County council finance officers are working on a ‘plan B’ if the authority is unable to secure almost £8million from council tax collected by district and borough councils.
The policy forms a significant part of the £15million Stabilisation Plan of savings introduced last year, of which £7.2million has already been saved by the county council. But the £7.8million from the council tax base, which would be provided by the six district and borough councils across the county, remains unaccounted for.
Concerns have been raised privately by a number of the local councils as to the legal validity of the scheme, and whether the sums expected by the county council can be met. In public, Daventry District Council leader Chris Millar had criticised the ‘fantasy numbers’ involved with the scheme, saying there would be ‘some big gaps to find’.
Last week, scrutiny chairman Councillor Mick Scrimshaw called for a Plan B to be put in place if those sums did not materialise, and now cabinet member for finance Councillor Malcolm Longley says his finance team is already on the case.
Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon (January 15) at County Hall, Councillor Longley told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “When the original council tax proposal was put forward in the stabilisation plan, we also insisted that there was a plan B. Whenever you put a program of this nature together you won’t necessarily get everything returning, and mitigations as well. And that’s what we’ve done.
“We now have four months until the end of the financial year and we have to make certain these things are delivered and we’ve made sure our alternative plans are in place as well as the council tax to make sure that we have it covered either way.”
But Councillor Longley refused to detail what the alternative plans proposed, whether this was financial cuts to frontline services or other efficiency savings from how the council is run, or whether reserves or the government capital dispensation could be used to plug the gap.
He said: “I’d rather not go into detail. All the officers are working very hard to make this happen. But we’ll make sure we deliver them before we crow about them.”