Council tax levels are to remain frozen for a third year, under Northamptonshire County Council’s draft budget which was published today (Tuesday, December 11).
Included in today’s proposals, which sets a net revenue budget of £440.616m and a gross expenditure budget of £1.08bn, are measures which set out the council’s response to continued reductions in government funding and growing demand for services especially for older people and children in care.
The council has already made more than £100m of savings over the past three years and the proposals published today outline how it will continue to meet the challenge of its financial pressures.
Leader for the council Jim Harker said: “Our approach to long-term planning and investing to save has allowed us not only to deliver a balanced budget in a year when the country grappled with a double-dip recession but to continue to support economic growth in the county.
“This year, Northamptonshire was named by the government as the most enterprising place in Britain and we also won an award for encouraging export. As we stand on the cusp of a more promising national picture with the economy growing by one per cent in the third quarter of this year, our draft budget reaffirms our commitment to creating the right conditions for economic growth here in Northamptonshire.”
Cllr Bill Parker, cabinet member for finance, said: “This time last year, we gave a commitment to pressing ahead with our efforts to save more money through improving our processes, stamping out inefficiencies, reorganising our staff and bringing in more income.
“This commitment is most evident in the success of LGSS, the shared services venture founded by ourselves and Cambridgeshire County Council, which reduces the costs of services through the consolidation of resources and process redesign. LGSS is delivering millions of pounds of savings and is cutting our back-office costs.
“As well as sharing key services with other councils and agencies, we’ve introduced new and innovative ways of working. These include our new commissioning arrangements for highways services and the creation of Olympus Care Services, a company wholly owned by us delivering adult social care services. We will continue to redesign our services to find pioneering ways of achieve savings while protecting the most vulnerable people in the county.”
The Local Government Finance Settlement (LGFS), which sets out how much the government will fund councils next year, is expected later this month.
This will be factored into the calculations for the final budget which will be presented to a meeting of full council on February 21 next year.
The draft budget also proposes a freeze in council tax for the third consecutive year. This means the band D rate for 2013/14 would remain at £1,028.11.
The proposals, which are now subject to an eight-week consultation, can be viewed on the council’s website after the cabinet meeting at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/budget13-14.
BUDGET PROPOSES COMMUNITY SAFETY FUNDING
Northamptonshire County Council’s draft budget proposes to continue to support community safety priorities by repeating its financial support for the county’s police force.
The draft budget allocates £300,000 towards community safety work in the county.
Cllr Bill Parker, cabinet member for finance, said: “The proposed funding is a continuation of the council’s financial support for community safety priorities.
“Last year a similar amount was transferred to the police to support community safety projects, particularly around domestic violence, and we want to continue with that support.
“We will meet with the Police and Crime Commissioner to determine the coming year’s priorities for investment and how the money could be best used to make an impact on community safety issues.”
KICKSTART DEAL WILL HELP BRING PROSPERITY TO NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
Making Northamptonshire a prosperous county by creating the conditions for accelerated business growth is a key priority for Northamptonshire County Council.
Despite the prevailing challenging economic conditions this year the county has seen real progress and several successes in laying the foundations for growth.
Today (December 11) Cabinet will discuss a report on the Kickstart Northamptonshire County Prosperity Deal – a strategy to be presented to government outlining how the county council will stimulate business development.
This builds on the work already done which, earlier this year, led to the authority being named as the most enterprising place in Britain.
Further to this, the council’s INV-ENT scheme which offers a £20,000 business rate rebate to small and medium-sized firms, has also be shortlisted for a prestigious Local Government Chronicle award.
Cllr Jim Harker, Leader of the county council, said: “We are absolutely determined as a county council to make Northamptonshire the place to be for business and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to create the conditions for economic growth.
“Despite being out of recession these are still very difficult times but already we are starting to see things turn around in a more positive direction.
“This is about finding clever solutions to the problems that we face and using our influence as a county council to lever in private investment and build business confidence.”
Details of how the county council can help stimulate growth can be found in the cabinet report but include measures such as using innovative funding packages to kickstart infrastructure projects.
