Harlow Council is set to freeze its share of the Council Tax bill as it unveils its budget plans for the year ahead.
Around £15 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 council says its budget proposals published today (8 February 2023) will protect popular and essential services and invest millions to regenerate the town, repair existing council homes, build new council homes, and restore pride in the town.
The proposals for 2023 to 2024 include:
- Freezing Harlow Council's share of Council Tax. This means a typical band C household will continue to pay just £4.93 per week for the range of services Harlow Council provides.
- A further planned Council Tax freeze in 2024 to 2025.
- A below inflation 7% housing rent increase in line with government guidelines. This means the average weekly rent for council tenants increases by £6.82 per week to £104.18.
- A £102 million, 5-year housing repairs programme to improve existing council homes with priority given to roofing repairs, damp and mould works, fire safety and energy efficiency works. In 2023 to 2024, £25.5m is set to be spent on works.
- More money to deliver the council's housebuilding programme with £38.8 million to build new homes for Harlow families.
- A £79 million, 5-year programme to improve council-owned facilities across the town with £13.5m set to be spent in 2023 to 2024. Includes funding secured from government’s Towns Fund and Levelling Up Fund.
- No cuts and more funding for popular family services such as Pets’ Corner, Harlow Playhouse, Harlow Museum, the Leah Manning Centre, Sam’s Place, Town Park, paddling pools and splash parks.
- No cuts and more funding for essential day-to-day services like bin collections, street cleaning, landscape and parks maintenance, housing repairs and supported housing.
- Funding to continue keeping Harlow streetlights on all night as part of an agreement with Essex County Council.
- Freezing car parking charges in council-owned car parks.
- No increase in councillor allowances.
The proposals will be discussed by Cabinet on 16 February 2023 and debated at the Full Council meeting on 23 February 2023.
“Despite this being one of the most challenging council budgets ever, we will once again honour our commitment to keep Council Tax down for local families and protect much-loved and essential services.”
Councillor Russell Perrin, Leader of the Council, said:
Unprecedented financial challenges
“Despite this being one of the most challenging council budgets ever, we will once again honour our commitment to keep Council Tax down for local families and protect much-loved and essential services.
“Rising inflation, increasing energy costs, and reducing income are impacting councils just like they are households. However, we are better placed than many other councils to meet the financial challenges and to support local people and our services during the cost of living crisis.
Your money, your priorities
“Our budget will continue to invest your money into your priorities.
“There will be money for building much-needed council homes for local families, money for improving existing council houses and flats, money to improve council facilities and money to restore pride in our town with landscaping improvements.”
No cuts to popular and essential day to day services
“Our proposed Council Tax freeze does not mean cuts to popular and essential council services like Pets Corner, Harlow Playhouse, the museum, or the Leah Manning Centre. In fact, we will be spending more money on these services and there will be continued investments that will regenerate and improve our town.
Repairing council houses
“There will be over £25m this year to improve the standard of council homes. I know many of our tenants have concerns about damp and mould, roofing and the energy efficiency of their homes. That’s why, along with fire safety, we will be prioritising these issues which will be funded through the income we receive from rent.
"Our proposed rent increase is below inflation and below the rising costs the council faces as a result of inflation and increasing energy costs. The rent increase means that the average rent for a council home in Harlow will be just over £104 a week, which is still considerably less that renting a private property."
Councillor James Leppard, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance, said:
A Council Tax freeze from Harlow Council
“Our Council Tax freeze will buck the national trend. Councils and public bodies up and down the country will increase their share of Council Tax bills this year. We will freeze our part of the bill this year and we plan to freeze it again next year.
“We can't control what the overall Council Tax bill will be, 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.
Council Tax support for those in need
“Some 6,600 households on low incomes receive support with their Council Tax, and we will continue to support families and households struggling with the cost of living. For the 10th year running our Council Tax Support Scheme will remain unchanged and fund up to three quarters of the overall Council Tax bill for those of working age and up to 100% for those of pensionable age eligible for support.”
A copy of the budget reports can be read here