Tory-run Harlow Council proposes council tax freeze for third year in a row as 2024 budget announced

Harlow Council / Thu 8th Feb 2024 at 11:00am

HARLOW Council is set to freeze its share of the Council Tax bill for the third year running as part of its budget for 2024 to 2025 which will see no cuts to any council services and record investments into delivering residents’ priorities. 

Around £13 of every £100 collected in Council Tax in the town pays directly for Harlow Council services with the rest paying for services provided by Essex County Council, Essex Police and Essex Fire & Rescue Service. The county council, Essex Police and the Fire Service are all proposing increases to their share of Council Tax this year.

The council’s budget proposals published today (7 February 2024) will protect popular and essential services and invest millions into delivering its new priorities which are to: transform Harlow’s housing, renew our neighbourhoods, rebuild our town, secure investment for Harlow’s future, protect our communities and deliver high-performing council services.  

The budget proposals for 2024 to 2025 include: 

  • Another freeze in Harlow Council’s share of Council Tax. A typical band C household will continue to pay just £4.93 per week for Harlow Council services.
  • A 7.7% housing rent increase in line with government guidelines taking the average rent from £104.18 to £112.20 a week; still the lowest levels of rent when compared to similar councils.
  • Over £60 million investment to transform Harlow’s housing by repairing and improving existing council homes with a further £59 million to deliver housing services.
  • Over £37 million to rebuild our town with 103 new council homes for Harlow families as part of the council’s housebuilding programme.
  • Over £32 million to carry out improvements and upgrades to the Harlow Playhouse, Pets’ Corner, Paddling Pools and splash parks, Harlow Museum, and the Latton Bush Centre and funding to protect green spaces from unauthorised traveller encampments.
  • Over £1.2 million investment into upgrading council-owned assets such as shopping hatches and neighbourhood shopping centres.
  • A new Neighbourhood Renewal Fund to deliver targeted neighbourhood renewal projects.
  • No cuts or closures, but increased investment for services such as Pets’ Corner, Harlow Playhouse, Harlow Museum, the Leah Manning Centre, Town Park, paddling pools, and splash parks.
  • No cuts, but increased investment for essential day-to-day services like bin collections, street cleaning, landscape and parks maintenance, housing repairs and supported housing.
  • Free car parking periods in the neighbourhood shopping centres and Town Park will continue.
  • Some small and proportional increases in certain fees and charges, but much-loved services such as Pets’ Corner, Museum and the paddling pools and splash parks will remain free-to-use. 
  • Funding to continue keeping Harlow streetlights on all night, every night, and funding for more CCTV to protect our communities.

The proposals will be discussed by Cabinet on 15 February 2024 and debated at the Full Council meeting on 22 February 2024.

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“It is no secret that councils up and down the country are facing a huge challenge to balance their budgets and protect services from cuts. But in Harlow it is a different story: we are proposing to continue to freeze Harlow’s share of Council Tax and protect our much-loved and essential services, while investing record amounts into delivering our residents’ priorities.

“To balance our budget in 2024 to 2025, we need to fill a gap of £1.7m. But thanks to our sound financial management and a better-than-expected settlement from the government, which increases our funding, we are proposing to reduce that gap significantly without any impact on our services.

“Our budget will invest more money into our residents’ priorities. There will be more money than ever for transforming Harlow’s housing, renewing our neighbourhoods, rebuilding our town, securing investment for Harlow’s future, protecting our communities, and delivering high-performing council services.

“There will be over £60m this year to improve the standard of council homes with over £7 million towards upgrading the external features of council homes, £2 million for roof replacements and £12.6 million for fire safety works across council homes and flat blocks. We have worked hard to reduce the housing repairs backlog, but we need to continue that good work and ensure that our tenants are living in decent homes. 

“Rents will need to go up in line with government guidelines, but our housing rents will continue to still be considerably less than it would be renting a private property.  Not only are we investing millions into transforming council housing, we are ensuring that the services our tenants receive also improve.”

Councillor James Leppard, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance, said:

“Once again, our Council Tax freeze will buck the national trend. Councils and public bodies up and down the country will be increasing their share of Council Tax bills this year, whereas in Harlow we will be freezing our share for the third-year running.

“We can’t control what the overall Council Tax bill will be as the greater part is set by Essex County Council and the Fire & Police Commissioner, but we can control how much residents pay in their bill for our services. This year residents will not pay a single penny more for Harlow Council services with our share of the bill remaining at the same level as it was in 2021.

“Some 6,000 plus households on low incomes will continue to receive support with their overall Council Tax bill. For the 11th year running, our Council Tax Support Scheme will remain unchanged and fund up to 76% of the overall Council Tax bill for those of working age and up to 100% for those of pensionable age eligible for support.”

