Council tax to rise to a legal maximum!

austerity-1Harrow council to increase council tax by 2.99% and 2.0% in respect of the Adult Social Care Precept in 2019/20.
Can the Harrow council fulfil resident expectations of low council tax and high quality care or support? The short answer is not really – not because they are not interested in providing better services but because of severe reduction in council budgets as part of the government austerity programme.
By 2020, local authorities will have faced a reduction to core funding from the government of nearly £16 billion over the preceding decade.
How laughable was Tory Cllr Hall’s defence of her party’s economic policies at the last Harrow council meeting.
Harrow has seen its Revenue Support Grant reduced by 97% over a 7 year period, reducing the grant to £1.566m by 2019/20. This has translated into minimum cash reserves and budget gaps that the council has needed to fund over the seven year period 2015/16 to 2021/22 to achieve a balanced budget.
“Since 2013 the Government support grant to Harrow has been reduced year on year and will disappear altogether in 2021. Currently there is a funding gap of £125 million if we were to deliver services at their 2013 levels” informed Cllr Adam Swersky, portfolio holder for finance.
In briefing some from the voluntary sector, he also said that there are still further cuts in council services to be made and Harrow has to raise their council tax by the maximum permitted before having to call a local referendum.
Some of the cuts in services currently being looked at are that the only direct access by phone to the council will be to Adult and Children’s services, all others will have to be through a newly improved Harrow website. Community space, such as Parks etc will continue to rely on the user communities for support.
In reporting the briefing meeting to the Harrow Voluntary and Community Sector Forum, Bill Phillips, a forum representative, said Cllr Swersky was informed how the pressures from the revenue earning areas of the council is adversely affecting the work of some community organisations. For example,  the hitherto peppercorn rents being made fully commercial when reaching a rent review and small community based organisations like scout buildings being reassessed for full business rates.