Northampton Borough Council reveals cuts of £687,000 in budget but announces £355,000 in ‘growth projects’ for town

GV Guildhall - Town centre'060616JC11'news NNL-140618-165318001
GV Guildhall - Town centre'060616JC11'news NNL-140618-165318001

Northampton Borough Council will reduce funding to Royal & Derngate Theatre and restructure its staff in a bid to save £687,000...but has revealed plans to spend £355,000 to help boost the economy.

The council has announced what it says is a “balanced budget” that will freeze its share of council tax for the sixth year running and invest about £355,000 in growth projects.

No details have yet been given on how it would restructure its staff but the cut in the grant to Royal & Derngate is about £50,000.

The council says that none of the proposals will hit frontline services.

Opposition parties have yet to give their response to the Conservative administration’s budget proposals.

A spokesman for the council said there had been a 40 percent reduction in Government funding since 2010.

“Core funding from central government is likely to decrease in the future, however, and pressures on the council’s budget, through increased population and demand for services, as well as other cost pressures will grow,” he said.

“A new waste collection contract will also have to be negotiated by June 2018, and both cost increases and regulatory changes mean this is likely to be significantly more expensive than when the current contract was agreed in 2012.

“A sum of £2.7 million is being put into reserve to help deal with this and other pressures. This is in addition to the surplus of £1.8 million that the borough council committed to reserves in the 2015/16 financial year.

“The borough council will make savings of £400,000 through internal restructuring and efficiencies such as better management of licensing of Homes of Multiple Occupation, which will increase the number of licences issued as well as the amount of fee income,” he said.

The spokesman outlined a number of projects the council would introduce to encourage growth of the economy. These included:

* Capital investments in major projects such as the improvement of St Giles Street, and upgrade of CCTV and the St James Mill Link road

* Enhancements to car parks that will increase the number of spaces and, therefore, income from fees

* Investing £250,000 in an enhanced service to proactively review and maintain trees on public land for the next five years. This will be over and above the existing tree management service

* Investing £100,000 in events such as the annual fireworks display and Northampton in Bloom to create a great environment in the town and attract visitors

* Create new displays and extend opening hours at Abington Park Museum to attract visitors to the park and celebrate the town’s heritage.

The spokesman added: “The capital budget also includes a loan to the University of Northampton, expected to be drawn down by the University in February or March 2016, which is part of the funding for the new Waterside Campus which is currently under construction and which will change the face of Northampton and boost the town’s economy when it is complete. The loan is backed by a guarantee from the Treasury.”

Councillor Mary Markham, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “We have been able to freeze our part of the Council Tax and support households in Northampton for the sixth year in a row thanks to our prudent financial management and our continued commitment to reducing management costs and finding smarter ways of working.

“Through good management, we reported a budget surplus last year and this year we again have a small underspend. We are banking this against the future and the challenges we know we will face from reduced levels of government funding and local pressures in years to come.

“We are also taking a longer term and more strategic look at how we deliver services, so that we can prioritise investment and encourage growth as well as work in partnership with other organisations so that we can continue to deliver services while we also continue to deliver financial savings.”

Councillor Mike Hallam, cabinet member for finance, said that the budget demonstrates the Council’s commitment to delivering efficiency savings while protecting frontline services.

He said: “We have looked and looked again at the way we work and our own structures so that we can be sure we deliver the very best value for every pound of taxpayer’s money. These efficiencies mean we have been able to continue to invest in ways that will encourage local economic growth and to prepare ourselves for the future.”

The borough council’s budget proposals for 2016/17 will be discussed by the cabinet at a meeting at the Guildhall on December 16, and a full public consultation will begin on December 17.