The roll-out of superfast broadband across the whole county, including hard-to-reach rural areas, is also seen as pivotal in attracting investment into the county.
Further work includes removing red tape to aid business start-ups and helping entrepreneurs and emerging businesses to be able to access the right finance so their ambitions can come to fruition.
In addition, creating the right skills base and harnessing the potential of young people particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths, is also core in ensuring the workforce is well equipped to compete in the global economy.
INNOVATIVE WAYS OF WORKING TO SAFEGUARD SERVICES
Northamptonshire County Council’s draft budget marks the establishment of the county’s music and performing arts trust as an independent charitable company.
The draft budget outlines the savings of £100k that the council will make over the next two years as a result of the establishment of the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust and the removal of its council subsidy.
Peter Smalley, chief executive of the trust, said: “Since this time last year, the trust has undergone massive organisational changes and thanks are due to everyone who supported us during the process, especially the county council for the vision to establish the trust as an independent charitable company and create a sustainable structure, which will allow music and the arts for young people to continue to flourish in our county.”
Deputy Leader Joan Kirkbride said: “In tackling our financial challenges, we’ve had to look at how services can continue to be provided in different and innovative ways. This new operating model means the county continues to benefit from an award-winning music and performing arts services which can access funding from a variety of funding streams and be able to work with other organisations and partnerships.”
The draft budget also outlines the savings of £2.2m expected to be achieved by 2014/15 as a result of a radical way of running Northamptonshire County Council’s highways and transport service
The council’s highways and transport department will merge with its current highways contractor MGWSP to form a single integrated team – Northamptonshire Highways.
Elected councillors working with a retained small team of highways and transport experts will still decide on which policies and standards the service should deliver.
However Northamptonshire Highways will deliver the service, bringing about efficiencies with a target saving of £2.2m by 2014/2015.
HOW TO GIVE VIEWS ON THE DRAFT BUDGET
Northamptonshire County Council today launched a consultation on its draft budget for the coming year.
There will be a number of ways for people to be able to have their say on the proposals over the next eight weeks.
Cllr Joan Kirkbride, cabinet member for business intelligence, performance and democracy, said: “It is vitally important that we hear from as many people as possible during this consultation period, as we all work together to find the best solutions. We appreciate that people are busy and don’t have much time to get involved, so this year we’ve put in place a number of quick ways for people to have a say.”
Ways to have a say include:
Visiting the Draft Budget 2013-14 webpage and completing the short online survey
Using social media: Tweeting @mycountycouncil or posting comments on the mycountycouncil facebook page
Writing to Draft Budget 2013-14, Northamptonshire County Council, County Hall, Northampton, NN1 1AN
Signing or submitting a petition or e-petition
The draft budget will be examined by the council’s finance and performance scrutiny committee which is inviting members of the public and community groups to attend one of the following meetings:
Monday 17 December at 3pm in the Council Chamber– this meeting will give the opportunity to put forward proposals that should be selected for scrutiny
Monday 7 January at 10am in the Blue Room – this meeting will give the opportunity for the public to comment specifically on environment, development and transport proposals
Tuesday 8 January at 10am in the Blue Room – this meeting will give the opportunity for the public to comment specifically on adult and children’s services proposals
Wednesday 9 January at 11am in Room 28 – this meeting will give the opportunity for the public to comment specifically on customers, communities and learning proposals
Anyone wishing to attend is asked to notify the council in advance by emailing JEdmunds@northamptonshire.gov.uk or calling 01604 366053.
People are also welcome to email their suggestions for proposals to scrutinise to JEdmunds@northamptonshire.gov.uk by December 18.
The finance and performance scrutiny committee will agree its budget scrutiny review report on Wednesday, January 30, in the Council Chamber in Northampton.
A significant number of these proposals were consulted upon as part of the budget consultation process last year, and would be expected to be implemented in line with the previously approved budget, unless they had been amended.
People have until February 5 to have their say.
Further information is available on the council’s website www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/budget13-14.