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Revised Northamptonshire budget includes ‘regrettable’ proposals in light of severe challenges

Northamptonshire County Council has revised its budget proposals after auditors advising that its plans may be unlawful.

Last week KPMG issued an advisory notice to the cash-strapped council highlighting concerns about its proposed budget and an “overreliance on the use of capital receipts.”

As a result, the council held an extraordinary meeting yesterday to discuss its revised recommendations.

These include freezing pay for all staff during 2018-19, reducing councillors’ allowances, increasing on-street parking controls across the county, closing down 21 small libraries, removing all bus subsidies from the end of the school term in July, and reducing the Trading Standards budget by 42%.

It is also recommended that the spending controls currently in place under the section 114 notice continue into the new financial year, and 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, argued that the county is “at the leading edge of a financial challenge the severity of which local government has never seen before,” essentially meaning it has now “reached crisis point.”

“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,” he explained.

“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.”

Brown added that the revised recommendations include service reductions that the council “had hoped to avoid but now regrettably have to bring forward in order to set a realistic and deliverable budget” by 1 March.

The council has said that 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.

These recommendations will be discussed today and at a full council meeting tomorrow.

Top image: yevtony

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