Northamptonshire County Council says it is disappointed that the provisional Local Government Settlement announced yesterday shows no recognition of the authority’s severe financial challenge and unprecedented demand for services.
The council’s leadership and senior management team have held a series of meetings with the Department for Communities and Local Government over recent weeks to highlight the county’s huge population growth and increasing demand levels in adult social care and children’s services.
While councillors welcomed new flexibilities in the amount of tax that can be raised and the extension of a scheme allowing capital assets to be used to help fund service transformation, overall the statement did not deliver what was required for Northamptonshire.
The county council has been calling for an urgent review of the local government funding model to more accurately reflect the levels of demand it is now facing, and for a review of the council tax cap.
It had also applied to be part of the business rates retention pilot, which would have seen the county council retain a greater proportion of income from business rates to spend on local services.
While Secretary of State Sajid Javid did confirm yesterday that all local authorities could raise council tax by an additional 1% before a costly referendum is required, there was no further financial support for Northamptonshire in recognition of its specific pressures and the county will not be included in the business rates retention pilot.
County council leader Cllr Heather Smith said: “We have worked incredibly hard over the past weeks and months to demonstrate to the DCLG that while we are doing all we can to manage the severe financial challenge we are facing in Northamptonshire, we really do need some monetary recognition of the level of services we are now having to provide for our most vulnerable adults and children.
“The number of looked after children in Northamptonshire is now over 1,000, we have a higher number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children than most other counties in the country, and the cost of supporting those over the age of 85 has increased by more than 25% in the last three years.
“Despite these immense pressures, there is no reflection of this in the Local Government Settlement.
“Our analysis shows that it would appear the £13million for Northamptonshire referred to in Parliament yesterday relates to something called Core Spending Power, a DCLG calculation. This includes not just money from central government, but also assumptions on what income can be raised locally through council tax, which already form part of the council’s existing medium term financial plan.
“In terms of what we will receive directly from central government, this actually constitutes a reduction in funding.
“An extra 1% in council tax will only generate £2.7m for 2018/19, and with proposed savings of £34.3m in our draft budget for the coming financial year, this will have minimal impact. We have already saved £376m since 2010 and expect to have saved £0.5bn by 2021.
“We urge the Government to support us in tackling our financial pressures through the final Local Government Settlement, which is expected in February.
“In the meantime, we will continue to put forward our case for a fairer funding deal for Northamptonshire and will be seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State in the New Year to discuss this further.”