19 Jan Cllr Jon Clempner: All Harlow Council services will be protected from closure and cuts
All Harlow Council services will be protected from closure and cuts and there will be money set aside for arts in Harlow and Harlow’s 70th birthday celebrations under budget proposals published.
Continued Government funding cuts, reduced income and rising demand for services means that the Council has to save a total of £1.3million in 2017/18. There are no proposals to close or cut services. Instead to help meet the savings gap Harlow Council’s share of Council Tax will increase by 1.99 per cent (9p a week for the average Band C Council Tax bill).
The Administration’s budget proposals for 2017/18 will be recommended to Cabinet next Thursday (26 January 2017) and Council on 2 February 2017.
For 2017/18 the Council will receive a cut in its Government grant of over £630,000 – this is a 15.9 per cent year-on-year reduction and a total cut of 51.7 per cent since 2013/14.
However, spending on residents’ priorities such as parks, playgrounds and grass cutting, tackling anti-social behaviour, regeneration and economic development and street cleaning has once again been protected by the Council. The budget proposals for 2017/18 will also see:
The transfer of £721,000 to the Discretionary Services Fund to support popular community services such as Pets’ Corner, the Paddling Pools, the Playhouse, and to continue to support Bonfire & Fireworks night and Harlow Youth Council.
There will also be no cuts or impact to the Skate Park or to the Council-run Leah Manning Centre and Sam’s Place (a service for young people with disabilities) which receive external funding.
Charges in Council-owned car parks will be frozen for the fourth year running with one-hour free parking staying in neighbourhood shopping centres and the Town Park.
No compulsory redundancies.
No increases in allowances for Councillors.
£20,000 to support Harlow’s 70th birthday celebrations including making small grants available for events organised by local groups.
£20,000 for the arts in Harlow with the money used to extend the opening of the Gibberd Gallery in the Civic Centre to include Saturdays.
Just over £1.1m of efficiency savings are proposed through deleting vacant posts, reducing office, printing and equipment costs. The extension of the waste and recycling collections contract saves £150,000 a year with no impact on residents. More income will be raised through garage rents and land charges income from property sales.
The Council’s annual contribution to Harlow Leisurezone ends in June 2017 saving £312,000. This contribution is part of seven year agreement set up when the new leisure centre replaced the Council-run swimming pool. This contribution has reduced year-on-year due to the facility performing financially better than expected.
Since 2011/12 the Council has saved more than £11m to balance its books due to Government funding reductions while protecting the services it provides as much as possible. The Council expects to have to make further cuts of £661,000 up to 2021 on top of the £1.3m for 2017/18 and the multi-million pound savings already made in previous years.
Councillor Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “Our priority is to do what we can to ensure our services are not taken away from residents and no Council staff are made redundant, and once again through careful management, and making decisions for the long term, we have managed to do this. But this is also a budget which will celebrate our great town and what it has to offer with money for Harlow’s 70th birthday and promoting the arts.
“I know increasing Council Tax again won’t be popular with many but I am determined that the future of Harlow is sustainable and based on sound finances, and not put services at risk by taking short term decisions. A small rise of just 9p a week for the average Council Tax bill helps towards protecting services and jobs and this year we can give something back to Harlow and make it a year of celebrations. So far over 80 suggestions and ideas for events have been made by the community and we want to support these in any way we can, either financially or by helping to promote events.
“We also continue to provide a great range of services for Harlow in extremely difficult financial circumstances and this is something we are proud of. However, we are planning for the future not knowing what will happen to the Council finances particularly after 2021. We know some Government funding will be stopping like the New Homes Bonus and year-on-year our funding will reduce, so there could be some difficult decisions to make in the future particularly with our discretionary services. We will continue to look at every avenue so these services can continue.”