Last-minute fireworks as budget gets thumbs up from Harrogate Borough Council

Liberal Democrat leader Pat Marsh and council leader Richard Cooper took part in a heated debate as Harrogate Borough Council agreed its next budget.
Liberal Democrat leader Pat Marsh and council leader Richard Cooper took part in a heated debate as Harrogate Borough Council agreed its next budget.

Harrogate Borough Council has voted overwhelmingly to adopt its proposed 2019/20 budget for the upcoming financial year, despite some last-minute fireworks across the chamber.

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Ahead of debate, cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development Graham Swift said the budget "recognises that we are reliant upon our ratepayers", with a proposed 2.99 per cent council tax to result in a £6.99 rate rise for a band D household.

He said that council expects to generate about £15m in income from rates, a growth of nearly £500,000 from last year.

He added the budget came off the back of the council's revenue grant being reduced by £8.1m since 2010, with council taking £8.8m of cost savings out of the annual revenue account since that time.

"The result of that is we're grateful for the work that's been done by officers to continue to chip away at service costs...and I believe there's been a great demonstration of that (in the draft budget)," Coun Swift said.

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Liberal Democrat leader Pat Marsh responded by calling it a budget "of ifs, buts and maybes, as it was last year” and claimed it was "underpinned by staff cuts".

She also took aim at operational reviews in the budget, saying: "We have no confidence that these reviews will not impact on the cleanliness of our streets, the quality of our parks and gardens, the way our refuse collection is undertaken, and the service we give to the bereaved".

Council leader Richard Cooper and Coun Swift both responded, with Coun Swift saying the opposition had not presented any amendments or alternate ideas throughout the scrutiny process of the budget.

"This council has a track record of efficiency, of cost reduction, improvement, in maintaining our council tax at a very low rate...we've kept it at a bare minimum around inflation levels and I believe we're in a strong position to do that in future years too," he said.

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"(During scrutiny) at no point did anyone present an idea...or anything they want to put into the budget. We sit here today and yet again instead of coming up with interesting, provocative thought-provoking ideas that we can listen to and perhaps even adopt, you've missed that opportunity and said we don't want to know and turned your heads."

Brief but fiery period of debate aside, the budget was then put to the vote, with councillors endorsing it 30 to nine.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter