Council is leaving Northamptonshire 'in the dark' about fate of libraries when tax rise could save them, say Lib Dems

Chris Stanbra says the council si leaving the county 'in the dark' about the fate of libraries.
Chris Stanbra says the council si leaving the county 'in the dark' about the fate of libraries.

The leader of Northamptonshire's Liberal Democrats has demanded the county council reveal what they will do with an upcoming council tax increase.

He says the upcoming one per cent rise could "single-handedly" save Northamptonshire's libraries and trading standards, which face cuts under an upcoming budget.

In December, local government secretary Sajid Javid approved a scheme for local authorities to raise their council tax from two to three per cent in 2018/19 without the need for a referendum.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (January 6), leader of the council Heather Smith announced it would be taking advantage of the increase, which could bring in an extra £2.7million a year.

However, leader of the lib dems in Northamptonshire Chris Stanbra says the council is leaving the county "in the dark" about what they plan to do with the new income.

He said: "She did not provide any details as to how this money will be spent and said that people would have to wait till the cabinet meeting on February 13 to find out.

"This just isn’t good enough. The Conservatives have told us today that they will raise council tax by an extra £2.7million next year but declined to say what they will spend this money on.

"Here are a few suggestions from the Liberal Democrats. Don't close libraries. Don't cut road gritting. Save Trading Standards. Keep children's centres in Corby doing all the good work they do and retain most bus subsidies. £2.7million will do all that.”

A consultation on the county's library service ended last week. One of the options it put forward could see 21 of the county's smaller libraries closing unless the community agrees to manage it voluntarilty.

Councillor Robin Brown, cabinet member for finance at Northamptonshire County Council, said: “The library service review consultation closed last week and we are now analysing the feedback received, while the public consultation on our phase two draft budget proposals is still ongoing. Therefore it is entirely inappropriate to make any decision about the final budget proposals which will be discussed by Cabinet on February 13 prior to the completion of that consultation period and subsequent feedback analysis.

“A formal proposal regarding [the one per cent council tax increase], as well the costs and pressures that have become clear during the budget consultation period, will be presented at cabinet alongside the full budget proposals, once the public consultation has taken place.”