VOTING on the first Thursday of the month of May is becoming something of a ritual in Northampton.
Last year, there was a General Election and the date has been picked for elections in the past.
This year, it is the turn of Northampton Borough Council to go the polls, with the body which runs services within the town up for election.
Local government in Northamptonshire is shared between the county council and a number of district councils, with responsibilities divided between the two.
Based at the Guildhall, in the centre of Northampton, more than 210,000 people fall within the remit of the borough council, as chief executive David Kennedy explained.
“The county council’s main responsibilities are education, social services and vulnerable adults, highways and transport,” he said.
“Our big services are housing, planning and regeneration, environmental services like parks and leisure and culture. We do public protection through environmental health and there are little things like taxi licences and land charges.”
Across the borough of Northampton there are more than 12,000 council houses but Mr Kennedy said the council’s role also included working with housing associations and helping those in housing need, people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.
Council officials also place people in private sector housing and work to provide support until a permanent home is in place.
Mr Kennedy added: “Being responsible for bins is not just about collecting them but about the whole recycling agenda and making sure we reuse as much as we can. We’re continually developing that side of our operation.
“We are also responsible for sweeping the streets and keeping the parks clean. We also plant flowers and mow the enormous green spaces in Northampton. We have one of the largest amounts of parks and green spaces in the country.”
He said that while most people did not understand the difference between the two councils, what was common was the way they felt about where they lived.
“I think people care about their local area and they care about their community.”
The forthcoming borough council’s elections will be a chance for people in Northampton to elect councillors to sit at the Guildhall; they decide on policy, which is delivered by the council’s staff, who are non-political and whose job it is to provide the best value for money.
Northampton Borough Council’s annual budget is £29 million a year, of which revenue from council tax accounts for just under half. The average band D council tax payer pays £209.62 to the borough council every year and the authority also receives money from the government’s revenue support grant, business rates and fees and charges for other council activities.
This year the level of council tax has been frozen, as has been the proportion of the sum which the borough council receives.
There are currently three big things happening at the Guildhall. Firstly, at the beginning of the month a new charitable trust was established to run leisure services across the borough, which sees the council work with different organisations such as health services, to enhance leisure facilities and support the families who use them.
Meanwhile, some planning powers have been handed back to the borough council from the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC). It means the borough council will be responsible for some of the larger planning applications which are made and as a consequence, it will be doing more planning work.
Thirdly, it has teamed up with Daventry District Council to provide all its refuse services, which Mr Kennedy said “is about improving the way we work, working differently and making the best use of money”.
“If you look at council tax, 13p in every £1 comes to the borough council. The rest goes to the police and the county council.
“We’re the largest district council in the country. The population of Northampton this coming year will be 217,000 and that’s considerably more than any other district council.
“We are responsible for about a third of the population of the county.”