'Stark' cuts from Government leave us with no choice but to raise tax, blasts Northants finance chief

Councillor Robin Brown has slammed Tories in Whitehall for reducing local council funding in successive years.
Councillor Robin Brown has slammed Tories in Whitehall for reducing local council funding in successive years.

Northamptonshire's finance chief criticised his Tory colleagues in Whitehall for "stark" funding cuts as he declared county people could see their council tax rise by the maximum amount for the next two years.

Yesterday, the county council ratified £58 million of savings on services despite speeches from more than a dozen members of the public and an alternative budget proposed by the Labour group that would have seen only a tenth of cuts.

But Cabinet member for finance councillor Robin Brown (Con, Woodford and Weedon) revealed the authority would need to raise its council tax precept by six per cent in both of the next two years to begin propping up the dwindling grants from Whitehall.

He said: "We are facing the most challenging and difficult time that we have ever faced at this authority.

"I believe there is a basis for saying the reduction in our central Government funding has been stark.

"Five years ago our budget was well in excess of a billion. It's now just over £800 million."

And he added: "There is a limit to what we can do without support."

Councillor Brown went on to say local authorities should not have to raise their council tax by astronomical amounts.

"This [council tax rise] will help us to support services for our adult population.

"I do not believe this is fair. Until there is a solution, we have little choice but to raise the precept again next year and possibly the year after that."

Some of that, Councillor Brown said, can be put down to the reduction in the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).

But he said the rising demand on social services - which will see the county needing to look after 23,000 over 85s by 2027 - is not being met by central funding.

The Government plans to allow local councils across the UK to retain 100 per cent of business rates revenue by the end of this parliament in around 2020.

Last year the business rates revenue improved by £1.3 million.

But he said that remains "miles away from mitigating the reduction in Government grants."