Northamptonshire County Council must ‘consider’ council tax rise to survive

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Raising council tax beyond the current two per cent threshold will need to be considered, Northamptonshire’s UKIP group says, if the authority is to avoid financial catastrophe.

Councillor Michael Brown (UKIP, Kingsthorpe North) labelled the county council’s plan to cope with a £150 million budget black hole over the next five years, by outsourcing some services to mutual companies and strimming back others, a ‘fantasy’ last week.

This week he said, as Northamptonshire County Council currently charges the lowest council tax rate in the country, the authority should look at bringing its charge in line with the rest of the UK.

By law the council can only raise the cost of tax by more than two per cent in a given year if the move is approved through a public vote, but he said it was time the county considered a referendum.

“I think we need to go to the people,” he said. “A referendum could be done at the same time as the general election at a cost of around £250,000.

“We need to consider something like this because we have to save £66 million next year alone.”

By 2019, the percentage of the county council’s budget raised through the tax is expected to leap from around 55 per cent to 70 per cent as government funding dwindles year-on-year.

But leader of the authority Councillor Jim Harker (Con, Ise) said people would be unlikely to vote in favour of paying more every month.

“Every one per cent rise in council tax would generate us £2 million,” he added. “That’s a fraction of what we need to save and it’s not the way of solving our deficit.”