Poor turnout ‘means people support cuts’

Question Time event held at The County Council.
Question Time event held at The County Council.

The leader of the county council believes people are happy with proposed budget cuts after about 15 people turned up at a public meeting to discuss them.

The meeting at County Hall in Northampton on Tuesday had been organised for people to have their say on the council’s plans.

But council leader Jim Harker believes the poor response shows people are happy with the budget plans.

He said: “It was a good session and we covered a lot of ground but it was disappointing that only 14 or 15 people turned up – we can fit about 100 people in the room.

“It was a real opportunity for people to come and ask questions about the budget but I suppose in a way it shows people are generally content with it at this time.

“We put these meetings on but people don’t generally attend unless they’re particularly upset about something. I don’t think there’s anything we can do to improve attendances – we advertised this meeting widely.

“We could put on beer and snacks to attract more people but that’s probably not a good idea.”

The council needs to make £28m of savings from its budget this year.

Issues raised during the two-hour session included cuts to services for the young and vulnerable, cuts to the funding of PCSOs and the future of the county’s libraries.

But residents were assured that protecting the vulnerable was the council’s top priority and all libraries would keep at least one paid staff member.

It has been suggested that more people had not turned up as the council’s plans are written in jargon which is difficult to understand.

But Cllr Harker said: “We should do everything we can to make the paperwork more understandable, but that’s not really an excuse for people not going to the meeting – maybe if they don’t understand they should come along.”

A final budget will be decided on Thursday, February 23.