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 on 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.”
A copy of the budget reports and the agenda for the Cabinet meeting on 15 February can be read here.