four years from April 2016. This means less money for Council housing services, modernising and maintaining Council homes and the building of new Council homes. Therefore we are looking carefully at how we prioritise what we do and how we do it. We will work hard to minimise the impact on our 11,000 plus tenants but we are also going to have difficult choices to make on Council housing.”
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