14 Dec Vital services protected as North Northants budget tackles tough economic climate
Creating an efficient council which can deliver vital services while being robust enough to withstand economic uncertainty is the cornerstone of North Northamptonshire Council’s budget proposals for 2023/24.
A report to be discussed at Executive next week will propose a balanced revenue budget for 2023/24 as well as outline the medium-term financial plan for the next two years.
While this has been challenging, the authority has laid strong financial foundations for financial stability against a backdrop of global financial uncertainty.
The net revenue budget for 2023/24 is £335.9 million. This money provides a range of services to residents and businesses across the area including care to vulnerable adults and children, education, the disposal and collection of waste, household waste recycling, highways, economic development, housing and support for the homeless.
Cllr Lloyd Bunday, the council’s executive member for finance and transformation, said:
“We are currently living through very challenging times; this council must do all it can to manage its finances efficiently and with prudence. We must put measures in place, not just with the current situation in mind but as we look toward the medium term.
“Local government funding at a national level remains uncertain. Areas that have delivered significant business growth, such as NNC could find that they are adversely impacted by the new local government funding regime which is due to be implemented in 2025/26.
“We therefore need to take this into consideration when making our budget decisions right now.
“Unprecedented levels of inflation present significant challenges for everyone: individuals, businesses and local authorities, making running costs more expensive.
“In these difficult times, we know our services are vital to residents and we are working hard to protect and improve them in the face of increasing demand.”
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council, said:
“I am pleased to say that the Council has again set a budget that will ensure the delivery of services that are so important to those who live and work in North Northamptonshire.
“The economic climate is very challenging. Putting this budget together has not been easy and we have been very cautious with our finances. We continue to work tirelessly to deliver savings, to innovate, improve services and to attract funding from outside of the area.
“From day one, North Northamptonshire Council has been making careful financial decisions that are focused on safeguarding and improving local services. This will remain our focus now and into the future.”
Government has permitted local authorities to increase the Council Tax rate by 4.99% in recognition of the difficult financial climate and increased inflationary pressures.
As such the authority is proposing an increase allowed by Government in council tax of 4.99%, which includes the 2% adult social care levy.
This increase would contribute around an additional £9m per year towards inflationary and demand lead pressures to enable services to be maintained and would represent a Band D level of Council Tax for North Northamptonshire Council of £1,657.51 for 2023/24.
This is an annual increase of £78.78 (equivalent to £1.52 per week) from the Band D Council Tax level of £1,578.73 in 2022/23. For a Band A property – which makes up the greatest proportion of residences in the area – this would see an annual increase from £1,052.48 in 2022/2023 to £1,105.00 for 2023/24, which is £52.52 a year (equating to £1.01 per week).
Increasing Council Tax has the advantage of providing stable funding for the future, helping to further protect services.
This Band D figure does not include the Council Tax for individual Town and Parish Councils or the Council Tax set for Fire and Police by the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
There is no change to the Local Council Tax Support Scheme which will continue at 25%.
Cllr Bunday said:
“We recognize that many households are struggling in the current climate.
“With such a large proportion of our income coming from Council Tax – to not increase it, especially when inflation is at exceptionally high levels – would seriously impact our finances going forward and could mean that we would need to consider the revision of some of our services.”
Housing Revenue Account
The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is a separate ring-fenced account within the Council for the income and expenditure associated with its housing stock.
The HRA does not directly impact on the Council’s wider general fund budget or on the level of council tax. Income to the HRA is primarily received through the rents and other charges paid by tenants and leaseholders.
This year’s HRA proposal is for a balanced budget for the two Neighbourhood Accounts.
There is also a proposed rent increase of 7% for the next financial year, which accords with the Government’s rent setting policy for 2023/24. Any funding received by the HRA is retained within the HRA and will be used to support housing improvements and maintenance.
The draft revenue budget will be discussed at a meeting of the Executive on December 22 and, if approved, a consultation on the proposals will start the same day, running until midnight on Friday, January 27.
The Executive will then meet on February 9 to consider final budget proposals for recommendation to Full Council on February 23.