A total of 343 jobs could be lost at Northamptonshire County Council after the authority announced proposals to cut £77 million from its budget next year.
At a press conference at County Hall today the Conservative-led authority announced plans for a drastic savings programme, which proposes to close two care homes, slash spending on adult social services by more than £27 million and hike council tax by nearly four per cent.
Chief executive of the authority Dr Paul Blantern said 343 jobs would be put at risk from the cuts, with 288 of those coming from plans to cease the Nourish school meals service.
He said: “One thing we have done continuously over he years and through successive budgetary pressures is to protect frontline jobs. We are going to continue that ethos.
Early on into the five year cycle we did substantially reduce the workforce here , and we are unfortunately having to make redundancies again.
“With Nourish we will work to TUPE transfer people over to other free school meals providers.”
Nourish provides hot school meals to school children at a subsidised rate, but the county council says axing the service could save up to £662,000 in the 2016/17 year if it is closed down in July.
Dr Blantern said schools using Nourish currently would be helped to find new school meals providers or set up their own schemes.
The council also plans to withdraw around £40,000 of funding to the outdoor activity centre the Newton Field Centre, based near Kettering.
A report released as part of he authority’s budget proposals states that the charity which runs the centre “does hold reserves,” but its future will be “for the trust to determine.”
But major savings are expected to come from authority adult social care. Around £1 million alone could be saved in 2016/17 by cutting staff in the department, many of whom are employed by agencies.
The total £27.4 million of proposed cuts to adult social care have been outlined though the authority itself has admitted a surge in demand for its services as people in the county are living longer and “have more complex social needs” than in previous years.
But Dr Blantern said the swingeing cuts would be achievable with proposals to decommission two Olympus care homes, plans to change the way care is delivered to adults that need it and closer working with “health partners.”
A council report states that the authority will look to move towards a “progression focussed” way of managing social work whereby those in care will be helped to “acquire the knowledge and skills to live more independently”. Adoption of the approach will “result in reductions in support over time,” it adds.
Dr Blantern argued this would not mean a reduction in the standard of care at the press conference this afternoon.
Council leaders are encouraging as many people as possible take part in Northamptonshire County Council’s budget consultation, which launches today.
Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Bill Parker said: “This has been the toughest budget we have ever had to put forward so it is more essential than ever that people take their time to read through the proposals and use any of the number of ways we have set up to ensure they have their say about them.
“These proposals are really just that – they are proposals and none of them are in any way set in stone. What is more definite is the amount of savings we are required to make so if anyone has any further ideas on how we might hit that target rather than through the proposals we have put forward we would be very keen to hear them.”
You can visiting the draft budget and council plan consultation webpage and complete the online survey at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/draftbudget, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
You can also write to Draft budget and council plan consultation, Northamptonshire County Council, County Hall, Northampton, NN1 1DN; Tweet to @mycountycouncil or post comments on the county council Facebook page.
There will be an opportunity for members of the public to give their views about which budget proposals councillors should select for scrutiny, at a meeting of the council’s budget scrutiny working group on Wednesday 16th December 2015 at 2pm in the Council Chamber at County Hall.
There will then be further meetings during January 2016 to scrutinise selected budget proposals relating to different council service areas.
They will be on Monday, January 4, at 9am in the Blue Room at County Hall. This meeting will focus on children’s social care and education issues.
Monday, January 4, at 1.30pm in the Blue Room. This meeting will focus on adult social care issues
Tuesday, January 5, at 1.30pm in the Blue Room. This meeting will focus on environment, development and transport issues
Tuesday, January 5 at 4.30pm in the Blue Room. This meeting will focus on public health, wellbeing and community services issues.
If you wish to attend and speak at any of the Budget scrutiny working group meetings listed above, or if you want any further information about budget scrutiny, email: Democraticsupport@northamptonshire.gov.uk.