'Northamptonshire won't be able to fund some essential council services by 2019', finance member reveals

Northamptonshire County Council has warned this may be the last budget where services to protect the likes of vulnerable children and the elderly remain untouched.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 12:01 pm
Councillor Robin Brown said statutory services - such as childrens and adult social care - would have to be looked next time if the Government refuses to raise its funding. Councils have to provide these by law, but the County Hall will be faced with no choice, he said.

Northamptonshire County Council has today (Monday) announced its full savings proposals of £34.3m for 2018/19 including the £9.6m of proposed budget savings which were announced in October.

The new proposals include;

a 4.98% increase in council tax, which includes a 3% precept for adult social care.

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a review of the way care placements are brokered,

changes to on-street parking charges

new controls on trade waste at household waste recycling centres,

(Details on the above will be revealed over the course of today and tomorrow.)

And council leaders said they have shifted funds around to put an extra £24.6m on adult social care and £11m on children’s services. This extra funding would allow, for example, the council to pay for an additional 200 children in care and meet the rising cost of supporting those over the age of 85, which has increased by more than a quarter in the last three years.

However, they have also revealed that Whitehall has reduced funding by a massive 36 per cent this year (subject to slight changes).

Cllr Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for finance, said this looks like the last budget where County Hall is able to protect children's and adult social services.

He said: “Northamptonshire’s population is continuing to grow at an increasingly fast pace - 1.5% faster than the national average – and that is creating huge demand for services including school places, children’s services and adult social care.

“We have reviewed the way we work to ensure we are as efficient as possible and deliver the best possible value for money, and after this year it is very difficult to identify further savings without impacting significantly on frontline, statutory services.

“We’re currently anticipating that we’ll receive £22.49m in Revenue Support Grant, our main source of funding from the Government. This is 36% less than the £35.5m we received last year.

“Unless the Government takes a serious look at its funding of local public services, we will struggle to even deliver statutory services by as soon as 2019/20.”

Meanwhile, the county council will continue to make its case for a fairer funding deal from the Government while exploring options to make the most income it can from its assets

County council leader Cllr Heather Smith said: “It is no secret that it is becoming harder and harder to deliver a balanced budget while protecting statutory frontline services.

“Unfortunately, due to the increasing demand on services and reducing levels of government funding, we are having to take a hard look at our all discretionary services and prioritise those areas that protect the most vulnerable in society.

“We do understand that some of these proposals will have an impact on communities, and that is why we are continuing to call for an urgent review of our funding model from the Government while doing everything we can to minimise the impact on frontline services.

“We have also directly requested that the government look at again at the council tax cap. We believe given the pressures we are experiencing and our low tax rate there should be more flexibility afforded to us in terms of our tax raising powers. In our consultation so far many people have suggested they would be prepared to pay more tax to protect frontline services so it is something we have to explore.”

At the same time as this growth in costs, Northamptonshire has seen reducing levels of funding from central government – down another 36% this year - and a cap on increasing council tax to generate funding. The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget also failed to deliver any financial support to councils like Northamptonshire County Council facing severe pressures.

.Cabinet will discuss the proposed 2018/19 budget tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11am.