Budget proposes zero Council tax increase, no cuts to services and £1m investment to improve Harlow

Date: 
Wednesday, 17 January, 2018
Number: 
18-4

Harlow Council’s budget proposals for 2018/19 have been published today (17 January 2018).

The Administration’s budget for 2018/19 will be recommended to Cabinet next Thursday (25 January 2017) and Council on 1 February 2018.

Despite the Council having to balance its budget to meet ongoing cuts in its funding from the Government, the proposals include: 

  • No Council Tax increase for 2018/19 - a Band C home will continue to pay £4.65 a week for Harlow Council services. 
  • £1m one-off investment to improve the look of and to tidy up neighbourhoods and estates across the town. 
  • Long-term funding for both the Playhouse and for Pets’ Corner. 
  • Funding to employ three permanent community safety officers to work in shopping centres. 
  • Funding for an annual street carnival 
  • Fees in Council-owned car parks frozen for the fifth year running.
  • One-hour free parking to continue in neighbourhood shopping centres and in the Town Park.
  • No compulsory redundancies.
  • No increases in allowances for Councillors.

In 2018/19 £1m of savings are proposed by the Administration. 

The proposals also set out the Council’s housing budget. A one percent rent reduction for tenants will be met while continuing to protect housing services and making plans to build more Council housing. The average weekly housing rent will go down from £91.73 to £90.74. There is also funding being put aside for any further fire safety measures to Council tower blocks once the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry has concluded. 

Councillor Mike Danvers, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said:

“Some of the financial pressure we face can be eased by using profit from the commercial activities of our new company HTS. All this money comes straight back to us now rather than being shared with a private company.

“Our commitment is to do everything we can to protect services, protect jobs and invest in improving Harlow. With this proposed budget we are doing all three along with freezing council tax for our residents. There won’t be many councils this year that can say the same. 

“The Government has continued to cut our funding and it has been hard to protect services and jobs over the years. Over the last 12 years the Council has had to save over £21m to meet government funding cuts. Some difficult decisions taken in the past and sound financial management are bearing fruit now and over the next three years." 

Councillor Emma Toal, Deputy Leader of the Council, said:

“For the first time in five years the Playhouse and Pets’ Corner will have the promise of funding for the long term. Both will stay Council-run services and we will fund them fully from the main budget over the next three years rather than from a separate fund. I know this will remove the uncertainty for the staff who can now get on and develop these services, and it will be a relief for the people that use and love these popular facilities. 

“Clean, well-maintained and cared-for neighbourhoods are something we can all work on together, but as part of our commitment to this, we will spend up to £1m on improving all housing estates over the next year. 

“Harlow is 70 did so much to bring the community together and that legacy must live on. One of the many stand-out events of the birthday year was the street carnival and we will be making that a regular annual event again in the town’s events calendar.”

Cabinet reports for the general fund and housing budget proposals for 2018/19, the Corporate Plan and Medium-Term Financial Strategy for 2018/19 to 2020/21 can be viewed at www.harlow.gov.uk/