Taxpayers in Northamptonshire are facing a five per cent rise on their council tax payments after the government gave the cash-strapped local authority the go ahead in their annual spending review.
Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council are the only authority to be offered the extra two per cent headroom without a referendum following a year spent battling bankruptcy that means they have had to cut millions in order to present a solvent budget.
The latest move is expected to generate an extra £5.8m which will plug gaps in children’s services, adult social care and winter road gritting, after reducing the latter service for 497 roads to save £475,000 attracted criticism.
— Public Accounts Committee (@CommonsPAC) February 6, 2019
The extra tax exceeds the three per cent cap that other councils are subject to and is expected to cost 70 per cent of taxpayers in Bands A to C an extra 75p to a £1 per month.
The council’s cabinet will meet on February 14 to approve the new £418m budget .
“Of course I do not take any proposal to increase taxes lightly,” said council leader Matthew Golby. “However, given that even after this increase we will remain one of the very lowest taxing counties in the country and given that it will mean we can invest or re-invest in areas people have told us are important, I believe it is the right thing to do.”
Nationally, next year’s local authority funding has been agreed for England while campaigners warn that the government is in denial about the “perilous state of local finances”.
Councils core spending power is set to increase to £46.4 billion for 2019/20 to £45.1 billion and Communities Minister James Brokenshire rubber-stamped the plans on Tuesday following a vote in the House of Commons.
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The 2019/20 agreement is the final year of a four-year deal that 97 per cent of councils agreed to access £200bn funding.
Brokenshire said: “This year’s settlement paves the way for a fairer, more self-sufficient and resilient future for local government. That is why local authorities will have more control over the money they raise and a real terms increase in their core spending power.”
Communities Secretary @JBrokenshire speaking at #DCN2019: “I’m optimistic, positive and confident about what the future holds for local government…I can see district councils coming into their own as part of a reinvigorated, stronger, more self-sufficient system” #localgov pic.twitter.com/rlhxbqskaj
— Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt (@mhclg) February 7, 2019
However, Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee has warned that local government funding is not adequate to make councils sustainable.
“The government is in denial about the perilous state of local finances. It insists the sector is sustainable yet is unwilling or unable to back up this claim,” said the committee’s chair Meg Hillier. “Flimsy assertions have no place in financial planning. The fact government has bailed out councils with short-term fixes should be evidence enough that all is far from well.
— LGAcomms (@LGAcomms) February 6, 2019
That view has been backed by the Local Government Association. The group’s chair Cllr Richard Watts said: “The spending review will be make or break for vital local services and securing the financial sustainability of councils must be the top priority. If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them.”