People living in a Band D house will fork out about £178 as the local authority’s £13 million budget for the next 12 months was overwhelmingly backed at a resumed full council meeting last night (Thursday).
Residents already hit by a soaring rise in the cost of everyday living will face bigger tax bills as the cash-strapped council has been affected by the two-year Covid pandemic.
Cllr James Hallam, Harborough council’s Cabinet lead for finance, said they are being forced to hike the Council Tax to protect vital services and look after the vulnerable.
The authority’s deputy leader said the new £177.97 charge for a Band D property was just £8 more than it was back in 2011-12.
Cllr Hallam said they are reaping a £2.3 million new homes bonus and will be ploughing £1.4 million into stocking up their precious reserves.
But the senior Conservative councillor, a farmer, said they will have to use £2.5 million reserve cash in 2025-26 to stay on course.
A £31.1 million capital programme will be carried out in the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy from 2023-24 to 2026-27.
Some £13.4 million of that will be pumped into vital new capital schemes across Harborough.
New blueprints will feature a new £5 million waste depot, a new £1 million cemetery in Market Harborough and £3.9 million being poured into upgrading and overhauling ageing leisure centres in Market Harborough and Lutterworth.
And £700,000 is being injected into the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Capital Fund to support local organisations.
Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition, told councillors that the ruling Conservative group’s budget taking Harborough into the spring of 2023 was a mix of both good and bad.
He said it was unfortunate that several officers have already been made redundant as staff numbers are cut.
Cllr Knowles said that “huge amounts of money” have still got to be found to balance the books down the line while there was still no district-wide leisure provision or strategy.
“We need more meat on the bone.
“This budget is good in parts but some of it I have got to disagree with.
“So I will be abstaining,” insisted the veteran Liberal Democrat leader.
Cllr Mark Graves, a fellow Lib Dem who represents Broughton Astley South and Leire, argued that taxpayers across the district shouldn’t have to bankroll the sports centre in Market Harborough.
But Conservatives Amanda Nunn, Paul Bremner and Michael Rickman all came out punching for the other side as they lined up to salute the budget.
Cllr Phil King, the council’s leader, said they have faced “difficult choices” as income has been seriously hit over the last two years by the shattering coronavirus pandemic.
“It goes against all my Conservative instincts to raise taxes but we do have a superb record on Council Tax here in Harborough.
“We have to ensure that we have a sustainable financial base for both the short term and the medium term,” said Cllr King.
“Many challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
“But I commend this budget to all colleagues here tonight and I urge all of you to support it.”
And the council did just that as 18 Conservative councillors voted to back it and 11 Liberal Democrats took their lead from Cllr Knowles and abstained.