The Weekend Michael Gray Download 'The Weekend' on iTunes
15 December 2010, 17:16
It looks like 600 people could lose their jobs, as Northamptonshire County Council starts to save £136 million over the next four years.
In the next year alone the organisation needs to make cuts worth up to £68 million.
Although the budget plan is just a proposal at this stage, ideas have already been put forward about where the extra cash could come from.
One suggestion is to cut the funding that's currently given to Lollypop ladies - which is around £201,000. Communities, parents and schools are being asked to come forward and take on responsibility for the service themselves.
Councillor Heather Smith, the cabinet member for Highways, minerals and waste, said:
"We know how unsettling change can be and these proposals could see a huge shift in the responsibilities but by giving schools and parents these opportunities we are helping communities help themselves and put in place the right services to suit their needs."
Another proposal is to turn off street lights in some of the more rural areas of Northamptonshire, which could save around £1 million. The plan that's been put forward is to stop using around 80 percent of the lights in areas with a speed limit of 40mph or higher.
Councillor Smith said:
"Whereas there are a lot of savings to be made by turning off lights there are also concerns raise with regard to safety.
"However we're proposing to keep lights on in urban areas and focus on roads where population numbers are much lower."
Eight libraries in the county have been ear marked for closure in a move that would save around £790,000. The ones at risk are Finedon, St James, Irchester, Danesholme, Woodford Halse, Roade, Moulton and Wollaston. The sites have been chosen as it's believed most people who visit these libraries also have access to, and regularly use, another library. By working in this way, the County Council says it won't have to cut opening hours, or the book and media fund, at the libraries which remain open.
Cabinet member for customer and communities, Andre Gonzalez De Savage, said:
"Of course there will be those who use these libraries as their only library and it's our job now as part of this consultation to speak to those, get their views, explore the various options with them and work out the best way forward."
More money will be saved by making reductions in back office costs. It's estimated a saving of £12 million could be made over the next ten years by sharing services like HR, IT, legal services, internal audit and finance with Cambridgeshire County Council.
A review's also being done in to the money spent funding bus services - which could save almost £2 million a year.
Alongside all the savings though, the County Council has promised to spend money on the areas which are most important to people who live in Northamptonshire - as highlighted in a recent You Choose Campaign.
There's going to be a freeze on council tax, which we're told will mean bills in the area will remain the lowest in the country.
£30 million has been set aside to fix the county's 'crumbling roads' - which would see resurfacing and footpath repairs carried out, as well as pro-active work to prevent the need for more costly fixes in the future.
Councillor Heather Smith said:
“What we are proposing here is a big spend up front to achieve a very real and lasting step change in the condition of roads in the county. This will not only bring about massive and noticeable improvements it will also mean we will be able to bring down and control the annual spend on road repairs."
There's going to be more investment in services for older people and vulnerable children, and £2 million is being spent to help attract new businesses and to safeguard and create new jobs.
Council Leader Jim Harker said:
"There are also some very difficult proposals being put forward to help us tackle this huge financial challenge. We know a lot of what is being proposed is going to be very painful but we must work together as a county on this. We can no longer afford to keep services operating at the same level and in many cases we need communities and individuals to come forward and help us to ease the burden on the tax paying public.”
If you want to have your say on the budget proposals, there are a number of ways to get involved:
A section's been set up on Northamptonshire County Council's website to make comments
You can e mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Forms are available at libraries, through the customer service centre and at other public buildings for you to put your thoughts down
Two debates are being held in the new year giving you a chance to question those making the decisions
Debates are being held with community and focus groups to get their views