15 February 2011

Northamptonshire County Council’s final budget proposals for 2011/12 will be considered by cabinet today (Tuesday 15th February).

The budget includes proposals to reduce spending by £69 million in the next year as the council faces up to joint challenge of massive reductions in government funding following the Comprehensive Spending Review and a rapidly increasing population needing council services.

Following extensive consultation with residents and the council’s scrutiny committee, the proposals include several key changes from those published in December. These include:

  • The proposal to close eight libraries has been removed - instead, the council is proposing to carry out a review of all 36 libraries to consider new models for delivering library services in partnership with local communities.
  • The £150,000 saving for advice and information services has been removed and an extra £100,000 invested instead, following feedback received during the consultation. It is recognised that this is a difficult time for many county people and therefore the funding will help ensure that advice and information services, such as citizen's advice bureaus, are available for those who need them.
  • An extra £300,000 has been allocated to the £700,000 already earmarked to explore new methods of public transport in the county, bringing the total to £1 million. This would provide more tailored public transport for communities such as car-sharing schemes and demand response transport.
  • The savings proposal for trading standards has been reduced by £150,000.

Leader of the council Councillor Jim Harker said: “These final budget proposals are the culmination of weeks of consultation with local residents and scrutiny committees. We had a very good response – there were almost 19,000 visits to our You Choose website and over 17,000 people gave feedback on the proposals or signed a petition.

“We have listened to people’s views and made changes where we can; for example the comments we received about our library proposals demonstrated the strength of feeling people have about their local libraries, which is why we are no longer proposing to close the eight libraries but instead proposing to use this enthusiasm to inspire a Big Society approach to libraries.

“We have also heard people’s feedback about our proposed saving for advice and information services and are therefore looking to invest in this area instead, so that these services can continue to offer their valuable support to those who need them.

“However, the fact remains that we have to make savings. The financial challenges this council is facing are no secret - the number of people who need our services has increased, but the funding we receive from the government has been reduced so we have to save up to £137 million in the next four years, including £69 million in this coming year alone.

“This means some difficult choices have still had to be made, and our final budget proposals balance the need to save money whilst also ensuring a council tax freeze and focusing investment on those areas people have told us are most important to them.”

The budget proposals will be considered at a cabinet meeting today and if agreed, will then go to the full council meeting on 24th February.