8:50am Thursday 17th January 2013
By Emma Innes
A local government minister has described Harrow Borough Council’s decision to increase its council tax bill as “wrong”.
Brandon Lewis MP has reacted to yesterday’s announcement that the authority's share of the tax bill will rise by two per cent from April.
For Band D Council Tax payers the increase in their bill will work out at an extra 47p per week, or £23.97 a year.
The minister said: "Every local resident will be dismayed by this flagrant democracy-dodging.
“Harrow Council is doing hardworking families and pensioners a real disservice by raising their council tax to a hair's breadth below the trigger level in order to avoid a public vote instead of taking up this government's offer to help fund a freeze for the third year in a row.
"Increasing council tax at this time is wrong. Councillors trying to undercut democracy in this way will find out what residents really think about their money being snatched money away on the doorstep or through a kick in the ballot box."
The council says the situation in Harrow is worse than in other boroughs as the council has been allocated one of the lowest government grants of any local authority in the capital. Harrow receives £1,608 per resident whereas Brent gets £3,317 per person.
Cllr Sachin Shah, portfolio holder for finance, said: “I didn’t come into politics to put up council tax and make cuts but that is the situation we have been put in by the Government.
“We have made this decision with a heavy heart and I appreciate that it is not going to please everyone.
“However, we are an outer London borough with inner London problems yet we have received half the amount of Government support as our neighbours in Brent.
“The unprecedented financial situation we are facing is not of our making and we have been faced with no other choice than to raise council tax by two per cent.
“The alternative is to make even deeper and more painful cuts to the services we know residents care about most.
“By April 2015, this council will have found savings of £75m and we are expecting to have to find a further £30m over the two years after that. By raising council tax now we are helping to protect services in the future.”
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