Biggest shake up of Northamptonshire County Council for 125 years is approved

Budget press conference at The County Hall. Names l-r: Bill Parker, Jim Harker, Paul Blantern.
Budget press conference at The County Hall. Names l-r: Bill Parker, Jim Harker, Paul Blantern.

Drastic budget proposals to save £68 million in the next financial year and begin the outsourcing of public services have been approved by Northamptonshire County Council.

Today the authority approved more than 60 cost saving measures, which will see cuts made to the fire and rescue services, libraries, waste management and adult social care, designed to strim £68 million from its budget in 2015/16 alone.

Councillors also approved the ‘Council Plan’ in which the authority will, over the next five years, begin outsourcing services to mutual companies and reducing its core workforce from 4,000 to 150.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Bill Parker, said: “What this budget does is make sure that while longer term plans for total transformation of services are developed, we continue in our work to protect those frontline and critical services despite the significant amount of budget reductions we are having to implement.

“Once again those services most treasured by our communities and those which help wellbeing such as libraries and country parks are protected.

“Once again we are investing in core safeguarding services to make sure we do all we can to protect society’s most vulnerable.”

Councillor Parker added that there could be an additional hike in the fees the council charges for things such as library fines, county council run car parks and adult social care packages.

“When you are taking this sort of money out of services you have to make tough decisions which we know will not be popular,” he said.

“We are having to look at the fees and charges we apply to people who use our services, partner organisations and others who operate in the county such as utility companies.”

The Council Plan, which was approved through a majority vote, details how the authority will become a much smaller organisation known as the Northamptonshire County Council Group and will commission others to provide services.

This would see the creation of four new separate organisations which will be employed by the council to deliver for the county.

These are likely to be a children’s services mutual, an accountable care organisation, a ‘wellbeing community organisation’ and a ‘place shaping company’ – to deliver services to improve Northamptonshire as a place.

Councillor Parker, said: “As well as these larger organisations the message is clear that other services would also be able to form new enterprises either as private businesses, social enterprises, charities or as part of the voluntary sector. They would all be free to win other contracts to generate additional income to help reduce their costs to the council.

“We have already seen how this can be done in our back office through our LGSS model. By winning new contracts and earning extra income LGSS has systematically reduced the costs of these services to the county council. The Next Generation Model will look to expand this spirit across our front line.”