Northants’ budget sets out savings plans and council tax rise

3 Dec 18

Frontline services in Northamptonshire will be largely protected in next year’s budget, the troubled county council claimed – although council tax will rise.

Northamptonshire County Council today set out draft budget proposals for 2019-20, which it said would deliver savings totalling £42.9m.

Council leader Matt Golby said the impact on services would be fairly modest. “There’s no big effect on front line services” he said and suggested: “If this approach had been taken three or four years ago we would not be in this place.”

Budget papers published by the council set out spending plans by the directorate and showed savings are expected to come through a wide range of often small measures.

These include improved contract management and contract rationalisation, better use of office space, and reorganisation and realignment of staff teams. A second round of voluntary redundancy will also get under way this month.

The council also plans to invest in in-house social care provision. “Targeted investment” in Northamptonshire’s own social care facilities will increase capacity and help respond to rising demand.

“This allows us to rely on our in-house provision rather than relying on costly external placements,” said Golby at a press briefing on Monday.

In particular, the Eleanor Lodge care home in Northampton is to be remodelled to provide supportive living accommodation for people with learning disabilities.

“There is a shortage of this type of facility, which means providers charge expensive rates,” Golby said.

Cabinet member for adult social care Sandra Naden-Horley added: “These investments would help us unlock a far more sustainable and cost-effective way of running the services that this country needs.

“In total these investments in our services could create savings of more than £1.5m over three years.”

Northamptonshire will also launch a new recruitment campaign for children’s social care workers. Golby said the council wanted to look at in-house solutions in this area as well, particularly “how we can increase occupancy of our own residential homes meaning we can further reduce out of county placements and the associated high costs”.

Council tax is set to be increased by 2.99% next year – the maximum amount permitted before a local referendum must be held. This, the council estimates, will raise £3m in 2019-20.

The draft budget also proposes some extensive changes to the county’s library services saving almost £1m.

While 14 of Northamptonshire’s 36 libraries would remain directly under the county council’s management, five would be community managed but still supported by the council to deliver statutory responsibilities. The remaining 17 would be entirely community managed.

Plans to close 21 libraries in the county were blocked by judicial review in August year because it would have left the council in breach of its statutory duties in this area.

Last week, Northamptonshire was granted permission by central government to use £70m in capital receipts to set a balanced budget.

Of this, £35m will be used for the 2017-18 deficit, £20m will go towards replenishing reserves and the remaining £15m will be put into a ‘contingency budget’, which will be used “only if needed”.

Cabinet member for finance Malcolm Longley said: “I was bowled over when we got capital dispensation.

“It was a vote of confidence from the government. Had they not had confidence in our team, we would not have got it”.

Last month, the government announced a commissioner would be sent into the council to take over its struggling children’s services.

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