West Northamptonshire's Liberal Democrats call for £300,000 investment into Children's Services as part of 'important' budget amendment

The party also challenged the council's decision to raise council tax by 2.99 percent amidst other rising costs nationally
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West Northamptonshire's Liberal Democrats are calling for an additional £300,000 investment into Children's Services amidst a newly proposed budget amendments that also take aim at the controversial council tax rise.

The 'important' amendments were spurred on by what the group's leader called the 'historic, catastrophic failure of Northamptonshire County Council' in a context of wider critiques of both the local and national Conservative Party.

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The budget will be discussed at West Northamptonshire Council meeting on Thursday (February 24).

Pictured: Cllr Sally Beardsworth, Group leader of the Liberal Democrats at West Northants CouncilPictured: Cllr Sally Beardsworth, Group leader of the Liberal Democrats at West Northants Council
Pictured: Cllr Sally Beardsworth, Group leader of the Liberal Democrats at West Northants Council

Councillor Rosie Humphreys, Liberal Democrat member for Braunston and Crick, said: “We are proposing a further £300,000 investment in Children’s services.

“Compared to other areas, Northamptonshire as a whole has rates that are the second highest, in essence because our county has more children being taken into care. This has a direct impact on children’s life chances as well as costing tax payers more money in the long run.

"It is far more important to invest in intervention and prevention before we get to the stage of needing to take children into care.”

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However Councillor Fiona Baker, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, pushed back against this claim, saying: “We have worked hard with the Children’s Trust to provide the funding they have requested to deliver improved services for 2022-23.

"In addition to the increase in the contract sum of £174, 000 the revenue budget also includes £392,000 of one-off funds to deal with some additional impacts of Covid as well as a further £364,000 for invest to save schemes for the early years services and to reduce fostering costs.

“The Capital Budget includes further investment for the Children’s Trust which totals £2.3m in 2022-23 and a further £1.2m in 2023-24. This investment is fund through a contribution from external funding and council contributions.

“All of this investment will seek to ensure that the Children’s Trust is able to deliver its services within the revised contract sum agreed for next year. We have worked alongside the Children’s Trust throughout the budget setting process to agree all of this funding.

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“The proposal from the Liberal Democrats is limited on detail and therefore it is difficult to understand or assess what preventative work will take place for the £300,000 mentioned.

"I am not aware if these preventative plans have been worked up alongside and with the support of the trust.”

Liberal Democrat leader, Sally Beardsworth, also took aim at the proposed raising of council tax, which has drawn the ire of West Northamptonshire's Labour Group as well. Councillor Beardsworth claimed that the official figure does not account for a different 'reality' felt by certain areas.

Lisa Samiotis, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Towcester and Roade, added: “The average council tax rise is 2.99 percent, but for residents living in both Daventry and South Northamptonshire areas the rise will be higher due to the harmonisation process which is being carried out over three years.

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"We will all also see the impact of National Insurance rises in April and we’re being told that this is to pay for social care but we’re already paying more for social care through our council taxes. It is effectively a double whammy.”

This received a response from Councillor Malcolm Longley response, Cabinet Member for Finance, who said: “The decision to harmonise Council Tax over a three year period was a decision taken by the full shadow authority ahead of the new council coming into being.

"It is a decision that was inherited by this council and one that we cannot amend. As the Council Tax rates have not yet reached harmony there will be some areas paying more in Council Tax and less in other areas.

"However, when we calculate the Council Tax income and the Council Tax increases we have to average the increases out and quote the average increase in Council Tax across the area.

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"We have been very transparent about this and include a table in the report which highlights what the Council Tax will be for each of the predecessor areas as we continue on the council Tax harmonisation journey.

"Council Tax harmonisation will be reached in 2023-24 and therefore this will be the final year when there where be the difference in the Council Tax for the three predecessor areas."

The Liberal Democrats will also be challenging the council's record on the environment.