Proposed budget protects services, protects jobs and creates new apprenticeships

Date: 
Wednesday, 16 January, 2019
Number: 
19-5

Harlow Council’s budget proposals for 2019/20 have been published today (16 January 2019) which will protect services, protect jobs and create new apprenticeships. 

The Administration’s budget for 2019/20 will be recommended to Cabinet next Thursday (24 January 2019) and Council on 7 February 2019.

Harlow Council’s share of Council Tax will increase by two percent this year, which is an extra 9p a week (£4.84 a year) for a Band C household. Although Harlow Council sends out Council Tax bills it doesn’t keep all the money. Harlow Council only keeps £16 of every £100 collected with the rest split between Essex Police, the Fire Service and Essex County Council.

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

  • No redundancies.
  • No cuts or closures to any Council-run services.
  • Long-term funding for the popular Pets’ Corner, which moves out of the Discretionary Services Fund back into the main budget.
  • The creation of 11 new apprenticeship jobs across the Council who will be paid the voluntary living wage foundation employer rate of £9 an hour (the national minimum wage rate for under-25s is £7.38 an hour).
  • Funding for Harlow Carnival, Bonfire & Fireworks Night and Christmas lights in the town centre.
  • More money to prevent homelessness.
  • Fees in Council-owned car parks frozen for the sixth year running.
  • One-hour free parking to continue in neighbourhood shopping centres and in the Town Park.

The proposals also set out the Council’s housing budget for 2019/20 which include:

  • 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 £90.74 to £89.84. 
  • Funding also continues to be put aside for any further fire safety measures to Council managed tower blocks once the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry has concluded. 

The budget also includes provision for a proposed increase of £8,000 in the overall allowances budget for Councillors. This follows an independent panel’s recommendation to increase the basic allowances and special responsibility allowances for Councillors. This will be considered separately by the Council on 7 February 2019 and if agreed would be the first increase in the basic councillor allowance since 2010.  

In 2019/20, £600,000 of savings are proposed by the Administration to meet reductions in funding and other funding pressures. The Council Tax increase of two percent will generate around £140,000 for the Council. 

Councillor Mike Danvers, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said:

“We will do everything we can to protect services, protect Council jobs and invest in improving opportunities for Harlow. With this proposed budget we are doing all three.

“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. I am pleased that we can propose another budget which protects all services, our employees’ jobs and creates new jobs and opportunities for local people."

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“This budget is good news for Harlow, for protecting services and jobs and creating new apprenticeships, 11 apprentices that will be paid a proper living wage and not the minimum wage. These will be opportunities for local people to start a career working for their town and Council.

“When protecting services this means no cuts to things like cleaning the streets, grass cutting, community safety, environmental health and waste and recycling services. But it also means we will continue to provide a range of much-loved services, facilities and events for families like the Playhouse, open spaces and parks, playgrounds, the paddling pools, fireworks night, Pets’ Corner, the street carnival and services like the Leah Manning Centre which provides essential daycare for older people in the town.  

“We don’t want to put Council Tax up at any time, but you have to make these decisions when there is uncertainty over the future of funding from Government and when you want to help protect services and jobs from any cuts.”

The Cabinet reports for the general fund and housing budget proposals for 2019/20 can be viewed at https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=1015&x=1