Northampton

Northamptonshire County Council approves 4.99% council tax rise

One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption Northamptonshire County Council has voted to agree a 4.99% rise in council tax

Residents served by a cash-strapped council are facing a 4.99% rise in council tax - 2% more than the 2.99% that is usually permitted.

The Government has sanctioned the rise at Northamptonshire County Council in order to raise an extra £5.8m as part of its 2019-20 budget.

Councillors voted through the controversial move on Thursday.

Leader Matt Golby said the budget would bring the council's "single most challenging financial year" to an end.

The extra income means the winter gritting service can be reinstated, while an extra £1.2m will be spent on children's services.

However, opposition councillors refused to back the budget after a Liberal Democrat amendment to give staff a 2% pay rise was refused by the Conservative administration.

Image caption Protestors gathered outside County Hall on several occasions last year to protest against council cuts

Mr Golby said the council's finances had stabilised since its "darkest hour" last year, when a section 114 notice banning new expenditure was brought in for a second time.

"The great name of this council has been used to highlight poor finances, but today we are drawing a line under that," he said.

Mr Golby told how the budget marked "a significant new chapter" that would "instil public pride back into this county".

But Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw, chair of the overview and scrutiny committee, branded it "fragile and shaky".

'Back on track'

"I predict that within the first month or two of the new financial year, cabinet will already be getting reports of budget slippage," he said.

As well as the council tax raise, the Government has given the council permission to use £70m of its capital funds for its revenue budget, allowing it to wipe out its £39.7m deficit from 2017-18 and put £20m back into its depleted reserves.

Malcolm Longley, Conservative cabinet member for finance, said the decision had been "a vote of confidence" and showed the council was getting "back on track".

The council, which will be scrapped in 2020 to make way for two new unitary authorities, was told to save £42.9m in 2019-20.

It still has £1.4m of savings to find before the end of the financial year.

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