Council defends advertising of budget consultation after one person turns up to public meeting

The borough council said it fulfilled its statutory duty when it came to advertising the budget consultation
The borough council said it fulfilled its statutory duty when it came to advertising the budget consultation

Northampton Borough Council has defended the advertising of its budget consultation, after 21 people responded to the proposals online and one person turned up to a public meeting.

Former leader of the council, Brian Hoare attended Monday’s full council meeting and told councillors he was the only member of public to turn up to a public meeting about the 2019/20 proposals.

But the cabinet member for finance, Councillor Brandon Eldred, said that the council had ‘fulfilled its statutory duty’.

In a written response to Mr Hoare, he said: “The draft budget went to audit committee, the overview and scrutiny committee and cabinet, with all meetings open to the public and papers published in advance.

“A press release was circulated and posted on our website on January 8. This went out to a total of 230 recipients including all NBC members and parish councils. This was followed up with posts on Facebook and Twitter on January 10 and 18, including one about the public meeting.

“The public meeting was also promoted on the consultation web page - where people would sign on to access the survey and corresponding documents.

“We also published the news on our website and posted two social media alerts on both of our primary social media platforms.”

Responding to the answers in a supplementary question at the meeting, Mr Hoare said: “Only one member of the public, myself, attending the budget meeting on February 5. At that meeting you said that it had been extensively advertised by social media. The response I have received seems to indicate that it wasn’t extensively advertised at all. Is it fair that members of the public should be left out of the budget consultation?”

But Councillor Eldred retorted: “There were various advertisements, and we actually did more and reached more people than he did when he was leader.”

The budget proposals, which were approved by council on February 25, included a 2.99 per cent council tax rise, a rise in car parking charges (which is still to go out to consultation) and an investment in keeping the emergency night shelter running to the tune of £135,000.