09.08.18

Northamptonshire: locals to boycott council tax, CFO says they ‘can’t spend cash they don’t have’

Northamptonshire County Council locals have led calls for a halt on their council tax due to not receiving value for money as the cash-strapped authority plans to axe and scale back a string of services.

During the authority’s Full Council meeting today, which is ongoing, one resident claimed that she is going to start a public campaign to boycott Northamptonshire’s council tax because locals do not feel that they receive sufficient quality of services for the money paid to the authority.

Many services also face being stopped altogether, with several subsidised bus services slashed and 21 libraries currently at risk of closure, for example.

The calls for the boycott come at a time where the financially-ruined authority will vote on “radical” service cuts during the Full Council meeting today as part of its ‘Core Offer’ of statutory service provision. Last month Northamptonshire issued the second spending ban in half a year with a section 114 notice.

Acting chief financial officer Mark McLaughlin— who announced in the beginning of July that he will be leaving the post— said that financial decisions made in the past have now been re-examined. Upon further review, it was found that the authority used its flexibility to use capital receipts at 10 times the rate of other authorities.

He argued that practice at Northamptonshire CC has changed over the past six months and the authority takes financial management much more seriously, but noted that the council “cannot continue to spend money it does not have.”

Oxfordshire County Council leader and County Councils Network (CCN) spokesman Ian Hudspeth—who admitted that he has had to make decisions he does not “necessarily agree with personally” at his own council due to tight purse strings— told BBC News that Northamptonshire making the cuts will be “very difficult financially.”

He added: “The core service is what the council is legally obliged to put forward— we have to produce a balanced budget. Councils have to step up to the plate.”

Residents and members of the GMB union gathered outside of Northamptonshire County Council offices today to protest upcoming cuts as the authority looks to find another £70m in savings.

Council board papers from the meeting today indicate that redundancies could be made to staff members in order to balance the books. 

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Image credit: Joe Giddens PA Wire

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