Cuts for library, lights and buses

STREET lights, buses, libraries and lollipop ladies are part of a long list of council cutbacks as the new ‘age of austerity’ bites.

In its draft budget, unveiled on Tuesday, Northamptonshire County Council is proposing to turn off rural street lights, shut Woodford Halse Library, stop paying for school crossing services and scale back its support for buses.

In total there are £68 million of savings needed next year due to the drop in Government cash, along with increases in costs due to population rises and inflation.

Despite the lack of money, the council has set a zero per cent increase in its tax bills to residents.

Council leader Jim Harker said: “We took decisions based on four principles.

“We want to protect vulnerable people and we also think that education and young people are important.

“Third is that highways maintenance is always a high priority for people.

“And finally, we are protecting and creating jobs in Northamptonshire.”

Key points include shutting Woodford Halse’s library, which is one of the eight least-used facilities in the county earmarked for closure.

Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage, cabinet member for customers and communities, said: “Put simply, if we weren’t suffering these huge cuts in funding, reducing our staffing and proposing closing libraries wouldn’t be something we would be doing. But these are tough times and every service has to be looked at.”

Bus routes to small villages could lose their subsidy from the council, with ‘community projects’ filling the void.

Crossing guards will no longer be paid for by the council, but schools will be able to hire their own if they wish.

County council street lights in rural areas look set to be switched off, although some parish councils fund them independently.

Despite the cuts, the council has announced an extra £30 million to repair roads and footpaths.

Cllr Harker said: “These are only proposals at the moment.

“We are going to have nine weeks of consultations on the county council’s situation.”

Information on the budget, and how to respond, will be put on the website - www.northamptonshire.gov.uk - and in local libraries.

There will also be two Question Time-type debates in the new year.

n For a more detailed analysis of the budget’s impact, see next week’s Daventry Express.