Members of Harrogate Borough Council last night unanimously approved the authority’s budget plans, which include:
- Increase of 2.23% in council tax
- Meaning an annual increase of £5 for a Band D household
- Reduction in the central government grant for 2017/18 of £1.6 million
- A balanced council budget for the next financial year
- No cuts in front line services
- Central government grant received by Harrogate Borough Council has reduced by £6.9 million (69% reduction)
- Overall net expenditure has reduced by £7.2 million (29% reduction)
By 2018/19 there will be no funding from central government
For 2016/17 financial year:
- Council has identified over £1.2 million in savings
- New income on top of the £2.6 million
Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council said: Harrogate has not been immune to cuts in central government funding, but despite this we are managing to maintain our valued frontline services. We have created a strong, robust budget, which has received support from all political parties, and which will allow us to continue to provide the services which matter to the community. This is no mean feat in the current age of austerity.
We do not increase council tax lightly. For six years, between 2010 and 2016, we managed to freeze the Harrogate borough element and when we do have to make increases, we will keep them as low as possible.
This rise amounts to less than 10 pence per week on a Band D property, but it will allow us to continue to provide the high levels of service expected by our residents.
We have created a budget which provides nearly £800,000 in community grant funding to support the worthwhile projects undertaken by the district’s voluntary organisations, charities and community groups.
Homelessness is becoming a growing social problem, and we are providing £30,000 of funding for the Harrogate Homeless Project to support their efforts.
It is also important that the district has good leisure and sporting facilities and this budget will allow us to progress our plans to build a new swimming pool in Ripon.
The budget will help us to maintain and grow our housing stock, which will help us to provide affordable housing for the people of the district.
Our award winning parks and gardens will continue to be a draw for both residents and visitors, whilst funding for the district’s fabulous Christmas lights, will continue to boost our local economy by enticing shoppers into our towns.
It will also help us to maintain our kerbside recycling service, which sees over 40 per cent of household waste diverted from landfill sites.
We can no longer rely on future central government funding and must find alternative ways of funding the work that we do. This is not simply about how we can make further savings; it is also about how we can generate more income to ensure that council tax rises only take place when it is absolutely necessary.
We are undertaking new commercial projects and have and have a strategy to reduce costs by moving more services online. In addition, this spring the council is moving to a new civic centre, which will generate significant efficiency savings.
I believe we have created a budget which is right for the council and right for the tax payer.
In seconding the proposed budget, Councillor Pat Marsh, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council’s Liberal Democrat Group said: Whilst the Liberal Democrats are happy to support the budget, the way that the Government treat Local Government finances has to be brought into question. Changes are being notified in late December and are still not ratified which makes it very difficult to produce a balanced budget, but this has been achieved by Harrogate Borough Council officers and they have to be commended in doing this.
There has been little room for manoeuvre or for the setting of an alternative budget, however our request to maintain the parish grass cutting grants and concessions for pensioners for our pest control services, amongst other requests, have all been accepted into the budget. Our request to prioritise the setting up of a Housing Trust is very important – Housing and Homelessness are major issues for many people in our district and this does need urgent attention.
Working cooperatively as a council during the budget process in these austere times means that front line services have been protected and we will always make that a priority. As a council we must remain focused on what we are elected for and that is to serve all our residents, hopefully this budget will reflect that.