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17 Comments for Tory-run Harlow Council proposes council tax freeze for third year in a row as 2024 budget announced:

2024-02-08 12:02:39

If only this was not a small amount of the overall contribution. Its basically Essex CC increasing its price significantly, to do things like give £500K to comedians to run a dodgy web page. All the while failing to fill in pot holes. The PCC is also increasing its taxes as well. So my message is do not be grateful for this demand from our politicians that our taxes are reduced even further.

Gary Roberts
2024-02-08 12:39:49

I am sure I was told there is to be local elections in early May!

2024-02-08 13:05:30

Mr Roberts, the Budget is set every year in February and under the current system, elections are normally held each May. So there is nothing unusual. What is your point?

Bruce Downey
2024-02-08 13:37:55

“All out” elections I think is his point.. rent increase again!

Nicholas Taylor
2024-02-08 13:48:08

With so many councils going bust and inflation still running at about 5% one might ask just how the Council can freeze its portion of the Council Tax again ? Part of the answer is the non filling of vacant posts and the deletion of many others. This can only mean one thing, a poorer service. Only this morning have I come across another example of how the public are being let down by this council. At the same time, it has already been pointed out that council rents are going to go up again as is of course the ECC and other parts of the overall tax levied.

Dan Swords
2024-02-08 14:01:40

Mr Taylor, all vacant posts (a small number) are being recruited to and this budget deletes no jobs, but actually creates new jobs and recruits more staff increasing overall headcount.

2024-02-08 14:27:16

@Dan is should be reducing jobs, we need a massive reduction in state employees. Start with any related to diversity inclusion and equality or DIE as it is better known

2024-02-08 15:56:14

Harlow Tories vote to freeze the smallest part of Council tax, then some of the same Harlow Tories vote to increase the larger part that goes to Tory Essex County Council. The result? Council tax rises for Harlow residents but an ever decreasing proportion of that Council tax available for Harlow Council to spend in Harlow.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-02-08 16:31:27

Mr Swords, I was not just referring to the freeze in tax this year. You had 43 vacant posts last year which means in the scheme of things you saved money. And what about the 19 posts you deleted? I won't go into details of what happened this morning in these pages but it was as a direct result of not filling a post.

2024-02-08 16:44:03

Nicholas - It is good we have less state employees.

2024-02-08 16:54:17

A small good gesture from HCC, but it's taking your eye off the bigger picture. ECC putting their part up, police putting their put up Water providers putting their bills up BBC putting their licence up. All these Companies are all charging us more money for what we have already paid for over and over again and still not doing what they should be doing with our money. Roads - absolutely diabolical Town centre - absolute bomb site and disgrace Water Companies- charging us again what we have been paying for for years and no long time maintenance being done and now the main reason for their hike is to pay for the pollution to our rivers. To many house being built with bo infrastructure to cope with them, thirty years ago Rye house said they did not have the capability to deal with the new estate by the train station and since then the properties in and around harlow has nearly doubled, with more planned TV licence - Since losing piped in trials most properties in Harlow cannot get free view unless an trial is purchased or people pay for it through Virgin or Sky So we are paying more than once for this service, HOW THE HELL IS THIS FAIR AND RIGHT. This government and council is all take and no give and its about time people started to say enough is enough. The people on their high purchased have no idea how much we are all struggling and it's about time they bloody realise we cannot afford to do this anymore

Bruce Downey
2024-02-08 17:07:25

Adam, Robots will take all our jobs.. RAYE)

Matthew Kirkbride
2024-02-08 18:01:07

Adam, what you are saying is Greek to the Harlow Labour councillors. They are probably all from the 'public' sector and have no business or management skills needed to run a Council. They let the officers run the show and put up taxes as told. We have all seen it over a decade while they were in administration. Mark moans that it is only the smallest element of council: so? Labour grabbed every Penny they could from residents and wasted it on consultants fees for projects that never happened. This current administration is definitely different and definitely better.

2024-02-08 18:36:54

Matthew the current admin is better yes but it is not hard to be better. We need to be dynamic and bold and the state cannot be either. I would like to see Harlow Council refusing to pass on to Essex CC their element or charging Essex CC a large handling fee until they sorted the roads out and had a full audit of where the council tax is going. To much is lost to those with connections! They will not of course as many town councillors are also county councillors.

2024-02-08 19:04:56

Well done HDC, it's nice to see a "can do" attitude to running Harlow, makes a change from the previous rabble that was too interested in pushing Corbyn and his "Momentum" cult followers

Geoff Whiting
2024-02-09 10:55:03

Tax freeze during an election year? You shock me. Just means they'll double down in 25

2024-02-09 11:00:52

Geoff Whiting, every year since 2021 has been a Council election year. The current Conservative administration made a manifesto pledge in 2021 to cut the Harlow element of council tax in their first budget and to freeze it for the next two years. They are simply honouring their pledge in some contrast to Labour's flip flop,u-turn Starmer.

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