Letter: Residents are paying the price for county council failures!

Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire
Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire

Beth Miller, Labour Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Corby and East Northants, and Cllr Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Council, write this week to say it is unfair that county residents are paying the price for the county council’s failures...

Last week the Secretary of State for Local Government James Brokenshire announced he would be bypassing existing laws – namely the requirement of a local referendum – by allowing Northamptonshire County Council to increase their Council Tax by two per cent above the usual limit of three per cent.

Families now face a minimum of a five per cent increase, with the possibility of an additional two per cent to cover social care, the recently announced police top-up, and any parish council precepts.

Taxpayers are already hurting from third rate services including poor roads, and cuts to libraries, children’s centres and buses – the last thing they need is an increase in charges.

Don’t get us wrong, it is sensible to have a small annual increase to keep up with inflation – it must always be considered to ensure vital services don’t suffer.

However, the Conservatives, who have been running Northamptonshire County Council since 2005, haven’t done this – in fact they ran their local elections on the flawed promise of no Council Tax increases, despite repeated warnings of the financial risk from Labour’s leader and deputy leader on the county council.

Now thanks to their poor financial management we’re in a situation with a steep increase that many families are unprepared for. Aside from the unfairness and the questionable legal status of the Secretary of State’s decision (a judicial review has been suggested), it also sets a really worrying precedent; there are lots of struggling councils who I’m sure will be knocking of the Secretary of State’s door asking for approval to increase Council Tax beyond the current legal threshold. This problem won’t be solved without support from Government.

So far the Government has given Northamptonshire County Council special dispensation to spend capital receipts on day-to-day spending and has now allowed an increase in Council Tax – but we’ve not had a single penny of money from the Government, despite being historically underfunded here.

All seven of Northamptonshire’s MPs are Conservative – and shamefully voted for 60p in the pound cuts to local government budgets.

They should be fighting our corner and using their leverage within Government to demand financial support but they’re not. They’d prefer to let local people, often struggling to make ends meet, 
bail out their colleagues’ mistakes.

Beth Miller, Labour Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Corby and East Northants, and Cllr Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Council