ADDITIONAL security was called in at Harrow Civic Centre as the council looked to pass its budget last week – but there were no fireworks as it was quietly rubber stamped.
Following a string of protests outside town halls across the capital, against swingeing cuts, a handful of police officers were drafted in as a precaution at last Thursday's (March 10) full council meeting.
There had been fears that protests could develop at the site following scenes at neighbouring borough Brent's budget meeting last month but officers had little to do as just a couple of residents attended the meeting in the Civic Centre's council chambers.
At the meeting leader of the council, councillor Bill Stephenson, said that difficult decisions were yet to come but told of his pride at having identified £31m worth of savings already.
He said: “We have stood up for Harrow and in very challenging circumstances have defended and enhanced front line services. We won't let down those who elected us. Although we have made a very good start in modernising the Council and improving services, we still face very serious financial challenges.
"We have to look forward and begin to address these issues now. We want to fully engage and involve local residents and all our partners in helping to decide what sort of Council we want and what sort of services it should provide in four years time."
The budget was attacked by opposition councillors however, who slammed it as a 'fairytale budget'.
Leader of the opposition, councillor Susan Hall, said: “There is absolutely no transparency in this budget, it is about as transparent as a black out and it's full of fairytale assumptions. This will leave the council with serious problems.”
One of the main issues targeted by the opposition as a problem with the budget is the administrations decision to factor in a 2 per cent assumption for inflation.
Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane added: “In February the Bank of England report said inflation has been significantly above 2 per cent in the last year and is likely to increase further, so before the budget was even set it was already structurally wrong. This will cause long term problems.”
The budget itself sets out £19m of savings in the next fiscal year and intends to freeze council tax.
Among the biggest changes are the installation of a new self service technology in libraries is a renegotiating of care contracts, and an overhaul of IT within the council. A total of 157 staff took advantage of a voluntary severance scheme in 2010-11 and it is estimated around 150 posts will go over the next three years but through staff redeployment.