I am sure that many of you followed the chancellor’s recent budget announcements. The £20bn of cuts announced for non ring-fenced departments, including the Department for Communities & Local Government, are challenging and likely to result in even further cuts for Councils, including Harrow.
These further reductions to our budget means we have to think hard about how we can save money. It also means that we need to look at how we can generate income to protect the vital services our residents rely on. We have managed to make significant savings through sharing services with other Councils and renegotiating contracts with our suppliers to get the best value possible – but we can’t end there.
We need to look at other ways to generate income and I am positive that our commercialisation plans can do this – the more money we generate by selling our services to other councils, the more services for our residents we can protect. We have already been successful in establishing an award winning Harrow & Barnet legal partnership that is providing legal advice to other councils.
Now we are looking to expand into other areas. We are purchasing commercial properties, establishing a residential Lettings Agency and setting up a commercial recruitment business. We are also looking at how we can maximise the council’s assets, whether this be by making better use of the buildings or land we own, to generate income. If we can do this we are able to protect our services from street cleaning to care for the elderly.
At the Annual Local Government Association conference that Michael Lockwood and I attended it was pleasing to see that in many areas, such as commercialisation, Harrow Council was ahead of the curve and already delivering savings on projects other Councils are just beginning to look at.
On this note, I was extremely impressed by all of the original ideas put forward at the launch of Project Phoenix by staff. The ambitious target to make our environmental services cost neutral by 2020 is exactly the kind of aims this Council will need in the face of the scale of the cuts imposed on us. The collaboration and willingness to explore new ideas was evident throughout and I look forward to working with all staff and residents to make this ambition a reality.
I would like to end by thanking all staff for their continued hard work. This is an extremely challenging period for both Harrow Council and our residents. You have done an incredible job in finding new ways to deliver outstanding services for less money.
I hope you all manage to have a restful break over the summer.
Cllr David Perry
Leader of the Council