Dec 19 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
HOUSEHOLDS in Harrow could face forking out an average £30 extra next year to help pay for public services.
Harrow Council’s Labour administration proposes a two per cent council tax increase from April, in order to raise an additional £1.8million towards the cost of running its services – following on from two years of council tax freezes underwritten by the government.
This would mean a rise of £30 for band D properties.
The draft 2013/14 budget shows all directorates at Harrow Civic Centre would have bigger cutbacks, worth a total of £20.3m, than investments, which come to £12m.
Reductions in the highways maintenance budget, scaling back both the street cleaning teams and the joint Brent and Harrow trading standards service, scrapping several traffic and highways jobs and potentially discontinuing the council’s trade waste collection service are pencilled in for the financially hardest hit area of the council.
Other potentially controversial proposals include the closure of loss-making car parks but the introduction of fees at Harrow Civic Centre car park; converting parks to open spaces; reducing the number and frequency of the council’s formal committees; withdrawing discretionary business rates relief for charity shops; and lowering the subsidy for Hatch End Pool, Harrow Arts Centre, Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre, and Roger Bannister stadium by increasing ‘commercialisation and investment opportunities’.
Labour intends to axe the £58,000 Harrow Young Musicians grant, charge for non-statutory educational psychology to generate £125,000, introduce new terms and conditions for staff to save £960,000, use stringent purchasing procedures to reduce spending by £500,000, hold a ‘strategic review’ of residential care to cut £1.5m and remodel the children’s centres to diminish outgoings by £173,000.
The council would spend £1.5m on meeting growing demand for adult social care, £1m tackling homelessness, £912,000 on its share of covering West London Waste Authority’s shortfall and £832,000 for terminating contracts for council vehicles early.
Its plans were criticised by the Conservative opposition leader and former portfolio holder for environmental services, councillor Susan Hall.
“Public realm is the area of council services which affects every single resident in Harrow, and they don’t deserve to see them cut whenever Labour are looking to make savings,” she said.
“Frustratingly, the background documents Labour have provided give no insight into what specific services will be affected.”
The final budget will be introduced to the cabinet committee in February and then must be agreed by the full council.