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Green light for council tax increase and garden waste charge

Green light for council tax increase and garden waste charge

Published at 5:20pm 11th February 2016. (Updated at 6:15pm 11th February 2016)

Households across the Harrogate District are set to pay more in council tax.

Members of Harrogate Borough Council have unanimously approved an increase of 1.99%, which is the first rise in seven years.

It will mean an annual increase of £4.37, or 8 pence per week, for the average Band D property.

Despite external cost pressures of £3.2 million, including a reduction in Government funding of £1.4 million for 2016/17, the authority has been able to produce a balanced budget for the next financial year, without having to make any cuts in services.

Since 2010, funding has been reduced by £5.4 million, which is a 54% reduction

In meeting those external cost pressures, the council has identified over £2.6 million in savings and new income.

Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: "We have been faced by a series of challenges with this budget. The Government's grant has reduced significantly over the last five years and it will disappear completely within the next three years.

"This is the finest budget I have seen in my 16 years as a councillor. We have worked together with members of the other political parties, adopted their views and produced a balanced budget which protects the council and ensures that we can continue to provide the frontline services which are important to our district's residents.

"We have been the envy of many other local authorities, having been able to freeze the Harrogate Borough element of the council tax for the last six years. However, to ensure we are able to continue providing the best possible service for our residents, we have had to take this into consideration for the next financial year.

"I believe we have produced a budget which is right for the council and right for the taxpayer."

In supporting the proposed budget, Harrogate Borough Council's Liberal Democrat Group asked that the council's Human Resources Committee should undertake a review of staff pay, with the aim of agreeing a phased implementation of the new Living Wage by 2020.

Councillor Pat Marsh, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: "This is history in the making as the whole council, irrespective of party politics, is coming together to support this budget. The council has worked very hard to ensure a continuation of service delivery in a difficult environment. I think this is the best presented budget I have seen in 25 years and congratulations should go to all those involved in bringing the budget together.

"Our council staff have not been forgotten and the amendment that we put forward and accepted as part of the budget, concerning the Living Wage and how we can maintain salary differentials, will be considered at the earliest opportunity.

"It is never easy to say we are going to raise council tax, but it would be remiss of us not to have done this, as it would have put the services the council provides in jeopardy. We have managed to create a balanced budget with no cuts in what is a challenging financial atmosphere."

Meanwhile, plans to charge for garden waste collections have also been approved.

The council says a £39 annual fee will allow it to expand the service to homes which are not currently included.

Currently, it's only available to approximately 60% of residential properties.

Councillor Michael Harrison, Deputy Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: "Residents are keen for the council to provide a kerbside garden waste collection service, and whilst the service currently provided is well-received, it is simply unfair in the longer term to leave a large proportion of our residents without it.

"Whilst we would like to be able to expand the current service free of charge for the whole district, the council's funding will continue to reduce, meaning we must prioritise key frontline services before considering how we can expand a discretionary service such as garden waste. Realistically, the garden waste service in its current format cannot be expanded, and as the district grows, the proportion of residents unable to receive the service will increase.

"Like many other local authorities nationally, we have made the difficult decision to introduce what we feel is a reasonable charge for the garden waste collection service. It will be an opt-in service, so only those residents who want the service are paying for it. This will be introduced from summer 2017 for existing users, and then expanded to all suitable properties in 2018.

"The council are looking to make available subsidised home composters to residents who do not want to use the wheeled bin service, and the scheme will be flexible to accommodate neighbours who want to share a bin and those residents who require an assisted collection.

"It is clear that residents have embraced recycling household waste, as we have seen a significant reduction in waste going to landfill over the last few years. We have listened to residents' views and in January we expanded the 'box and bag' kerbside scheme to include brown cardboard, food/drink cartons and mixed plastics.

"The revenue generated from the garden waste scheme will not only allow us to expand the garden waste collection service, it will help offset the cost of our other recycling initiatives, so that the district can continue to become greener."

The 2016 garden waste season will operate as it does now and residents will be contacted with further details about the new scheme.