Northamptonshire County Council has announced revised budget savings which threaten to close 21 of the county's small libraries, remove all bus subsidies, reduce Trading Standards' budget by almost half and freeze staff pay.
The authority's revised savings total £9.9million come about after being advised to reconsider its spending plans for 2018/19 by its auditors.
The county council's Cabinet is holding an extraordinary meeting later this afternoon (Tuesday) to discuss the recommendations, which include:
- Working with those communities which expressed an interest in taking on their library to provide an ‘Independent Library Service’ and developing an Independent Library Service contract offer for interested communities
- Removing all bus subsidies, including CountyConnect and CallConnect, from the end of the school term in July 2018
- Reducing the Trading Standards budget by 42%
- Reducing the highways maintenance budget affecting carriageway and footpath repairs and inspections
- Increasing on-street parking controls in locations across Northamptonshire
- Reducing councillors’ allowances
- A pay freeze for staff during 2018/19
An advisory notice was issued to the county council last week by KPMG which highlighted concerns about the authority’s proposed budget and what they claim was an over-reliance on the use of capital receipts.
The spending controls currently in place under the Section 114 notice are also recommended to be continued into the new financial year, while the use of capital receipts during 2018/19 has been reduced from £40.9m to £31m.
County council cabinet member for finance Cllr Robin Brown said: “Northamptonshire is at the leading edge of a financial challenge the severity of which local government has never seen before. It is a challenge all top tier authorities will face, but Northamptonshire has reached crisis point now.
“Faced with unprecedented demand for local services, above-average population growth and reducing funding from central government, we are now in a position where we must focus on safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services.
“We have tried to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable in our communities, the cost of which is largely invisible to the wider population, and therefore it is regrettable but inevitable that these proposals will have an impact on the population as a whole.
“These revised budget recommendations have been brought forward in light of the advisory notice issued by KPMG last week and include service reductions we had hoped to avoid but now regrettably have to bring forward in order to set a realistic and deliverable budget by March 1.”
There is also the possibility that further in-year savings will be required during 2018/19 if the current proposals are not sufficient to deliver financial sustainability.
Cabinet will discuss the new recommendations today, followed by a full council meeting tomorrow (Wednesday).