West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has set out budget proposals for 2023/24 that will address a significant funding gap whilst still protecting essential services.
In common with local authorities across the country, the Council is facing severe financial pressures due to a range of factors including the current economic recession, high inflation rates driving up running costs and an unprecedented rise in demand for services, particularly around supporting children in care and vulnerable adults.
Despite these pressures, the authority has worked hard to balance the books and is proposing to deliver a balanced revenue budget for 2023/24 of £382.4m (excluding grant funded schools spending of £443.7m).
The budget is to be presented to Cabinet at its meeting on February 13 following a six-week public consultation which gave residents, businesses, partners and other stakeholders the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the proposals. It has also been subject to continuous review and scrutiny, including consideration by the cross party group of members of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Changes following this feedback continue to be shaped and costed further and these proposals will be presented to Cabinet.
The Council has also removed millions of pounds from its operating costs, through rigorous spending restrictions and efficiency savings including those resulting from merging the four former councils together.
The proposals seek to raise the average Council Tax by 4.99%, significantly below current inflation rates and in line with the Government’s allowance, crucially generating extra funding of around £12m towards bridging the £60m shortfall – with 2% of the increase going towards funding adult social care. This represents an average increase on a Band D property of £80.50 a year, the equivalent of £1.55 a week.
This year’s proposals will also see households in the former Daventry, Northampton and South Northants areas paying the same Council Tax charges for the first time for the Council’s services, following a three-year plan to harmonise them from the predecessor councils.
The budget follows a strong commitment to making services as efficient as possible and reviewing income streams in order to maintain and protect services, with £32.3m of savings proposals put forward.
These will be found primarily through productivity gains and making savings in operating costs. This includes restructuring departments and introducing new, better ways of working to make back office savings without impacting on how services are delivered to residents.
There are also plans to increase discretionary fees and charges in areas where residents can choose if they wish to use the service, including aligning fees with national averages and in some cases raising charges which have not been reviewed for several years, to ensure they fairly reflect today’s operating costs.
Councillor Jonathan Nunn, Leader of West Northamptonshire Council, said: “In the face of severe financial pressures, rising costs and the continuing increase in demand for services, such as those supporting vulnerable adults and children, putting this budget together has been extremely challenging and we’ve faced some really tough choices.
“We’ve looked at every single penny we spend and every single penny the council receives and we know our residents are facing challenging times. But it’s vital we balance the books to ensure we can continue to provide critical frontline services. We’ve therefore focused hard on how we can save more money and raise extra income to address inflationary pressures and cover the increasing costs of high service demand.
“With Council Tax being a significant source of income and having seen inflation at around 10%, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to propose a 4.99% increase for next year. Households will see an average rise in their bill equivalent to £1.55 a week, but in doing so we will manage to protect and deliver our many services.”
WNC’s Cabinet will consider the 2023/24 budget proposals at their meeting on Monday, 13 February. View the agenda and reports on the Council’s website.
West Northamptonshire Council Communications Team: firstname.lastname@example.org