Tough choices, deeper integration of public services and the next phase of the creation of our innovative ‘Next Generation Council’ are the key elements of Northamptonshire County Council’s budget proposals published today in what has been described as the authority’s biggest budget challenge yet.
The council is proposing to increase its council tax rate – currently the lowest rate of any county council in the country - by 3.95% which includes the government’s new 2% increase for adult social care. This would mean an increase of 81p a week for a Band D property.
How much do we have to save?
A further £77m of savings is also proposed – on top of the £226m already saved since 2010 - as the council strives to face up to unprecedented soaring demand and ongoing reductions in government funding while ensuring help is still provided to those most in need, and economic and personal wellbeing is improved across all the county’s communities and residents.
Leader of the council Cllr Jim Harker said: “This has without a doubt been the toughest budget we have had to set. The demand for public services is now at unprecedented levels. For example since September there have been almost 900 children moving into the county requiring a school place from us; that’s the equivalent to over two full primary schools in just 12 weeks.
“We are therefore proposing a budget which takes account of these pressures and the huge reductions in the money we receive from central government. Of course because of the scale of this challenge this has meant some very difficult choices have to be made and our proposals outline what some of these might be.
“What is becoming abundantly clear though is that the need for savings in public services can only really be realised by much deeper integration of work between us. This budget sees the progression of work to integrate our social care work with the work of our health partners such as the Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT). But to me there are potentially more efficiencies and services improvements which could be realised by exploring a combined authority model of local government for the county. This budget outlines how we want to start in earnest with our partners in district and borough councils to look into the benefits of more formal, integrated working.
“This budget also sees huge progression in the Next Generation Council model we announced this time last year. Already we have see the creation of the ‘First for Wellbeing’ Community Interest Company bringing together our wellbeing services with those of the NHFT and the University of Northampton, this budget outlines plans for the establishment of a Children’s Services Trust to deliver our outcomes for children and young people. This is an exciting development and shows yet again how we are pioneering new ways of delivering services to provide the very best value for money.”
Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bill Parker said: “These proposals try to strike a balance between dealing with the unprecedented demand for public services and making sure our services are run as efficiently as possible to deliver the best value for tax payers. I am confident it achieves that.
“Of course because of the sheer volume of savings required added to the fact that we have already achieved £226m of savings since 2010, there are some very difficult decisions which need to be made. It is vital as many people as possible take the opportunity of the next few weeks to look through the proposals and have their say.”