Plans for a complete overhaul of public services and keeping county council tax bills the lowest in the country have been approved today (Thursday 20 February) by Northamptonshire County Council with the final vote on the authority’s budget.
Faced with the mammoth task of reducing its budget by £126m over the next five years – on top of the £177m already delivered – the council will now embark upon a historic shift in the way social care and health services are provided in the county in a huge new integration with the NHS as well as a number of new mergers and partnerships of front-line services.
And the council will also now invest an extra £11m to drive forward improvements in Children’s Services while keeping a council tax rise pegged back to 1.99 per cent – below the rate of inflation – to maintain the council’s position as the lowest taxing county council in the country.
Leader of the council Cllr Jim Harker said: “Today marks not just the approval of the budget proposals but also of a new Council Plan outlining a new set of priorities for Northamptonshire. We are now taking on a far greater role in people’s health and wellbeing and will look to build on the superb work already undertaken to save taxpayers millions of pounds while finding new innovative ways to deliver services and keep council tax rates the lowest in the country.
“We have also made it clear in this budget that some of our services have a red line around them to ensure that despite the huge financial challenges we are tackling there will be no service reductions in those areas. We are investing heavily in Children's Services to drive forward improvements there; there will be no library or country park closures because of how critical they are in helping us in our new Wellbeing programme of work; finally there will no reduction in our efforts to mend our roads and invest in such infrastructure particular after the winter we’re experiencing.”
The budget approved today by a meeting of full council is the fourth budget agreed since the government’s programme of austerity started. Since that time the council has already saved £177m.
Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bill Parker said: “We pride ourselves in running a very efficient organisation and as such by 2016 through our LGSS partnership with Cambridgeshire our back office costs will account for only around two per cent of our overall budget. Anyone running a business or organisation will recognise what an incredible achievement that is.
“The budget approved today outlines how we will now build on this work and look at how we can bring such innovation and efficiency to front line services whether that be through partnership working like the LGSS model or new ways of working.
“I am delighted that despite the significant pressures we face we have agreed a budget which once again sets our council tax as the lowest in the land while protecting those front line services which mean the most to people.”