Budget Consultation

Budget Consultation findings - planning for the future

The findings from the consultation, which ran from 1 July to 31 August 2013, will help inform the decisions Harlow Council will have to make in the wake of ongoing Government funding cuts.

The findings are the result of responses from 1,029 people, 489 household surveys were returned which gives a statistically reliable sample of households in Harlow. A further 540 surveys were completed online and on paper by other residents or groups who wanted to have a say.

It is important to state that no decisions about any service have been made at this point. The Council will be following its usual budget-setting process with proposals for 2015-16 set to be announced in January 2015.

Budget consultation findings and what will happen next

Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow Council, talks about the findings of the budget consultation findings and what will happen next

Transcript for video

What was the consultation for?

Harlow Council continues to face difficult financial challenges as a result of the continued grant reductions from the Government. The Council’s Government grant, which funds nearly half (46%) of the Council’s services, has reduced by nearly 50% from 2011 to 2014/15. The current forecasts indicate that this situation will worsen with an expected further grant reduction of 16% in 2015/16 and 10% in 2016/17.

This means the Council is planning for a future with a lot less money to spend on services in Harlow. The Council has to save £5.3m over the next four years. In 2015/16 the Council will need to save £1.3m.

The survey included funding choices for over 20 different services Harlow Council provides or pays for directly. The Council provides both discretionary services (services the Council is not legally obliged to provide) and statutory services (services the Council has to provide by law). There were also questions on Council Tax levels and what residents’ priorities are for making Harlow a better place to live.

The purpose of the consultation was to get your views on the services you believe we should continue to fund in future.

Transcript for video - Budget consultation findings and what will happen next

On Wednesday the 10th September, the Council will be publishing the results of the Budget Consultation.

This is the biggest consultation we have run on such an important subject, and I’m extremely grateful to the over 1000 people who shared their views on budget priorities.

It is clear from the consultation that the people of Harlow share my view on making a positive and visible difference to Harlow. Things like parks playground and green spaces, and street cleanings are high up on the list of priorities. We have already made progress on these areas, but will be giving further consideration as part of the budget process.

In terms of the detail, the priorities around discretionary services, i.e. those things that the Council is not required my law to provide, the priorities were parks, playgrounds and green spaces, regeneration of the town, and reducing anti-social behaviour.

Of course with all the discretionary services, the majority of people wanted to maintain the services as they are, but they have also given a very clear steer on what their priorities are.

And on the Statutory services, the priorities were road and pavement repairs, recognising that most of those are owned and maintained by Essex County Council, but Harlow council does maintain some local estate roads, Street cleaning and meeting the housing need.

Of course we have to do all of this within the constraints of the money available to us, which has been reducing significantly over time, and will continue to reduce over the coming years.

We also gave the opportunity for people to tells us what services the council doesn’t provide and it is interesting that although street lights are the responsibility of Essex County Council, that is high up on residents priorities as well.

I want to make it clear that no decisions have yet been made on specific services.

What I want to do now is ask the people of Harlow to look at the results of the consultation, which is available on line on the Council’s website, as well as being available in paper form from the Civic Centre, and let me have their feedback.

We will be taking into account the consultation and the feedback, in the budget process over the next few months, leading to the publication of the budget in January 2015.

The decisions we have to make are challenging decisions, with an ever-reducing amount of money.

We have to get the balance right between reflecting the priorities of the people of Harlow, the constraints placed on us both with regard to the amount of money and what we are allowed to do with it, those decisions being sustainable in the medium to long term, and ensuring fairness of all.

Thank you to all those that have contributed so far, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue.