Two major financial consultations are being carried out this autumn as Harrogate Borough Council faces yet further reductions in the grant it will receive from central government.
Over the past two years the council’s grant has been cut by £2.7m and next year it anticipates a further drop of £790,000.
Despite this, the council has not increased its council tax over this period and has managed to plug the funding gap by making major efficiency savings whilst, at the same time, limiting a reduction in services.
The council is asking local residents, businesses and voluntary organisations for their thoughts on its proposals for setting a balanced budget for next year with the council having enough money to deliver the services it believes local people want to see it provide.
There is more financial uncertainty facing the council as the government also brings in major changes to the way council tax benefit is administered and funded.
From April 2013, local councils will be responsible both for funding council tax benefit and administering it.
As part of this reform, government funding is to be cut from 100 per cent of annual expenditure on council tax benefit to 90 per cent of predicted expenditure. In Harrogate Borough Council’s case this will amount to a cut of over £112,000.
Councillor Ivor Fox, Cabinet Member for Resources, says he hopes people will take the time to look at these important consultation documents.
Councillor Ivor Fox said:
Although this council is responsible for collecting council tax for all the local precepting bodies – North Yorkshire County Council, North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and Parish Councils – it gets to keep just 14p in every pound collected.
Our position has been better than many district councils and we have been able to absorb much of the cuts in grant. But each year it is getting more difficult. However, we are keen to make sure that the cuts in council tax benefit grant do not impact on the most vulnerable in our society. We are planning to make sure that those most in need do not see a reduction in the help they get with their council tax at least for the next financial year. We are consulting on a new local council tax reduction scheme that is tailored to meet this district’s needs.
Both consultation questionnaires are available on the home page of the council’s website (www.harrogate.gov.uk – under “Get Involved – Have your say”).
Paper copies of the questionnaires are available from 01423 556068