West Northamptonshire's Labour Group opposes council tax hike set to begin in 2022 but council says it will improve services

The group said the Government should fund based on 'need' and not give 'random sums' to authorities

By Max Pearson
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 9:04 am

West Northamptonshire's Labour group has warned that the 'poorest' will be hit worst by hikes in council tax and business rates after reaching financial settlement with the Government.

The budget assumes a council tax rise of 2.99 percent to make up for reductions in Govenrment funding, which is expected to be invested into local service provision.

It represents an average increase on a B and D property across the area of £46.84 per year or £0.90p per week.

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The budget assumes a council tax rise of 2.99 percent to make up for reductions in Govenrment funding.

This comes at a time when many households are feeling the pinch with rising rents, mortgages, and energy bills, plus rising transport costs and more expensive essential items.

Councillor Emma Roberts, deputy leader of the Labour Group, said: “Our authority has agreed to develop an anti-poverty strategy but here we are, putting up Council Tax by 2.9 percent, meaning the overall tax, including police, fire and parishes, will be going up by more than six percent

"What we need in West Northants, is a sustainable funding plan so that local representatives who understand the needs of residents, can make long term decisions that will benefit them.

"Instead, we send our three MPs off to London to be part of a government who are more interested in making headlines by arrogantly throwing random sums of money at local authorities, with no real understanding of what our communities actually need."

Councillor Emma Roberts and the Labour Group have long opposed the tax rise

The Labour Group said they were disappointed that the Government 'has not responded to the call from local authorities for fairer funding, and for the restructure and improved settlement for adult social care'.

In particular, they challenged the additional grants offered to local authorities, which the group said are one-offs, 'balanced by the lack of additional Covid funding.'

They also said that council tax and business rates are a poor form of revenue for a council because of being 'costly' to collect and enforce when debt occurs, with business rates in particular being subject to 'lengthy and costly appeals'.

Labour Councillor for Castle ward Danielle Stone said: “Local Government reorganisation and the creation of a unitary authority for West Northants was supposed to bring about a more integrated and cheaper system of local government. But we are not seeing that.

"We need to be looking outside of council tax and business rates to fund our services and learn from councils like Cheshire East and Preston how to do that.”

However, the council has assured constituents that the increased costs will go towards preserving and improving existing services, including investments in the Highways Service, the sustainability and green agenda and bus services, among others.

They will also reportedly address the 'impact' of switching off the Bus Lane camera in the St. James’ area, which was stopped last Tuesday (December 14th) after fining motorists more than £500,000.

This among many other goals.

Cllr Malcom Longley, Cabinet Member for Finance said: “This is a balanced budget achieved in challenging circumstances.

“It will fund new investment in services and will ensure that resources are prioritised and earmarked to continue to support the most vulnerable in our local community in the most cost-effective way possible.

"Our council tax reduction scheme will give greater support for care leavers and war widows and the £9.8 million funded by the council tax increase will be invested in local service provision.

“We have an unavoidable growth of £16.3m in order to protect existing service levels and thereby ensuring no reductions in services. This budget also incorporates a contingency fund to mitigate against potential uncertainties.

“It is clear we face a challenging medium term financial position.

"This emphasises the importance of the ongoing work across our council to reshape and continually improve processes and ways of working so we can reduce the cost-of-service provision, in order to protect against service reductions and to balance future years’ budgets.”