Final budget proposes Council Tax freeze for residentsPublished Wednesday 7 February 2024
Harborough District Council has published its final 2024/25 Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy (2026/27 to 2028/29) which looks to support residents with the on-going cost of living issues, whilst investing into towns and parishes and remaining financially resilient.
Cabinet has made recommendations on its budget priorities for 2024/25 with proposals to freeze the council’s portion of Council Tax this year from April, thereby maintaining a band D property at the same level since 2022/23 (£177.97). It also proposes to freeze green bin charges and freeze car parking charges whilst repeating last year’s free car parking on Saturdays in December.
Additional business rates income from Magna Park near Lutterworth along with government grant that recognises housing growth has given the financial flexibility to afford these proposals.
The council also plans to add new resources into planning enforcement and compliance, support community resilience including sandbag supplies for parishes at risk of flooding, to support work relating to bidding for external funding streams, and for additional Christmas lights in Market Harborough in the ‘special expenses’ fund, which is used by the district council to support the town in the absence of a town council.
Other proposals include work on a place led vision for the Harborough district, supporting health and wellbeing with the wider implementation of the Leisure and Young People’s Strategies and improving waste resilience by adding two vehicles to the ageing domestic waste collection fleet. The council is also proposing to invest in communities, with £1 million of grants available for parishes to bid for which will be supported by a new Community Engagement Officer.
The production of the new Local Plan 2020-2041 is also being funded to ensure the Harborough district is protected from speculative development. Budget has also been allocated for the procurement of the authority’s new waste contract and to progress the council’s strategy to become Net Zero by 2030.
The council will continue with its Capital Programme over the next four years, which will see investment in local projects up to £30 million. These projects include the development of Lutterworth Town Centre Heritage Action Zone, potential investment into solar farms and temporary homeless provision, as well as a £6 million investment into enhancement and refurbishment works to Harborough and Lutterworth leisure centres as part of a new contract with Everyone Active.
The authority now forecasts a surplus from 2024 to 2026 and then a deficit for 2026/27 and each year thereafter. In the draft budget proposals the funding gap was expected to be £7.5 million up to 2028/29 but following the unexpected income from business rates and additional government funding that has been announced since, this is now anticipated to be around £3.5 million. This remaining budget gap is due to a predicted shortfall in government funding due to the combined impacts of a new government funding formula and a business rates baseline reset that is expected to be implemented in 2026/27 as well as losses in government grant.
Cllr Mark Graves, Harborough District Council’s Cabinet lead for Resources, said: “With this budget we have made sure the council is financially resilient and has a financially sustainable strategy. Despite there being inevitable challenges ahead due to reductions in central government funding we are carefully balancing the need to save for the future and set aside reserves to meet future years’ deficits whilst delivering our priorities for communities.
“I am delighted that we have been able to freeze council tax for residents and have received substantial business rates income from Magna Park to enable us to keep delivering great services, secure good growth to benefit everyone in the Harborough district and tackle climate change. I am also happy that we have managed to freeze the cost of the green waste service and car parking charges this year for residents. We have also gone beyond that and are proposing £1 million pound investment back into community projects which we hope will benefit residents in many parishes in the district.”
People are encouraged to have their say on the council’s budget proposals at www.harborough.gov.uk/budget-consultation, until 9am on 12 February 2024.
On 26 February the final budget report will be considered for approval at a Full Council meeting.
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