Every year the Council plans for the money it will have available and how it should spend it in line with the priority objectives set out in its Corporate Plan. At a meeting held on 20 December, West Northamptonshire Council’s Cabinet approved for consultation its draft budget for 2023-24 and we are now seeking views on these proposals.
The Council successfully delivered a balanced budget for its first year of operation within 2021/22 and set a balanced budget for the current year (2022/23).
However, like all councils up and down the country, there have been a number of unprecedented financial issues throughout this financial year which have significantly increased the cost-of-service delivery.
The main financial issues include:
- Inflationary and cost of living pressures impacting directly on the cost of providing services.
- Ongoing financial impact of COVID allied with the withdrawal of significant COVID funds previously received.
- Continued additional demand led and inflationary pressures within the Children’s Trust.
- Continued additional demand led pressures within the Adult Social Care.
- Additional operator costs in providing school transport for children.
- Cost of living pay award expected to be significantly greater than the amount included at the time of setting the budget based on the latest national pay award offer made by the employers’ organisation.
With the financial, and demand challenges most evident around supporting children in care, vulnerable adults, and those needing temporary housing and transport to school, the Council has acted quickly and early to identify a range of proposed measures to tackle the financial challenges in the short to medium term.
Our draft budget for 2023/24, continues this work and includes proposals for the coming financial year which will ensure we continue to meet our statutory duties, protecting, as far as possible, the vital services we deliver to our communities in the most efficient and effective way possible.
A broad overview of the main proposals:
- To increase the average Council Tax by 4.99 per cent, comprising of 2.99 per cent core tax and a further 2 per cent adult social care precept, which is the maximum amount permitted by Government. The increase is less than half the current rate of inflation.
- To protect funding to meet demands on critical services by increasing fees and charges for discretionary services, where people have a choice whether they use the service, such as garden waste collection and car parking. This will also align our fees with national averages and fairly reflect operating costs.
- A proposed Capital Programme including improvements to local roads, mending potholes, and schemes to improve residents’ wellbeing, reduce health inequalities and support communities.
- To review services to make them more efficient and save taxpayers money including:
- A review of the current Home to School Transport Policy, processes, and systems. A public consultation on this proposal will take place early next year
- Introducing a three-weekly waste collection in the South Northants and parts of Northampton area to bring in line with the waste collections for Daventry
- To restructure service areas in the Council, introducing new or reviewing and improving ways of working to generate savings without impacting the delivery of services and introducing tighter controls on spending across the authority.
Recognising the major pressures and demand for adult and children’s services, the draft budget proposes to invest significant extra funding into these areas to improve preventative and cost-effective care for West Northamptonshire’s most vulnerable residents and to respond to the significant increase in the demand for these critical services.
The Council will also continue to deliver on plans to drive economic growth in West Northants with further progress expected on multi-million-pound plans to revitalise the centre of Northampton through the Government’s Future High Streets and Towns Funds, starting in the new year with the Market Square transformation.
The Council has also published a draft Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Budget for 2023/24. The HRA is a ring-fenced account which records the cost of managing the Council’s housing stock. These costs are funded by tenants’ rents, and tenants/leaseholders’ service charges. The Council is proposing to increase rents by 7%, an average increase of £6.79 per week, and to also increase service charges and garage rents by 10%. This proposed increase in rent is critical in funding the maintenance and delivery of ‘fit for purpose’ housing. We recognise that this is a very financially challenging time for people, and have therefore set aside a hardship fund to provide support to tenants who may be facing additional financial difficulties as a result of the increase.
Your feedback on these proposals within this budget consultation is really important to us. All consultation feedback will be analysed and considered and will help councillors make a final decision on the budget at the West Northamptonshire Council Full Council meeting on 22 February 2023. This meeting is held in public.
Anyone wishing to submit a statement to the meeting must contact Democratic Services by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by post or in person at One Angel Square, Angel Street, Northampton, NN1 1ED by 6pm on 21 February 2023. Up to three members of the public are permitted to speak for up to three minutes each on any agenda item although this may be extended at the Chair’s discretion.