Council tax rise confirmed for Harrogate residents
Residents in Harrogate will see a rise in their council tax bills after the borough council set its budget for the next 12 months.
The council met last week and approved a 1.99% rise in the tax levels for 2020/21. It will see a Band D property’s payments to Harrogate Council rise by £5 a year to £245.92.
A report prepared for the council stated: “Harrogate has not been immune to the funding reductions and since 2010 its general grant allocation has reduced by £8m (67%) and overall net expenditure has reduced by £8m.”
“In spite of this, and as other councils across the country face uncertain futures, Harrogate has continued to maintain its valued frontline services. This is a testament to the council’s strong record of financial management before and during the current ‘age of austerity’.”
Included in the budget is a plan to make a proposed saving of around £420,000 over the next two years from the council's Parks and Environmental Services department.
A new recycling contract will save £130,000 of that figure while a review of parks and services, including reducing bedding displays and grass cutting frequency is proposed to make a saving of £108,000 in 2021/22.
At the same time, drivers in the waste and recycling team will get pay increases which will increase spending by £146,570 in the next 12 months.
An added income of £250,000 from the refurbished Turkish baths is also expected in the coming year, though this could be offset in part by a possible five-week closure for maintenance and three new therapists being hired.
New contracts with suppliers and a "minor reorganisation" of staff at Harrogate Convention Centre will see a saving of £230,000 made from the budget.
Homeless projects and schemes have also been allocated an extra £60,000 in the budget.
The council's cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Councillor Graham Swift said that the budget had been "very well received".
He said the council was focusing looking at a period of growth in the borough highlighted a couple of success stories for the authority.
He added: "I think we are seeing the results of our commercial investments in things like the Turkish Baths and our trade waste programme and will continue to do so."
Coun Swift said that the savings in this year's budget, totalling around £564,000 were mainly coming from "operational efficiencies".
At last week's meeting, Liberal Democrat councillors abstained from the vote on the budget after making a series of suggested amendments.
All but one of the party's suggested amendments - a plan to investigate the introduction of a Saturday cremation service - were rejected.
Rejected proposals included £10,000 each for improving the district's paddling polls and live streaming council meetings, something the Conservative majority refused to back earlier this year.
In a statement, Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Pat Marsh, said: "The Conservatives were dismissive of our amendments except for the Saturday cremations.
"They stated that we had just worked these out 'on the back of a fag packet', which was pretty insulting as we had worked to make sure everything we proposed was costed and affordable."
Coun Swift said that many of the suggestions "were not budget-related".
He added: "None of the suggestions were made during the budget setting process or when it went to Scrutiny, which the opposition chairs."
In 2019/20, a Harrogate resident in a Band D property paid a total of £1,879.12 in council tax to the borough council, North Yorkshire County Council and the police and fire services.
North Yorkshire County Council is proposing a 4% rise in its share of the precept which is scheduled to be decided at a full meeting of the authority on February 26.
If approved, it would cost the average Band D household £52.31 more a year to fund the authority’s element of council tax bills.
By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service