Harrow agrees balanced budget for 2018

Harrow Council last night set a balanced budget for 2018-19 – as councillors agreed that the authority will not spend beyond its means in the coming year.

This makes Harrow one of a minority of councils in the UK that is not expecting to raid its financial reserves next year – despite facing massive cutbacks in government funding.

Cllr Sachin Shah, leader of Harrow Council, said: “I take being careful with your money very seriously. Reserves are for emergencies. That’s why we are cutting our cloth to what we’ve got. The funding crisis facing us and other councils is a national disgrace – but we are coping.
“We are making hard choices every day. Some councils, like Northamptonshire, have run out of money – with disastrous consequences. Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen in Harrow. Other councils have slashed vital services to the bone, hurting the very residents who need them the most. We believe Harrow people want to care for the vulnerable and make our borough clean – and we will continue to devote our efforts to those causes, within our means.”

To balance its books for the coming year, Harrow announced £7.4 million of budget savings – partly found by reducing services and funding to external organisations, and partly found through back-office cutbacks and creative and innovative ways of making the council more efficient. Like 95% of local authorities across the country, Harrow Council also raised Council Tax this year. The rate is rising by 2.99% plus 0.5% in a government-authorised precept to pay for rising costs of adult social care.

Cllr Adam Swersky, Harrow Council finance portfolio holder, said: “Given the brutal scale of the national government’s vendetta against local councils – today marks a massive financial achievement for Harrow. This Council is cushioning the blow where we can. We’ve saved millions by cutting back staffing, red tape and waste. We’re earning millions from sharing services and new commercial ventures. Even then – we know what austerity means for people, and we need to thank all our residents and staff for the sacrifices that are being made, every single day, to make Harrow a place we are proud to call home.”

As part of the budget, Harrow Council will provide £9 million in new spending for the most essential services that the borough’s most vulnerable residents rely on. This includes almost £3 million for children’s services and nearly £6 million for adults and social care.

Unlike Harrow, more than two-thirds (68%) of UK councils are budgeting to overspend this year – reducing their reserves as a result.