The Leader of Northampton Borough Council, Cllr David Mackintosh, has today announced budget plans with increased support for businesses, increased free parking, investment in communities and a freeze in Council Tax for the fourth year in succession are at the heart of budget proposals for 2014/15.
A challenging programme of internal cost-cutting measures is proposed to tackle the shortfall and prevent the budget gap growing even further in 2015/16.
There will be a focus on investment, despite the need for the Borough Council to make savings to deal with a budget shortfall of £3.4 million in the next financial year.
The gap has already been reduced significantly by work to streamline management and cut back office costs. Around £1m has been saved by halving the number of senior managers and sharing services with other authorities, leaving a shortfall of around £2 million to be found in the coming financial year. This shortfall will be met by a further programme of restructures and cost savings to create a leaner and more efficient organisation.
The proposals for investment will support businesses to encourage growth and job creation.
The Borough Council will set up a business incentive scheme, with an initial contribution of £250,000 to fund measures aimed to fill empty properties and help small businesses. The scheme would be in addition to the cap on business rate increases and doubling of Small Business Rate Relief that were announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week.
There are also proposals to drive footfall in the town centre, including offering free parking in the town’s four multi-storey car parks every Saturday throughout the year and extending the one hour free offer in the multi-storey car parks to two hours. This follows a successful trial this summer and over the Christmas period. This will start at the beginning of April 2014.
The opening hours of both Northampton Borough Council museums would also be extended to attract more visitors to both Abington Park and the town centre, and there would be investment in the number of neighbourhood wardens and park rangers providing visible support in communities.
There are also proposals for a capital programme investment of more than £13 million to be spent on infrastructure projects that will open the way to further regeneration, such as the demolition of the Greyfriars bus station and the reopening of the middle section of Abington Street to traffic.
Cllr David Mackintosh, Leader of Northampton Borough Council, said that as the council’s income from central government falls, there is a need to develop a sustainable strategy to deal with the pressures and grow income in the future.
“Funding for local government has continued to fall and we have had to find ways to take forward our ambitious plans for regeneration that will make Northampton more prosperous in the long term.”
“We have already reduced our costs, which has closed the budget gap by more than £1million, and we will continue to drive management costs down so that we can balance the budget and make the investments those businesses and communities want to see.”
“We have a vision of a prosperous town with a vibrant economy and we believe that these proposals will keep that strategy on track and help us to continue to deliver for local people in the future.”
The proposals will be considered at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 18th December at 6pm.
There will then be a period of consultation to give people the opportunity to have their say on the plans, including at a public meeting on 30th January 2014 and at the Borough Council’s forums.
The final draft budget will be considered at a Cabinet meeting on 19th February 2014 before Full Council sets the budget on 24th February.