Northants passes revised budget

2 Mar 18

Northamptonshire County Council has passed a revised budget, which will amount to £39.2m in savings in 2018-19.

The budget was drawn up in response to an advisory notice issued by the council’s auditors KPMG, warning that the initial budget was illegal.

Mounting pressure on the council also resulted in a motion of no confidence for Conservative council leader Heather Smith on Tuesday 27 February, although she is expected to remain leader of the council until May, despite being ousted by her party.

In the advisory notice KPMG expressed concern of an illegal unbalanced budget due to the council’s reliance on “one-off measures”, such as selling its expensive new headquarters, suggesting that this was not a sustainable strategy in the long term.

Consequently, in Wednesday’s full council meeting councillors agreed on an amended budget that will free up an extra £9.9m in savings, bringing the total savings for 2018-19 to £39.2m.

The changes mean that the problematic use of capital receipts during 2018-19 has been reduced form £40.9m to £31m.

Additionally, the council will increase council tax by 5.98%, which is the highest increase that can be made without the need for a referendum.

Other savings will be made by closing 21 small libraries, scrapping all bus subsidies, cutting the trading standards budget by 42%, reducing councillor allowances and freezing staff pay during 2018-19.

Spending controls currently in place under the section 114 notice are also recommended to be continued into the new financial year.

The section 114 notice, issued on 2 February 2018, banned spending on all non-statutory services and was the first of its kind for 20 years.

County council cabinet member Robin Brown described the council as having reached “crisis point” as a result of high demand on local services, above-average population growth and a reduction in central government funding.

The council has been under intense scrutiny since January 2018 when communities secretary Sajid Javid sent an inspector to investigate allegations of financial mismanagement.

Inspector Max Caller, former chief executive of Barnet and Hackney, is expected to publish his report on Northamptonshire next month.

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