New budget ‘will make Northamptonshire streets more dangerous’

Protesters stand outside Northampton's County Hall to highlight their anger at council cuts.
Protesters stand outside Northampton's County Hall to highlight their anger at council cuts.

The budget passed by the county council Conservative administration today is “making our streets more dangerous” according to opposition councillors.

The new budget sees another freeze of the council tax but also £33.6 million of cuts in the coming financial year as part of the overall saving requirement of £77.5 million over the next three years.

Liberal Democrats finance spokesman, Councillor Chris Stanbra said “The Conservatives are making the wrong choices and are making our streets more dangerous and ripping up the safety net in Northamptonshire.

“Over the last few years the Conservatives locally have plunged our county in to darkness by switching off the streetlights and cut money for PCSOs.

“They’ve slashed money to prevent deaths on our roads and fires. They’ve slashed £19m out of prevention budgets supporting the voluntary sector, childrens’ centres, people with mental health issues and many other community groups and vulnerable people.

“They’ve hiked up charges for social care and elderly services while slashing budgets for crucial support.

“What is really sad about all this is that they did have a choice. They could have cut Councillors allowances for the cabinet, they could have cut back office bureaucracy much further than they have and they could have cut money for marketing and communications.”

The setting of the budget means that the council will spend a total of £1.116 billion in the next financial year.

The freezing of council tax means that a Band D rate for 2013/14 will remain at £1,028.11.

Leader of the council Councillor Jim Harker said: “When we launched our four-year framework last year, we promised to freeze council tax, to make further back-office savings and find new ways to work in partnership to help save money even further.

“We made a commitment to continuing to support the county’s growth and prosperity and to providing services where people can’t help themselves.

“As we enter the second year of that framework, I’m pleased to be able to say that we’ve continued to press ahead in all those areas to ensure our limited resources are targeted in the right places.”

Councillor Bill Parker, cabinet member for finance, admitted that the number of Northamptonshire people who chose to respond to a survey about whether council tax should be increased was a very small proportion of the population. But he said those who failed to take respond had “missed their chance.”

In a statement released after today’s meeting, he added: “Over 1,700 people or organisations took part in the budget consultation and the overwhelming majority agreed with our proposal to freeze council tax.

“They also told us that they supported our new and innovative ways of working. This include our new commissioning arrangements for highways services, the creation of Olympus Care Services delivering adult social care services, and the ongoing success of LGSS, the shared services venture founded by ourselves and Cambridgeshire County Council, which reduces the costs of services through the consolidation of resources and process redesign.

“We will continue to remodel our services to find pioneering ways of achieving savings while protecting the most vulnerable people in the county.”