Harlow Council: Budget proposals will support services through pandemic (but council tax to go up)

Harlow Council / Thu 14th Jan 2021 am31 08:48am

HARLOW Council’s budget proposals for 2021 to 2022 have been published today. For the eighth year running the budget proposes no cuts to any services or redundancies. There will also be continued support for residents affected by the pandemic plus much-needed investment in the town’s future.

The budget also proposes a 1.99% council tax increase in Harlow Council’s share of the council tax bill. This is an extra 10p per week for a band c home in the town. This increase will help to stabilise the council’s finances as it deals with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The main headlines from the proposals are:

·         The Council Tax hardship fund will be allocated a further £300,000 so residents facing hardship due to the pandemic will continue to be supported.

·         A £1.3m fund will be created to help manage council services through recovery from the pandemic to ensure delivery continues.  This also means that services that are not currently able operation in the pandemic will be able to reopen with their full budgets in place. This includes popular services such as Harlow Playhouse, Pets’ Corner, Harlow Museum, Sam’s Place and the Leah Manning Centre.

·         £26m investment in council housing stock and £17.8m investment in other capital schemes including development of employment space, environmental projects and desperately needed new housing. 

·       There will be money for projects to regenerate the town centre, improvements to the town park and Pets’ Corner and enhancements to the Museum Walled Gardens. Additional money will be allocated for the health and safety improvements to the paddling pools.

·         The large majority of council fees and charges will be frozen and not increased, including car parking charges in neighbourhood shopping centres and in our car parks in the Town Centre.

·         For council tenants there is a proposed 1.5% affordable rent increase which is in line government policy. This means from 6 April 2020 the average weekly housing rent will increase by £1.39 a week to £93.66 a week. 

·         There will be increased money to support those who are homeless or facing homelessness.

·         Priority still given to energy efficiency improvements and fire safety works to council homes. 

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “Through taking tough decisions in the past and ensuring that we have money put aside we can propose a budget which will continue to see us through these difficult times and importantly support our residents and the town. Like every organisation and business the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on our income and we expect to receive further grant support from the government, which will help and is most welcome. However, the ongoing support from government is going to be vital to us and every other council in the country.

“We know a council tax increase, whatever the cost per week, is going to be hard to take. But it will help balance our budget due to the impact of COVID-19, it will help maintain our services and support our residents and the town. A stable financial position also means that we can continue to adapt and respond to the challenges this pandemic creates and support the town in its recovery. The last thing anyone needs is a council cutting its local services and not investing in the future. We are also allocating an additional £300,000 to support those facing hardship. This ensures those most in the need will get the support in paying their council tax bills this year. 

Councillor Mike Danvers, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: “We continue to do everything we can to protect services, protect council jobs and invest in improving opportunities for Harlow. Despite the challenges of this pandemic, for the eighth year running we propose no cuts to services, no permanent service closures and no redundancies, which is a remarkable achievement for any council. These proposals will continue to put the council in a stable financial position as we work through this pandemic and support the town. There are a number of our popular community services which currently cannot operate due to government guidance. But, the budgets for these services such as the Harlow Playhouse, Pets’ Corner, Harlow Museum, Sam’s Place and the Leah Manning Centre will be protected so when they can reopen fully they will be safe and they will be able to thrive once again.”

Harlow’s budget proposals will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 21 January 2021 and debated at the Full Council meeting on 28 January 2021. Harlow’s total council tax bill for 2021 to 2022 will be agreed in February at the Special Council meeting on 25 February 2021. 

A copy of the Cabinet agenda and reports can be read at https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=121&MId=1278&Ver=4

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