Kettering Council freezes tax rate again

Kettering Council will freeze its council tax levels for the 10th year in a row.

Despite a strong suggestion from officers to increase the tax levy for services and alternative budgets put forward by Labour, Liberal Democrats and the independent parties, the Conservative administration voted to keep the rates as they were.

Kettering tax payers in a band D property will continue to pay £205.39 per year, the same levy they were being charged in 2010.

Speaking at last night’s lively three-and-a-half-hour meeting finance cabinet member Cllr Lloyd Bunday said: “Our budget is sustainable but there are a number of pressures. Homelessness is increasing, number of people in temporary accommodation is at an all-time high. We are investing in own properties to mitigate against this.”

The budget for next year will see the authority spend £2m on temporary accommodation to buy up housing from the private market.

It will also borrow £20m to invest in commercial buildings, from which it plans to gain an income.

Labour had put forward a budget amendment to bring in two hours of free parking at the council’s car parks, estimated to cost the council £390,000.

Group leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said: “If accepted, the funding for this proposal will come from reserves. This council currently has £23m of reserves! And part of that total is a pot of earmarked reserves for ‘Economic Development and Regeneration’ which currently amounts to £3.8m. That money has sat there doing nothing for years. What are you waiting to spend in on? Look at the high street! Listen to retailers; listen to the public who see our shopping centre is dying.”

Labour’s Cllr Maggie Don put forward an amendment for the council to double the cash pledge to buying more houses to accommodate the homeless to £4m.

She said the homelessness levels in the borough, with 123 families in temporary accommodation, was a ‘humanitarian crisis.’

Both amendments were voted against by the ruling Conservatives.

The council’s three independent councillors and Liberal Democrat also put forward a number of budget amendments which included spending £5m on the Rothwell North link road, employing more environmental wardens for Rothwell, Desborough and Burton Latimer, and buying Rothwell and Desborough libraries.

Independent Cllr Jim Hakewill said the link road should come before the houses and by saying it would put up the funds it would strengthen negotiations with developer Persimmon which says a number of homes will come first.

All amendments were voted against and deputy leader Lesley Thurland accused the opposition councillors of being childish by putting them forward.

A number of councillors hit back at her criticism, saying that alternative budgets were a good way of showing their policies and also making suggestions to the leading group.

This will very likely be the council’s last budget ahead of the unitary governance. The plan is for Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough councils to be scrapped, along with Northamptonshire County Council, and a new unitary for North Northamptonshire created.

Cllr Bunday criticised some other councils which he said had been spending their reserves in the run-up to unitary. He said Kettering Council would not be doing the same because ‘embarking on a marriage after blowing all funds on stag and hen parties would be irresponsible if not short-sighted.”

The secretary of state for local government James Brokenshire will decide in the coming weeks whether a unitary will come in.

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporting Service