BREAKING: Northamptonshire's libraries will stay open another year but communities must take over, says final budget plan

Leader of the council Heather Smith says there are some "tough decisions" ahead.
Leader of the council Heather Smith says there are some "tough decisions" ahead.

Northamptonshire's at-risk libraries look set to be handed over to communities in the next two years under county council cuts.

The cash-strapped council's final budget proposals have been published and include plans for a council tax hike of 5.98 per cent and "revised" plans for the county's libraries, trading standards and buses.

It comes after the county council was issued a section 114 notice on Friday (February 2) by Government inspectors, meaning it cannot spend any money expect on safeguarding and essential services.

And yesterday, the county's MPs announced they had "no faith" in the council's leadership and want the Government to step in and take control.

The controversial proposals, which were open to public consultation last year, included options to close all of Northamptonshire's small libraries and make almost half of its trading standards staff redundant.

Now, the council they intend to introduce a "community-managed library model" where they hand over responsibility of smaller libraries to unpaid local volunteers.

They will provide financial support to the libraries during 2018/19 as a "transition year" and pay a year of rent (but not gas, water or electric bills) from April 2019/20. After that, they will belong to the community.

A council tax increase of 5.98 per cent has also been put forward. This increase takes advantage of Government-approved scheme to increase tax without triggering a referendum normally needed to do so.

There are also revised proposals relating to Trading Standards and the County Connect and Call Connect on-demand bus services.

County council leader Cllr Heather Smith said: “We have a duty to announce our final budget proposals today to allow the council tax precept to be set, but there has to be an understanding that revisions may be required given the Section 114 notice issued last week.

“Given the uncertainty in this year’s budget and the potential impact on the current year’s spending, the budget for 2018/19 will clearly be under constant review.

“We are legally bound to set a budget for the coming financial year but the challenge we are now facing is unprecedented and there will no doubt be difficult decisions to be made over the coming weeks and months.”

The full proposals will be heard at a cabinet meeting on February 13.