Sweeping plans to cut £84 million from Northamptonshire County Council’s budget next year have been scaled back by about £20 million following a public outcry.
In December, the council announced a series of draft proposals which included a 3.95 per cent rise in council tax and swingeing savings totalling £77m on top of the £226m already saved since 2010.
Now after six weeks of consultation, further announcements by the government and a far reaching councillor scrutiny process the council has now published updated proposals.
Final budget decisions will be discussed by the authority’s cabinet today outlining how the organisation will now look to save £65 million, rather than the £84 million it previously stated, in 2016/17.
Today’s publication outlines how the council will now look to spread around £131 million over the next four years.
Leader of the council Councillor Jim Harker (Con, ISE) said: “There are number of changes we have made as a direct result of our consultation period.
“We have listened to people’s concerns about the level of savings we were proposing for the fire service and have therefore reduced this amount in next year’s budget.
“We have listened to the concern our scrutiny councillors had over the cessation of Countywide Traveller Unit and have removed this proposal.
“We have also listened to our colleagues in the district and borough councils and their concerns over our proposals for closer working and the amount we believed we could save by pursuing this within 12 months.
“As a result of conversations with these partners we are now proposing a longer timescale for this work.”
“Of course, because of the financial position we are in we cannot make these changes without having an impact on other areas of the budget. Therefore today’s budget includes further cuts in services to help pay for those areas people told us were most important.”
New budget reductions included in today’s proposals include the phasing out of all traditional bus subsidies in the county within the new four year plan and replacing this with what the council is dubbing a “Total Transport” model for the county.
Cuts to the fire service will be £500,000 less than first proposed, bringing the total reduction to around £800,000.
Also announced today are longer term plans to explore options for a new “renewable energy facility,” which the council says will help generate revenue for the authority.
Cuts to the Nourish school meals service are set to stay, meaning 343 jobs are at risk.
Cabinet member for finance Councillor Bill Parker (Con, Clover Hill) , said: “We are pleased the government has now given us a firm indication of the amount our funding will be reduced by over the next four years.
“This now gives us the opportunity to start looking at longer term plans with real intent as we know the scale of the task facing us.
“Today’s publication therefore gives a full picture of the next four years as opposed to the proposals announced in December which focused just on next year.
“We know that this financial situation is as tough as it gets but we also know that with our plans for the Next Generation Council and the associated creation of a entirely new approach to public services in the county, that we are in the best possible position to rise to this challenge.”
Nearly 4,000 people viewed the draft budget proposals on the Northamptonshire County Council website and 376 filled out consultation forms.
Three sizeable petitions were handed in against the cuts, including one which called to stop the proposed closure of two care homes gaining 3,202 signatures.
The grant the council receives from central government is to continue falling over the next four years.
This year it will receive £142 million but that is predicted to drop to £103 million by 2020.
The council tax rise in 2016/17 means a Band D property bill will go up from £1,069.02 to £1,111.25.