Dec 6 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
POPULAR public services will be maintained, but with potential reductions in scope or opening hours in a bid to help the civic centre balance its books, the council announced this week.
Harrow Council’s ruling Labour administration said it will continue with weekly bin collections and promised to keep the libraries, sports and cultural centres and children centres open, although no guarantee was given about protecting opening hours and said ‘further difficult decisions’ may have to be made.
Spending has to be slashed by £24million, with £19million of that accounted for in the draft 2013/14 budget published today (Thursday) and another £5million to go.
Councillor Sachin Shah (Labour), portfolio holder for finance, told the Observer: “We are coping with huge and devastating cuts from the Tory government. We know we had a lot of money to cut from our budget. Democratic pressures, both in adults’ and childrens’ services, the cuts in welfare reform and the cuts to our government grant are the three main reasons why our savings target has doubled in the past five months.
“We haven’t identified all the savings we need and we are working out at the moment how we are going to do that. We can’t rule out further difficult decisions.”
Labour is reviewing whether to close services such as commercial waste disposal and pest control that are not breaking even.
It intends to take long leases on private properties to help house people on its housing waiting list and will set up an agency to distribute grants to landlords to bring homes up to scratch.
Gayton Library, in St John’s Road, Harrow, and the Civic Centre Library, in Station Road, Harrow, will be merged, although the location for the new set-up has not been revealed.
The London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour will be adopted and the council will implement the controversial PRISM project, where frontline environmental staff will use handheld technology, resulting in some 59 redundancies.
Council leader Thaya Idaikkadar (Labour) said: “We have to match expenses to income, like balancing a family budget.
“You can increase income by taking a second job and you can cut outgoings by switching off the central heating and cutting down on food and clothing, but it still may not be enough.”
The cabinet committee will consider the draft budget on Thursday, December 13.
The council is unable to confirm whether there will be a council tax freeze until the size of its government grant is confirmed on December 19.