People in Harrow will face a 4.99 per cent increase to their council tax bills as the borough’s latest budget was approved by councillors.
Harrow Council approved the tax hike – of which three per cent will be ringfenced for adult social care services – alongside the management of a funding gap of around £8 million at a full council meeting yesterday (Thursday, February 25).
Cllr Adam Swersky (Lab, West Harrow), who is responsible for finance at Harrow Council, explained it had been forced to make “tough decisions” due to £50 million worth of funding cuts from central government over the past decade.
“Year after year, councils are left with devastating uncertainty around their finances, which means they cannot make the investments in local services that are so badly needed,” he said.
“[But] because of our decisions, we can invest in our residents’ most important priorities – to tackle inequality, provide affordable housing, keep our schools great, and our streets clean and safe.”
He added the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic had heaped more pressure on the council’s finances in terms of increased costs and lost income.
The council has repeatedly called on the Government to fully reimburse it for any unexpected costs brought on by the pandemic to ensure further strains are not placed on residents in the future.
Cllr Paul Osborn (Con, Pinner), leader of Harrow Conservatives, said the budget presented represented another year of the Labour-run council “blaming the Government” for its own failings.
He added the 2021/22 edition contained funding gaps for future years and “will not do anything to help Harrow recover from Covid”.
His group put forward an amendment to the budget which included proposals for 60 minutes free parking near shopping areas to support local businesses, the creation of a task force to manage littering and fly-tipping, and plans to tackle speeding in the borough.
In her response to the amendment, Dawn Calvert, director of finance at Harrow Council, described the suggestions as “reasonable” and based on “prudent costing assumptions”.
However, she also highlighted the “risk” around applying a commercialisation reserve into its budget, noting officers had recommended this be consolidated into a broader reserved budget for unforeseen issues.
Councillors ultimately rejected the Conservatives’ proposals and agreed to the recommendations put forward by the Labour administration, with only Cllr Nitin Parekh (Lab, Edgware) abstaining in the votes due to his position as mayor.