West Northamptonshire approves budget for a bright new future

Frontline services helping the most vulnerable in West Northants have been protected while £13.4million in efficiency savings were identified in the first budget for the new unitary authority.

On Thursday 1 April West Northants Council (WNC) will take over services currently delivered by Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council, Daventry District Council and Northamptonshire County Council.

On Wednesday, 23 February a meeting of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority approved a budget of £326.6 million to provide services to residents and businesses in West Northants. 

Those services include care for vulnerable adults and children, education, the collection and disposal of waste, household waste recycling, leisure and community wellbeing, highways, planning, economic development, housing and support for the homeless. 

In presenting the budget, Cllr Rebecca Breese, West Northants portfolio holder for finance, said in a period of great uncertainty the Council Tax rise was important to provide stable foundations for the new council. 

She said: “Grant funding from government has fallen from 58 percent of council income in 2013/14 to what will be 38 percent next year. Council Tax is therefore the largest element of our income, at £215million that’s two thirds of our income and the area we have most control and direct influence over its generation.

“But this is a direct tax on our residents and we must be honest in accepting the importance of maintaining that base and be prudent in its use. 

“This is why I think it is important to take advantage of the ability to raise Council Tax as allowed by the Government. It is the bedrock of our budget and will support those residents in greatest need. 

“It is not clear yet what the social and economic impact on many of our residents is going to be as a result of Covid but in our budget we have allocated £170 million to support vulnerable adults and children”.

The budget will also see the level of Council Tax Reduction for working age people harmonised across West Northants at 80 percent, meaning households experiencing financial hardship will pay a maximum of 20 percent of their Council Tax demand. 

In recognition that some households may still face financial difficulty, the budget also includes a discretionary £425,000 hardship fund.

In addition, the budget includes a £75,000 fund to help young people who are leaving social care at 18 and who will need help to pay Council Tax to live independently. 

Cllr Ian McCord, Leader of the West Northants Shadow Authority, said: “We are coming to the end of the planning stage and this budget signals the beginning of the next chapter. 

“This budget begins to deliver our vision. A place where everyone can thrive.

“This, our first budget, is fair and progressive. A budget supporting the low paid, the vulnerable, and the care leavers. 

“A budget that gives our new council a firm foundation upon which to build future success. 

“A budget offering a fresh start and a bright future for all.”

To help maintain and protect levels of service provision the Shadow Authority approved a core average Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent in line with the maximum limit set by government without triggering a referendum and utilising the allowable Council Tax social care precept increase of 3 percent in full. 

The combined total resulted in an increase of 4.99 percent on the average Council Tax bill calculated for the West Northamptonshire area.

This equates to an average Band D Council Tax demand of £1,566.39 in 2021/22, equivalent to £30.12 per week. That equates to an increase of £6.20 a month for band D property.  

These figures do not include the Council Tax for individual town and Parish Councils nor the Council Tax set for Fire and Police by the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.